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Looking at my coaching list from 2008 (edits)

by HumanRobot @, Cybertron, Monday, December 29, 2014, 07:04
edited by HumanRobot, Monday, December 29, 2014, 07:26

A long, long time ago way back in 2008 when it looked like ND might fire Charlie Weis, I helped Jay assemble a list of candidates that seemed viable. My big bias at that point in time was college coaching experience, since poor leadership seemed to be killing Weis. You can see that work of genius here.

Like a high school reunion, I thought it would be fun to see where everybody ended up and how ND really did in comparison to that list.

The Big Two

I had some big names on that list, although I was pretty sure we would have no chance hiring either -- Meyer and Saban. Shortly after the writing of that list, Meyer would win a national title and Saban would win 3. Meyer flamed out at Florida, took a break, and returned to OSU. Both are poised to add another national title to their resumes.

Solidly Established Coaches

Then there was the gaggle of solidly established coaches that were seemingly entrenched at respectable football schools -- Stoops, Richt, Belotti, Tuberville

Bob Stoops has continued on at Oklahoma, going 59-19. Despite having one of the best programs in the Big XII he hasn't won a conference title and has lost at least 2 games. Of course, a 12-2, 10-3, 10-3, 11-2 stretch would be a nice problem to enjoy for once. Still, it's hard for me to imagine Stoops coming to ND and pulling off a 59-19 stretch, when what we see happens at a school that lets him get away with a lot. The highlight of his last six years probably happened last season when he beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Richt's tenure has continued on its downside as well: 53-26, no conference titles, a 6-7 season as well. No BCS bowl appearances.

Bellotti and Tuberville would both exit their positions shortly after I wrote that guide. Bellotti went through a bizarre and rapid situation where he named Chip Kelly his coach in waiting, then shortly thereafter resigned to become AD with Kelly becoming the head coach. Bellotti would last 9 months as AD before moving into broadcasting. Tuberville would lose his job at Auburn, which in turn picked no name Gene Chizik who won a national title two years later. Tuberville has floated along at lower tier jobs in Texas Tech and Cincy, garnering no real attention from major programs.

Historically Weak Program, but BCS Conference Coaches

I also named about 21 other coaches who were all at what I considered 'historically weak BCS conference schools' -- the MSU or Texas Techs of the world. None of these guys had the track records of the six I've already mentioned, but were generally considered somewhere from 'really good bets' to 'intriguing, upside prospects.'

One of those 21, I'm going to leave out since it's Brian Kelly.

Four of those 21 have done really well for themselves. Mark Dantonio has MSU at levels seen since the 60s, including "program wins" in the Rose Bowl and the first 2 conference titles in 20 years. Bravo, Mark. Another is Bobby Petrino who has done great on the field going 38-12 at 3 schools. Of course there's the whole motorcycle thing, but hey, nobody's perfect. Likewise, Gary Pinkel's done about as well as anybody ever has at Missouri, including a highly competitive 22-5 stretch in the SEC. He's not exactly competing for national titles, but he's generally doing well. Mike Gundy is sort of in Pinkel territory, although he's won a BCS game over Andrew Luck Stanford and a Big XII championship. He did have an off year in 2014, though.

Then there's the interesting case of Brett Bielema. He reeled off 3 nice years at Wisconsin including 3 conference titles, but left in the night for a cratered Arkansas program where his results are still incomplete.

Two guys stayed at their programs -- Johnson at GT and Ferentz at Iowa, both basically maintaining their level of performance up to that point. Ferentz did win an Orange bowl against Johnson in 2010, but neither has elevated their program into serious conference contention or really put together an elite squad.

Mike Riley stuck around at Oregon State up until this year, basically keeping on keeping on before he left for Nebraska. Edsall took a new job at Maryland and has struggled quite a bit. Greg Schiano sort of tread water at Rutgers for 3 years before taking the Bucs job and flaming out.

