Long days and elusive praise

Think you have long days? School and work and a girl/boyfriend taking up all of your free time? Try being a football offensive coordinator. Try working 16-hour days. Try consistently having your work judged and picked apart by “fans” ready to turn on you after one low scoring game.


Try being Mike Fanger.


Fanger, who only this year took over the reigns as the offensive coordinator for the PSU Vikings, has about as long of a day as you can imagine. And the days never end, for with each momentary success arrives another obstacle. If quarterback Sawyer Smith pulls a five for 16 outing – like his Sept. 17 game against Sac State – Fanger’s got to figure out what went wrong and where. And he’s got to figure out how to fix it fast. The same goes if Joe Rubin has an “off game.” Or if the offensive line suddenly develops a fondness for gaping holes. In football, the solutions and the problems, for better or worse, all originate with the coordinator.


Fanger oversees it all. And where every armchair quarterback thinks that it’s easy, Fanger knows that it’s not. He arrives to work every morning at 6 a.m. He doesn’t leave until the day’s work is done. Sometimes it’s eight, sometimes it’s 10.


He doesn’t have a weekend. In fact, on Friday night, while most of America is throwing one down or zoning out, Fanger can be found watching high school football games with the rest of his staff, recruiting new prospects. And Saturday? Saturday’s game day.


It’s a truly thankless job. It’s like being a lineman, times 10. If PSU wins, the spotlight players and, maybe, the head coach get the credit. If PSU loses, Fanger and his staff get the blame. And if PSU ever goes on a shipwreck of a losing streak? The chorus will not hesitate to call Fanger’s name.

How does he do it? How does he manage? He, like all good coaches, does it with hard work. With tenacity. With perseverance.


With realism.


“We’re struggling a little bit right now,” Fanger says. “We need to get it going with the offense. Thankfully, the defense and the special teams are playing really well. We did some ok things against Oregon State, UC Davis was a good team, but we really stubbed our toe against Sacramento.”

There is no time to rest if you’re an offensive coordinator and there is no time to be complacent.

“We need to be balanced and we need to be able to throw the football. We need to be able to move the ball that way. Each position, up to this point, hasn’t really been in-synch and we need to hurry up, we need to get there,” Fanger said.


For him, each day is split between focusing on himself and the team, the “we.” For Fanger, each day is one that is, somehow, divided between self-criticism and self-promotion.

“We’ve got the bulk of our Big Sky schedule coming up and we need to be hitting full stride. We need to try and hit it immediately. We’re not going to win the conference championship by being one-dimensional. We’ve got to keep working at it and we’ve, all of us, got to try and get better and better,” he says.


Yet, after all of this, all of the constant re-examining and reconfiguring, Fanger must still file all of the football into one cabinet and then try and live a normal life. He has a family. He’s got a wife and three kids and he has to commute from Tualatin each day.


“I show up here, anywhere between 6:30 and 6:45. And I don’t leave until at least 10,” he says.

Still, he’s passionate. The days may be long and the praise may be elusive, but Fanger knows what it takes to make it work. And he doesn’t let up.


“The ball’s got to get out, the receivers have got to run their routes. Timing is crucial in the passing game. We need to make everything work, make everything come together as a team, and we need to get this offense going,” Fanger says.


Timing. Work. Coming together. When Mike Fanger says it, it sounds more like a lifeline. More like a way to live than a game.