Things were dire everywhere for the Tulane Green Wave in 2015: while the team did win three of its 12 games, this was merely good enough to not regress compared to the season prior.
With a 1-7 record in the American Atlantic Conference, Tulane finished last in the West division; you'll say that nice guys finish last, but head coach Curtis Johnson will likely counter that this cost him his job.
Perhaps even more damning than the record is how the team arrived at it: on the very rare games where its offense showed up, its defence didn't and on the rare games where its defense did, its offense didn't.
In 12 games in 2015, the Green Wave managed all of 236 points: at 19.7 points per game, the team ranked 113th in the FBS, which isn't good and that's just one way to show that the offense struggled. For total yards, Tulane finished 120th, also not great. Relative to their peers, meanwhile, Tulane offensive players ranked somehow worse, finishing at 122nd according to S&P+.
Perhaps more depressing is that the offense wasn't doomed by, say, a propensity to turn the ball over. No, Tulane actually only lost 15 turnovers this season, which leaves the team at No. 17. That's good, but it means that the offense was simply rather hopeless. It's not that they couldn't overcome mistakes or convert in the red zone, both of which the team did well; it's that they couldn't sustain drives in the first place.
Sophomore quarterback Tanner Lee completed only 51.8% of his 276 pass attempts, for a mere 11 touchdowns, seven interceptions and 1,639 yards. Add in another 619 yards from backup Jordy Joseph and you have wide receivers with rather pedestrian statistics, led by Teddy Veal's 644 yards.
The Green Wave weren't much better at rushing the football, averaging only 115.75 yards per game. Dontrell Hilliard and Sherman Badie averaged 5.6 and 4.3 yards per carry, but also combined for only 956 total rushing yards.
The Tulane defense did not do much better than the offence in 2015. At 435 total points allowed, or 36.3 points per game, the unit ranked 110th in the FBS. Per advanced statistics, Tulane had the 103rd group in Division I.
Dig a little deeper, however, and you see that maybe this defense wasn't quite as terrible as the numbers would indicate: the Green Wave ranked 74th against both the rush and the pass, as well as a decent 80th in total yards allowed per game.
What's the problem then? The unit was a mirror image of the offense in that it lacked an ability to force turnovers: it finished the year with 16 total turnovers gained. The same way that the offense never really turned the ball over, this defense couldn't provoke mistakes from the opponents often enough and, as a result, Tulane couldn't get off the field consistently enough on third and fourth downs.
By and large, Tulane won the few games where its offense scored enough: the team finished 3-2 in the five games where it scored at least 21 points. That still leaves seven games where the team scored between three and 14 points, which isn't enough to win.
Too often, the Green Wave defense compounded the offense's problems by consistently allowing points by the boatload; only twice did it allow fewer than 31 points. But then again, it's not just the defense's fault. Those two games where the defence held up its end of the bargain? Tulane went 1-1 in those two games.
I mean, maybe it's Darion Monroe? In a season where no one player, nor one unit, truly shined, the senior safety has as good a case as any of his teammates. In 11 games, he compiled 74 tackles, good for second on the team, and three of the team's eight interceptions. Throw in his work on punt returns, his 5.5 tackles for loss, one quarterback hit, four passes broken up and seven defended, and his two fumbles recovered... Sure, that's basically an MVP.
Maybe there's hope at the end of that long, long tunnel? After two successful seasons at the helm of the Georgia Southern Eagles, whose transition to the FBS he overlooked, Willie Fritz has taken over the program in NOLA. Fritz's career statistics, from Sam Houston State, Central Missouri and elsewhere, say the 55-year-old will be successful but is Tulane the exception? So few head coaches have solved this enigma.