December 12th, 2016

Billy Reed: Brohm to Purdue - a winning combo


Billy Reed

Executive Editor

Billy Reed: Brohm to Purdue - a winning combo
Jeff Brohm - Purdue football's new head coach

When it was announced that Jeff Brohm had accepted the football head coaching job at Purdue University, the naysayers and second-guessers came out of the woodwork to declare it a mistake, considering that the Boilermakers have been pretty much mediocre since, oh, Verne Lundquist was a pup.

This is disappointing because anybody who has followed Jeff Brohm through his career should know better. Every step of the way, as both a quarterback and a coach, Jeff has succeeded – and there’s no reason to believe that’s going to change now.

In fact, a better argument would be that Brohm and Purdue were more or less made for each other, at least from the standpoint of appreciating great quarterbacks. The Boilermakers have as much right as anybody to claim the title of “Quarterback U.”

The quarterback legacy at Purdue includes immortal names such as Dale Samuels, Len Dawson, Bob Griese, Mike Phipps, Mark Herrmann, Jim Everett, and Drew Brees.

Of those, the new Purdue coach has a special tie with Griese. When Griese led the Miami Dolphins to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 1971 and ’72, his offensive coordinator was the same Howard Schnellenberger who coached Jeff at U of L in the early 1990s.

So look for Purdue to shake up the Big Ten with the high-octane passing game that Brohm learned under Schnellenberger and polished during assistant’s stints under Schnellenberger, U of L head coach Bobby Petrino, and others.

Actually, Jeff’s first coach was his dad, Oscar, who played QB at U of L in the mid-1960s. Of Oscar’s three sons, Greg somehow ended up as a wide receiver, but Jeff and his younger brother Brian are both high on the list of Cardinal quarterbacks that’s now headed by Lamar Jackson, winner of the 2016 Heisman Trophy.

Brian Brohm played for Petrino during his first tenure with the Cardinals, leading U of L to victory in the 2007 Orange Bowl against Wake Forest. After playing a few years in the Canadian League, Brian last season was on Jeff’s staff at Western Kentucky.

Given all this, it’s rather amazing that Brohm’s first game as Purdue’s head coach will come against his alma mater on Sept. 2, 2017, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. 

That also will be Jackson’s debut in his quest to join Archie Griffin (Ohio State 1974 and ’75) as the only players to win the Heisman back to back.

It will not be the only game on Purdue’s schedule where Brohm has connections with the opponent. He was an assistant at Illinois for a season. And his rival at Michigan, Jim Harbaugh, is a son of the man who coached at Western Kentucky from 1989-2002. 

We’re talking about Jack Harbaugh, the only man to be father of the two competing head coaches in a Super Bowl. That happened in 2013, when the Baltimore Ravens, coached by John Harbaugh, defeated the San Francisco 49ers, coached by Jim, 34-31. 

When Jeff was playing at U of L in the early 1990s, Jim was helping his dad as an unpaid assistant while also quarterbacking the Chicago Bears. Rest assured he’s well aware of what Jeff did at WKU. 

Even discounting the Harbaugh connection, however, Western Kentucky has as much right as anybody to call itself the new “cradle of coaches.” There’s Brohm at Purdue. There’s Willie Taggert, just hired by Oregon. And there’s Petrino, who spent the 2013 at WKU redeeming himself from a sex scandal that got him fired at Arkansas.

Petrino and Brohm share an obsession with offensive football. They love to think about it, talk about it, and learn about it. Their idea of a good time is locking themselves up in a room to think up new formations and plays.

This devotion to offense enabled Brohm, after succeeding Petrino, to turn Brandon Doughty into a quarterback who led the major football schools in passing two straight years. This year he proved he could win without Doughty, guiding the Hilltoppers to their second consecutive 10-win season and third straight bowl appearance.

Although the Big Ten currently has arguably the best coaches of any conference in the nation – the best are Harbaugh, Urban Meyer at Ohio State, Mark Dantonio at Michigan State, and James Franklin at Penn State – they are not as accustomed to a coach who values speed and passing as much as Brohm.

There’s also the fact that any program that has been good once can be good again. The tradition and fan base are there. All that’s needed is the right coach with the right philosophy at the right time.

For Purdue, that’s Jeff Brohm.

Surprisingly, Purdue has only been to the Rose Bowl twice since the bowl began in 1902. Winning the Big Ten and going back to Pasadena will be one of Brohm’s goals. But, of course, the ultimate is to win one of the four berths in the Football Playoff Championships.

Crazy? Not if you’re Jeff Brohm. Not if you’re determined to revive Purdue as Quarterback U. You can bet that starting next season, fall will be fun again in West Lafayette. 


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