Georgia Tech announced on Sunday that Chip Long will be the new Offensive Coordinator and QB coach for the Yellow Jacket football team, filling both roles vacated by the recently fired Dave Patenaude. Throughout the search and after the hiring, Ben has done a great job detailing Long’s career, and I’ll let you check out that profile.
Today, I want to take a closer look at the three stops where Long has served as offensive coordinator previously: Memphis in 2016, Notre Dame from 2017-2019, and Tulane in 2021. We’ll dive into some advanced stats for each team before, during, and after (where appropriate) Chip Long’s tenure to try and anticipate what kind of changes GT fans might expect from his offense in 2022.
As we try to anticipate play-calling tendencies, Chip Long has established a clear trend. In all three of his offensive coordinator stops, the offense has thrown on a higher percentage of its snaps during his tenure than they did before he arrived. One of our consistent complaints with Coach Patenaude over the past three seasons was his calling too many run plays on both first downs and on second and long plays. Long has a history of nudging things more heavily towards the pass, which should be appealing for potential higher end QB targets and more importantly in the short run, set GT up for higher offensive production.
On average, Long’s offenses threw the ball about 5% more often than before he arrived. For referenced, GT’s rush rate was 51% in 2021, so look for something closer to 45% next season.
This explosiveness metric (from collegefootballdata.com) measures how impactful offensive plays were, given that they were successful. The metric measures the avg. number of expected points added for an offense on successful plays.
Here’s where we see the payoff of that more aggressive play-calling. Not only did Long increase the pass rate at each stop, he increased offensive explosiveness at each of his previous OC jobs. The impact over all three stops averages out to over a tenth of a point per explosive play. On average, explosive pass plays create almost 50% more value than explosive run plays. Long increases pass rates in his offenses and finds bigger plays as a result.
Georgia Tech finished 2021 just about average in offensive explosiveness, measuring out at 1.27. If Long is able to bring the same kind of impact as he has previously, that number would end up somewhere around 1.4, which is closer to the top 25% nationally. Whether Long is working with Jeff Sims or a transfer quarterback of his choice, GT fans can look forward to the prospects of more explosion next season.
We will take a look at a number of different measures of offensive efficiency as we evaluate past Chip long tenures.
First up, we’re looking at CFBD’s PPA (projected points added, a cousin to EPA) metric on standard downs and on all plays. For context, a passing down is Second-and-8 or more, Third-and-5 or more, Fourth-and-5 or more, so a standard down is anything else.
Here, we see some mixed results. Memphis and Tulane both show significant PPA decreases after Long’s arrival, while Notre Dame shows slight improvement.
The Memphis situation is discouraging; Long had Riley Ferguson as his quarterback in 2016, and the offense got slightly worse. In 2017, with Ferguson still under center, things exploded. Long was not able to unlock Ferguson’s potential like his successor Darrell Dickey was.
At Notre Dame, Long took over a fairly anemic offense that had Deshone Kizer as signal caller in 2016. With Brandon Wimbush in 2017 and Ian Book in 2018, Long was able to utilize two quarterbacks with distinctive skill sets to help the Irish offense up its game. Notably, the 2020 Irish offense took a small step back in efficiency after Long was replaced by QB coach Tommy Rees. Here, we have the most promising aspect of Long’s track record.
Moving along, we take a look at both total success rate and passing success rate. The clearest movement here is the big drop in success rate at Tulane this season. This is worrisome. It’s the most recent stop in Long’s career, and a 5% drop in success rate is huge. Georgia Tech’s below average offense (41% success in 2021, 40% on passes) certainly cannot afford any drop-offs like this.
Further, I was hoping to see some uptick in passing efficiency after Long’s arrival. As announced yesterday by GT, his positional focus will be on quarterbacks (as opposed to the tight end focus he has had at many of his previous stops). Georgia Tech’s pass game must get more efficient, as born out in metrics like success rate and CPOE. We don’t have charting for these previous Long stops, and subsequently no CPOE data, but the lack of gains in passing success rate doesn’t bode well for a program that has struggled to develop its quarterbacks since the start of the Collins era.
Finally, let’s look at what kind of disruption Long’s offenses have given up.
Georgia Tech had 16% of its run plays stuffed in 2021 (running plays that went for no gain or a loss) while employing the services of superstar Jahmyr Gibbs and dependable power back Jordan Mason. Neither will be lining up in the backfield in 2022. Chip Long’s teams have not fared well in the run stuff rate department. Notre Dame was 4% worse during Long’s than before he took over, and that number immediately improved after he left. His Memphis tenure tells an identical story. With a less talented backfield and massive question marks along the offensive line, Georgia Tech looks likely to follow a similar arc next season.
Unfortunately, the havoc numbers tell an almost identical story. Long’s teams experienced an across the board uptick in allowing havoc (TFL’s, FFs, PBUs, and INTs) plays by the opposing defense. GT checked in just about average in this metric in 2021 (at 20%), and a significant increase would spell trouble. Without having watched extensive film on Long’s offense, the guess here is that the aim of hitting bigger chunk plays often leads to the quarterback waiting too long to throw, and the reliance on lots of offensive line pulling often leaves the running game susceptible to tackles in the backfield. With offensive line question marks abounding, this is an inauspicious trend that Long has fostered before his GT tenure.
What to Expect
- Higher pass rate: Chip Long has thrown more than his predecessor at each of his offensive coordinator stops. There’s no reason to doubt that he will show a similar play-calling tendency at GT, likely through heavy doses of play-action and RPO looks.
- More explosiveness: Long’s play-calling tendencies have similarly increased offensive explosiveness at each of his stops. This is the most hopeful trend we’ve identified for GT’s 2022 prospects.
- Break-even Efficiency: Efficiency is more predictive than explosiveness; we have our friend Bill Connelly to thank for that football truism. Across the board, Chip Long’s offenses have just about broken even in efficiency with the offenses before and after his tenure, with the exception of the significant downturn that Tulane experienced this season.
- More Disruption Allowed: Every offensive scheme has tradeoffs. It appears that Chip Long is willing to trade more negative plays for more explosive plays. We will be watching closely to see how that tradeoff works out for GT in 2022, and much will depend on what ends up happening with the all-important quarterback position, whether that looks like development for Sims or the inclusion of a new challenger through the portal.
Chip Long was considered an offensive coordinator on the rise in both 2016 and 2018, but his overall profile shows why his star has waned. His offenses produce more big plays but give up more negative plays and tend to just about break even in efficiency. So much has been staked on these coaching changes for Georgia Tech in the 2021 offseason, and it’s hard to see how this one is going to help bring about Coach Collins’s salvation.