The two sides of Winnipeg hiring Gary Crowton

Of all the CFL coaching changes made this offseason, Winnipeg's hiring of Gary Crowton as offensive coordinator (to replace the fired Jamie Barresi) Monday seems like one of the most likely to be either a brilliant success or an incredible disaster. Crowton certainly has a list of past accomplishments to hang his hat on, including claiming a Mountain West championship when he was Brigham Young University's head coach in 2001 and a BCS national championship as LSU's offensive coordinator in 2007. He also has an impressive resume over almost 30 years of coaching stints in the NCAA and NFL. However, Crowton has never worked in the CFL game, his offence doesn't appear particularly suited to the CFL mould, and his stock has been trending sharply down of late. Will the Blue Bombers' decision to think outside the box pay off, or will it explode in their faces?

There is something to be said for unconventional thinking, particularly in a league where most of the offences look very similar much of the time and most of the coaches and coordinators have been around the league for decades on end. Crowton does bring a different perspective, and one that has found success over the years. His biggest accomplishment was probably LSU's run to the BCS title in 2007, and while that team was largely famed for its Bo Pelini-led defence, it's worth pointing out that they scored 38.6 points per game. Crowton also helped mould then-LSU quarterback Matt Flynn, who took over from the departed JaMarcus Russell (the top pick in the 2007 NFL draft) and performed quite well; Flynn is now a backup with the Green Bay Packers and perhaps one of the NFL offseason's biggest free agents. Crowton's offence that year was quite balanced, putting up 2998 rushing yards and 3154 passing yards, and that could make him a solid fit for a Winnipeg team that will likely depend at least as much on the rushing ability of Fred Reid and Chris Garrett as it does on the arm of Buck Pierce. Moreover, Crowton has worked at a wide variety of schools (everywhere from Oregon to BYU to Louisiana Tech), and even had an NFL stint as the offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears from 1999-2000, so he's experienced plenty of different circumstances. Furthermore, as ESPN's John Clayton told Dave Naylor, Crowton is a big proponent of bubble screens, which have recently taken off in the NCAA and NFL.

The downside of the Crowton hire is that his stock isn't particularly high at the moment. Crowton served as LSU's offensive coordinator from 2007-2010, but dissension against him from fans was growing by the end of his tenure, and he left for Maryland before the 2011 season. Under the new regime of Crowton and new head coach Randy Edsall, the Terrapins went from 9-4 in 2010 to 2-10 in 2011. They ranked 77th amongst FBS teams with 4556 total yards, 67th in yards per game (379.7) and 77th in passing yardage (222.0). That's not particularly impressive, and there's no indication that Maryland wanted to retain him for the 2012 season. If he hadn't hung on there, he likely would have been reduced to the OC role at a lower-tier school or a less-prominent role on a bigger school's staff. Moreover, lots of college football fans have been, shall we say, less than impressed with Crowton over the years. Here are some Twitter responses I got when polling NCAA types about the move:

As you can see, Crowton certainly is not loved by many college football fans at the moment. Will he be able to turn that reputation around north of the border? We'll have to wait and see.