Rod Broadway took a chance on James Spady, elevating a position coach who’d worked with him for just one season at North Carolina Central to offensive coordinator at Grambling — and the relationship was strained, it seemed, from the first.
Broadway didn’t like that Spady, a colorful conversationalist, would sometimes draw more attention from the media. More particularly, they battled over the offense, with Broadway changing calls after they’d been relayed down from the pressbox, and openly questioning situational decisions with others.
The conflict within their offensive mindset was most interesting. Often, you had Broadway, a man who works hard it seems to say as little as possible in front of reporters, and Spady at opposite ends of their public personas: Spady had a surprisingly conservative mindset (considering his own outsized personality) on the field, preferring to batter opponents with a running game to set up the pass. It was Broadway, over three seasons in Grambling, who has taken credit for calling the memorable, though rare, trick play. From his postgame comments, it seemed Broadway often switched to more downfield calls at key times, too.
As Spady tried to grow into his new role, he sometimes looked like a man under seige from within. Broadway wondered aloud why Spady was quoted in stories, and what he meant. Broadway clearly wanted to run a top-down organization, and that’s his right. So, Spady became more reclusive, stopped taking reporters’ calls.
All of this, in what should have been this duo’s salad days. After all, Grambling claimed two consecutive divisional titles and then the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship in 2007-08. Complaints (from within and without) notwithstanding, its offense was among the league’s most productive. And GSU hasn’t lost a home game since Broadway and Spady arrived.
Yet, a now-silenced Spady become increasingly concerned with perception. He started making his case with anyone who stopped by. Spady believed in his playcalling, he’d say, believed in his players. A surprised fan wondered why Spady felt the need to make his case so forcefully. My response: He was looking for a port in the storm.
The truth is, I think Spady did a fine job with a difficult quarterback situation in 2008, managing the offense as two players with far different skills sets battled for a starting position — and then making the most of the unique athleticism of Greg Dillon when he secured that role.
Others will point out however that, on either side of that campaign, Grambling’s Spady-led offenses sputtered just as often, and with established starters in Brandon Landers (2007) and in Dillon, who was a junior by 2009. I’m not certain how much of that wasn’t due to a series of basic disagreements with Broadway, in ways that move across the spectrum.
There needs to be one voice in the huddle, and Grambling hasn’t had that.
As the relationship appeared to turn for good, Spady began looking for other work. You could hardly blame him — though, in truth, I’m not ready to place blame on either coach.
I think they both had the best intentions, but it just didn’t work out. That happens when you assemble a staff. Relationships grow and change through differing responsibilities, successes and difficult times.
I’ll miss mixing it up with Spady, an incisive and sharply funny debater of all things football, but ultimately I think this move is best for everyone involved — Spady, Broadway and, in the end, for Grambling.
ONE MORE THING
Some have already suggested that Bob Leahy was brought in to smooth this transition, and that may well be true. But I never got the impression Leahy wanted to be a coordinator, and I don’t think that’s why he came to Grambling. He’s always seemed like a guy who preferred instead to focus on recruiting and on position coaching.