Quick Q&A with Mike Johnson on conservative play-calling

Was the plan against Oregon State to be that conservative? Finishing with 11 quarterback passes and nearly 40 runs?
“If you look at that first half, we had three opportunities where we had guys running down the middle of the field wide open and we couldn’t get it off. We had protection issues, guys pushed back in the quarterback’s face. That changes the whole game. Had a play with 42 seconds to go, fastest guy matched up against a linebacker, and we couldn’t get it off. If you make those plays, you’re talking about a 250-yard passing game and a 220-yard running game, and you have proper balance.
Going to Covallis, I thought it was important we stayed in 3rd-and-6 or less – if you look at our third downs, we were better on third down and we had four or five 3rd-and-ones. After the Texas game, when we came out and threw it early, I thought it was important we didn’t put our team in that situation.
We were in control of that game for the most part, and when we had to battle back – that touchdown when we got out ahead again, they were throws. There’s a time when you have to open it up. From our standpoint of growth of confidence, I think it’s important you put them in situations for them to be successful.”

Do you have a gripe with the label of conservatism?
“It’s not as easy as throw it to Randall (Carroll) or throw it to Josh (Smith). You have to understand the offensive line and who they are. You’ve got to understand if you put them in too many situations, what’s going to happen. You have to understand the growth of your quarterback and flip-flopping the quarterbacks early and not giving one guy all the reps and that situation. It’s a culmination of all of that. If you drop back and throw it 30, 40 times, how many sacks are you going to give up?
Then you say, what is best situation to put our offensive line in? We have a defense trying to find its way thats injured. It’s important we don’t extend their reps. For me, its a total process of putting all that together and making sure you’re putting your offense in the best situation to win.”

Do you have to approach every game differently in terms of that?
“Every game is different. Against Texas, you have to come out and you had to loosen them up a little and we threw three picks. We didn’t execute as well as I would’ve liked, but I thought it was important to have balance. The Oregon State game we came out and first two or three drives, we took three shots. Didn’t hit them – didn’t even get them off – because somebody pushed back. Had Randall Carroll running downfield three times, didn’t get chance to capitalize. You look at the whole picture, the defense and offense, how are we blocking up front, and you try to put together a plan to go win the game. When you play a team like Stanford, you have to score points. You have to take those chances. You can’t be as conservative against Stanford as Oregon State.”

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  • Anonymous

    For the most part, when Brehaut and the O-line have been given the chance to throw they’ve been decent. Apparently, the coaches have no confidence in the players and are coaching not to lose, rather than letting the players compete to win.

  • uclaproflee

    The most interesting thing is MJ’s use of “flip flopping” in describing the QB situation. It wasn’t “instability” at the QB position, or something similarly neutral. Most of what he said resonates and I hope we’ve turned the corner on the QB situation for now.

  • ucla-of-the-rockies

    “You have to understand … You’ve got to understand … You have to understand.”

    No, coach, YOU GOT TO UNDERSTAND that it’s time to put on your big-boy panties, open the playbook and let your players play. This is not high school anymore. Or junior college. This is freaking Pac-12 football. Get out of the way and let these kids play. Vertical. Horizontal. Fricking backwards if that’s what it takes.
    And while yer at it, get your shit together w/CRN so we stop wasting crucial timeouts because YOU TWO CANNOT GET ON THE SAME FORMATIONAL page, etc.
    Good God this is a joke.
    By looking at film, Stanford must think we are the most two-bit outfit they’ve ever seen. I’m sure after 5 minutes, Luck simply said: “I’ve seen enough. I’ve got homework to do. Figure I won’t be playing past halftime anyways.”

  • Bruintx

    Despite what CRN has been saying for 6 months, it doesnt sound like he and his OC are on the same page… again! Sounds like the OC was just as irritated as everyone else that CRN wouldnt make a decision one way or the other on ONE starting QB.

    Still, sounds like both of them are making quite a few excuses as to why they are so conservative with so many weapons. “we missed with 3 deep passes” seems to translate to ‘well, that was a bust so lets not do THAT again’!!

    Is it me or do these coaches seem to treat the team like they were 10 years old? Seems like CRN has been saying the same thing since he got here… “we dont want to give them too much to do at once or push them too hard. They might get down”

  • Marc

    The most interesting thing I got out of that is coach Johnson referring back, nit once, but twice, to the three picks thrown early in the Texas game. It sounds like that has had an effect on the coaches, even though it was Prince who threw them. It wasn’t Brehaut, it was the guy who was out of game shape, took less reps in practice due to injuries and appears shaky in the confidence department. Man, that seems strange. Though, I am not in their shoes.

    I like what Jon said in the video blog with Chaz about not just vertical stretching but widening the field as well. Rarely does this offense appear to spread out. That, I believe, comes directly from lack of confidence. Coach Johnson appears to have touched on that with his comments re the offensive line.

    With the coaches’ offensive issues (I refuse at this point to put any of it on the players) and the issues at defense, none less than the rash of injuries to the secondary, I am really starting to worry about this weekend’s game.

    21 point dogs, to boot. Dang….

  • Anonymous

    i don’t buy it cmj, in baseball, they say a pitcher is pitching too fine.

  • Marc

    The most interesting thing I got out of that is coach Johnson referring back, nit once, but twice, to the three picks thrown early in the Texas game. It sounds like that has had an effect on the coaches, even though it was Prince who threw them. It wasn’t Brehaut, it was the guy who was out of game shape, took less reps in practice due to injuries and appears shaky in the confidence department. Man, that seems strange. Though, I am not in their shoes.

    I like what Jon said in the video blog with Chaz about not just vertical stretching but widening the field as well. Rarely does this offense appear to spread out. That, I believe, comes directly from lack of confidence. Coach Johnson appears to have touched on that with his comments re the offensive line.

    With the coaches’ offensive issues (I refuse at this point to put any of it on the players) and the issues at defense, none less than the rash of injuries to the secondary, I am really starting to worry about this weekend’s game.

    21 point dogs, to boot. Dang….

  • Anonymous

    What I got out of all that was not that the coaches don’t trust the skill positions to make plays, but they don’t trust the O-line to protect the quarterbacks long enough to let the plays happen. Long bombs take a little more time to develop, and I guess the coaches don’t think the line can give them that time.

  • brunfn

    Worrying about staying 3rd and 6 or better situations is what is slowing down this offense. If we open up the play book and get some plays of 10 or 15 yards a piece, we eliminate some of this pressure not to mention give Brehaut the confidence he lacks right now.

  • The Blur

    Nice work, Jon. I like bringing that topic up with the coaches.

    I know there’s a lot of doubters, and that’s cool, but I’ll still give the coaches the benefit of the doubt that they know their team better than we do. I think coach’s answers make sense.