Thursday, August 2, 2007

Top 5 Most Overrated Coaches in College Football

The most overrated term in sports, is without a doubt, overrated. Here's a phrase which seemingly gets thrown out immediately after anyone successful meets any type of adversity. A phrase which gets tossed around when anyone good, hasn't been deemed "great" yet. "Lebron James is overrated" they say, because he didn't win the Finals this year (despite the fact that his team probably couldn't have beaten Florida for the National Championship this year and would have been bottom dwellers in the Eastern Conference if not for him). "Derek Jeter is overrated" they say, simply because he doesn't produce as much offense as one of the games most prolific sluggers of all-time, Alex Rodriguez. "Kobe Bryant is overrated" because he can't win the big one (or much of anything for that matter) without Shaq. "Donovan McNabb is overrated" because he choked in the SuperBowl. "David Beckham is overrated" because he's only good in set pieces and he's more of a media star. "Peyton Manning is overrated" because he can't win championships... oh wait.

These are just a sampling of phrases you hear thrown around in the sports world every time you turn around. If you were to take a giant cross-section of the entire world regarding overrated athletes, there is little doubt the list of who wasn't overrated would be very small and would probably look something like this:

That's truly the only names I could possibly fathom as not "overrated". Two of the most singularly dominant athletes in their respective sports in the history of athletics. Lucky enough for us, if you are reading this, you've likely been privileged to watch these two absolutely pillage the competition on their way to glory.

However, despite the fact that I find the term "overrated" to be completely irksome and overused, I shall join the masses and formulate my own "overrated" list. There should be due consideration given to the notion of what "overrated" actually means. Webster's defines the term "overrate" as: To overestimate the merits of; rate too highly. In some circles, it seems as if the term "overrated" has become synomous with bad. That's far offbase. Joe Namath is overrated, because he's largely considered one of the greatest QBs in NFL history. While his stats simply do not bare this out (more career INTs than TDs). Terry Bradshaw is underrated because he is considered an average QB, and while his stats do not bare out him being an all-time great, he won 4 Super Bowls. A feat only one other QB has been able to accomplish (though Tom Brady will inevitably smash this). While Joe Montana could probably best be qualified as "rated". Mostly because not only did he thrown more TD's and less INT's than either of the aforementioned, he was the other guy who won 4 Super Bowls. Not too shabby.

To make clear, for a coach to be "overrated" they must have at some point, been rated. You can't be overrated by simply being bad. The whole problem with "overrated" is that its largely based on conjecture. Someone is not "overrated" because of their performance, they are "overrated" because of people's perception of their performance. Nevertheless, I have created a list of the top 5 most overrated coaches in college football. Before you fire up your molotov cocktails and furious hate mails, I will admit - each coach on this list is undoubtedly good. You have to be good to be "overrated". But therein lies the problem, they are simply good, yet they are called great.

5) Dennis Franchione, Texas A&M

Franchione only registers at 5 because since joining Texas A&M more and more people have realized exactly how "overrated" he really is. What exactly has he accomplished you ask?

Franchione is probably most accredited for his drastic turn around of TCU in the late 90's. The season before he arrived the Horned Frogs went a miserable 1-10. His first season they went a decent 7-5 and clenched a Sun Bowl berth where they defeated the Mighty Trojans of USC (before the years of dominance began). In 1999 he again took TCU to another bowl, finishing an impressive 10-1. However, that one loss may be the most telling. A brutal upset at the hands of San Jose State - after all the talk of earning a BCS Bowl berth, the Horned Frogs instead packed their bags for Alabama, playing in the inaugural "Mobile Alabama Bowl".

Before the bowl Franchione announced his intentions for the next stop on his coaching tour, the famed University of Alabama. He again posted a somewhat remarkable turnaround. Taking a team which went 3-8 the previous season, he went 7-5 in 2001. The next year he went a very respectable 10-3, placing first in the SEC West, but due to sanctions was unable to play in the conference championship, or any bowl game.

