Saturday, January 31, 2009

Feel free to laugh

Barring an Urban Meyer-esque turnaround or a Mike Price-style scandal, it's pretty difficult to evaluate a coach after one year. From putting together a new staff of assistants to recruiting players who best fit the desired systems, it takes time for a new coach to get all the pieces in place to be successful. That's just common sense.

College Football News isn't on board with this logic, though, as indicated by Richard Cirminiello's rankings of last season's "rookie" head coaches.

Here are a few of my personal favorites:

4. Steve Fairchild, Colorado State
12. Bill Stewart, West Virginia
17. Paul Wulff, Washington State

And bringing up the rear ...

18. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan

I know Michigan had a rough season and all -- 3-9, missing a bowl game for the first time in 30 years, etc. -- but do you think West Virginia would rather have Rodriguez (ignoring the RAGE after his departure) or Stewart? That's a rhetorical question, by the way. With a top-10 recruiting class last year and another on the way this year, it's hard to view Rodriguez's first 13 months at Michigan as a complete failure (to say nothing of his impressive track record).

And if you think Michigan's season was bad, just look at what Wulff did at Washington State:
Things weren’t just bad in Pullman. They were hide-the-women-and-children bad. The Cougars never stood a chance, arguably authoring the worst season in Pac-10 history. Beating Washington in the Apple Cup helped, but couldn’t gloss over
finishing 118th nationally in both scoring offense and defense, and 2-11 overall. While it didn’t help losing quarterbacks like they were baby teeth, there’s no excusing a six-game stretch that saw five straight opponents ring up at least 58 points.
Rodriguez was worse than that??? And while Steve Fairchild did a nice job this year to get Colorado State back on track and into a bowl game, he was coaching at a traditionally successful program in a Mountain West that lacked much of anything behind the top three of Utah, TCU and BYU. Rating him ahead of Bobby Petrino at Arkansas and Rick Neuheisel at UCLA can only be justified based on his win-loss record in one season, which obviously is a little ridiculous.

I had to look no further than last year's rankings to prove my point:

2. Dennis Erickson, Arizona State
5. Bill Lynch, Indiana
11. Nick Saban, Alabama
22. Tim Brewster, Minnesota

I could be wrong, but I'm willing to bet that most Alabama fans are happier with Nick Saban than they would have been with Bill Lynch or Dennis Erickson.

I guess I'm just looking at this list a little differently than Cirminiello is -- his goal, I assume, was to rank each coach purely by his on-field success in his first season at his current school. But here's my question: Why?

A coach's job isn't to win the most possible games in his first season -- if that was the case, Nick Saban's top-ranked recruiting class last year and top-10 finish this year never would have happened, because he would have been fired after going 7-6 (including a loss to Louisiana-Monroe) in his first season. I could cite many more examples here, but the list of successful head coaches who struggled in their first year is endless, so I won't bother.

Recruiting matters. Developing players matters. Building for the future matters.

These rankings are either incredibly stupid and inaccurate (if based on an overall assessment of the hiring) or pointless (if based on a coach's on-field success in his first season).

Either way, College Football News -- which I once heard aptly described as "a mile wide and an inch deep" -- needs less of this crap and more out of its relationship with Scout, which led to this interesting two-part review of the five-star recruits from 2005 (a perfect example of letting some time pass in order to make a reasonable assessment).


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