David Cutcliffe: 'Our head coach didn't do a good job, but I retained him'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Sunday July 16, 2017


After reaching four straight bowl games for the first time ever, Duke fell to 4-8 last season. They were hit with a load of injuries, but David Cutcliffe put the problems on himself.

Not because of the injuries, but because he didn’t get them to overcome them.

“We lost three of our four captains a year ago to injury. We lost seven starters to surgery a year ago. But guess what? Welcome to college football,” Cutcliffe said on WFNZ The Fan in Charlotte. “It happens. So respond so it. You don’t roll over.

Unfortunately, our head football coach didn’t do a good job. I retained him another year just to see what he’s going to get done.”

Starting quarterback Thomas Sirk suffered two Achilles injuries in the offseason and missed the year. Leading rusher Jela Duncan tore his Achilles while celebrating a touchdown during a game. It was just one of those years.

Cutcliffe said it came down to maturity and the inability of the team to handle it.

“You think about your own personal growth and maturity. When we’re a child and somebody takes something away from us, we cry. We don’t handle adversity well,” he said. “As we mature, we learn how to handle tough circumstances. We didn’t handle them at all. That’s all on me. We had a lot of injuries, but that’s not the reason we didn’t win.

“The reason we didn’t win is we didn’t respond properly to the injuries. We’ve spent a lot of time with this team, and what I like is, starting in January, they were willing to do things a little harder than what we’ve done. We started that way at Duke (when I arrived in 2008). We had no choice.”

The good news for 2017 is Cutcliffe says this is the deepest team he’s had, and it’s something he’s noticed in summer meetings.

The Blue Devils have 14 returning starters, but they’re only No. 82 in Phil Steele’s returning experience rankings. Still, Cutcliffe likes what he sees so far. Now it’s up to him.

“It is the deepest team we’ve had, and both lines of scrimmage,” he said. “I met last week with our offensive line one morning at 6:30, our defensive line the next morning, and we just had a conversation. It’s interesting as a head coach to do that, because you look at the seats in the room, and you start evaluating how many people you think you can win with. We’ve got more people at those critical positions to win football games.

“Are they ready-made? No. That’s what we do as coaches. We’ve had the linebackers, will have the DB’s. I like that, because it lets the head coach know, if I do my job, we’re going to have a deep football team.”

Duke opens the season with home games against NC Central, Northwestern and Baylor.

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.