For a long time, the Colorado Buffaloes kept an extremely tight lid on the search for the next offensive coordinator. Early signing day came and went without a hire, and Karl Dorrell mentioned that the Buffs were close to a decison. Some Twitter smoke appeared around Brennan Marion, the Pitt WR coach who has a unique “GoGo” offense. That turned out to be a red herring, as the Buffs announced Mike Sanford Jr. as the hire on Friday afternoon:
You may not have heard of the man, so let me give you a taste of some of the national reactions to this hire:
Like this hire. Colorado is hiring Mike Sanford as OC https://t.co/cUXxYTA3vC— FootballScoop (@FootballScoop) December 17, 2021
That is, overall, not a very good impression
As many mentioned, Sanford has coached at a lot of impressive places as a 39 year old. After playing quarterback for Dan Hawkins at Boise State, he coached UNLV (under his father), Stanford, Yale and Western Kentucky before finding his way back to Stanford, where he was RB coach, RB/WR coach, and RB/WR/QB coach in his three years there. He then went to Boise State for one year as OC/QB coach before taking the same job at Notre Dame for two years. Then, he was hired as head coach of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, and served for three years before being fired. After that, he was hired as Utah State’s OC for one year and Minnesota’s OC for two years before being let go.
And now he finds his way to Boulder. You may have noticed a pattern with Mike Sanford. He seems to be fired a lot. He may be really unlucky with his bosses, but more often than not, it looks like his production does not meet what is expected of him. Western Kentucky averaged more points per game before and after his tenure, Notre Dame’s offense exploded after Sanford was replaced and Minnesota is sure to improve after Minnesota’s lackluster output last year. He fits a lot of what Karl Dorrell values - a balanced gameplan, a West Coast/pro-style attack and no emphasis on tempo.
He does not appear to fit a lot of what fans value, or at least what I value. He appears to be a solid recruiter, but in general it seems like he has failed more than he has succeeded. He has four years of Power 5 play-calling. In those four years, he has averaged 29.6 PPG, which would’ve been 58th in the country. In his last year at Minnesota (2021), he was 84/130 in scoring offense. Minnesota’s passing offense was one of the worst in the country last year (Colorado was one of the few Power 5 teams that was slightly worse). In general, Mike Sanford seems like a dependable and stable hire with a low ceiling, at best. He seems like a retread that has run out of gas, at worst. Dorrell, and to a lesser extent Rick George, have hitched their job security to fixing the offense after the disaster that was 2021, so they must have full confidence in Sanford at this juncture. This Twitter thread from a disgruntled Minnesota fan is an impressive statistical lookback at his QB coaching:
Sanford has an impressive coaching tree, so the open positions of OL coach and WR coach should be fun to watch.
Welcome Mike Sanford Jr to Boulder!