Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Todd Dodge making way outside Texas
By Andrea Adelson
Todd Dodge got his official welcome to the Northeast in January, when he saw more snow in the month than he did in his entire life.
Born and raised in Texas, Dodge spent his coaching career in the state. He rose to prominence as the head coach at Texas powerhouse Southlake Carroll High, going 98-11 in seven seasons, popularized the spread offense and became known as an offensive innovator. He took on a huge challenge in 2007, when he became head coach at North Texas with just two years of experience as an assistant on the college level, also with the Mean Green in 1992 and 1993.
Todd Dodge is looking forward to a new challenge as quarterbacks coach at Pittsburgh.
But Dodge found little success, going 6-37 before being fired in the middle of last season. Dodge was not quite ready to give up on the college game, though. Rather than have his pick of several high school jobs that came his way, Dodge waited for an opportunity to be a college assistant and gave himself a deadline of Feb. 1 to find a job. That came when Todd Graham gave him a call in January.
The two have known each other since 1994, when they were both high school coaches in Texas. Graham recruited Dodge's son, Riley, to play at Tulsa. So when Graham pitched the idea to become quarterbacks coach at Pittsburgh, Dodge jumped at the chance even though it would require leaving the place he had always known. With that, Dodge became the first quarterbacks coach since 1992 to only hold that title at Pittsburgh.
"I’m at a point in my career where I have a real passion for coaching quarterbacks," Dodge said in a recent phone interview. "I’ve always coached them, whether I’ve been a head coach or an assistant. I’ve got a lot to offer to the staff, I’ve got a lot to offer to the quarterbacks in the present and in the future.
"I've got a lot to offer Coach Graham because I understand what he’s going through on a daily basis, having been a head coach, but also I think it makes you a lot better assistant coach because you know what the head coach needs. That’s where I am in my career, and that’s what I wanted to do. I don’t know how many years I’ll be in coaching, but I was not ready to get out of college coaching."
After North Texas let him go, Dodge spent his time watching Riley, who was the starting quarterback at North Texas. Riley has since transferred to McNeese State, and Dodge has had time to reflect on his decision to become a college head coach. Many were skeptical when he was hired because of his inexperience, and he seemed to struggle to make the transition.
But Dodge has no regrets over his decision to leave Southlake Carroll, where he was a rock star in the state. He coached Chase Daniel and Greg McElroy, among others, and led his team to four championships in his final five seasons.
"Was I ready? Shoot, I don’t know," Dodge said. "I don’t know if you’re ever ready. As far as where our players came from academically, how far they came character wise, it was night and day from the time I got there to the time I left. I’m very proud of that. I helped get a stadium built there. I left the North Texas program in a lot better shape in a lot of ways. The bottom line is we didn't win enough games.
"I understand that, but I have no regrets at all on that. It would be easy to say I was on a roll at Southlake Carroll, going 79-1, fixing to go for a fourth straight high school championship. Then you take a job and a lot of people say you fell on your face, but I don’t look at it like that. You make decisions in your life and you go on. Right now, I’m absolutely so happy to be here at Pitt, to be on this staff and to be in this city."
And he sees plenty of potential with his new quarterback, Tino Sunseri. Dodge ran the no-huddle at North Texas, so he seems to be in a good spot to help Sunseri make the transition.
At least that part of Dodge's new life is familiar.