During Rich Skrosky’s tenure as offensive coordinator at FIU, the program saw back-to-back quarterbacks selected in the NFL draft (Alex McGough & James Morgan) and his offense produced the most prolific three-year stretch (2017-2019) in program history, averaging 29 points per game over that span. However, a rough 2020 campaign saw the offense rank among the bottom third in Conference USA in points per contest (22.4) and last in pass yards per game (123.4) leading Butch Davis to make the decision not to retain Skrosky following the season.
After former running backs coach Tim Harris Jr. chose to leave the coordinator position six weeks following his promotion to the role, Davis turns to ex-Fordham head coach and NFL assistant Andrew Breiner to lead the offense. For Davis, the move away from Skrosky was necessitated by the need for the offense to evolve.
“I’m looking for more variety in the personnel groupings, not just being in 11 (one running back, one tight end) 75-80% of the time,” said Davis. “We’ve recruited some talented tight ends, H-backs & running backs, so scheme wise, running the ball, play-action pass and the passing game (overall) we have to grow.”
How those objectives come to fruition remains to be seen – what is known is that the offense will look different under the 36-year-old Pennsylvania native, who has coached under some of the most well-regarded offensive football minds in the coaching profession.
“This last year for me in Philadelphia was like going to football school everyday and it’s that type of experience that you can’t put a price on,” said Breiner of his role as an offensive analyst under Doug Pederson with the Philadelphia Eagles last season.
Prior to his year in the NFL, Breiner spent nine seasons as an assistant under former Mississippi State head coach and current Oregon offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead – during which, Moorhead became one of the early adoptees of the RPO offense – leading to great success during their time together.
While he isn’t keen on sharing the exact details of what his offense will look like, he doesn’t hide the fact that his time under Moorhead have heavily shaped his offensive philosophy.
“I spent nine years under him (Moorhead) and learned so much as far as scheme and how to attack, so there’s no way I’m going to get up here with you and act like there won’t be some things that are similar,” said Breiner. “Ultimately, my job is to put players in position to succeed — how we get there remains to be seen, but we’re going to do that.”
A coaching wunderkind, Breiner became Moorhead’s offensive coordinator at Fordham at age 27, then succeeded his mentor as the team’s head coach at 32. In his last three seasons as Rams’ offensive coordinator, the team averaged over 38 points per contest and led the Patriot League in total offense over that time span. He will look to jumpstart an FIU offense that sat at the top of Conference USA in points per game three seasons ago — and solving last year’s revolving door at quarterback will play a major factor in those efforts.
“Coach Davis and I will sit down and decide the guy who gives us the best chance to win. It doesn’t matter their experience,” said Breiner. “Now of course, experience helps make a good decision maker, but it can also be taught — I’ve had young guys be excellent at it and veteran guys be not as good.”
Former Fordham quarterback Kevin Anderson was at the controls during Breiner’s tenure with the Rams and believes that Panther signal-callers are primed for success — as long as they’re ready to embrace the learning process.
“He’s a master of taking a playbook and teaching it to a young quarterback,” said Anderson. “That guy taught me how to learn, which is something that believe it or not, lot of young quarterbacks don’t fully understand how to learn the game.”
In his 30 starts at Fordham, Anderson rewrote the Rams record book, throwing for 7,663 yards and 73 touchdowns with only 18 interceptions. The Boca Raton native attributes Breiner’s attention to detail and ability to teach the mental aspect of quarterback play to his success, while offering some advice to the current FIU quarterbacks.
“He taught me the foundation of what we call “upper-level quarterback play,” said Anderson. Coach (Breiner) takes quarterback pre-snap (coverage recognition) and post-snap confirmation of coverage to another level and I’m telling you, in college, programs aren’t scratching the surface of mental quarterback development like the way he’ll teach them.”
Davis hopes that Breiner’s experience at the professional level will help FIU’s grow, specifically in ways that will get the ball in the hands of their playmakers.
“I’m really excited about what his time with the Philadelphia Eagles will bring to our offense schematically,” said Davis.
For Breiner, practices have served as an opportunity to take a step back and evaluate the talent on the roster — especially since he was hired the day before the start of spring camp.
“It’s been like drinking water out of a firehouse, I think that’s the best analogy I can give,” said Breiner. “To be honest, it’s been a little bit frustrating, but it’s also given me a chance to step back and evaluate the players — guys like D’Vonte Price, our top-three receivers in Tyrese Chambers, Shemar Thornton and Bryce Singleton as well as Sterling Palmer — those guys have stood out.”
Earlier this month, Anderson was invited to watch practice and catch up with his former head coach, as well as FIU offensive line coach Joel Rodriguez, who was also a part of the Fordham staff during Anderson’s college career. He believes that the Panthers are primed for a successful season in 2021.
Those (offensive players) have to dive into the mental game and Coach Breiner will teach it,” said Anderson. “As long as they trust the rules, they’ll learn the game and have a lot of success like I did.