Creativity was key.
Through this long process that seemingly rivaled The NeverEnding Story, that was the buzzword that Purdue needed to keep in mind. It was something former athletic director Morgan Burke avoided in his previous two hires – Danny Hope and Darrell Hazell – and was an attribute that needed to be embraced by his replacement, Mike Bobinski.
Bobinski passed the test.
Purdue got its guy on Monday. Jeff Brohm, a three-year head coach at Western Kentucky, a former quarterback and an offensive mastermind is headed to West Lafayette.
Finally, the program was able to land a “Purdue” guy.
And make no mistake, this wasn’t luck. Athletic director Mike Bobinski and University president Mitch Daniels saw the window closing when Baylor and Cincinnati showed interest in their guy. And when that Jerry Maguire moment came, Purdue’s administration showed Brohm the money.
A six-year deal to lift an overturned train back on the tracks. $20 million to resurrect a winning culture.
On paper, Brohm is Purdue’s ideal candidate. Students in the school’s engineering department couldn’t design a more suitable prototype.
He brings the type of out-of-the-box thinking that Joe Tiller brought to West Lafayette in 1997. It was that innovative mindset that resulted in 10 bowl games in 12 seasons, highlighted by a B1G title and Rose Bowl appearance in 2000, the program’s sole trip since 1967.
It’s that same experimental and inventive mindset that can translate to wins again at Purdue. Mike Bobinski understands that:
He is a coach who has already achieved tremendous success and, at the same time, has incredible upside. His reputation and record of accomplishment as an innovative offensive coach and developer of quarterbacks is second to none.
Western Kentucky’s offense has been one of the most effective in the country. Each of the past three seasons, Brohm’s teams have ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring offense, passing offense and total yardage. In 2015, Hilltoppers quarterback Brandon Doughty led the NCAA in passing, throwing for 5,055 and 48 TDs with a nearly 72 percent completion rate.
Success like that resonates with a program that embraced the “basketball on grass” ideology and cheered as Drew Brees, Kyle Orton and Curtis Painter threw the ball 40, 50, sometimes 60 times or more in a game. Even when the results weren’t showing on the scoreboard, the fast-paced style of play was never boring.
For the past eight years, what Purdue fans were still scanning their tickets at the gates of Ross-Ade Stadium were yawning once they found their seat. Brohm has no intention of spoon-feeding a hungry crowd that same bland meal it’s been served for nearly a decade.
We will play a brand of football that features the quarterback’s strengths. Our style will be wide-open and exciting….we want to play the game in a fun fashion. We want to make it exciting to watch.
Despite the 3-9 record, Brohm does have an opportunity to hit the ground running. the Boilermakers already have a pair of talented quarterbacks on the roster, waiting to be tutored by someone capable of fixing the inconsistencies.
David Blough ended the year with over 3,000 passing yards and 25 TDs, leading the B1G in both categories. His biggest issue came with interceptions, throwing 21 over the year. His backup, Elijah Sindelar, is Kentucky’s former Mr. Football.
A few of the pieces are already in place.
But where Brohm’s unique approach can be most effective – and it’ll have to for Purdue to trudge out of this pit – comes on the recruiting front. The concept of a “fun, wide-open” offense isn’t something many B1G competitors have adopted. It could the feature that starts redirecting the compass of some of the state’s top prospects.
We want to stay ahead of the curve. We want to be cutting edge. I believe in being creative. I’m going to do my part to make sure I put us in a position to succeed.
That’s been a mentality that Purdue has ignored for the past eight seasons – even longer, really. It’s hurt the program in terms of recruiting. Since 2008 the Boilermakers have ranked in the bottom half of the B1G with each class its brought in, most years finishing 10th or worse according to 247Sports.com.
You can’t beat teams like Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin at their own game. Brohm’s method likely won’t beat those teams either, not on the recruiting front. But by being different, he can compete with them. That’s something Purdue hasn’t done in a long, long time.
Brohm doesn’t come without some questions.
Sure Tiller’s offense succeeded in the transition from Wyoming to Purdue, but in an age where high-powered offenses have become more relevant, can Brohm actually take the B1G by surprise?
And his defenses at Western Kentucky haven’t been particularly good, either. Against teams with winning records, the Hilltoppers allowed 37 points per game this season. How will that be addressed in West Lafayette?
In some ways, those concerns are important. In other ways they don’t really matter. Not right now. Purdue made a commitment to the longevity of its football program. Brohm’s arrival is the biggest victory in years for a program that had accepted a losing mentality.
The Boilermakers have a creative leader at the helm now and Brohm’s biggest project is creating a winning culture.