After that, we've got a rogue's gallery who have lost their 2008 jobs largely for off field reasons -- Butch Davis, Leach, Mangino, and Leavitt -- although none of them have made their schools really regret that decision a la Bobby Petrino. Finally there are the guys that got fired for being bad on the field -- Tedford, Nutt, Friedgen, Groh, O'Brien (Tom, not Bill), and Hawkins

So out of a pack of 21, 1 was Kelly, 5 have done pretty well (Dantonio, Petrino, Pinkel, Gundy, Bielema), 5 have sort of tread water (Johnson, Ferentz, Riley, Edsall, Schiano), and 10 have lost their jobs.

Guys of Interest at Lower Tier Schools

For a while there three guys at lower tier schools that almost everybody listed for consideration for a major opening -- Chris Petersen, Gary Patterson, and James Franklin. My list had only the first two on it.

Petersen continued on at his high level at Boise, accumulating a whopping 57-8 record and three Bowl wins. One of them was Fiesta Bowl win, although it was over TCU. Petersen would take over the UW job last off season where we went 8-5 basically without a QB.

Patterson on the other hand stuck around at TCU the whole time, going 36-3 in Mountain West play, losing to BSU in the aforementioned Fiesta Bowl, but beating a pretty good Wisconsin Squad in the Rose Bowl the following year. Patterson did have two fairly tumultuous years as TCU transitioned into the Big XII, going 11-14, but he seems to have upped the recruiting ante and righted the ship going 11-1 this year and missing the first playoff on a judge's decision. Out of the obvious two, Patterson might be the most accomplished.

After that, I listed two guys that looked like they could be the 'next Chris Petersens' in Bronco Mendenhall and Kyle Whittingham. Mendenhall has remained consistently solid at BYU, but has never gotten over the hump and done anything really resembling elite. Shortly after I wrote the article, Whittingham would beat Saban's Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, an elite accomplishment even if they were disinterested. Utah wrapped up its tenure in the Mountain West at 20-6. Since entering the PAC12, Whittingham has struggled a bit going only 25-23 with a pair of losing seasons. Still, he has regained momentum there and things seem to be going in the right direction.

Then there was Pat Hill. I think I just put him on the list on a lark. Anyway, he wound up getting fired at Fresno after the 2011 season.

Glaring Omissions

Of course, no list analysis would be complete without at least thinking of the guys that weren't on it. The big one is Jim Harbaugh. In fairness to me, he was 9-12 at Stanford when I wrote the list. Of course, he's done almost nothing but elite things after I wrote the list. Damn.

Then there's Chip Kelly who shortly after the list was written became the head coach at Oregon. Kelly would qualify for four straight BCS level games, including a title game, and won two of them. After four seasons, he took the Eagles job and just wrapped up his second straight 10-6 season.

Last, there's Jimbo Fisher who would take the FSU job a year later. He's obviously done great at FSU, although I don't think his gameplan is repeatable everywhere in CFB.

Other Omissions

Then you've got guys who rose (and some fell) over that time period. Bo Pelini never really got better than his 2008 season and went 67-27 over his years at Nebraska, recently getting fired. Charlie Strong finally got his shot at Louisville and rode Teddy Bridgewater to a Sugar Bowl victory over his old school and the Texas job. Although he hasn't won a BCS game, Art Briles has had a really nice run for Baylor since that writing. Jim Mora Jr has done a nice job stabilizing UCLA to its apparent Donahue-esque apex. Rich Rodriguez has revitalized his career at Arizona. Todd Graham took 3 different jobs, although he doesn't really have an 'elite accomplishment' to his name. Brady Hoke took the Michigan job and sucked.

Overall, what's it all tell us?

I can come out with a couple decent conclusions

* The obviously awesome guys continued to be obviously awesome.
* The long tenured solid coaches (Stoops/Richt) haven't done all that great but haven't been awful. They probably would have done better than Kelly, but probably not significantly.
* Of the 20 other guys that were at lower tier BCS schools, only a handful (I'd say five) have accomplished about as much as Kelly has. None have miraculously transformed their lower-tier schools into major powers. Of that gaggle, most have either remained in their jobs or been fired. Only three have moved laterally by choice -- Edsall, Bielema, and Riley. Only one clearly moved up -- Schiano -- only to move down again.
* The two hottest lower tier guys have continued to do pretty well.
* Two of the biggest success stories weren't even on the radar.

I know this is "no shit" territory, but it's really really hard to find and hire an elite coach. It's a scary world out there.

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