Scott Shafer is not sitting in an envious position. He’s a first year head coach shepherding a program into its inaugural season in a much better conference. He has no clear cut quarterback. He has an offensive coordinator in his rookie season. His recruiting class was chopped out at the knees because the previous staff left just weeks before Signing Day. His facilities at the moment are near the bottom of the ACC. His name alone brings little national cache.
All this doesn’t mean Shafer can’t be successful. Syracuse may very well have built a solid enough foundation to forge six wins and a bowl game out of the season. The recruiting front will have a much better day this February since this staff will have a full calendar year to do it work. They’re already paying some big dividends. The new indoor facility is currently in the works.
Shafer is also respected around coaching circles for being a good motivator, a savvy defensive mind, and a no-nonsense guy. Some of that persona is already rubbing off on his squad. But there’s another reason to root for Shafer: He was blindsided by SU’s most despised and least respected man ever, Greg Robinson.
It seems an impossible irony, but it’s true. Shafer was canned as DC at Michigan, so that Rich Rodriguez could bring in Groobers. This was the same Groobers who had just walked away from the flaming carnage of the SU football program. He had just had 1, 2, 3, and 4-win seasons, a combined 3-25 in the Big East, and one of the worst defenses in the nation. Then he was incredibly hired as the Wolverines DC.
As you might imagine, Robinson somehow made the Michigan defense worse. Like historically bad.
Here’s a look back from AnnArbor.com’s “Eye on the Wolverines.”
“But the root cause of all the defensive problems, and really, the undoing of Rich Rodriguez, can be traced back to one day. December 16, 2008.
That’s the day Rodriguez fired defensive coordinator Scott Shafer after one year in Ann Arbor. It was a panic decision. The Wolverines finished 3-9 and needed someone to blame.
The outsider, the member of the first-year staff with no prior connection to Rodriguez, working with position coaches he did not hire, took the fall. That year, his defense allowed 347 points and 4,403 yards.
Numbers like that would be cherished today.
Today, Shafer is Syracuse’s defensive coordinator. He has his defense ranked 13th in the country in points allowed (18.1 per game) and fifth in yards per game (295.0). Of all the mistakes Rodriguez made in the past three years, the one that hurt him most on the field may have been the quick hook of Scott Shafer.”
More defense of the job Shafer did in Ann Arbor from MGoBlog.com:
“But we do know Shafer, a very good MAC coordinator who Harbaugh picked up and then made Syracuse better than anyone thought possible very quickly, is a good coach. And we know he was undermined and pushed out. Evidence suggests Greg Robinson is a terrible coach but he was undermined, too, and instead of a vaguely worse defense than two BCS teams coupled with Denard Robinson – good for 8-4 at least – we got something that was literally the worst ever in various categories.”
Obviously, I’m rooting for Shafer. I’m a Syracuse fan. But I’m also pulling for the guy because he has to live with the ignominy of being replaced by the single worst defensive mind in football history. How sweet it would be for Shafer to lead Syracuse football back to glory, a program that was buried there because of a guy he was fired for.
I hope Groobers has the ACC package on his cable box.