UCLA coach Chip Kelly apparently lives under the motto of his native New Hampshire, where the license plates read “Live free or die.”
Kelly said he will not get Defense Coordinator Jerry Azzinaro to speak to the media about his defense issues, although Azzinaro is the only Pac-12 coordinator – offensive or defensive – not available or speaking to reporters since training began. camp, according to a study by The Times.
“I think it’s his choice,” Kelly said before Wednesday’s workout. “This is the United States of America, we are not going to force anyone to do anything, so this is his choice, he does not want to talk to the media.”
Shouldn’t there be a level of responsibility?
“There is a certain level of responsibility,” Kelly said. “Just because he is not talking to you doesn’t mean there is no level of responsibility, so I think you are confusing two things, so I don’t see it. Perhaps this is how you see it, and this is also your choice, because in this country there is a choice. “
Azzinaro leads the defense, which is ranked 75th out of 130 national teams in terms of allowed yards, trailing 394.9 per game. The Bruins (5-4 overall, 3-3 Pac-12) are 81st in defense performance (28.2 points per game) and 117th in passing defense (278.4 yards per game).
The only defense force – 116.4 yards per game rebound, No. 24 nationwide – staggered during UCLA’s 44-24 defeat to Utah last weekend, clearing 290 yards on the ground.
Azzinaro’s contract, which will pay him $ 700,000 this season, includes a clause stating that the University of California, Los Angeles could reasonably make him available for the media and other public appearances, but the school refused to do so. Azzinaro has not spoken to the media since his hiring ahead of the 2018 season.
When asked if it was fair to hold players accountable for defensive effectiveness on nights like Saturday, when the Bruins refused landings on each of Utah’s first four drives, Kelly replied, “I don’t think a midfielder should be held accountable for that. … I think in the end everything falls on my shoulders. I am always in touch, so I don’t think that our players should be responsible for our coaches. The head coach speaks at every opportunity. “
Reminding him that he is not responsible for defense, Kelly said: “I am responsible for everything. I am in charge of attack, I am in charge of defense, I am in charge of special groups, I am in charge of food, I am in charge of everything. “
Azzinaro’s UCLA wrestling is nothing new. The team finished 102nd in national defense in 2018, 113th in 2019 and 69th in 2020. The improvement last season came after the Bruins hired Brian Norwood as the defensive coach and defensive pass coordinator, and moved to a 4-2-5 formation, which he helped launch in the fleet.
Azzinaro, 63, has received widespread praise for his work as a defensive line coach at previous stops, including at Oregon under Kelly, but has had little success as defense coordinator. When Azzinaro was Duke’s joint defense coordinator from 2004 to 2006, the Blue Devils played 3-31 with a defense that ranked 100, 89 and 105 on the national rankings.
Azzinaro’s greatest success as Defense Coordinator came during his year in Massachusetts, when the Minutemen were ranked 13th in the Football Championship Division in 1994. When Azzinaro returned and took over the same post in 1997, the team took first place. 110.
Azzinaro has been part of Kelly’s headquarters since 2009, when he was hired to coach the Duck’s defensive line. Azzinaro followed Kelly to the NFL as a defensive line coach with the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers, but never served as Kelly’s defense coordinator until 2018.