David Cutcliffe: 'It's not an X's and O's game. You've gotta teach'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Friday April 08, 2016

David Cutcliffe says this offseason had the greatest amount of change at Duke since he arrived in 2008, but the key was to make sure the value system didn’t change.

Cutcliffe lost some coaches and staffers to promotions or retirements. He continued a tradition of promoting from within at Duke with offensive line coach Marcus Johnson, but he also added two new coaches in special teams coordinator Jim Bridge and defensive line coach Ben Albert. On Thursday, he explained what he looks for in an outside hire, and why it’s the same baseline.

I like (promotions), because they understand the value system of the program. When you go outside and you make changes, you start with the value system of the program when you’re looking for candidates,” Cutcliffe said. “You’re fortunate to have people like Jim Bridge and Ben Albert, who fit that role, that are exceptionally gifted and experienced.

“It’s a nice way to bring in some new things to the table. A new way of looking at things. We visit people. We’re never going to try to become stale, but we’ve got to in-house visit. We’re not going to compromise the value system. So the transition in that regard has been really easy.”

It’s not just values off the field. It’s on-field values and philosophies, too.

Cutcliffe pointed to new offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach Zac Roper, who moved from tight ends coach / special teams coordinator. Roper knows the program values and has been around Cutcliffe for a long time. That was more important than the X’s and O’s he could draw up.

“When Zac Roper makes a big change from tight ends / special teams coordinator to the offensive coordinator, Zac’s been around since 1999,” Cutcliffe said. “He understands the values of practice habits, the values of discipline, the values of play-calling, area of the field, third down, the importance of the football, all those things that are a bigger deal than people realize. It’s not an X’s and O’s game. You’ve gotta teach. The blend of the two things makes it all work.”


Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.