Then in a ridiculously classless act, Franchione accepted the head coaching job at Texas A&M. Rather then returning home to notify his players of his leaving, after he had promised both in the lockerroom and publicly he would stay, he notified them via teleconference. Up until this point, Franchione was one of the hot names in coaching circles - generally considered a bright up and comer. The next four year proved entirely otherwise. 2003, his first year at A&M, the Aggies managed a meager 4-8 record, the worst of Franchione's career. The next year he improved to 7-5, which somehow qualified him as a finalist for Coach of Year. The next season the Aggies returned to subpar city, posting an entirely unspectacular 5-6 record. But in 2006 the Aggies seemed poised to be on the up and up, going an impressive 9-3, finally beating a major conference opponent, and big time rival - Texas.

To summarize, his career record since becoming a hot name at TCU is 59-36.
He's been to 7 bowl games, winning 4. But 0 zero BCS games.
Won 3 WAC championships, but never an SEC (possible due to sanctions) or a Big 12 title (hasn't even been close really).

In hindsight, it seems the bulk of Franchione's success could be placed squarely on the shoulders of LaDanian Tomlinson. He's posted only one double digit win season since leaving TCU, and if you've kept up with Tomlinson's career, you know he carried Marty Schottenheimer for more than a few years in San Diego. Arguing Fran's overrated-ness probably would have been much easier circa 2001, since his struggles at A&M are well noted, but A&M fans still seem to think he can take them to promised land - though all evidence seems to indicate otherwise.

4) Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia University

There is perhaps not a single coach in America who gets more uncasually affectionate media love than Coach Rodriguez. Every year his name is thrown out as one of the hot candidates for major coaching job vacancies and every year he's right back in Morgantown (what a regretful fate). Let's give credit where credit is due - Rodriguez played a large part in designing the widely popular Spread Option offense which has been manipulated dozens of times over in college circles nationwide. That alone stands as a reasonable contribution to the world of coaching, and may be enough to simply get him off the list.

But there is that other part of the job: actually coaching. In 2001 Rodriguez managed a disgusting 3-8 record. 2002 was a bit more promising with a 9-4 record and strong victories over Virginia Tech and Pitt. The next year they slid a bit, going 8-5. Which was followed by an 8-4 effort in 2004. All three years losing in their bowl games. Then West Virginia football skyrocketed from being a marginal team who could shock someone on a given Saturday, to being a "national powerhouse". Of course, this had nothing to do with Miami's departure for the ACC right?

In 2005, West Virginia shot onto the National Spectrum by recording an impressive 11-1 season. This season was capped by a shocking 3 point upset of the SEC powerhouse Georgia Bulldogs (a game which they nearly threw away in the final minutes). In 2006 Rodriguez again posted 11 wins, but failed to win the conference, this time earning a berth in the Gator Bowl, and again winning by 3 points against a fairly average Georgia Tech team.

You could easily point to Rodriguez's back to back 11 win seasons and note, that's a hell of a coach. However, when 9 of his 22 victories in the past 2 years have been over Connecticut (x2), Syracuse (x2), Mississippi State, Eastern Carolina (x2), Eastern Washington (x2) and Wofford, is it really all that impressive. I could name 30 teams off the top of my head that could have won those 9 games easily. And WVU struggled a couple of times in there.

In summary, while at WVU, Rodriguez has amassed a 50-24 record, not bad. He's won at least a share of 3 conference titles, 1 BCS bowl and has a top 5 finish. Yet, he's beaten only 6 ranked opponents in 6 years. By contrast USC's Pete Carroll beat 5... LAST YEAR.

3) Lloyd Carr, University of Michigan

At first glance, Carr's 113-36 record over the past 11 seasons just screams that his name on this list is blatantly stupid. No doubt, Carr has coached some of the best teams in nation year in and year out. But therein lies his greatest flaw. He coaches some of the best teams in the nation year in and year out, yet has mustered only 1 National Championship (a split nonetheless). Michigan undoubtedly produces some of the best NFL talent in the nation (see previous post). Yet still, only 1 National Championship.

