Jonathan Smith says he “had not heard a ton” of the criticism directed at him as the Washington Huskies’ offense has continued to sputter.
Which must mean Smith, the offensive coordinator, also does not closely monitor the mentions section of his Twitter account. Or read the online comments with nearly any article written about the team.
Washington’s offense ranks at, or near, the bottom of the Pac-12 in several categories, including scoring (11th), total offense (12th), rushing offense (11th), pass efficiency (10th), first downs (12th), and third-down conversions (11th). The Huskies also rank eighth in the league (and tied for 65th nationally) in offensive yards per play, and have run fewer offensive plays than all but two FBS teams.
Their struggles were never more apparent than in Saturday’s loss at Stanford. The Huskies ran just 46 plays, possessed the ball for fewer than 20 minutes and punted on all of their first-half possessions — a byproduct, certainly, of redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels making his first career start at quarterback in place of the injured Jake Browning.
As a result, a portion of the viewing public has designated Smith the scapegoat. But the sentiment is more than a year in the making. The Huskies’ inconsistent offense in 2014 led many to question Smith’s playcalling, and those concerns have grown louder as the team stumbles through another season.
Asked Wednesday if he sees or hears such criticism, Smith said he doesn’t. “I don’t listen to a lot of it. I can imagine it’s got to be out there. The one thing you like, is you like playing with a university that has a passionate fanbase. And that’s what we’ve got.
“We’ve got some frustrations and whatnot, so it’s understandable. But I have not followed it a ton.”
That wouldn’t be constructive, anyway. And every offensive coordinator is going to face some blowback from fans at some point.
Smith, who is scheduled to be paid about $440,000 this year, understands.
“It’s part of the deal,” he said, “and that’s what we signed up for.”
It also isn’t completely warranted. The Huskies’ offense has been hard to watch at times and the offensive coordinator surely shares some of the blame. Fans might not want to hear it, but the Huskies start a true freshman at quarterback behind an inexperienced offensive line that includes a true freshman at left tackle.
Even their most consistent offensive player, tailback Myles Gaskin, is a true freshman and still learning how to play at the college level. Calling plays for such an offense isn’t simple.
Any criticism of the team’s offensive strategy must include coach Chris Petersen, who delegates many responsibilities to his assistants but is involved in the weekly offensive gameplan.
Petersen said Monday that Smith shouldn’t bear the brunt of the criticism.
“The head coach, the quarterback, those guys always have to take the bullets; and there are a lot more people involved than just that,” Petersen said.
Asked last week to evaluate the team’s offensive playcalling, Petersen said: “We’re trying to put our guys in the best position they can to make plays. Trying to figure out ways to score more points, without question. That’s the bottom line.
“But we’re trying to stay balanced and we can’t put it all on our quarterback, can’t put it all on our O-line to pass-protect him and those things. So we’ve got to pick and choose our spots, and when we get a chance to strike down field, we’ve got to be able to make a play or two. So we’ll just keep tweaking and analyzing. And that’s what we do all day long — trying to put our guys in the best position to be successful.”
Said Smith: “I think it comes down to the execution. We’ve got to get better. I’m not going to stand here and say it’s been outstanding, because it hasn’t been executed very well, so it’s got to get better.”
The complaints will continue until it does.
Smith said Browning, who did not play against Stanford, has done a “little bit more than he did last week” in practice. “Still, I don’t know if he’ll be able to go or not, but he’s done a little bit more.”
SATURDAY: Arizona (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) at UW (3-4, 1-3), 8 p.m., Fox Sports 1, 1000-AM, 97.7-FM