Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s resume is full of question marks. Where he’ll land next isn’t one of them.
Chaney, who is reportedly to be named UGA’s next offensive coordinator, has had success. However, there are questions about just how responsible Chaney – who was the offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh last season, and six years prior at both Tennessee and Arkansas – was for the successes his offenses have experienced.
First, there’s Chaney’s main claim to fame: his time spent helping to develop quarterback Drew Brees at Purdue. The Boilermakers offense was known as “basketball on grass” with Brees at the helm from 1997-2000. The offense was predicated on its fast pace, short drops and quick reads. Brees was the perfect fit.
It’s unclear just how much Chaney’s influence affected the offense at Purdue. Joe Tiller was the head coach at the time and considered the guru of that offense. Plus, Brees turned out to be a special talent, who would go on to what currently looks like a Hall of Fame career in the NFL.
The Purdue offense rolled on with Chaney at the helm after Brees’ departure. However, once again, Chaney had a future NFL quarterback under center. Kyle Orton wasn’t as good as Brees, but he proved competent enough to land a long-term NFL career.
Current Ohio State coach Urban Meyer thought plenty of Chaney. When he was at Bowling Green trying to implement a spread attack, Meyer reportedly sought advice from Chaney.
Chaney appeared to be a spread coach for life. Then, he changed his career path and broadened his offensive approach. Chaney coached the offensive line and tight ends from 2006-08 for the St. Louis Rams before going back to college.
Chaney was part of an all-star staff when he was hired by Tennessee in 2009. The offense got off to a slow start with senior Jonathan Crompton at the helm. Then, Tennessee’s coaches found a niche with Crompton by moving the pocket and utilizing rollout passes. The offense flourished in the second half of the season.
Again, how much credit does Chaney deserve? Sources at the time indicated that head coach Lane Kiffin took over much of the offense and quarterback coaching.
When Kiffin left Tennessee for Southern California, his replacement, Derek Dooley, kept Chaney on board. The Vols had a mixed bag with quarterback Tyler Bray. The California native had plenty of ability, but not the maturity most coaches would want.
Still, in just 28 games, Bray landed on several Tennessee all-time career lists. He finished his career fourth in passing yards (7,444), fifth in completions (540) and fourth in touchdowns (69). Bray’s best season was during his junior campaign in 2012 when he was surrounded by future NFL receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter.
Tennessee finished fourth in the SEC in total offense in 2012, but one could argue that was based more on talent than coaching. Chaney served as interim head coach in a meaningless game against Kentucky. The Vols seemed to rally around him and won, 37-17.
When the Dooley era was over at Tennessee, there was no room for Chaney, who became the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arkansas. The Razorbacks averaged 31.9 points in their second season under Chaney. That was 20 points more per game than Arkansas scored the previous season.
Then came a curious move.
Chaney suddenly left Arkansas for the same position at Pittsburgh. As it turned out, his one season at Pitt may have been his most impressive. Chaney helped turned Tennessee transfer Nathan Peterman into a solid quarterback. He was far from that at Tennessee, where he struggled mightily on multiple occasions.
Peterman posted a 141.1 quarterback rating last season. He completed 180 of 293 passes with a 61 percent completion rate. Peterman threw for 2,150 yards and 19 touchdowns with just five interceptions.
Now, Chaney heads back to the SEC, and there’s no question he has some impressive marks on his resume. However, there is plenty of debate as to whether he is an elite offensive mind or a coach that often found himself in the right place at the right time.