I'll give credit where credit is due, Carr has won 5 Big Ten titles. He's beaten rival Ohio State 5 times, but only Jim Tressel once. He has a losing record in bowl games, in fact losing his last 4. He's won 2 BCS bowls - as many as any other coach on this list, but none since 2000.

What make Lloyd Carr overrated? It's the ability to routinely bring in top flight recruiting classes, yet have them never materialize into championships. With as much talent as Ann Arbor sees on a yearly basis, competing for a National Championship should be a semi-routine circumstance for the Wolverines, and that is simply not the case.

2) Charlie Weis, Notre Dame

In many ways including Weis on the list might be unfair. First of all, he's unquestionably had the shortest tenure of any head football coach on the list. After 2 years of coaching, an honest argument could be made that the vote is still out. But I lean towards the "overrated" side.

First of all, if you ask any Notre Dame fan why they have failed to compete in the last 10 years or so (losing their last 9 bowl games), they would cite a multitude of different reasons, but the unquestioned no. 1 reason on the list would be a "lack of talent." Something I find to be curious, if not downright wrong. If you refer to my previous post you will see that Notre Dame produces the 14th most talent of any team in college football. Now I can see some reasoning in saying they don't produce as much as the real heavy hitters, but when you consider that Oklahoma is 3 spots behind at 17 and has played in 3 National Championships this decade (wholly a credit to Bob Stoops), then it really makes you wonder, is Charlie Weis really THAT good?

Many Notre Dame fans feel that their marriage to Weis is the perfect couple; citing his Notre Dame alumnus status and deep running connection to the program. An understandable argument for sure, but not one which merits him being one of the best coaches in America. Furthermore, the excitement continues to build in South Bend as Weis has pulled in two consecutive top 10 recruiting classes. So there is good reason to believe in high hopes for the future.

However, when you survey his record as a head coach, it seems less than impressive. First of all, while the figures are unknown, Weis' contract is in the upper echelon (among the top 2 or 3) of highest paid coaches in America, reportedly making over 2 million dollars a year. But the real mind bender is that after merely 7 games he was given a 10 year contract extension worth between 30 and 40 million dollars. He wasn't he even undefeated at this point, 5-2 in fact. His massive contract extension was due in large part to taking football powerhouse USC down to the wire. No, he didn't even beat them. They lost to USC, at home, but apparently that's enough evidence that he deserved to be the highest paid coach in college football at the time. Nevermind that through 7 games in the year previous, Ty Willingham had the exact same record. Ok, so he lost to Brigham Young and a highly ranked Purdue squad, but he also beat a team that finished No. 7 overall, Michigan. It must be noted that Weis also beat Michigan, in their worst year in recent memory, but lost to USC and "powerhouse" Michigan State.

In his second season, high hopes abounded in South Bend. There was talk of Pre-Season No. 1, and their prolific offense with stud quarterback Brady Quinn at the helm (a Willingham recruit). The Irish narrowly escaped an average Georgia Tech team, 14-10, then proceeded to get spanked by Michigan... at home. The next week, against a very undermatched Michigan State squad, the Irish were down by 16 points going into the 4th quarter. In fact, they were never even in the game until the final 8 minutes. What proceeded was a series of crazy events which ultimately lead to a ND victory. Everyone is well aware of Weis' purported accusations of being slapped on the sideline, which lead to a costly Michigan State penalty, one which could have ultimately decided the outcome of the game. Weis then tries to smooth things over saying he was definitely slapped, but wasn't sure if it was a Michigan State player. Which begs the obvious question, then why bark at the referees and demand the penalty? Especially when no such action was caught on film. A highly supsicion action from a man considered to be a "class act".

