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The Cardinal Connect

As already reported by multiple outlets it appears that Offensive Coordinator Garrick McGee is no longer an employee of the University of Louisville, taking the same position with his friend and mentor Lovie Smith at the University of Illinois. While there has been some mixed reactions the overwhelming response from most seems to be…Illinois!?!

I’ll try and break this down from my own perspective and shed some light on why the move might not be the worst decision for Garrick and his family.

PROS

  • He gets to work alongside Lovie Smith, who McGee has mentioned on multiple occasions as a coach he not only respects but looks to for guidance on a consistent basis. The relationship goes back to 1990 when Lovie recruited Garrick at Arizona State to play quarterback and has continued for the last 26 years. One could say the relationship with his family goes back even further as Lovie was an assistant coach at his alma mater, Tulsa (Linebackers) from 1983-86 and had a solid relationship with Garrick’s father who coached Booker T. High School in the same city. Lovie , being a Tulsa native (same as McGee) created a friendship/ connection with McGee back then that has remained between the two even as their paths have gone in different directions over the years. Garrick was actually quoted by ‘The Oklahoman’ back in 2013 as saying that Lovie is the coach "I talk to the most about philosophy, about managing, handling staff, players." Although McGee and Petrino have created quite the partnership over the last eight years, I think the relationship Garrick has with Lovie is the main reason he took the job.
  • McGee steps into the role of Offensive Coordinator in a program where he can take the reins and truly leave his own mark. While internally we may view his role slightly different than others, the national perspective is that McGee was almost like the robot body of the Ninja Turtles super villain Krang with Petrino being the “brains” of the operation. (Google it) He was important to the system without a doubt, but wasn’t the one in control. It’s well known that since his return Bobby has not only taken on the play calling duties but is ultimately the one making the final call on all offensive decisions. At Illinois, Lovie is the defensive expert who will now look to McGee to be the offensive head coach of sorts, bringing his pro-style offense into a program that has finished 88th and 97th in total offense the last two seasons. If McGee wants to be a head coach again one day (solid assumption he does), this opportunity allows him to showcase his talents and step out of the shadow of Petrino in a program who can now gain some momentum on the recruiting trail with the buzz surrounding their head coaching hire. (Speaking of recruiting, McGee was an assistant at Northwestern in 2004-2007 and still has some Chicago area connections, which along with the name Lovie Smith, will speak volumes to local kids making their college decision. I expect Illinios to make some noise in the next few years in the weaker B1G-West division)
  • Dolla, Dolla bills ya’ll. While McGee was very well compensated at Louisville, early reports are pointing at him being one of, if not the highest paid assistants in the B1G conference. McGee was making about $854,000 as the Cards OC last year and rumors are his new salary could exceed $900,000. We all know Jurich has no hesitation to open up the pocket book when justified, but $900,000 may be tough to match for a man in his position-on this particular coaching staff. Money isn’t everything, but $900,000 can help in the decision making process.

CONS

  • Garrick is possibly leaving one of the most loaded offensive units at Louisville in quite some time. Yes, you can point to the excitement behind Lamar and the other freshman who accounted for more than 50% (53%, to be exact) of the total offense in 2015, or even extend it to the underclassman in general (Freshman/ Sophomores) that accounted for 88% of the total offense last year, but the more head-scratching moment for me was bailing before getting to coach one snap with Jawon Pass under center or watching Dez Fitzpatrick run one wheel route in a Cardinal uniform. Things could get real exciting on the offensive side of the football in the next couple of seasons and McGee could have been a big part of that well oiled machine. A missed opportunity that I’m sure will have numerous coaches chomping at the bit to be his replacement.
  • Missing out on what UofL is building (literally and figuratively) with the football program, in which he helped develop momentum. Charlie didn’t leave the cupboard bare by any means, but McGee and this staff have continued to keep the program in the eyes of most on a national level. All signs point to a Top 15 team next year with a real threat to compete in the ACC and potentially on the national stage in 2017. No one can predict the future and how things will pan out in the seasons to come but it’s tough to argue that Louisville is setting themselves up to be a consistent threat over the next 3-4 seasons. The new academic center,the Schnellenberger facilities upgrade, and the stadium expansion will only help in keeping the program on its collision course with a National Championship, which has been the ultimate goal of Petrino and his staff from Day 1.

I knew what to expect when the news broke this morning. I knew the “Bobby runs the offense anyway” and “no big deal, we can get Paul Petrino” tweets and comments were coming. Yes, I think the Louisville offense will be fine. Yes, I think we can hire a solid replacement, but downplaying the significance of McGee to this coaching staff and this University is something I would tread very lightly in doing. McGee was a great spokesperson for the University, a solid recruiter, and a very intelligent offensive mind. To say he won’t be missed is simply not accurate. Good luck to him and his family.

And oh, by the way….176 Days Until Kickoff