Wisconsin concluded this season with a disappointing 8-4 record and 6-3 in Big Ten play. The Badgers’ Week 12 loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers cost them Paul Bunyan’s Axe and a trip to the Big Ten Championship game. It was also the first time since 2003 that the Badgers lost in Minneapolis. The Week 12 game also highlighted Wisconsin’s problems on offense all season long. While the rushing attack had a big rebound from 2020, the passing game didn’t improve at all and the Badgers tried not to use it. These issues typically fall on the offensive play-caller and QB guru in one Paul Chryst. This brings the Badgers football program to a crossroads offensively. It’s time for the Badgers to look outside Wisconsin and hire an offensive coordinator.
Trouble on Offense
The Badgers offense was disappointing for the most part. The play-calling could often be second-guessed and lacked creativity, there were little adjustments made and the execution was poor. Let’s take a look at how the Badgers offense compared to the rest of the Big Ten in 2021.
- 8th in total yards at 377.5 ypg
- 13th in passing yards at 162.1 ypg
- 2nd in rushing yards at 215.4 ypg
- 9th in scoring at 25.1 ppg
Wait They Already Tried It
The cynic will tell you that the Badgers already tried to have someone else call plays and it went badly. While Joe Rudolph called plays in 2020, he has been on the staff since day one of the Chryst era. He also was a part of the Badgers staff from 2008-2011 as a tight ends coach. The offense essentially stayed the same with no new ideas and was somewhat worse. After that experiment, most Badger fans wanted him fired and Paul Chryst took over play-calling again. The numbers that Rudolph’s offense put up in 2020 are very similar to Chryst’s this year.
- 12th in total yards at 345.6 ypg
- 13th in passing yards at 181.0 ypg
- 7th in rushing yards at 164.6 ypg
- 9th in scoring at 25.1 ppg
If those numbers were enough for Chryst to snatch play-calling back, wouldn’t it be wise to try something outside the box?
The Badgers ground game improved tremendously in 2021. Chez Mellusi was a nice pickup and the decision to put Braelon Allen at tailback obviously worked out. Many are left wondering why he wasn’t used earlier in the year when the Badgers stumbled to a 1-3 start.
Pass Game Nightmare
The passing attack was a nightmare to watch. Graham Mertz didn’t improve much from 2020. He was regularly put in unfavorable positions due to play-calling. The Badgers aren’t going to win any games by passing the ball frequently. Mertz finished the 2021 season with a 58.7 completion percentage along with ten interceptions to just nine touchdowns. At one point in the season, the Badgers tailored their play-calling to take the ball out of Mertz’s hands. That was how unreliable the Badgers passing game was this year and it clearly showed against Minnesota.
While Mertz is ultimately the one having to go out and execute, some of that comes back to play-calling and coaching. These were the responsibilities that Chryst didn’t do a good job with this season.
Time for a New Voice on Offense
It’s time for a new voice on offense and for some new ideas. In past coaching cycles, Chryst has brought in assistants from outside the university, and now would be the perfect time to do it again. The Badgers have shown that they are one of the least creative teams on offense in the Big Ten. To compete for big bowl games, a team must be creative on offense and that is something the Badgers lack. Perhaps a new voice in Graham Mertz’s ear might make him realize his potential. Chryst needs to show that he can make the right decisions to get the Badgers back to winning the Big Ten West and beating Minnesota regularly. With the Badgers about to lose most of their starting receivers; it makes it even more important to bring someone from the outside to run the offense.
Aside from an improved running game, the offense looked almost the same as last year. It’s as if Joe Rudolph never gave up play-calling. If the Badgers want to return to competing for Big Ten titles and big bowl games, then Paul Chryst must give play-calling to a new offensive coordinator.