However, the real creme brule of indictments lies squarely in his bowl game performance. Not only is Weis an unimpressive 0-2, due to Notre Dame's uncessary inclusion into the BCS, though being far from deserving; they have lost by a combined 41 points. In fact, Notre Dame hasn't even been competitive. They were out and out squashed in both matchups. Of course, the Notre Dame fan will quickly resort to their "lack of talent", which could be a case had they not played USC close and beaten a very good Michigan team who are every bit, if not more talented, than both Ohio State and LSU. But as is the case, Anytime Notre Dame beats a "good" opponent its because Weis is certainly a "genius" but anytime they lose its most definitely because of "lack of talent".

The fact of the matter is, Notre Dame has good enough talent to compete (see Oklahoma), but it would take a great coach to win with them. Which is exactly the reason, they don't win and exactly the reason Weis is overrated.

1) Nick Saban, University of Alabama

Oh my, the mother of all overrateds. There has been never been a more chronicled coaching move in the history of college football than when Nick Saban elected return to the SEC to become the Head Coach of the University of Alabama. From the repeated, "I am not going to be the Alabama coach" statements to eventually accepting the position and returning to the conference which made his name, its been an interesting ride to say the least.

If you ask any Alabama fan, they are utterly convinced that Nick Saban is the man to continue the great legacy of Bear Bryant. They believe he is unquestionably one of the greatest coaches in college football and from their brash exhortations, seemingly one of the greatest of all-time.

Ask a Bama fan about Saban's resume they will surely outline it something like this:

1) Rebuilt Michigan State, made them a powerhouse
2) Went to LSU locked down the borders of the state in recruiting
3) Rebuilt LSU, made them a powerhouse
4) Went to Dolphins to try to the NFL
5) Left the Dolphins because he didn't like, but was on his way to being a top 5 coach there
6) Now the head coach at the greatest college football university in the history of mankind

Now certainly there is a large amount of jest in my outline, but at times it seems as if they really believe a large portion of this. Perhaps I've just encountered the wrong fans, but it seems like everyday this is becoming the rule, not the exception.

However, anyone who takes a serious glance at Saban's coaching resume will find that he is certainly not among the top coaches in college football. Is he a good coach? Certainly. Is he as great as many Bama fans proclaim him to be? Absolutely not.

In 1995 Saban took over the Michigan State job, walking into a situation wrought with trouble, fresh into sanctions and misery. Caught up in a grade tempering scheme, Michigan State was sentenced to 4 years probation and the loss of a few scholarships. In his first 3 seasons Michigan State went a paltry 6-5-1, 6-6, and 7-5. The three years previous Michigan State finished 5-6, 6-6 and 5-6. Not much improvement. But I'll give Nick the benefit of the doubt, and suggest that the large part of their suffering was due to their sanctions.

In 1998 Michigan State pulled a major upset, defeating Ohio State in the horseshoe and defeating a highly ranked (at the time) Notre Dame squad. However, his 1998 squad went on to finish 6-6. Finally, in 1999 Nick had his "breakout" year, going a solid 9-2, beating Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Notre Dame. However, he was also destroyed by both Wisconsin and Purdue - and failed to win the conference. Saban then abruptly resigned and accepted the head coaching position at LSU following the his club's regular season the game. Bobby Williams then took his team and won the Citrus Bowl over Florida. It stands to reason, therefore, that Nick's team must have been at least decently talented.

Nick often gets credited for "locking down the Louisiana borders" and building the LSU legacy. However, if you go back and look at when LSU recruiting really took a drastic turn for the positive, it was during the Gerry Dinardo era. Now, Dinardo wasn't a very good coach, so he never really developed all that talent at any consistent rate. Coming off Dinardo's horrid 1999 campaign the Tigers brought Nick in to take the helm in 2000. Undoubtedly he was walking into his first head coaching job with copious amounts of talent.

