Even Santa cries about this season.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Holidays to all our loyal readers. The 2011 Syracuse football season was, overall, a disappointment. A losing season. No bowl game. Regression in many aspects of the game. After each game this season, Orange::44 has graded the offense, defense, special teams, and coaching. Now that the season is over, it's time for the final report card, to see the final averages for the team. Let's just say, this isn't something to take home to mom & dad, hang on the refrigerator, and get a bonus in your allowance or a special dinner at that fancy restaurant.
Season GPA: 1.693
I think the offense is the unit that regressed the most through the season. Led by quarterback Ryan Nassib, the offense started as a solid C unit. It was getting the job done, putting points on the board, winning games. It all peaked with that monster win over West Virginia. And then, well, the bottom fell out. The once-accurate Nassib was now badly missing his targets; receivers weren't getting open; the line couldn't hold open the pocket. It was bad. Antwon Bailey had a good season and will be known for being a small but strong runner who could make something out of nothing. But too often he was a non-factor in this offense; there were some games where his numbers were simply awful -- not because he didn't play well, but because he wasn't given the ball. Nassib will be returning for his senior year, and the young receiving corps will have a chance to shine next year, but there are a lot of questions to be solved between now and September. Does this offense have the ability to do well?
Season GPA: 1.803
It wasn't always pretty, but often times this defensive unit kept the team in the game. We'll put it on the offense as to whether a win resulted or not. Coming off a 2010 campaign where the defense was strong, veteran, and clearly the most dominant unit on the team, the 2011 version had younger players, and some key injuries. Most damaging was losing Chandler Jones after the Wake Forest game. He provided a nice spark for the line upon his return, and was constantly able to put pressure on opposing QBs. Jones also had the uncanny ability to be all over the field, following the ball and making stops. I'm too lazy to look up the stats, but he probably led the team in tackles. Maybe he should teach the rest of the defense how to tackle, because they were awful. Just awful. It was Greg Robinson Era tackling for many games. Pass coverage was soft too... as if we had seen that before in a prior administration. At any rate, a healthier, more experienced defense should help out this team next year. Especially if Chandler Jones sticks around. We need more interceptions from him like the one he got in Pittsburgh to close out the season.
Season GPA: 2.026
In many ways, this was not a typical season for the Syracuse special teams unit. Filling the boot of Rob Long proved to be an extremely difficult task. As a result, Syracuse gave up some yards on the field position game that hurt the defense. Field goals & extra points weren't the automatics we were generally used to. Toledo game, anyone? The one bright spot on this squad was the kick return unit. Led by Kobena & Graham, you could often times count on a nice run back and a good starting position for the offense. Again, whether the offense would do anything with it would be up to the offense.
Season GPA: 1.803
We all expected more out of Doug Marrone and his staff. Sure, we had all gotten used to his conservative play-calling, but we weren't content with it. Especially when we saw him open up the playbook at the Pinstripe Bowl last year, we all thought, maybe, we'd see an exciting offense this year. Not so much. There was the occasional trickery, razzle-dazzle, whatever you wanna call it. Flea flickers, WR passes, a new name for the Wildcat. But that was all pretty rare. Outside of the play-calling, coaching disappointed me with the lack of discipline on this team. False starts, holding, personal fouls. Sure, those things are done by the players, but the leadership, the discipline, the preparation, they all come from the coaching staff. You take a look at some of the boneheaded things that happened at the last home game against Cincinnati, or the season finale at Pittsburgh; those were the actions of a team in week 1 or 2, not week 12. We saw some players face suspensions for "violating team rules," and you have to wonder what was going on in that locker room. Was there a lot of in-fighting? A mutiny? This doesn't seem like Doug Marrone's team. Not the Doug Marrone who cleaned house when he was hired, getting players off the team who weren't willing to buy into his work ethic and his way of doing things. I don't know what it is. That's a coaching issue, a team issue, that Marrone needs to regain in the off season. Otherwise, all the talent in the world isn't going to win a game on the field next season.
Season GPA: 1.831 (C/C-)
You crunch the numbers and you end up with a C/C- and you think to yourself, "Yeah, that sounds about right." On the lower part of the curve, decent, but not good enough. At the halfway point, this team was 4-2, and I said they were either the best 4-2 team in the country, or the worst 4-2 team in the country. It ended up being the latter. Other than the upset victory over West Virginia, the Orange lost every game of the second half of the season. And you look back at those four wins, and you realize they were just good enough to win those games. Two of them required overtime. We'd all be singing a different tune about "just good enough" if that equated into six wins and a bowl berth. But five, just not good enough. 2011 wasn't a total failure; it's simply another chapter in the Syracuse anthology currently being authored by Doug Marrone. We just hope that, as the pages turn from 2011 to 2012, the narrative doesn't turn into a horror story.