Cavalcade of Whimsy: Coaching Edition. 5 Hottest Names (And Their Next Job)
All about the coaches, including the five hottest young coaches and where they might end up next.
Cavalcade of Whimsy: Oct. 17, 2017
Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault …
According to Washington State head coach Mike Leach, it’s a “pathetic” column full of “a bunch of pathetic front-runners.” And no, “there is no bright spot.”
All apologies to start this thing off with a rehashed rant, but …
Here’s the deal, Mike Leach. And this goes for you, Brian Kelly, after the Duke loss last year. And you, too, Mike Krzyzewski, after any time Duke loses, gets fouled, or the cafeteria isn’t serving banana pudding. And to all college coaches.
If your team isn’t playing well, isn’t motivated, and isn’t winning, it’s 100% totally and completely your fault, you well-paid professional adult man, whose supposed to teach amateur – yeah, yeah, I know – children.
That’s the job.
You try to laser-focus a slew of 18-to-22-year-old kids every single second of every single day on one purpose and one goal. One slip, one bad day, one off game among 12-to-if-you’re-lucky-15, and you’re Clemson and Washington State on Friday night, and Washington in the wee hours of Saturday night into Sunday morning.
And when that happens, college coaches, it’s because you screwed up.
It’s because you and your staff didn’t make the right adjustments. It’s because the other team’s coaching staff just applied an atomic wedgie to your genius, knocking around your star quarterback like a ping pong ball.
Pro coaches, rip the stuffing out of players all you want. Those are grown professional men who can talk back to the media. Most college kids can’t, and if they do, they can’t say anything remotely negative about the coaching.
How about this? College coaches, you can publicly question your players and their “pathetic” performance, but then your players get to speak to the media with a free-and-clear pass to say what they really think about you.
Watch how fast the pathetic goes on the other foot.
It’s a sweet life if you’re single, though
You aren’t just a moron if you decide to get into coaching as a profession. As the man said, you’re (bleep)ing moron.
Seriously, what are you doing?
There’s less than no stability, your family will have to move on a whim, and your allegiances and loyalties have to be unquestioned and all-in, taking on a mercenary mindset to the nth degree.
And you know, no matter what, when the end comes to whatever coaching gig you get, it’s almost certainly going to end very, very badly.
You can lead your baseball team into the spin-the-wheel randomness of the MLB short-series divisional playoff, lose to a team that might be the best in baseball, and then … fired.
Kris Bryant couldn’t hit a ball right now if you taped it to his bat, and the rest of the Cub lineup is delivering like Al Michaels telling a Harvey Weinstein line, and yet Joe Maddon – who actually is having a bad playoff – apparently, doesn’t know how to manage baseball anymore.
NHL head coaches have the lifespan of the NBC fall lineup.
Non-Popovich NBA coaches either have LeBron, Curry, Durant or Russell, or they’re killing time hoping their teams are bad enough to get the next one of those.
And don’t bother trying to name all 32 pro football head coaches – not a chance without looking – because it’ll change faster than the NFL editing its pregame kneeling policy to fit what Jerry Jones says next.
The only major sport with relative head coaching stability at a high level is college basketball, and the FBI might have a few thoughts on that.
And then there’s the college football head coaching world, which is the nuttiest of them all.
Coaches can’t lose in any sport, but really, in college football, you can’t lose, EVER.
Ed Orgeron is all but gone. 20 minutes later, his team is gutty, on a two-game winning streak, and he’s brilliant. And he’s only there because of the flickering light of the play-clock going the other way in last year’s LSU, Les Miles-job-killing loss to Auburn.
Jim Harbaugh has rebuilt the Michigan brand into a powerhouse again, has only lost games in the most gut-punching of fashions, and yet he’s ripped apart for not winning seven big battles that all could’ve easily gone the other way.
Urban Meyer – URBAN MEYER – was being questioned after one horrible day against the eventual national champion – trust me; I did several Ohio radio appearances after last year’s Fiesta Bowl and couldn’t believe what I was being asked.
How harsh is the college coaching world? Out of the 130 current head coaches, how many have been at their current spot longer than five years? 37.
How many have been there since 2010 until now? 19. And just two – Kirk Ferentz and Gary Patterson – have been at their respective jobs since before 2005.
It’s like college orientation. Look to your left, now look to your right. Those two coaches won’t be here by the time you graduate.
And yet, we do love our college football coaches. Find a Saban, or an Urban, or a Dantonio, or even a Gundy, Cutcliffe or Mullen, and you’ve hit the jackpot.
It’s why fan bases always want more. They always want to find the needle in the haystack who’ll bring the promise of making their lives happier, just like …
The importance of being Dabo
At the collegiate level – certainly not in the pros – I’m not really sure why so many people get into a twist over a losing superstar head coach going into a locker room to congratulate the team that just pulled off a massive upset.
