Matt Canada will be on the sideline for Maryland football’s season opener against Texas. DJ Durkin won’t be. The former is now the Terps’ acting head coach, and the odds appear strong that he’ll keep that title for the rest of the season.
So how’d Maryland’s interim head coach get here?
Canada coordinated a somehow-deadly Pitt offense in 2016, and was on a fast rise in the profession.
Canada, 46, started his career as a student coach at Indiana. After tenures with the Hoosiers, Butler, Northern Illinois, NC State and Wisconsin, he landed at Pittsburgh for the 2016 season. With future NFL QB Nathan Peterman and RB James Conner among the talents at his disposal, Canada orchestrated an offense that hung 40-plus points on Penn State and eventual national champion Clemson, and ranked fourth in S&P+.
To put it in technical terms: this offense was fun and weird as hell.
That campaign dumped Canada directly into the national spotlight, and a nomination for the Broyles award (goes to the nation’s top assistant) followed.
Matt Canada’s offenses, by S&P+
|Year||Team||Off. S&P+ rank|
|Year||Team||Off. S&P+ rank|
Canada’s success at Pitt led him to LSU, which...well...uhh...
When interim LSU head coach Ed Orgeron became full-time LSU head coach Ed Orgeron, Canada was his prized hire. The plan was simple: Orgeron was the CEO, with Canada and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda were the Xs and Os guys.
It did not work out so well.
Canada and Orgeron reportedly beefed behind the scenes over control of the offense. Coach O publicly criticized Canada’s playcalling at one point, and told the OC to cut out the presnap motions that were a staple of his offense. LSU’s offense wasn’t particularly good, ranking 42nd in S&P+, and the Tigers faltered to an underwhelming 9-4 finish. Canada and LSU split at the end of the season.
‘It’s tough when you make a mistake, but it’s even tougher not to admit you made a mistake,” Orgeron said at SEC Media Days this summer when asked about his decision to bring Canada on board.
Canada is one of the most recent additions to Maryland’s staff, which is likely why he’s the guy in charge.
Canada joined Maryland’s staff in January, replacing outgoing offensive coordinator Walt Bell, who took the same job at Florida State.
When Durkin was placed on leave one day after ESPN’s reporting into the football program’s player treatment and Jordan McNair’s death, Canada was immediately tabbed as the man to take over in the interim.
The decision to pick Canada as acting head coach wasn’t totally a surprise, but longtime assistant Chris Beatty figured to be the candidate with the most pull in the locker room. While Maryland hasn’t publicly commented on the decision to place Canada in that role in the three weeks he’s held it, the implication was obvious: He just got here, so he’s less responsible for the team’s culture, whatever that may be, than coaches who have been with the team since Durkin’s tenure started.
Now that Canada’s here, this is sort of an audition.
Canada’s been careful to brush off the idea that this job is an opportunity for him, as he should given the atmosphere in which he’s been elevated to head coach. But Canada already seemed likely to warrant attention as a head coach somewhere if he coordinated a successful Maryland offense, and Durkin doesn’t seem likely to return. Now that he’s the interim head coach, one can easily see the scenario where Canada is still the interim head coach later in the season and coaching for a chance at getting the full-time job, should he want it. That’s not what’s important right now, though.