Personnel vs. Program
Mark Whipple: Father of the Brown offensive system
The best Columbia teams of the last 20 years have been a product of unusually great players and coaches who were smart enough to adjust their systems to fit their talents.
Players like Marcellus Wiley and Rory Wilfork convinced then Head Coach Ray Tellier that it was a good time to go with a more defensive-dominated team with a ball control run offense.
Of course, that came after Tellier was smart enough to convert Wiley from RB to a defensive end.
Similar scenarios have occurred a few other times in Columbia history. Right now, it appears the team is at least somewhat being shifted to cater to QB Sean Brackett and his talents as a runner and passer.
It's always great for a coach to know where his players' strengths are, but itcan also be frustrating to have to wait for the great players to come along as opposed to having a system that more players can excel with and produce more consistent winning teams.
Yes, teams like Penn and Harvard have strong recruiting advantages. But they also have "systems" that rarely find themselves so lacking for decent players that they suffer losing seasons... or consecutive losing seasons.
Brown has a great system in effect too, and has had one since at least 1994 when then head coach Mark Whipple introduced a high-powered offensive scheme that hasn't been tweaked so much in the 17 years since.
Could/should Columbia try the same thing?
In some ways, we already are. For the last three seasons, the Lions have been using an option offense with a speedy QB at the helm. The last two QB's to run that offense, M.A. Olawale and Brackett have been excellent. We would do well to continue to attract that kind of player to that system in the future.
But lately, the other parts of the Columbia offense and defense don't seem as well defined for more than a year at a time.