Thursday, June 23, 2011

Heisman Pundit is Mean to Kindly Old Grandmas

OK, I have no evidence to support that accusation,* but that title is no more misleading than an alleged list of the ten worst coaches in college football that instead focuses solely on whether a coach deploys the right offensive scheme and makes good end-of-game decisions, as if those are the only roles for a college head coach. It's hard to pick a starting point for savaging a list that is to college football analysis what Sarah Palin's ramblings are to American history (Blutarsky is off to a great start, although I'm highly disappointed that he discussed the Muschamp section without ripping on the assertion that a John Brantley-led offense has "incredible spread talent"), but I'll pick the fact that Heisman Pundit assumes that blue chip players simply fall off of trees. If a coach recruits great talent and only produces good results, then that coach is not an idiot. Instead, he's a guy who succeeds in one area of his job (recruiting) and is not succeeding in another (motivating players, assembling a good staff, and/or making strategic and tactical decisions).

* - Just to be clear, I am in no way alleging that Heisman Pundit (or whatever other nom de guerre he is using today) is a bad person or otherwise acts in an illegal or immoral matter. Rather, I am making an analogy to illustrate that a post titled "The Ten Worst Coaches in College Football" is totally misleading when it reduces coaching to one or two aspects that HP finds important.

Take Les Miles, the alleged worst coach in college football. I'm not Miles's biggest fan. He was very fortunate to win a national title with two losses. He stuck with Gary Crowton for way too long. He destroyed his reputation as a late-game savant with inept game management against Ole Miss in '09 and Tennessee in '10. Like Lloyd Carr, his teams play far too many close games against inferior opponents. (How is it that two Bo disciples have the same weakness of respecting the opposition too much? This was certainly not a problem for Mssr. Schembechler.) That said, the notion that he's a bad coach is absurd. Records aren't everything, but look at these results and tell me that you see evidence of the worst coach in college football:

2005 - 11-2, Sagarin Predictor #8
2006 - 11-2, Sagarin Predictor #5
2007 - 12-2, Sagarin Predictor #4
2008 - 8-5, Sagarin Predictor #22
2009 - 9-4, Sagarin Predictor #13
2010 - 11-2, Sagarin Predictor #10

And I'm just using the Predictor because I'm intellectually honest (try it sometime, HP) and I favor rankings that account for margin of victory. If I used Sagain's BCS-approved rankings, then his teams would look even better.

We're well past the time when Miles's success could be attributed to Nick Saban. Larry Coker he's not. (Coker in year six: 7-6, #49. There was no year seven.) Honestly, you have to be an utter idiot to look at those numbers and conclude "worst coach in college football!" At a minimum, you ought to have a better argument than "a potted plant" could win at LSU. Perhaps Heisman Pundit never heard the names Gerry Dinardo or Curley Hallman? That seems odd for someone who is now branding himself as "College Football Pundit." If this list is an example of what we are going to see this season when HP branches out from Heisman patter, then I no longer have to rue the fact that Terence Moore left the AJC.

After the lame insults directed to Miles, the piece doesn't get better. #5 on the list is Jimbo Fisher, who has been a head coach for all of one year and in that year, led FSU to its best season in years. HP complains about Fisher's offense, but the 2010 Noles offense - the first one for which Fisher had total autonomy - finished second in the ACC in yards per play. If you prefer advanced metrics, they were eighth in the country in both S&P and FEI. Oh, the indignity! And HP implies that Fisher only accomplished this because of Christian Ponder, but who turned Ponder - a three-star recruit whom Rivals ranked as the #14 pro-style quarterback and the #50 prospect in Texas - into a first round pick?

HP sums up the fallacy of his mindset when he asks "Fisher can recruit, but can he coach?," as if recruiting isn't part of being a head coach. The funny thing is that there is an obvious, recent, high-profile example refuting HP's worldview and yet he rolls merrily along. Rich Rodriguez is HP's dream coach. Rodriguez is one of the originator's of the Spread offense that caused HP to forsake all others. By year three at Michigan, Rodriguez had the offense humming, producing prodigious numbers with a young set of players. However, Rodriguez was also a total failure at Michigan because he screwed up all of the other aspects of being a head coach. He didn't recruit especially well, player retention, motivation, and development were issues, and most importantly, he utterly butchered the defense with a mismatched set of an inept defensive coordinator and substandard position coaches who only knew a system different than the one favored by the coordinator.* By HP's definition, Rodriguez was a great coach. He had a terrific offensive scheme and he made reasonable end-of-game decisions. By the definition of Michigan fans and just about any other sentient being, the Michigan version of Rodriguez was a disaster.

