Wednesday, July 28, 2010

CEO Chizik

WarBlogEagle has an interesting post on where Gene Chizik fits in the realm of CEO coaches. Chizik is an interesting case to me. He became a head coach on the strength of good work as a defensive coordinator for Central Florida, Auburn, and Texas, but the defenses of the teams for which he has been the head coach have been underwhelming. This raises a few possibilities.

The first possibility is that Chizik hasn't figured out to involve himself in the defense while still handling all of the tasks of being a head coach. After all, Nick Saban's Michigan State defenses weren't overly impressive, nor were his initial defenses at LSU. Mark Richt would also seem to fall into this category, as he won at Georgia in his first five years despite underwhelming offenses. Richt was either spending all of his time on other head coaching functions or he was overrated as an offensive coordinator when he was at Florida State.

A second possibility is that defense is more about talent than coaching (it's easier to scheme around talent issues on offense because the offense has the initiative) and Auburn is suffering for Tommy Tuberville's diminished recruiting in his last several years on the Plains. Again, the Saban example is instructive. Nick's defenses weren't great until he had time to recruit at LSU, at which point his career took off. (He won a national title in year four.)

The third possibility is that Chizik was overrated as a defensive coordinator. Yes, he won a national title with Texas in 2005 and produced a very good defense, but is it really that hard to produce a good defense with Texas's talent relative to that of its opponents? His 2006 defense was pretty good, but nothing special. (The Horns finished ninth in the Big XII in pass efficiency defense that year. I'll admit that I don't remember Texas's defensive talent in 2006 and that would be a major consideration. Even in Austin, it's possible to have to make chicken salad from chicken s***, relatively speaking.) Chizik's defenses were very good at Auburn, but he was coaching under a defensive ace in Tommy Tuberville. WBE makes this very point:

Tubby was widely regarded as a Miles-type CEO (and Elkon seems to echo this viewpoint) whose success rested on whoever he happened to have hired as his offensive coordinator, but I think this does a disservice to Tubby’s incredible defensive record. When you consider that it didn’t matter who the DC was–Chizik,
Muschamp, Rhoads, whoever wasn’t David Gibbs–the defense was going to know its business. You ask me, Tubby was quietly more Saban or Meyer than Miles in his affect on his team’s on-field performance.

I am often leery of coordinators who are successful on the side of the ball on which the head coach has obvious expertise. (For this reason, I was not as enamored by Kirby Smart as many Georgia fans were. Dan Mullen will be an interesting test case for this.) If this is the case, then Chizik falls into the George O'Leary category: a coach who isn't especially good at his specialty, but who succeeds anyway because he has a great coordinator in his weak suit. Chizik will therefore be defined by how long he can keep Gus Malzahn and then whether there is a good replacement when Malzahn gets a head coaching job. The luck/timing element comes into play again.

WBE's discussion of Tuberville is interesting because he is going through the same re-evaluation of Tuberville that I am. Several summers ago, I started (but didn't finish) a series of posts comparing SEC coaches to World War Two generals. Tuberville was going to be Eisenhower: a successful general whose skill lay more in managing the egos of his subordinates than in directing divisions here and there. After the Tony Franklin debacle, a different picture emerged. Tuberville and his position coach buddies had asserted themselves to the point that Franklin wasn't able to do what he wanted. In retrospect, Tuberville's consistently good defenses indicate that he had an active role in that area. If I had to do the series now, Tuberville would be Hitler (minus the whole genocide thing): had success early, gained the reputation of a gambler, ultimately undone by meddling too much.

And for the hell of it, here is the rest of the SEC (minus the coaches who have not yet coached a game at their schools):

Spurrier/Guderian: an innovator, but exposed when faced with opponents with more of everything.

Saban/Zhukov: ruthless, brutal to subordinates, headstrong, very successful, saved an empire on the verge of collapse.

Meyer/Patton: great offensive mind, sharp at understated parts of the job, successful in multiple theaters, problems with the media.

Nutt/Wingate: crazy man on the periphery

Petrino/Rommel: top offensive mind, doesn't always pay attention to defensive issues, questionable loyalty.

Richt/Bradley: unassuming, competent, likable, loyal to subordinates, upstaged by Patton.

Miles/Montgomery: early success, followed by strange vacillation between conservatism and aggression. Market Garden and the last drive of the Ole Miss game seem to fit together in the realm of disasters.

Mullen/Ridgway: looks promising for the next war.

I'm drawing a total blank on Chizik.


Tripp said...