During the 2000 season LSU showed a lot of improvement, posting an 8-4 record and winning the Peach Bowl. However, during this same year LSU lost to UAB... at home. In 2001 Saban improved that mark, going an impressive 10-3, winning the SEC and the Sugar Bowl (against a highly undermatched Illinois squad). Things seemed to be geniuinely on the up and up for both the LSU football program and Nick Saban. His recruiting was going well, as he continued where Dinardo left off and he seemed to be getting production from his recruits, unlike Dinardo.

However, in 2002 LSU regressed. With high hopes entering the season LSU faced Virginia Tech and got thrashed 26-8. They then rattled off an impressive winning streak, including a destruction of the Gators in the Swamp (where starter Matt Mauck went down with an injury late in the game, when he had no business being in). However, 2 weeks later, LSU marched into Auburn and had it handed to them 31-7. Two weeks after that, a sanctioned Alabama team marched in to Baton Rouge and destroyed them 31-0. The Tigers finished the year an unimpressive 8-5, with a loss to Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

2003 - might as well be titled the moneymaker year for Nick Saban. While he was certainly known as a good coach before 2003, this was the year which definitively placed him in the top 5 coaching realm. Cranking out a 13-1 record, his lone set back being to now Illinois coach Ron Zook and the Florida Gators at home, Saban won both the SEC and the National Championship. As a reward and due to a stipulation in his contract, Saban soon became the highest paid coach in college football, ironically topping his opponent in the NC, Bob Stoops.

2004 proved to be much more trying for Saban. The Tigers suffered some major losses on both offense and defense and struggled through a 9-3 season (the lucky Oregon State victory, playing a bad Mississippi team incredibly close, nearly losing to Troy at home), and a heartbreaking loss to Iowa on the last play in the Citrus Bowl. Ironically, the same bowl game he should have coached in before leaving Michigan State.

But seemingly everyone overlooks those bad games for Saban. Granted, every coach will have a bad game time and again. But this seemed to be a more than frequent occurrence with Saban. 2000 loss to UAB, spanking by Florida, near loss to Mississippi State, loss to Arkansas; 2001 again spanked by Florida, cheat death against Kentucky, narrow victory over Arkansas; 2002 spanked by Virginia Tech, Auburn and Alabama, cheat death against Kentucky... again (remember the Bluegrass miracle game, narrow victory over Ole Miss; 2003 loss to a struggling Florida, narrow victory over Ole Miss; 2004 lucky victory over Oregon State, narrow victory over Troy, narrow victory over Ole Miss. Every year, even the great years, there were the games that really shouldn't have been nearly as close as they were. Every year there was some kind of an upset. Attribute this to the toughness of playing the SEC, to the lack of talent, to whatever you will - it still stands that he was the head coach on those games and his Tigers seemed less than enthusiastic about a good number of them.

But the single biggest factor which makes Saban overrated is the ludicrous amount of money Alabama was willing to throw his way. Saban now makes around 4 million dollars a year (likely the highest paid coach in college football). Paying top dollar to a guy like Bob Stoops, Pete Carroll or perhaps the legends Paterno and Bowden would be entirely understandable. But Bama dug deep into their pockets to reel in a guy who played in only 2 BCS bowl games (something Bob has done 5 times, Carrol 5 times, hell Urban Meyer has done it twice already). The fact is, Bama paid for a legend, but all they got was a good coach.


Drew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Drew said...

woo hoo! no urban! i know how hard it must have been for you to not be able to put him on the list...

Graham said...

Very nice article. I found your BLOG on and you are now in my favorites.

John G. said...

No mention needed on the fact that stuttering Nick had his butt handed to him in the NFL. Seemed like the dolphins really regressed with his moves and the coaching was very inconsistent as well. He's pretty much like Dave Wannstedt and that's not a compliment.

The Redneck Nation that is Bama football will eat up being treated like dirt under him though.

tubehifi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick Moye said...

Lol I love going back in time!

Alex Merritt said...