* - I don't think that these flaws are endemic for Rodriguez. He did perfectly well in the other head coaching functions at West Virginia. Rather, Rodriguez is a good coach who made a number of big mistakes at Michigan. If he has learned his lesson (and I'll bet that he's a smart enough guy to do so), then he'll do well when he's the head coach at Clemson next year. The ACC might finally have an elite worth discussing if Clemson and FSU join Virginia Tech as annual contenders. Plus, I still like the guy.


CFP said...

First off, highly inappropriate headline that I suggest you remove immediately.

Second, this post was made at, so you should cite the correct source (if you are at all interested in accuracy).

Third, the list's criteria is that these coaches do not know what to do with the talent they have on hand. I wrote as much in the very piece you claim to have read, yet you still write:

If a coach recruits great talent and only produces good results, then that coach is not an idiot. Instead, he's a guy who succeeds in one area of his job (recruiting) and is not succeeding in another (motivating players, assembling a good staff, and/or making strategic and tactical decisions).

So, a coach who is crappy at everything but recruiting can't be on a list of crappy head coaches? Fine. Let's call this a list of coaches who can't motivate, assemble a good staff or make strategic and/or tactical decisions. Happy? It's basically the criteria I set up when I wrote it in the first place.

Feel free to come up with your own top 10 and criteria for it. You can even continue to cherry pick all kinds of numbers to support your points (like FSU's offense somehow being good now because it was 2nd in the ACC in YPP). If you think Les Miles is a good coach because he wills all that talent at LSU to victory, more power to ya. In your world, I'm sure the bad coaches out there are only at 1-10 mid-major schools. Why not just make a list of the coaches with the worst records, if all that matters is winning?

Do blue chip players fall off trees? Uh, at some schools like LSU, USC, Texas, etc., they do. Welcome to college football.

I'll leave you with a challenge: Come up with 10 coaches who you think are worse than Les Miles and tell me why. Oh, and you can't use any of the other coaches on my list since, you know, I don't know what I'm talking about and all.

Try it. This should be fun.

Oh, and once again, don't forget to take down that headline.

Anonymous said...

Jeebus dude, the headline was comedy gold, much like your article.

And he gave you a coach who is much worse than Les Miles. Rich Rod, handed an awesome job and then made a mess of things. How can he not be on your list?

Jerry Hinnen said...

You asked Michael, not me, but I love a challenge. So here goes, and keep in mind this is off the top of my head*:

1, Mike Locksley -- took Rocky Long's steady UNM program and destroyed it

2. Todd Berry (now at ULM) -- decided to switch Army (!) to West Coast offense, went 0-13

3. Turner Gill -- brought pro/spread mishmash to Kansas spread O, undid years of Mangino rebuilding in a season

4. Howard Schnellenberger -- despite fertile S Fla. recruiting area, has taken huge step back since Rusty Smith heyday

5. Paul Pasqualoni -- I'm sure a 60-something-year-old will have the energy to recruit to UConn

6. Larry Porter -- Memphis wasn't even competitive in CUSA last yr and he hired Michigan's failed LBs coach to coach his D

7. Mike Price -- Wazzu run was impressive, but it's been five straight losing seasons and this is probably six this year

8. Pat Hill -- WAC failures more than make up for BCS upsets. Too much talent to lose low-rent bowls like New Mexico/Humanitarian

9. Dave Christensen -- Got extraordinarily lucky to go 7-6 in '09 w/ Wyoming, went 3-9 last year with loss to UNM, and can't keep a QB in town

10. The guy at Akron whose name I can't remember -- Zips were fortunate not to go winless last year, possibly worst team in FBS

* I did have to look up how many losing seasons Price had had in a row.

Michael said...

I added a footnote to make explicit what I thought was explicit from the first sentence. I am criticizing you for a labeling problem, not for any tendency to violate the laws of our great country.

I didn't realize that you get to change names based on your site. How Dylanesque of you. I always thought there was something redeeming in your online persona and now I've found it.

If you are going to write a post about coaches wasting talent, then call it that. If I were to write a post about the presidents with the worst foreign policies, I wouldn't title it "the worst presidents ever."

You want ten coaches who are worse than Les Miles? Sure.