Chizik = Adm. Nimitz. Assumed command after predecessors became complacent and allowed their forces to be punked by their rivals. Slow start getting everyone up to speed (Chris Todd, anyone?), but eventually steamrolled over the enemy.

Golden Hand said...

Chizik = Tadamichi Kuribayashi. Sophisticated, tactically brilliant Japanese commander at Iwo Jima. Undone by lack of resources.

Anonymous said...

Frierich Paulus. Competent but unspectacular Staff officer for a number of campaigns. Tabbed to lead sixth army agianst Zhukov (Saban)and ultimate destruction.

Michael said...

What I was looking for with Chizik was someone who was viewed as successful, but was mostly coasting on the good work of an underling. Eisenhower is a possibility. Von Rundstedt is another, as his invasion of France worked because von Manstein and Guderian came up with the idea of sending the panzers through the Ardennes. MacArthur is a third option because he succeeded in large part because of the successful island hopping by the Navy and Marines. Nimitz was part of that success, so I'm leaving him out. (Miles and Bull Halsey would be a good analogy, come to think of it.) Kuribayashi and the rest of the Japanese generals would be a good analogy for Bobby Johnson: having to do more with less.

I'm always a fan of a good Paulus analogy, but I don't really think of him as having lost to Zhukov at Stalingrad. Rather, I think he lost the battle by being unable to knock out Chuikov's 62nd Army, thus giving time for Zhukov to pull off Operation Saturn. Was Paulus responsible for the supply lines or was that task above his pay grade? I honestly don't know the answer. That's where Paulus/Chizik breaks down for me.

BTW, wouldn't Saban's '99 season with MSU be the equivalent of Khalkin Gol for Zhukov?

Anonymous said...

Not really scientific, but Auburn's total draft picks from 2005 to 2010, in order - 5,5,5,5,3,1

Tubs stopped recruiting hard after the 2004 season. Instead choosing to rely more on "diamonds in the rough" and less on five-star recruits like Caddilac, Jason Campbell, Marcus McNeil, etc.

My personal theory is that, because he had good luck early with somewhat less recruited guys out of high school (K Dansby, Dontarrious Thomas, Ronnie Brown, SenDerick Marks) he believed he could be successful while avoiding the brutal ritual that is college recruiting (which he openly hated).

In the end this killed him. You can only go head to head with Southern Miss and East Carolina on so many recruits and still compete in the SEC. Keep in mind, last year in the second half of the UGA game (at which point AU was winning), Auburn had to switch to a nickel defense because their starting MLB went down. They didn't have another non red-shirting LB on the roster. Absolutely no depth on the team.

Great coach in his prime, just lost his drive. I think Chizik will have the AU defense Top 10 in the next two years. In summary, choice 2.

Jesse said...

Would you also consider Paul Johnson as a CEO coach? It certainly seems that in order for his teams to be successful at the apex of competition he will always need to have some combination of luck and skill in his defensive coordinator hires.

Or is he more in line with Meyer and to an extent Rodriguez, in that he clearly is the master of his offense? I think we would all agree that the success of his teams are predicated more on that mastery than of the success of the defense. Johnson has won at every stop, much like Meyer and, until recently, Rodriguez.

Also, who would you consider to be Paul Johnson in the WWII scenario?

Michael said...

Johnson is definitely not a CEO coach. He runs his offense and does well with it, so he just needs to recruit and hire a good defensive coordinator to go from good to great. It's better to have a Paul Johnson with one variable (defensive coordinator) than to have a Miles with two variables (offensive and defensive coordinators).

In terms of a WWII analogy, my initial thought would be either Slim or Homma: basic, old-school tactics, but done well. If his offense didn't work, then he'd be Gamelin.

Michael said...

Anon, as someone who is watching Michigan start freshmen and walk-ons in the defensive backfield because Carr's staff decided that recruiting was optional for their last two years (with certain exception, most notably Ron English), I feel your pain. Tuberville and Carr seem similar. Both good guys, both defensive coaches who went unbeaten with nofrills teams, both had certain maddening qualities that led their fan bases to get annoyed with them by the end of a decade. But, since I previously decided that Carr is George McClellan and Tuberville is Hitler, they can't really be the same person.

Will said...

While non of UGA's early Richt offenses were at, say, mid 2000s USC levels, by UGA's own historical standards, they were quite good (The 450 points scored by the 2002 UGA team is still the high-water mark for UGA football I think, and of the three times UGA scored 400 plus points in a season, Richt was OC for two, and the other was the loaded 2007 squad.)