Now that Auburn has a replacement for Gus Malzahn as offensive coordinator, it's time to take a long look at Scot Loeffler and determine whether or not he was a good hire. After such a long search, we'll admit that the hiring of a college coordinator left us a little disappointed. It seemed that Gene Chizik was closing in on an NFL coach and just waiting to get through that coach's playoff run. The Internet buzz on Sunday was that one of Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Ravens quarterback coach Craig Ver Steeg or San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman would be making his way to the Plains to be Auburn's next OC. By the end of the Ravens' game, it sounded like a done deal that Cameron would be heading to Auburn. Then out of the blue, Charles Goldberg reported that the man was, in fact, Loeffler. Needless to say, the thought of having two NFL coordinators coming to The Plains to perform the same jobs in 2012 was thrilling. When Loeffler was announced, it was a bit of a letdown.
After stepping away, sleeping on it and taking a second look at the Tigers' new offensive coordinator, it's obvious that Loeffler is a very good hire by Chizik. Before serving as offensive coordinator at Temple in 2011, Loeffler had stints as quarterbacks coach with Florida, the Detroit Lions, Michigan and Central Michigan. Here's a look at his performances dating back to his Michigan days to find out just what kind of track record Loeffler has. We think you'll like the results.
Temple offensive coordinator, 2011
At first glance, Temple's 383.2 yards per game in 2011 isn't all that impressive. After all, that ranked seventh in the MAC and 63rd in the NCAA. But the way the Temple offense amassed those yards should excite Auburn fans. The Owls led the MAC and were No. 7 in the country with 256.4 rushing yards per game. Bernard Pierce, Temple's junior running back, compiled 1,481 yards and 27 touchdowns. Pierce's 123.4 yards-per-game average led the MAC, and he had a healthy 5.4 yards per carry. One of the encouraging things about Loeffler is that in his first year as an OC, he already seemed to grasp the fact that a team needs to get the ball to its playmakers. After looking at Pierce's stats from last year, it's obvious that he's a beast of a player. In 2009, Pierce proved as a freshman that he was ready to be a star out of the backfield, gaining 1,361 yards and 16 touchdowns. But in 2010, Pierce was held back by then-offensive coordinator Matt Rhule. He was given 154 carries, compared to his 236 in '09 and 273 in '11, and only compiled 728 yards -- a 66.2 per-game average -- and 10 touchdowns. Pierce still averaged a solid 4.7 yards per carry in 2010, but for some reason, his time was split with fellow sophomore Matt Brown. With Loeffler running the offense, Temple utilized its best offensive player, and Pierce put up monster numbers.
Despite the mediocre yards per game, Temple's offense didn't have trouble putting points on the scoreboard. Loeffler rarely passed the ball, electing to throw a measly 15.2 times per game. Even being almost entirely reliant on the rushing attack, the offense was incredibly successful and did a fine job of creating scoring drives. The Owls' 30.6 points per game tied with Florida State for 39th in the nation. Temple ranked 20th in the country in third-down percentage, converting 46.3 percent of the time. All in all, Loeffler showed that he is very capable in his first season as an offensive coordinator. He identified his team's strengths and designed a gameplan that would allow those strengths to excel, even when opposing teams knew what was coming.
Florida quarterbacks coach, 2009-10
It was at Florida, working under Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio, that Loeffler coached one of the game's all-time greats. In 2009, Loeffler's starting quarterback was Tim Tebow. With a Heisman Trophy and two national titles to his name, Tebow's legacy as one of the greatest college quarterbacks was already set. Still, with the guidance of Loeffler, No. 15 completed a career-best 67.8 percent of his passes. The 2010 season was not nearly as successful for Loeffler's starting quarterback, John Brantley. Handcuffed by Addazio's run-first spread offense, the pro-style Brantley could only manage 158.5 yards per game, nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Gators' offense stalled all season and Florida fell to an 8-5 record, it's worst under Meyer.
Loeffler's time at Florida doesn't tell us much about the OC. He surely benefited from having Tim Tebow in 2009, but he was definitely at a disadvantage with the out-of-place Brantley in 2010. Overall, his two years at Florida raise more questions than answers about his abilities.
Detroit Lions quarterbacks coach, 2008
Loeffler's one-year foray into the NFL was pretty much a disaster, but it wasn't exactly his fault. After having plenty of success at Michigan, The Lions hired Loeffler and brought him into a no-win situation. Veteran quarterback John Kitna started the season, but he suffered an injury and was placed on injured reserve in Week 5. Without much help from the rest of the offense, Lions quarterbacks averaged 185.0 yards per game and compiled a 71.3 rating, both of which ranked in the bottom third of the NFL. The Lions finished the season 0-16, and the entire coaching staff was fired in the offseason. Loeffler had zero success in Detroit, but he wasn't given much of a chance.
Michigan quarterbacks coach, 2002-07
Coaching at his alma mater, Loeffler had his greatest success as a quarterbacks coach. He coached Chad Henne from 2004 to '07 mentoring the four-year starter to Wolverine career records in passing yards (9,715), passing touchdowns (87), completions (828) and attempts (1,383). In addition to the career marks, Henne tied Michigan's single-season record for touchdown passes with 25 in his freshman year of 2004. Prior to Henne's arrival in Ann Arbor, Loeffler's quarterbacks averaged 232.8 yards per game in 2002 and 270.8 yards per game in 2003.
So, what kind of offensive coordinator has Auburn hired?
We think a pretty damn good one. In his various stops as quarterbacks coach and time during the late 1990's as a graduate assistant with Michigan, Loeffler has worked with and tutored an impressive number of quarterbacks that have gone on to play professionally. Brian Griese, Tom Brady, Drew Henson, John Navarre, Henne and Tebow all played for Loeffler, and the quarterback guru was able to coach up all of those players into becoming NFL draft picks. Judging by his one season at Temple, it's clear that Loeffler wants to direct a run-first offense and knows how to get the ball in the hands of his best players. Despite his apparent preference to run a pro-style attack, Loeffler did a fine job running Addazio's spread at Temple. He'll likely install a pro-style, run-first offense at Auburn, but it's obvious that he has the ability to run whatever type of offense works, depending on the situation. That will be especially crucial next season when the Tigers will be in transition mode.
The hire of Loeffler can't be qualified as a home run. To hit a home run in a coaching search, the eventual hire must be a well-known name that has proven success at the highest level. Loeffler isn't that, but he is a young, up-and-coming coach that seems to have the respect of everyone in the coaching community that knows him. If you can't hit a home run, hiring a coach like Loeffler is the next-best thing. Thanks to his proven record as a developer of quarterbacks and his success with the rushing game at Temple, we believe that by the time Loeffler leaves Auburn -- whenever that may be -- he'll be a home run hire at his next destination.