Thursday, June 30, 2005

Stewart Mandel on Best and Worst Coaches

Mandel has a fairly solid effort at ranking the top coaches in college football here. My thoughts:

1. Are Lloyd Carr, Mack Brown, and Jim Tressel distinguishable at all? All three are winning at major programs that have natural advantages and are winning at levels roughly consistent with their programs' histories. Mack had to do more of a rebuilding job after the mess that John Mackovic left and he's doing much better than Texas did after Darrell Royal retired in a fit of "Barry Switzer is a sonofabitch" anger, but on the other hand, he doesn't have a single conference title to his name and that's often the best measure of a college football coach. Do we really want to credit Mack because Texas made dreadful hiring decisions before bringing him over from Chapel Hill?

Carr has more conference titles than either of the other two, but he has a slightly lower winning percentage. Michigan fans don't love him, other than the ones who desperately need to ingratiate themselves to him to maintain access to the program (read: Michigan.Rivals.Com writers), and they don't hate him, other than the emotional idiots who think that Michigan would never lose a game if only it had a competent coach because there is no other program in the country that can possibly compete. Carr wins, but he doesn't win big, mainly because of his pig-headed refusal to make significant changes on defense.

Tressel has won at an almost 80% clip, which is better than Lloyd, but his first four years are almost the same as Lloyd's and the seeds of his potential downfall - inherent conservatism on offense - have been evident for several years. How would he be viewed differently if not for that pass interference call on Glenn Sharpe in the first overtime of the Fiesta Bowl?

1a. And while we're at it, how is Mark Richt not ahead of (or at least equal to)Mack Brown, since he's won a conference title and has a similar winning percentage despite playing a tougher schedule? In defense of Mandel, Richt has coached during a period when Florida and Tennessee have both been down. Mack, on the other hand, has coached during a period when Oklahoma has been up. Change that one fact and Mack probably has several conference titles. Still, Richt has done just as well as Mack. This year, with Tennessee and Florida both up and Brian VanGorder gone, we'll learn a lot about Richt.

2. How is Jeff Tedford not in the top ten? He's given Cal their best period in eons. If all ten of the coaches on the list were free agents, along with Tedford, would you take Fulmer to run your program over Tedford? Or Dan Hawkins, who has essentially extended what Dirk Koetter started at Boise State (and Koetter probably didn't enter Mandel's mind when he was composing the list.) Why is Petrino better than Tedford? Is 10-1 at Louisville a bigger accomplishment than 10-1 at Cal with the loss on the road to the eventual national champions?

3. Amen to including Paterno on the worst coaches list. Mandel is absolutely right: there's no reason for a program with Penn State's natural advantages to have a losing record in four out of five seasons under the same coach. Their player development record is absolutely abysmal.

Not that you asked, but here's my list. I give the most credit to coaches who win at greater levels than their program has in recent years.

1. Pete Carroll - As much as the jury can be out on a guy who has won back-to-back national titles, I'm waiting to see if he can win without the best offensive coordinator in college football. Still, he knows defense and can recruit, which are the two most important qualities for a national championship program.

2. Bob Stoops - There's no reason to apologize for consistently great teams. He did seem to miss his brother last year as OU's defense regressed, but his good work in putting together a good offensive braintrust made up for that.

3. Urban Meyer - He won far more at Utah and BGSU than those programs had in recent memory. It's hard to argue with instant five-game improvements in two different places. Thank G-d he's not in South Bend.

4. Kirk Ferentz - He built Iowa the right way, focusing on the offensive and defensive lines. On the other hand, the same things were said about Barry Alvarez around the turn of the century and that was clearly his plateau. I'll be very interested to see how he does once he's deploying four- and five-star recruits instead of the high school tight ends that he turned into monster linemen.

5. Jeff Tedford - Last year's Cal team was the best I can remember seeing. Plus, Oregon's nosedive since Tedford left shows that he was largely responsible for that program's best period.

6. Frank Beamer - It is not easy to win in Blacksburg and he has alternated between good and great teams for a decade now. He had been somewhat forgotten until last year, when he reminded everyone that he created a very good program before Michael Vick became a Hokie in a pique because Virginia recruited Ronald Curry instead of him.

