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Maryland should probably just keep Matt Canada as head coach

Maryland could go shopping for another coach, but in this moment, the program already has the sensible option on staff.

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NCAA Football: Illinois at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland interim head coach Matt Canada will lead the Terrapins for the rest of the 2018 season. The day before Halloween, Maryland’s board of regents announced that the school would reinstate head coach DJ Durkin following his suspension that lasted from fall camp through the Terps’ first eight games of the season. But the next day, the school president fired him after widespread public backlash.

Durkin hired Canada to be Maryland’s offensive coordinator in January, following a disappointing 2017 at LSU for Canada. Before that, Canada built a reputation as one of the country’s better OCs at Pitt, NC State, Wisconsin, NIU, and Indiana. At Maryland, he’s moved into a new and difficult role at a challenging time.

For a few reasons, Maryland might be best served to just keep Canada in the job going forward and remove his interim tag.

1. Maryland needs to hire someone who will treat players well. Accounts are that Canada’s provided stability and been good to his team.

According to parents of Maryland players who spoke with The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach, the environment with Canada in charge has been much more relaxed:

One significant difference between Durkin and Canada, according to the parents, is the amount of time their sons are required to spend inside Gossett Team House on a daily basis. Under Durkin, players had to be there most of the day when they weren’t in class, even if there wasn’t a specific football reason to do so. To that parent, this reeked of a way to control his players, by controlling their time.

“(My son) said Canada is like, ‘We’ll go in here, we’re going to get this shit done and then we’re getting the hell home,’ ” a different parent said. “They go in, they do their practices, and they go home. He said there’s no screaming, there’s no yelling, there’s none of that threatening or anything. He said Canada may yell, like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ But he said, ‘He doesn’t get in my face. He doesn’t make me feel worthless.’ ”

He also sent a letter to the players’ families after Durkin’s firing, and struck the right notes, urging families to call him with any questions or issues to discuss:

“The last three days, much like the past several months, have been challenging for everyone involved. There has been a lot written and said about our program. Our young men have been forced to deal with intense distractions and speculation, none of which they asked for. We can’t change that and we don’t control it – what’s being said, how it’s being written, any of it,” Canada wrote.

“What we do control is what’s in front of us as a team. We control how we prepare for Michigan State, we control how we represent this University and how we carry ourselves on and off the field. Our entire staff is extremely proud of how our young men have persevered and come together through significant adversity. Their resolve is incredible. Much of this is attributable to how you’ve raised, encouraged and supported them. For this we thank you!

“The coaching staff and I met with the team this morning. Our pledge to them, and to you, is to continue to do exactly what we have been doing these past twelve weeks. We will stick together. We will lean on each other. We will continue to honor Jordan. We will play hard and as a team. We will make you proud.”

Canada is reportedly already interested in accepting the full-time job, and Maryland blog Testudo Times points out that doing so would make a lot of sense:

He has already been in this job for two months. It wouldn’t require a big shift anywhere, and would mean that the players wouldn’t be in for a giant program shift again. Maryland’s also been reasonably successful with Canada in charge, and now that he knows he’s the guy for the rest of the season, he’d be able to delegate responsibility for the offense while doing more to lead the program.

Canada was on Durkin’s staff for a half-year before McNair’s death, but he doesn’t stand accused of any wrongdoing and has only gotten positive reviews.

2. Maryland could hop aboard the coaching carousel, but this might not be the best time for that.

For two key reasons:

  • Maryland’s players have already had to deal with the loss of a teammate and a head coaching change. Another coaching change would be a lot for Maryland’s players to adjust to, even if more changes in the athletic department and administration are coming.
  • Maryland’s administrative mess lately has made the job less attractive. If Maryland’s looking for some candidate with lots of interest elsewhere, it’s not likely to land one now.

3. On top of all that, Canada’s done a good job on the field.

Under Canada, the Terps have gone 5-3, with a huge win over Texas in Week 1. They’re now likelier than not to make a bowl game, despite a preseason S&P+ projection of a 4-8 record. The offense, Canda’s specialty, is a lot better, going up from 113th in S&P+ last year to 54th this year. In strictly football terms, the team’s doing better than expected.

So, why not give the job to the guy who’s been a positive constant all season?

Canada may not have much head coaching experience, but he’s a more than viable option given the circumstances. Maryland needs the stability he could bring.