Too Early to Judge Tee Martin’s Promotion at USC


Tee Martin’s promotion to USC offensive coordinator continues a wild and rough year.

Actually, to say that the USC Trojans have had a rough year is an understatement. The Trojans have been mired in controversy for the better part of five years, but the off-the-field drama of 2015 made a strong run for worst year in sports.

2015 began with an incredible recruiting class and the belief that this team would be one of the favorites to win the Pac-12, possibly even compete for a national title. It ended with a new coach stepping in after a midseason firing, a lower-level bowl appearance, and a patchwork staff taking up after more firings.

On the field, USC’s true colors began to show early and it was only a matter of time before the Trojans began to suffer loss after excruciating loss, each one just a little bit more spectacular than the last. The Trojans were immensely talented, but they were nowhere near ready to compete with the conference’s elite, let alone the nation’s elite.

Even Helton’s signature win over Utah was undone by the Utes’ usual midseason collapse.

Once the regular season was said and done, USC closed with an appearance in the Pac-12 Championship game that did more for Christian McCaffery’s career than it did for the career of new Trojan head coach, Clay Helton.

Immediately following the loss, Helton did whatever needed to be done and the released a few of the weaker links in the coaching chain.

Good men or not, they were hired to do a job that they clearly could not perform at the level expected of a championship team. Any further delays in the coaching search could wind up hurting USC long-term. As such, the vast majority of the staff was shown the door and USC went looking for two new coordinators and several position coaches.

Then this week came the report via publisher Ryan Abraham, wide receivers coach Tee Martin is the team’s new offensive coordinator. Almost immediately, cautionary reactions began to flow forth from fans who felt that Helton was in over his head, made evident by his promotion of a first-time coordinator as a first-time head coach.

The idea that a brand new head coach would promote someone with even less experience to such a crucial role instead of bringing in a more established name just did not sit right with some of the most demanding fans in college football.

After attempting several frustratingly pointless conversations with fans and colleagues, it became clear to me that maybe Twitter wasn’t the greatest medium to try and convey my thoughts on Tee Martin’s hire. Perhaps more than 140 characters at a time are necessary to walk people down the hallway of madness in my brain.

I was a fool to try it on Twitter, but I will be foolish again and I will not learn from this mistake. Regardless, I’ll try to elaborate beyond my thoughts @FightOnTwist.

Before I get started, it would be prudent to restate my position on Tee Martin for those who do not follow me or wish to fumble through several different conversations to catch up. In a nutshell, my thought behind the Martin hire is that USC sorta had to do it at some point.

Martin’s status as a recruiter and an assistant coach is growing around the nation. Schools were going to come and someone was going to eventually offer him the offensive coordinator position that he desired. His ability to recruit alone would be enough to convince an upstart head coach to take a chance on Tee in a coordinator capacity.

Mentioning that Tee would be likely to leave is usually followed by the ridiculous notion that USC could have just made him a recruiting coordinator or passing game coordinator and paid him a ton of money.

This is usually the fan response to things because they cannot comprehend a world in which a national title winning quarterback like Martin — a guy who has already had to live in the shadow of Peyton Manning when it was Martin who brought Rocky Top the glory — might want to create a legacy of his own in coaching.

He had already been at USC for three years as a position coach and passing game coordinator is a title he has had three different times. Sometimes ambition means more to a many than a meaningless title and a bigger paycheck.

Not everything in sports can be solved by throwing money at it.


Hey Josh,

Nice article!

I'm one of the guys that you had a healthy debate with over twitter. The great thing about twitter is the ability to debate with others, yet at the same time the character limit really makes it challenging (and frustrating) to get points of view across.

While we still disagree on some pretty fundamental points, at the end of the day intelligent people can disagree and still respect each other's opinion. And in all cases I really enjoy your sharp point of view on Trojan football.

Philosophical positions of this topic aside, I suspect the bigger issue at play here may be that this hire is as much about the realistic available options as it is about qualifications.

Simply put- a first-time, unproven coach like Helton may have trouble attracting and hiring elite coordinators that many of us expected, for reasons both ego and job-security based:

- they may feel that they are more qualified/deserving than Helton of the head coach position and refuse to work for him

- they may not want to risk moving their family to work for an inexperienced head coach in a very unstable environment

- there is a high likelihood that Haden will step down in the next year or two, and a new AD may want to bring in his own head coach, which again puts the coordinators at risk.

One thing we agree on is that its too early to judge Tee. My point of view was never about Tee himself but what gives the program the best odds of success. No hire is guaranteed to work out, but some are more risky than others. That said, Tee is a much loved and well respected coach, and keeping him provides some much-needed continuity. Perhaps that will prove to be more valuable than an experienced, battle-tested coordinator.

Time to move forward. I'm excited to see what this staff can do.