I get the whole sanctity of the locker room thing, but if you’re a kid who was just part of something amazing that you’ll think about every day for the rest of your life, how is it not cool when a Dabo Swinney – defending national championship head coach Dabo Swinney, to you – sincerely wants to tell you how great you were?
The Syracuse players, apparently, thought it was classy.
The best in the biz put it best …
Because that area of the country, apparently, really digs Penn State head coaches
To all you yelly and screamy Texas A&M types who are hinting at wanting James Franklin, let me put it this way. If your Aggies started out the season playing Akron, Pitt, Georgia State, at Iowa, Indiana and at Northwestern, they’d be 6-0 right now, ranked in the top five, and you’d love Kevin Sumlin.
If Penn State played at UCLA, Nicholls State, Louisiana, Arkansas (in Jerry World), South Carolina, Alabama, and at Florida, it would be 5-2, and at absolute best would be 6-1.
Nittany Lion fans, the last time A&M poached a coach from another big-time school – Dennis Franchione. After a little bit, Alabama ended up doing okay.
On the plus side, for the last few years it’s been the tenth-best team in a conference called the Big 12
Oh, Kansas. Someday your prince will come.
The last winning season was 2008, and the last time the program won more than three games in a season was 2007.
David Beaty gave it a shot, but in 30 games as the head man he’s now 3-27.
He’s one fourth down play against Texas last year away from not having a win over an FBS team – Rhode Island last season and SE Missouri State this year are the other two victories.
The 2017 Jayhawks have lost to Central Michigan and Ohio by a combined score of 87-57, and were obliterated by Iowa State last week 45-0 in a game that was even uglier than the final score.
The date with Baylor on November 4th is the one realistic hope for a win, but the rest of the schedule is at TCU, Kansas State, at Texas, Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State. In those six games, let’s just set the combined line at Kansas +190.5 and go from there.
Speaking of coaching jobs in the middle part of the country …
Is Nebraska really a top-shelf head coaching job right now?
I know it seems like it should be, but if and when Mike Riley is driven out to the countryside and allowed to run free – no, Oregon State, move on – just what kind of job is this?
Bo Pelini was considered weird by parts of the fan base, but he won four division titles and nine games or more in each of his seven seasons – and that wasn’t good enough.
There’s no recruiting base, and the salary is just okay compared to the biggest jobs. Depending on the incentive at the moment in the various contracts around the league, Riley is the sixth-highest paid coach in the Big Ten. And, to put this nicely, a lot has changed in the world of strength and conditioning since Nebraska was a superpower among superpowers.
High expectations, average pay, and the need to either recruit nationally or implement a system that doesn’t need four-star prospects …
Welcome to the hiring of Washington State’s Bill Moos as the new Nebraska athletic director.
Let’s see, what current college football head coach worked really, really well with Moos over the last few years, has a system that doesn’t need a slew of four-star talents, and has a mega-chip on his shoulder that the Nebraska program needs?
Nebraska, there’s a chance you soon might welcome in the Mike Leach era of the Big Raid Machine.
Five Cavalcade of Whimsy footballey opinions and, like, other stuff
Five conversation starters at your next dinner party, and/or to impress that special someone at the right moment …
A special one this week to tie into the theme. The Top Five Hottest Young Head Coaches Destined For A Massive Gig & Generational, Screw You, Big-Ern-Above-The-Law Wealth.
These guys have to be under 45 – no Jeff Brohm or Dave Doeren – and they can’t already be at A-to-B+-list gigs like David Shaw, Willie Taggart, Tom Herman, Lincoln Riley or Justin Fuente.
Just missing the cut: Neal Brown, Troy (one stepping-stone next job away); P.J. Fleck, Minnesota (soon, but he has to prove it in the Big Ten); Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech (Coach Handsome isn’t leaving Lubbock); Mike Norvell, Memphis (not quite the star Justin Fuente was, but not far off); Frank Wilson, UTSA (he’s one step-up job away from eventually being the LSU head man).
5. Matt Campbell, Iowa State
When Illinois hired Tim Beckman from Toledo in 2011, some thought it took the wrong guy from the staff.
Turning 38 in December, Campbell will be nearly impossible to keep after he did the improbably and made Iowa State into something good enough to beat Oklahoma.
Next Gig Up: Pitt.
4. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
You forgot about him, but he’s still only 42, turning 43 in December. He might bleed purple, and he might finally have some of the facilities needed, but he’s also been in Evanston for 12 seasons – that’s an eternity for any head man.
Settled into the area, he’s almost certainly not leaving for a while, but he’s one decent season away from being a red-hot name again. As is, he’s still respected as a young star who’s doing big things with a small base.
