But these days, now that his former offensive coordinator is running Virginia’s offense, Lubick also wonders if he appreciated Fairchild enough in the moment.
“He did a lot with not much on the O sometimes,” Lubick said. “He always had a great offensive mind, and sometimes as a coach when you’re there in the building, you don’t realize. But Steve was always thinking.”
Fairchild has quickly made the same impression at Virginia, where he is in his first season as offensive coordinator.
Coach Mike London describes Fairchild as “methodical,” with a knack for solving any defense. Quarterback David Watford considers him “a football genius.” But Fairchild, and the scheme he wants to deploy at Virginia, remain something of a mystery ahead of his first significant task in Charlottesville: keeping pace with No. 2 Oregon’s high-powered attack on Saturday at Scott Stadium.
Few on the East Coast realize that Fairchild, 55, has been at the forefront of offensive innovation for more than 35 years now. He reveals little unless asked, a former NFL coordinator who doesn’t boast about it.
This, though, is partly Fairchild’s own doing. Even Lubick calls him “introverted.” Former St. Louis Rams Coach Mike Martz, who coached Fairchild in college and later hired him as an NFL assistant, said this week there’s “a firmness to his personality.” Watford described his initial impression of Fairchild as follows: “He wasn’t gonna take any BS.”
Lubick noted that such a temperament could simply be a natural reaction to how things ended for Fairchild at Colorado State, where he succeeded Lubick as head coach but was fired in 2011 following three straight 3-9 seasons.
“This is a very difficult place to consistently win and I think it hurt him,” said Lubick, who still lives in Fort Collins, Colo. “But knowing him, once he got back into thinking and talking football all the time . . . everything else is forgotten. When Steve’s in that office drawing up plays and working on strategies and making decisions and doing those things, he’s a happy camper.”
The son of a chemist and World War II medic (Bill Fairchild died of a heart attack when Steve was just 10 years old), Fairchild was so adamant about being a college quarterback that, in 1976, he enrolled at San Diego Mesa Community College, where Martz was the offensive coordinator of a team that was throwing the ball more often than anybody those days.