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You’re Nuts: Who should Ohio State hire as its offensive coordinator?

The Buckeyes are in search of their next play-caller.

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.

In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.

This week’s topic: Who should Ohio State hire as its offensive coordinator?

Josh’s Take

The Ohio State football program has experienced — nay, enjoyed — a busy and fruitful month of January, helping to ease the sting of a rather dismal December (other than Early Signing Day). In the first few weeks of the new year, OSU has already added a handful of impact transfers and began to re-work Ryan Day’s coaching staff, while also retaining the services of several stars.

Oh, and Parker Fleming was finally let go, ending Buckeye Nation’s long, insomnia-inducing nightmare. RE: Fleming, it’s nothing personal. I think most fans want him to land a new gig and grow as a coach. But the Buckeyes’ special teams units have stunk out loud under his direction. So it was beyond time.

However, one move that Day and Ohio State have not yet made is the selection or naming of a new offensive coordinator (playcaller) and/or quarterbacks coach... If that is indeed the plan. Adding a non-Day playcaller is something that many fans have wanted for years, while replacing Cory Dennis with an actual QB “expert” now seems prudent after the lackluster performance(s) of Devin Brown and Lincoln Kienholz. And to a certain extent, Kyle McCord.

But ultimately, Day has to want to pull the trigger on such a move. And be willing to hand over the playcalling duties...

Fortunately, the Buckeyes’ head coach finally seems willing to do so. Or at least that is what has been rumored on the ol’ interweb, as well as several podcast progrums. And there have even been real, non-fictional names attached to these rumors! Such as Dan Mullen, Jason Candle, and Liam Coen.

While all of the names above carry a certain amount of cache, they may or may not be the ideal candidate for OSU’s hypothetically-open(?) OC/QB coach role. And what do I mean by “ideal”? Of course I mean respected and desired by the likes of Gene Ross and yours truly, thanks to their previous success, giant football brain, and/or ties to Ohio State... Actual fit and qualifications are secondary or tertiary in terms of importance here.

So that is the topic for today’s edition of You’re Nuts. Gene and I each came up with one ideal candidate to inherit playcalling duties and presumably coach QBs in Columbus. Whether Ryan Day listens to either one of us is TBD. But he would be wise to at least read the next few paragraphs.

My ideal candidate is current (interim) offensive coordinator and QBs coach for the Buffalo Bills, Joe Brady. Primarily known for his work with LSU in 2019, Brady is only 34 years old and already boasts a decade of high-level coaching experience. Furthermore, he has worked with multiple position groups and under highly respected coaches such as Sean Payton, Ed Orgeron, and Matt Rhule. Say what you will about the latter two, but Coach O has a ring and Rhule gets plenty of love in coaching circles.

While Brady gained notoriety as the passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach for LSU in 2019, that has little (or nothing) to do with why I want him as the Buckeyes’ playcaller. Plus, Ohio State already has Brian Hartline fulfilling those duties. No, I want Brady in Columbus because of the work that he has done with Buffalo.

Brady has helped turn around an underperforming Bills offense, while also getting the most out of RB James Cook and QB Josh Allen — AKA a rich man’s Will Howard. The former had been severely underutilized with (former BUF OC) Ken Dorsey calling the shots, while the latter... Well, he has sort of always been awesome. But there are comps between him and the Buckeyes’ new QB, so why not bring in the guy who has been directing the tank and aiming the rocket launcher!? Just to be clear: Josh Allen is both the human tank and the human rocket launcher in this scenario.

Brady’s ability to achieve balance in Buffalo has been impressive. If you watched the Bills in previous seasons, you know that their offense relied solely on Allen and WR Stefon Diggs. But since taking over as the team’s playcaller, not only has Brady helped keep Allen playing at an MVP level, but he has also turned Cook into a legitimate 1,000-yard back. Now, the latter still doesn't (get to) score touchdowns, but that’s between Brady and my fantasy team. We’ll talk if he comes to Columbus.

Ryan Day has always talked about the importance of balance, and Joe Brady seems to have found it in Buffalo. And when you also take into account the latter’s combination of youth and championship-level experience, don’t you just sort of see the PERFECT candidate for what we think is an open OC role with Ohio State? I mean, imagine a little bit of the 2019 LSU passing game mixed with Will The Tank Howard getting downhill and plowing over defenders.

I’m getting ahead of myself, Gene! Tell me I’m dreaming, or give me a better candidate than Joseph no middle name on Wiki Brady!

Gene’s Take

While I don't really have a strong take as to who I want as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator in 2024, I know that two things are true: Ryan Day has to finally pass the sticks, and Corey Dennis has to be shown the door.

Dennis’ only claim to fame as a coach was being the son-in-law of former Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer. He had no prior coaching experience beforehand, and Ohio State is definitely not a place to cut your teeth and learn on the job. While the Buckeyes have had strong quarterback play throughout Dennis’ tenure in Columbus before 2023, likely all of that credit falls on the shoulders of Day. It is time to move on from the Meyer nepotism hire, and find a coach who can actually work with the quarterbacks and take some of the load off the head coach in the QB training department.

In terms of Day as a play-caller, he was really solid in his first few seasons at Ohio State, but the weight of being the program’s CEO in addition to all of his other responsibilities as the headman has resulted in a steady decline in the team’s offensive output. There is a reason a play-calling head coach has not won a national title since Jimbo Fisher in 2013 — it is simply too much to ask. Especially in today’s college football landscape, where in addition to recruiting and game planning you also have to worry about the transfer portal, NIL and a host of other issues, calling plays on game day is a huge ask.

As such, Day needs a guy who can come in and make his life easier elsewhere by helping to actually coach the quarterbacks as well as being trusted to call plays on Saturdays. While I didn’t like the idea of this hire originally, I can see a lot of reasons why a guy like Dan Mullen could be a good fit at Ohio State.

Mullen has 13 years of head coaching experience between Mississippi State and Florida, most recently serving as the Gators’ headman from 2018-21 before spending the last few years as a TV analyst for ESPN. Mullen spent time working under Urban Meyer as the quarterbacks coach at Utah, where he helped Alex Smith become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. He then followed Meyer to Florida as the QB coach and offensive coordinator, where he aided Tim Tebow to a Heisman Trophy season, and later coached Dak Prescott at Mississippi State.

Mullen also has ties to Ryan Day, as the two spent time together at Florida when Day was a grad assistant with the Gators in 2005. The two coaches also both hail from New Hampshire. He is a well-known commodity, winning 103 games in his head coaching career, and has largely had strong offenses during his stints in both Starkville and Gainesville. Mullen also posted a 7-3 record in bowl games, winning four of his last five postseason contests.

The one area I worry about Mullen is on the recruiting trail, where he has never really been all that willing a recruiter. It is a little easier to stomach that if he is spending the majority of his time coaching the QBs and designing the offense, as it will free up more time for both Ryan Day and Brian Hartline to hit the trail — both of whom are some of the nation’s top recruiters. It would also be interesting to see if Mullen could adapt to new and evolving trends among college football offenses, and how he would be able to utilize an Ohio State offense that features far more talent across the board than any of his prior teams.