When Matt Canada was hired as the offensive coordinator in 2012 from Northern Illinois some fans shook their heads wondering what Bielema was doing hiring a coach that ran a spread offense. Further still, some wondered if Bielema was going to put Matt Canada under some sort of strict orders to pound the rock. Well, according to Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel it's becoming clear that Bielema wouldn't let Canada out of the cage so to speak.
That is until the Nebraska game and all you need to do is look at the results of that game to see just how good of a game manager and play caller Matt Canada can be. You know, 640 total yards, nine touchdowns and 70 total points against a pretty good Nebraska defense. I'm sure it left you and me both asking where the hell was this offense all year, right?
Potrykus is saying that sources close to the program are telling him that Bret Bielema was restraining what Matt Canada wanted to do with his offense.
To his credit, Canada is saying all the right things – mainly avoiding placing any blame at all on Bielema and saying that injuries and defensive matchups dictated play calling and scheming more than anything else.
It's honorable what Canada is saying publicly, but all you need to do is look to the one game where Canada was able to take the gloves off, the Big Ten Championship game, to give you all the proof you need that there was more at work than just injuries and getting used to each other.
Last I checked, that's what spring football and fall camp are all about – getting to know each other and what you have.
I don't have a problem with a coach wanting to stick to a certain style of offense, you have to have an identity on both sides of the football or your in big trouble, especially in a conference like the Big Ten. So, I get Bielema wanting to stick to the pro style offense that has been the trademark of Wisconsin for as long as most of you can remember.
That's not the issue at all, the issue comes in when you have a head coach that made a hire that he didn't trust enough to run the offense to the best of the abilities of the players he had on hand. Just look at Paul Chryst's offense with Russell Wilson at the helm or even in the final year of the Scott Tolzien era and tell me those were the same offense's we saw at the beginning of the Chryst era at Wisconsin.
If you can say that I'd challenge your football acumen to say the least. A good coach allows his staff to put their players in the best position to win football games. If that means taking a few plays a game off of your 10 play script of run left, run right, run up the middle, play action pass and throw deep then you do it.
Bielema clearly had trust in Paul Chryst to do just that because by the end the offense was humming to the tune of regularly scoring over 40 points a game. He also clearly had zero trust in Matt Canada this season.
What other explanation is there for what we saw in the Big Ten Championship versus the rest of the season? It's not as if Wisconsin wasn't just as healthy along the offensive line in games against Ohio State and Penn State, yet we sure as hell didn't see what we saw against the Huskers on Dec. 1st in Indy against those two teams.
Perhaps, just perhaps that's the biggest indication of what was wrong in 2012 with Wisconsin – Bret Bielema didn't have full trust in the coaches he hired in the offseason. If you can't trust the people you are working with on a daily basis to put you in a position to be successful, regardless of the profession, you've failed as a leader and a 7-5 record overall proves that Bielema failed in doing more than the bare minimum to get Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl.
Were there things they had to overcome that no other team had to? Sure, but that isn't an excuse that should be used as a defense for not allowing the offensive coordinator to see his players for their talents and putting them in places to use their talents to the best of their abilities.
If this report is accurate, even to just a small degree, then perhaps the Badgers are better off with a new staff in place, one that loves and trusts each other to win on Saturday's regardless of how it's done and what "style" you are playing. Handcuffing your assistant coaches is never a recipe for success and in the future if you ever wonder about an assistants ability again let's just remind ourselves of what happened to Wisconsin in 2012 and start looking at the head coach first.