Following one of the worst seasons on offense in recent Colorado football history, head coach Karl Dorrell is making a big change.
On Sunday, the school announced offensive coordinator/receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini has been relieved of his duties. ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg was the first to report Chiaverini’s dismissal.
Originally hired on Jan. 1, 2016, Chiaverini had one year left on a three-year contract he signed in 2020. Per the terms of the deal, CU will pay Chiaverini the remainder of his base and supplemental salary – more than $650,000 – through the end of the agreement, which expires Feb. 14, 2023. The buyout can be mitigated if Chiaverini is hired for another coaching job next season.
The decision to fire Chiaverini, a former CU receiver, comes two days after a 28-13 loss at Utah in the season finale. The Buffs’ offense finished that game with 148 yards and no touchdowns. It was the fourth game this season under 200 yards and the third without any offensive touchdowns.
Friday’s loss capped what was a historically bad offense for CU (4-8, 3-6 Pac-12).
The Buffs averaged 257.6 yards per game – the program’s lowest total since 1964 and the worst average for any Power 5 program since 2014. CU also finished with a scoring average of 18.8 points. Arizona, at 17.2, was the only Pac-12 team to score fewer points.
CU was held to 14 points or less in six of its 12 games this season and has scored 23 or less in 12 of the last 16 games, dating back to last season.
“It’s been challenging,” Dorrell said after the loss to Utah. “A number of players are playing and we have to continue to bring these guys forward and make improvements week after week after week. That’s where my disappointment is that I felt like there’s been good weeks where we’ve shown signs of that, but then weeks that we’ve kind of … not necessarily took a step back, but we didn’t make much growth at all. So we have to be better there. We have to be better.”
There were a number of issues that went into CU’s struggles on offense, including a freshman, first-time starter at quarterback (Brendon Lewis). The Buffs also struggled mightily on the offensive line, to the point of firing line coach Mitch Rodrigue after seven games. And, injuries and a suspension depleted the receiving corps at times.
“That’s been a challenging part of this scenario the whole season is playing with a young quarterback that did get better over the course of the season,” Dorrell said. “But how much better could he have gotten? There’s a lot of disappointment that I have right now with that, with how (on offense) the lack thereof has been for most of the year.”
Through it all, it has been Chiaverini calling plays. Of CU’s 135 offensive possessions, 47 (34.8 percent) went three-and-out.
The Buffs did set a school record by scoring on 93.9 percent of their trips to the red zone (31-of-33, with 20 touchdowns), but only nine teams in the country got to the red zone fewer times.
Looking to spark the offense for next season, the Buffs will move on from Chiaverini, whom Dorrell coached at CU from 1995-98. With Dorrell as his position coach, Chiaverini caught 97 passes for 1,199 yards and six touchdowns for the Buffs.
After playing professionally for eight years (1999-2006), Chiaverini got into coaching in 2007 and worked his way up the ranks.
Former CU head coach Mike MacIntyre hired Chiaverini as co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach on Jan. 1, 2016, and it’s been a roller-coaster ride over the past six seasons.
Under MacIntyre, Chiaverini was co-coordinator for three years, from 2016-18. After co-offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren left for Oregon State, Chiaverini took over play-calling duties in 2018.
Five games into that season, the Buffs were 5-0 and averaging 37.8 points per game. From that point, the Buffs went 0-7 while averaging 19.4 points. That freefall led to MacIntyre being fired with one game to play.
When Mel Tucker was hired as head coach in December of 2018, he chose to keep Chiaverini on staff, but demoted him to receivers coach.
Tucker left CU after just one season, in February of 2020, and Chiaverini put his hat in the ring to replace him. While Chiaverini did get an interview for the head coaching job, CU chose Dorrell instead. Dorrell kept Chiaverini on staff as offensive coordinator.
During Chiaverini’s time on the staff, he has coached four receivers who rank in the top nine in CU history for career catches (Shay Fields, Bryce Bobo, Laviska Shenault and Devin Ross). He has also worked with the top two passers in program history (Steven Montez and Sefo Liufau).