It may seem hard to believe now, but it wasn’t that long ago when Steve Addazio was a fairly hot coaching name.
Now, the only thing hot associated with the Boston College head coach is the scorching seat he sits on to try and keep his job.
The question, of course, is how exactly he went from someone who turned around a struggling program with consecutive winning seasons to start his tenure in Chestnut Hill to the leader of an outfit that has not won an ACC game since 2014.
There are plenty of answers to that question, but the main theme comes back to a lack of continuity. The byproducts of that issue vary, but at its core, this program has had too much turnover at too many key spots to survive.
The most glaring deficiency in this regard comes from the offensive coordinator position. In Addazio’s first two seasons, he had Ryan Day hold down that spot, and the run-heavy scheme was creative enough to work and gave the Eagles an identity.
This offense, which flourished best under Tyler Murphy, required a dual-threat quarterback, so for the first two recruiting cycles of Addazio’s regime, those were the types of players he brought in.
But when Day left in 2015 to become the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterbacks coach, Addazio was forced to reshuffle the deck to an offense that required a more traditional drop-back passer for new coordinator Todd Fitch.
It didn’t help matters that Darius Wade, recruited to run Day’s offense, got injured at the beginning of the season, and at times the Eagles were forced to play with a walk-on at quarterback in John Fadule.
The results weren’t pretty. The offense struggled mightily and despite a top-ranked defensive unit, the Eagles went 3-9, including 0-8 in ACC play.
That led to Fitch’s ousting, bringing forth this season’s offensive coordinator, Scot Loeffler, who favors a more balanced attack, but one that started a new quarterback in Patrick Towles.
So in four years, Addazio’s offenses have had three different coordinators and four different starting quarterbacks. Towles, a graduate transfer from Kentucky, ensures that next season, regardless of who is coaching, Boston College will have a new starter under center for the fourth straight year.
How on earth is a passing game supposed to find any sort of consistency when that’s the case?
The situation didn’t get better on the other side of the ball when defensive coordinator Don Brown, who may be the best at his trade in the nation, left for Michigan, where he is again thriving.
While the Eagles’ defense this year is statistically still highly ranked under new coordinator Jim Reid, its performances against the truly elite offenses on the schedule have been lackluster.
It would be easy to say that Addazio’s success in his first two seasons came as a result of benefiting from the players recruited by previous head coach Frank Spaziani, yet that’s a lazy piece of analysis and one not based in fact.
If anything, Addazio’s strength has been as a recruiter and the players he has brought in are, by and large, the ones who have performed best under him.
Junior defensive end Harold Landry is one of the best at his position in the ACC, and Addazio pulled him out of North Carolina in a huge coup over a number of big-time programs.
Running back Jonathan Hilliman had a boatload of offers coming out of prep powerhouse St. Peter’s Prep in New Jersey and chose the Eagles. Hilliman has battled injuries but seen plenty of success as big back with the speed to break off the occasional home run.
There are other examples, but on the list of problems under Addazio, recruiting is near the bottom. The Eagles have never been the type of program to fill its class with blue-chippers. Rather, the Eagles tend to make selective gains by uncovering the diamonds in the rough like quarterback Matt Ryan, a three-star out of Pennsylvania, or linebacker Luke Kuechly out of Ohio, who was not offered by the in-state Buckeyes.
No, in the end, it’s not those whom Addazio has convinced come to Chestnut Hill, but those who have left that could prove his undoing. And if his program’s momentum continues to slide downward, he may be the next to go.
— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.