Next Gig Up: In a few years, Penn State if Franklin leaves, or possibly the NFL
3. D.J. Durkin, Maryland
Considering big-time superstar in the making, he’s coming off a fabulous recruiting class in February and a big win over Texas to kick off the season. However, he’s hit a run of bad luck with injured quarterbacks derailing what looked like a great run.
Even so, with the way he’s recruiting, and with his background as a defensive coaching prodigy under Jim Harbaugh, he could soon be the perfect fit for one spot if things go south for the current guy.
Durkin already won a bowl game there as an interim head coach in 2014, and considering the knock on the incumbent is that he’s not bringing in the top talent, the 39-year-old soon might get a long look from …
Next Gig Up: Florida
2. Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic
Just like he was was a great fit before for Tennessee – he can recruit, and he’d be fantastic at poking the Bama bear – he’s even stronger now, except for that whole bailing for USC and everyone being mad at him for it thing.
He’s led a full coaching life, but he’s only 42.
Yes, he comes with a truckload of baggage, and yes, a program would have to prepared to deal with the drama, but he might just have Florida Atlantic in the Conference USA title game this season. At the very least, he’s nearly a lock to take the school bowling in his first year.
For that next-up job, though, it would have to be a place that’s ready to take a shot at the stars and needs to create a buzz.
Illinois would be a good spot, but Lovie Smith might be just getting started with a ton of young players in the system.
Ole Miss? HA!
Kansas? Oregon State? No. Boston College? Nah. Colorado? That’s not bad, and neither is Arkansas.
In a perfect world – at least for me, as a college football writer – my dream would be for Kiff Kiff to take over the UCLA job. But there’s a more realistic option that could soon pop up.
Considering the school is all in on the basketball side, now it needs the counterpart for football. Which is why …
Next Gig Up: Missouri
1. Scott Frost, UCF
Again, is Nebraska big enough? Would it be a big enough pay raise considering he’s making $1.7 million a year at UCF and would likely command somewhere around the $4 million range just to get the conversation started?
Nebraska seems like the obvious choice for the former star quarterback, but the school blew it by not getting him a few years ago when he was the Oregon offensive coordinator. And now, after turning UCF into a dominant New Year’s Six bowl contender – after the program went 0-12 two years ago – his stock has shot through the roof.
Tom Herman took Houston to a New Year’s Six bowl, and now he’s at Texas. P.J. Fleck parlayed his Western Michigan run to the NY6 into the Minnesota job.
The best guess on what Frost will turn this season into …
Next Gig Up: Tennessee
This week’s reason why Nick Saban didn’t suspend me for the season opener against Florida State …
I didn’t do anything wrong. It was the 98 grams of sugar in the two sips of a pumpkin spice latte that made me type this entire column in four minutes … four minutes … four minutes … four minutes …
The sure-thing, 100%, rock-solid lock, sell the house, sell the kids, no doubt about it picks of the century for this week
PICK SO FAR: 37-13 SU, 29-19-1 ATS
I can never remember a week when I got so many straight up picks wrong on the site, but so many right against the spread. 4-2 last week ATS, totally whiffing on Houston -13.5 over Tulsa, and still fuming over a stupid late score that kept Michigan State from covering the four over Minnesota. On these picks, I’m 9.5 over .500 … I’ll take it.
– Buffalo +3 over Miami University
– Kentucky +10.5 over Mississippi State (MSU straight up)
– UCF -8 over Navy
– West Virginia -9 over Baylor
– (Screw it, I’m diving in on a season-long call …) Notre Dame -4 over USC
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item …
The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
5) Overrated: D.J. Chark vs. Auburn, 2016
Underrated: D.J. Chark vs. Auburn, 2017
4) Overrated: The Austin Seferian-Jenkins “fumble”
Underrated: Being in a better spot to draft Darnold or Rosen
3) Overrated: FSU QB James Blackman throwing two picks vs. Duke
Underrated: FSU QB James Blackman completing 18-of-21 passes for 197 yards and a score
2) Overrated: Army and Navy combining to complete 1-of-8 passes for 20 yards and two picks
Underrated: Army & Navy combining to run for 727 yards and seven touchdowns
1) Overrated: Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Jake Browning, Luke Falk
Underrated: Arizona QB Khalil Tate running 29 times for 557 yards and six touchdowns in the last two games vs. Colorado and UCLA, averaging 19.2 yards per carry
Sorry if this column sucked, I wasn’t my fault …
I’m closing this coaching edition with words from Mack Brown, back when he was the Texas head coach, and I asked about the loss of some key assistants.
“We’re Texas. We’ll just get more great coaches. Everything will be fine.”
This is the Cavalcade of Whimsy. Sorry it sucked. I’ll just get more bad blurbs, and everything will be really, really not fine.