1. Joe Paterno - he does literally nothing.

2. Ron Zook - evidence that a coach can't just go to a superpower program and win immediately.

3. Lane Kiffin - I didn't say that you are wrong about everything. A stopped clock is right twice a day.

4. Rick Neuheisel - And this is the second time.

5. Mike Locksley

6. Tom O'Brien

7. Paul Pasqualoni

8. Danny Hope

9. Bob Toledo

10. Ron English

Now, here's your challenge. Post your list and mine and see how many readers would want any one of the ten names on my list over Les Miles to coach their programs.

Michael said...

Jerry, I am very hurt that you would come on my blog and not include the Queen of England on a list of worst coaches.

Senator Blutarsky said...

What, Jerry, no Tuberville on your list?

CFP said...

@jerry and Michael.

Thanks for your input. The problem with your lists is that it for the most part lists coaches at programs that rarely, if ever, win.

Do you really think that Les Miles would win at New Mexico or Memphis? Switch Bob Toledo (who won 20 in a row at UCLA) with Les Miles and right now and would there be much difference?

You are basically calling a guy a bad coach because he can't win at a destitute program and calling a guy a good coach because he can win at an elite program.

How simplistic is that?

Anonymous said...

Do you really think that Les Miles would win at New Mexico or Memphis?

Yes, Lesticles won at Oklahoma St. From 1961-2000 (a 40 year sample), OKst was the 72nd best program in the country, winning around 47% of its games while going 6-33 against Oklahoma. While Miles was at OkState, they won 57% of their games (45th) while going 2-2 against four of the best Oklahoma teams ever. Les might not win an MNC at Memphis or UNM, but I bet he'd have more 10 win seasons than losing seasons.

Anonymous said...

Oklahoma State was average before Miles and average with Miles. He coaches to the level of the program he is at. He does not elevate his programs.

Jerry Hinnen said...

Ack, Michael, you're right, Paterno should have been an obvious choice. Senator, I'm giving Tubby's current reign-of-error another year before dropping him into this group, but I won't argue if someone else picked him out.

To answer HP's question, Memphis won 7 or more games four times in five years between '03 and '07 under the immortal Tommy West, and from '01 to '07, UNM finished under .500 once under Long. So yeah, I think Miles could have managed in those places. (Oh, and Anon No. 2, Okie State had undergone three straight losing seasons before Miles arrived, went over .500 in his last three years there and hasn't been back since. I think it's entirely safe to say he "elevated that program.")

As for "calling a guy a good coach because he can win at an elite program," you haven't explained how the Worst Coach in America can keep winning 10+ games or more in the same place where Archer, Hallman, and DiNardo all failed. (Ditto Zook at UF, RichRod at UM, Hackett at USC, Mackovic at Texas, etc.)

Anonymous said...

The Florida State bit is awesome. 31 ppg/6 yards per play is fine, especially when you consider that Ponder missed two games against a couple of the best defenses FSU faced (Clemson and Virginia Tech), and missed most of the Peach Bowl against South Carolina. And of course Fisher's offenses have been great prior to 2010; I'm sure pundit knows Fisher has a longer track record than 2010. What a baffling addition to that list; its like he's going out of his way to generate faux controversy.

Astronaut Mike Dexter said...

How comforting to see that HP can move the goalposts in coaching debates with just as much alacrity as he does in discussions of the spread offense.

He purported to write a list of the worst coaches in the country; then it became a list of coaches who "do not know what to do with the talent they have on hand"; and based on his most recent comment, it's now . . . what, a list of coaches who couldn't win at New Mexico or Memphis?

Let's call a spade a spade and see your list for what it really is -- coaches you've arbitrarily decided you don't like. You may have a problem with the way Miles conducts business, but to call him the worst coach in the country is like saying Martin Scorsese is the worst director in America because all he does is mob movies.

Anonymous said...

HP/CFP is a USC shill, and speaking of which that is a bit of blatant irony there.

Who had more talented teams than USC anywhere in the country (much less on their schedule) during the Pete Carrol era at USC and what did he earn - 1 Vacated National Championship. I happen to think that Pete Carrol was a good coach, but I also think that a potted plant would have had a much easier time winning at USC in 2003/2004/2005 than on the sidelines of LSU in 2008/2009/2010 with the stormin mormon as the OC.

Anonymous said...

It never gets easier to read the name Curley Hallman. Never.

1. Larry Porter - He can't succeed. I'll leave it at that. He didn't have the credentials for that job.

2. Ron Zook - He couldn't win at Florida. So long as he's a coach, he's high on the list.

ok, actually, I don't watch bad football or know enough to say much more than that, so I'll leave it at those two and this on Marck Richt. I like him, but he's close to being put on that list under the previously mentioned Zook rule.

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