Fire and ice coordinate for Bu≠s
Calm Lindgren combines with spirited Chiaverini to produce record-setting o≠ensive numbers
boulder» When Sefo Liufau was recovering from a Lisfranc foot injury last spring, unable to participate in team drills, the Colorado quarterback put on a headset and listened.
During practices and scrimmages, Liufau was able to gain an inside look at the origin of one of the most important working relationships between Colorado’s success this season: the meshing of co-offensive coordinators Brian Lindgren and Darrin Chiaverini.
“A lot of the kinks were worked out in the spring,” Liufau said. “I could notice them a lot more because I wasn’t playing. I was on the sideline, and I’d be on the headset seeing what they were doing and how they were picking each other’s brains with what they wanted to do. Nothing is really perfect, but it’s gone really well for us. They’ve got two great offensive minds.”
Those two minds have combined to guide one of the most productive offenses in school history, a unit for No. 9 Colorado (10-2) that will probably have to operate at peak performance in order for the Buffs to upset No. 4 Washington (11-1) in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
The 5,639 yards the Buffs have gained this season are the most in program history. So are the 55 redzone trips and the 301 first downs. CU also led the Pac-12 South Division in total offense (469.9 yards per game) and scoring (34.8 points).
That success has been achieved through the meshing of ideas from two men with wildly different demeanors.
“With Darrin and I, it’s been a good blend of personality,” Lindgren said. “He’s real confident, outgoing, more of an extroverted personality. I’m more an introverted personality. I’m up in the box working on game day, and he’s down on the field. He brought a little spark that I think we needed as a team and as an offense.”
Lindgren became the Buffs’ offensive coordinator in 2013, following coach Mike MacIntyre when he left San Jose State for CU. As MacIntyre took stock of his staff at the end of a 1-8 Pac-12 season in 2015, he felt he needed fresh ideas for his offense. So he hired Chiaverini, who was the receivers coach at Texas Tech, one of the nation’s top offensive powers.
Lindgren admitted that the hiring “was a little bit of a shock to your ego.” Suddenly he was sharing a job he had done by himself the previous three seasons.
“But I chose it as an opportunity to look at things and make tweaks to what we were doing that would make me a better coach,” Lindgren said. “I’ve learned now, and we’ve built as the season has gone on; it’s made me a better coach.”
Chiaverini’s input helped CU simplify its verbiage, allowing the offense to process calls more quickly and increase tempo. He also brought in ideas from Texas Tech that helped the Buffs streamline certain elements of their practices to make more efficient use of their time. And Chiaverini has lauded Lindgren for his playcalling ability, a responsibility he exercises from the press box during games.
After CU’s 38-24 victory over Washington State on Nov. 19, a game in which CU was as balanced offensively as it has been all season, the two coordinators took to Twitter to express admiration for each other.
“They talk in between series and talk quite a bit during the game, exchanging ideas,” MacIntyre said. “We have a set plan, and in between series they are talking and saying: ‘Here’s what we want to do the next series. Here’s what we want to do in the red zone the next time.’ They’ve done an excellent job of working together.”
Lindgren said having such different personalities has worked in the favor of the two coordinators.
If they were both fiery like Chiaverini or more calm like Lindgren?
“I don’t think we would have made it out of spring,” Lindgren quipped.
Brian Lindgren, left, says sharing duties with Darrin Chiaverini, right, has made him a better coach. Times-Call file