Experience Breeds Success
Nov. 9, 2001
by Trent Packer
As a former four-year starting quarterback at the University of Oregon, Virginia offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave understands the peculiar pressures associated with playing college football. More importantly, the three-time Duck captain, who also serves as UVa’s quarterbacks coach and tight ends coach, knows what it is like for a signal caller trying to cope with college life and learn offensive plays week in and week out.
In addition to his considerable college football experience, Musgrave also made a name for himself in the National Football League. He spent four years as a backup quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers (1991-94), two years on the Denver Broncos’ roster (1995-96), and part of one year (1998) with the Indianapolis Colts. Even before his playing career came to an end, Musgrave had already worked as quarterbacks coach with the Oakland Raiders (1997). So when a return to the NFL with the Colts ended with his release in the middle of the season, Musgrave didn’t skip a beat. He went on to serve as offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles for the remaining 10 games of the 1998 season. Musgrave moved on to the Carolina Panthers in 1999, where he served as offensive coordinator for the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
At just 34 years of age, Musgrave has already compiled an impressive resume. It’s little wonder, then, that Cavalier head coach Al Groh reached out to Musgrave when he was searching for an offensive coordinator following Groh’s hiring in January 2001.
“I am excited to be at the University of Virginia,” Musgrave says. “It is a great opportunity for me. To be at a first-rate institution and work on a staff like coach Groh has assembled is a real feather in my cap.”
As offensive coordinator, Musgrave and the rest of the Virginia staff have focused on creating problems for opposing defenses. According to Musgrave, coach Groh has had a history of using formations to confuse opposing defenses. Musgrave has adopted this particular approach and applied it to UVa’s offensive looks.
“Coach Groh has a tremendous background on forming formations with the offense that cause problems for the defense,” Musgrave says. “We are going to try and bring that to Virginia. Each week we will add a few new wrinkles here and there to try and cause problems for the defense without compounding things on offense.”
Musgrave’s role as offensive coordinator is inextricably tied to his duties as quarterbacks coach. As a college quarterback himself, Musgrave knows how important a signal caller’s success can be to the fortunes of a football team. At UVa, Musgrave, Groh, and the rest of the Virginia staff, inherited two young quarterbacks, and have continued to use both of them throughout the 2001 season. With the relative inexperience of the Cavalier quarterbacks in mind, the focal point at that position has not necessarily been statistical achievement. Alternatively, for the UVa coaching staff, success has been defined by the quarterbacks’ ability to put points on the scoreboard.
“A successful quarterback is one that gets his team in the end zone more than his opponent,” Musgrave says. “We are not looking for extremely high statistics or gaudy quarterback ratings. We are just trying to score more points than the other team. Whatever that takes, that is what we are asking [the quarterbacks] to do.”
Watching film and analyzing opposing defenses have both been crucial to Musgrave and his staff as they endeavor to get the most out of their quarterbacks. The coach also focuses on teaching his signal callers how to recognize defensive sets. By learning an opponents’ likes and dislikes, and helping his quarterbacks recognize defensive formations, Musgrave can assemble offensive game plans geared towards making things as simple as possible for his quarterbacks.
“All of the time in practice, we are trying to prepare the quarterback to recognize defenses,” Musgrave says. “We spend a lot of time looking at our opponent, trying to find any little nuances that might give us an advantage. If we can do that, we have fewer decisions to make when the ball is snapped.”
With a myriad of college and professional experiences to draw from, Musgrave has made an immediate impact on Virginia’s offense. He is teaching a young but talented pair of quarterbacks how to make things easier on themselves, and at the same time giving his offense every advantage possible to succeed on Saturdays.