Scott Bordow: Dennis Erickson isn't going anywhere, even if ASU loses its last six games. But it's time to look for a new offensive coordinator -- even if its against Erickson's will.
In Dirk Koetter's final season as Arizona State coach, the Sun Devils ranked 34th in the country in total offense.
In 2008, under Dennis Erickson, ASU slipped all the way to 103rd.
This year the Sun Devils rank 88th, and in the Pac-10 they're ahead of only UCLA and Washington State.
Contrast that with the transformation at the University of Arizona.
The Wildcats ranked 113th nationally in total offense in 2006. Two years later, they ranked 31st before settling in at 64th this year.
Coach Mike Stoops hired Sonny Dykes as offensive coordinator after the '06 season, then got out of the way.
There's no point in debating Erickson's future at ASU. Even if the Sun Devils end the season with a six-game losing streak - which is a real possibility - he'll return in 2010.
And he should come back.
College coaches should get at least four years to turn a program around. It may not happen in '10 for ASU - the schedule is brutal, with games at Wisconsin, Oregon State, California, USC and Arizona - but Erickson deserves the opportunity to prove he's worth the money the university is paying him.
That said, ASU can't stand pat in the offseason. It's become evident over the last two seasons that Erickson needs to hire an innovative offensive coordinator and, like Stoops, get out of the way.
Rich Olson is not the answer. If he was, Erickson wouldn't have taken the play-calling responsibilities away from him this season. Nor should Erickson be running the offense. He's 62 years old and set in his ways. He's not going to reinvent himself at this point of his career.
No, ASU needs someone like, well, Koetter. Say what you want about Koetter's unwillingness to sell the program or play nice with boosters and the media, but the man knew his way around a film room. He could break down defenses and create a game plan to take advantage of mismatches.
Does anyone see much of that from the Sun Devils these days?
To be fair, ASU's talent level offensively has something to do with its tepid results. Quarterback Danny Sullivan can't beat good teams with his arm, the receivers - with the exception of Chris McGaha - have been a huge disappointment, and the running game is inconsistent.
It's hard to come up with a brilliant game plan when their players are better than your players.
But that's exactly why ASU needs a bright offensive mind - to get the most out of the talent it has. In Dykes' first season at Arizona, the Wildcats averaged 130 more yards a game than they did in 2006, and their pass-efficiency rating climbed 32 points.
That's what good coaching can do.
Erickson is incredibly loyal to his assistants, many of whom are close friends and have been with him for much of his coaching career. He's passionately defended his ASU staff and, in particular, Olson.
Given those deep roots, Erickson may resist any change.
If that's the case, athletic director Lisa Love needs to assert her authority. Normally, I'm not a fan of ADs usurping a head coach in regards to his staff, but on rare occasions it's necessary.
This is one of those occasions.
If Erickson needs convincing, he doesn't have to peruse Dykes' resume. Just look down the hallway. In 2006, ASU's defense ranked 69th in points allowed per game. This year, it ranks 26th.
Think defensive coordinator Craig Bray has made a difference?