Mike Leach, Gus Malzahn and Lincoln Riley share thoughts on dual responsibility of coaching and play calling

Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach is known for building potent offenses, directing passing-oriented teams in a spread offensive system known as the air raid offense, and producing not-so sought after quarterbacks into touchdown throwing, point producing machines.

In the world of Power 5 college football, the vast majority of coaches tend to leave the responsibility of play calling to their offensive coordinators. The question has long been pondered about whether head coaches at the professional level and major college football can manage the duties of both being the head coach while also being the offensive coordinator.

During an interview with John Hoover, who covers the Oklahoma Sooners for Sports Illustrated, Leach stated that being a head coach and play caller can often times be too much to handle. Hoover also spoke with Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley about the difficulty of the dual responsibility.

Mike Leach

“If you’re coordinating and calling plays and you’re the head coach, it’s too big of a job.”

“I mean, it’s too big of a job. OK, but then if you withdraw yourself from it and you’re not coordinating or coaching your position, then I don’t feel involved enough. And then it’s too little of a job. I think we’d all like to hit that middle … that neutral place where it’s perfect and kind of your thing. It’s either harder than you’d like, or not as involved as you’d like. And so I never have been able to achieve that perfect spot.”

Gus Malzahn on the crucial responsibility

“Since I’ve been been in this league (as) a head coach, each year, the head coaching job description has gotten more and more complicated. Just the time-consuming (element) that it takes to prepare a game plan and all the ins and outs with the staff and then trying to balance that with taking care of your team and spending enough time with your players and the relationship with your overall team, and the dynamic from offense, defense — it’s really all of the above.”

Lincoln Riley, who worked under Leach for eight years at Texas Tech, says he needs to do a better job

“There’s things with this team I need to do a better job with. Now, I don’t need to do a better job because I’m also the offensive coordinator. I need to do a better job because I need to do a better job. And I certainly can. Being the OC doesn’t have anything to do with that, in my mind.”

The Sports Illustrated story also discusses the new world of college football and the complexity of being a head coach while adapting to the difficult challenges that COVID-19 has produced for coaches.

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