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The former Virginia offensive coordinator says he wasn’t shown the door or looking to leave UVa.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
To those who would seek a hidden agenda behind his departure as Virginia offensive coordinator, Bill Lazor provides little fodder.
He wasn’t pushed out, nor was he itching to leave, Lazor said in a cellphone interview from his Philadelphia Eagles office.
UVa’s announcement Jan. 29 that Lazor had resigned to take an NFL job followed the appointment of former North Carolina State head coach Tom O’Brien as the Cavaliers’ associate head coach for offense.
“To me, when coach O’Brien came, my job got better,” Lazor said. “I told him that. Even as I was leaving, I told him, ‘Tom, I don’t want you to think I’m leaving because you’re here.’
“When coach O’Brien came and we had a chance to talk, it was easy for me to see how it would work. I was excited to have him because I thought he was going to have an unbelievable resource.”
As the quarterbacks coach for the Eagles, Lazor will be working for head coach Chip Kelly, whose high-powered offenses at the University of Oregon made him a coveted target in a year in which nine NFL head jobs changed hands.
Lazor’s connection was not with Kelly but with the Eagles’ new offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur, head coach of the Cleveland Browns during the 2011-2012 seasons.
Shurmur originally was hired by then-Cleveland president Mike Holmgren, Lazor’s former boss and mentor with the Seattle Seahawks.
“I know Pat pretty well from coaching in the NFL; we were in the same division, so we saw each other quite a bit,” Lazor said. “I had the experience of being in the building when he was with the Browns and I went up there for offseason study.”
That was while Lazor was at Virginia.
“I knew how he ran the offense, how he ran the team, how people in the building felt about him,” Lazor said. “I just know him so well. That was number one. And, number two, you can’t argue with the fact that coach Kelly is probably the hottest name in football.
“It’s an opportunity to be there from the beginning and something you couldn’t say ‘no’ to.”
Lazor, 41, had been approached on other occasions during his three years at Virginia.
“And, I would say ‘no,’” he said. “This was one [job] I felt was worth investigating.”
Virginia passed for more than 3,000 yards in each of Lazor’s three seasons — a feat not previously accomplished by the Cavaliers. But, they lost six straight games during the middle of the 2012 season and dropped to 4-8 after going 8-5 in 2011.
Michael Rocco was Virginia’s starting quarterback for the first five games of the 2012 season, at which point he was replaced by Phillip Sims, who started four games before Rocco got his starting job back for the final three games.
Two days after the season, Rocco announced plans to transfer and said there was “an unhealthy environment” for quarterbacks at UVa.
“Someone shared that quote with me and I was disappointed,” Lazor said. “I never addressed it with Michael. I just felt like it was his opinion and, obviously, he can have his opinion.
“I know the effort that I can put into every single one of the quarterbacks. That’s what I’m paid to do and I take pride in it.”
Rocco, now at the University of Richmond, said Monday that he had no beef with Lazor.
“In no way was that meant as a reflection on coach Lazor,” Rocco said. “I don’t know if ‘unhealthy’ is the word I would use if I had some time to think about it. But, it was a tough situation. It’s like nobody ever had their full blessing.”
UVa had five scholarship quarterbacks this past season, three of whom were redshirted, and that was after Ross Metheny (South Alabama) and Michael Strauss (Richmond} transferred following the 2011 season.
“It may be more unwieldy for a player who has to compete than it is for a coach, who is trying to add talent,” Lazor said. “I was looking forward to what kind of competition they could create. There was great physical talent.”
There have been varying accounts of the decision to replace Rocco with Sims against Penn State in Week 2, but Lazor rejected the notion that UVa head coach Mike London had been meddling.
“I don’t know that I would ever use that word because, to me, it has a negative connotation,” Lazor said. “To me, it was discussions. Even when he didn’t like what I had to say, that was my responsibility. Then, he decides.”
Lazor is not familiar with Steve Fairchild, a 2012 San Diego Chargers assistant who will succeed him as coordinator, although they share an NFL background.
“I was not in any hurry to go,” Lazor said. “I was happy. The only regret I expressed to coach London was that I couldn’t find a way to get the offense better for him.”
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