Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Thought on Program Evaluation

The one aspect of the Mark Richt discussion that has bothered me has been the fact that I have a natural revulsion to people overreacting to the last piece of evidence. Way too much commentary focuses on whichever team is doing well at a particular moment as if the current moment is a totally accurate representation of the entities being evaluated. A good example of this is the treatment of Kirk Ferentz. When Iowa was very good from 2002-04, he was seen as one of the best coaches in college football. When Iowa swooned in 2006 and 2007, he was seen as damaged goods, a guy who had been found out. (I'll admit to being one of the people who reached this conclusion.) Now that Iowa is good again, he is again seen as a good coach.

When we're evaluating coaches, we need to be careful to distinguish between trends and natural oscillations. College football traffics in small sample sizes. The scarcity of product is one of the reasons why we love it so much. Those small sample sizes mean that it's hard to make definitive judgments when we could be looking at the result of random blips or correctable problems. Maybe a coach suffers for a few years because he brings in a bad crop of players (or a good group that is led astray by a few bad apples). Maybe a coach has a period in which the rest of the league catches up to what he's doing, but his next innovation to put his team ahead of the curve is right around the corner.

In Richt's case, I think we're seeing more than a natural oscillation in Georgia's fortune. With the exception of a half a season in 2007, we're looking at a five-year trend of relatively poor results. The numerous off-field issues speak to a team that doesn't seem like it respects or fears the coach. I don't put a lot of faith in Richt and Bobo to have any big ideas on offense coming up on the horizon. That said, I'm willing to acknowledge that I may be wrong about Richt and that things might be on the upswing with the inevitable turnover of the roster (maybe Richt has different priorities in recruiting now?) and a better defensive coordinator. In short, this stuff isn't as simple as "2-7 in the SEC! Fire him!"


Ryno said...

Without thinking about career oscilations, what are your thoughts related to the idea that Coach Richt is simply a poor evaluator of coaching talent?

He's often spoken about how Coach Bowden was one of his major influences in coaching career (as he should be) but I wonder if he hasn't also picked up some of his poorer traits as well. Specifically, his history of inconsistent staff hiring?

Just curious. If the oscilations of a coaching career are true - one wonders how it is affected by the assistants surround him.

Jesse said...

-In short, this stuff isn't as simple as "2-7 in the SEC! Fire him!"

Or isn't it? Every year, fewer and fewer programs are keeping the head coach around more than 5 years, especially if they were initially successful. The demands and pressure to constantly win now have slowly squeezed the sample size required for evaluation to the point that some coaches barely get a full recruiting cycle before they are shown the door.