I wondered how long Dennis Erickson could take it, being out of football. Well, a year, it turns out.
The former WSU, Seahawks and Oregon State coach (well, he’s actually “former” several other places, too) was hired at 65 Monday by Utah to be its co-offensive coordinator along with Brian Johnson. Johnson is young enough to be Erickson’s grandson.
I don’t think this is any more complicated than Erickson needing to coach.
He was born to draw up plays on a greaseboard. There are a lot of other aspects to his coaching makeup, not all of them glorious, but this is a guy whose calling is to coach.
I recall Erickson telling me after he had taken the Idaho job a second time that he had been bored stiff during his year off following his firing by the 49ers, watching TV shows like “Lost” (fitting) and others featuring sportswriters arguing with each other. So he jumped when Idaho beckoned, and unfortunately, he was gone about 10 months later to Arizona State, a move that culminated in his firing after the 2011 season.
Tough to say whether Erickson has some genius to offer Utah. He’s been coaching the spread passing game forever, but offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone got a lot of credit for the success the Sun Devils had moving the ball late in Erickson’s tenure.
He doesn’t have to be the one establishing discipline at Utah, one element that usually fell short in his coaching stops. Head coach Kyle Whittingham can do that.
It’s a novel transition, going from more than 30 years of head coaching — nine different tenures, eight places — to being an assistant. I’m sure he’ll appreciate the aspect of somebody else (Whittingham) having to handle all the media and ceremonial chores for once.
As for the Utes, this doesn’t look especially good for Johnson, the 26-year-old ex-Ute quarterback. He was promoted when Norm Chow left for Hawaii, given the OC title at a very young age. When Utah stumbled in last season’s second voyage in the Pac-12, failing to get to a bowl game, Whittingham decided to call in some veteran expertise.