7. Ralph Friedgen - Has one year made everyone forget that he won ten games three straight years? And at Maryland, for G-d sakes. Ask George O'Leary about his talents.

8. Bobby Petrino - I'm waiting to see how he does when he steps up to a major program. Would LSU be pre-season #1 if they would have hired Petrino and also brought in Bo Pelini to run the defense?

9. Steve Spurrier - Last I checked, he is coaching this year. Do we need to be reminded that he won seven SEC titles in 12 years when he was the head man in Gainesville.

10. Mike Leach - Has Texas Tech ever been this consistently good? He's in a division with three programs that ought to eat TT's lunch every year and yet he still turns out good seasons. I suspect that he gets pigeon-holed as an offensive guru because of his crazy offense.

10a. Mike Price - He won at Washington State and UTEP, for G-d sakes! He ought to be higher on this list. Alabama going from Price to Mike Shula was like, oh, I don't know, Alabama going from Gene Stallings to Mike DuBose?

And here is the worst of the bunch:

1. Joe Paterno - As stated above, he's turned a great program into one of the worst in the Big Ten. Penn State shouldn't be having a good season every 3-4 years, nor should they be pointing at Northwestern as their big game this year or any year.

2. Rich Brooks - A completely inexplicable hire. Mel Brooks could achieve the same results. UK fans who renewed their season tickets this year are saints...or masochists.

3. Ron Zook - Any Gator fans want to back me up on this? He is supposed to be a defensive mind, but his defenses were all significantly worse than those of Steve Spurrier. He's also supposed to be a special teams ace, but his teams were a disaster in that department. Great hire, Illinois. Was Lou Tepper busy?

4. Buddy Teevens - Stanford is not bereft of talent and he's managed to put bad teams out every year. I have it on good authority that he was a complete joke at Tulane, as well, right down to dreadful pre-game speeches delivered in an amusing New England twang.

5. Bobby Bowden - Yes, FSU wins every year and Bobby deserves some credit for being a great closer in recruiting, but the guy routinely gives answers to sideline reporters that reflect that he doesn't know what's going on in the game. Plus, his refusal to demote his son for rank incompetence ought to be held against him. (In fact, it reminds me of Joe Paterno's loyalty to his son Jay, who must be the worst quarterbacks coach in the history of Western Civilization.) At this point, Papa Bowden is like Reagan in his second term. His country is prospering in spite of him.


UnknownColumn said...

Ron Zook is horrible. I now have no reason whatsoever to look forward to Illinois football. Not only is he a poor coach on the field, but he's a rockhead off it. He reminds me of the stereotypical idiot football coach in a dumb college movie. I laughed heartily when his name was mentioned as a possibility, but was sure nobody was so stupid as to actually hire him. I guess I was wrong.

Go Northwestern!

BTW, I think Ferentz might be atop that list shortly.

Anonymous said...

Consider yourself backed. Zook is a horrible, meddling coach. Wouldn't pay him to cut my lawn. Wait, wait, even better: wouldn't pay him to express my dog's anal glands. Zero acumen, zero adjustment ability, and all the tendencies of a blowhard micromanager with none of the prerequisite skills. Energy and harm all balled up into one package. Fuck him.

volpundit said...

Kirk Ferentz is amazing. He's been winning, and doing it cleanly. The only discipline problems you hear out of Iowa City are from the basketball team. What is most amazing is that he is winning with players from IOWA like Dallas Clark, Robert Gallery, and Nate Kaeding, not to mention a star linebacker from SOUTH DAKOTA like Chad Greenway, and a new quarterback every year in the past four. And, oh yeah, they had NO running backs last year and a quarterback who's smaller than my mom but plays like he's Flutie.
If Iowa can beat their rival Iowa State on the road and then knock off the Buckeyes in Columbus, they will run the table.

Michael said...

Ferentz is great. He reminds me of Tom Osborne in his ability to run under-recruited players through a great strength program and quality technique teaching and they come out as first round picks. That said, his teams usually start slow, so I suspect that one or both of those September games will be losses. Don't underrate the Hawks losing their entire defensive line, either.

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