Cavalcade of Whimsy - The Coaches
Posted Nov 6, 2007

Who has done the five best and the five worst coaching jobs this year? What's the job security status for every head coach? Darren McFadden if he were in the NFL right now, the Big Ten Network's battle, and more in the latest Cavalcade of Whimsy.

Fiu's Cavalcade of Whimsy

a.k.a. Frank Costanza's Festivus Airing of the Grievances

By Pete Fiutak   
What's your beef? ... E-mail with your thoughts  
Past Whimsies
2006 Season | Preseason Part One, Part Two | Week 1
2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8
Week 9

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … unlike Navy’s futility against Notre Dame, the current streak of sucky columns didn’t stop at 43. 

Yes a mighty winds a blowin’, cross the land and cross the sea/It’s blowin’ peace and freedom, it’s blowin’ equality/Yes it’s blowin’ peace and freedom, it’s blowin’ you and me” … The ill-fated decision by Charlie Weis to go for it against Navy on fourth and eight with 45 seconds to play with the score tied, rather than try for a 41-yard field goal because of a little wind and the lack of his kicker’s range, and Ram Vela’s flying sack of Evan Sharpley to stop the play cold, might go down as the signature moment in the most historic season in Notre Dame football history. It was the ultimate microcosm of the season Weis is having.

First, there’s no excuse for Notre Dame to not have a kicker good enough to try a 41-yard field goal with a puff of wind blowing. It’s not like it was a 57-yard bomb; it was a reasonable distance, especially if you include the adrenaline factor, for most D-I kickers to attempt. Of course, there was the nor’easter that was tossing fans around Notre Dame Stadium like confetti.

Second, it shows that Weis, like most of the NBC Saturday afternoon audience, hasn’t been paying attention to his team. If he had, he would’ve noticed an offense that’s among the most miserable in the nation in passing efficiency, and 115th in the nation in third down conversions, completing just 28.6%, meaning the attack is never clutch when it has to be. Yes, the Irish has been solid on fourth downs, but those attempts were almost all from three yards or fewer.

Third, there was a decent chance the Notre Dame offensive line that’s dead last in America in sacks allowed, giving up 43 on the year after the loss to Navy, was going to fall over thanks to the typhoon that unleashed its wrath of terror upon South Bend, and there was no chance of stopping Navy pass rush on the biggest play of the game, to that point, if it sold out to get to the quarterback.

So basically, 1) Weis didn’t recruit a reliable kicker, 2) he made a bad judgment call, 3) it was a worse judgment call considering his personnel, and 4) it was horrendous execution. Other than that, well done. 

And by the way, UCF, under head coach George O’Leary, is 6-3 … No, Weis shouldn’t be fired. This might be a disastrous season with no hope in sight for a big turnaround in 2008, but this is just one year after doing the BCS thing for two straight seasons. Give him one more chance to see if this whole thing really is a fluke. With that said, if you want him fired, don’t bring up the contract as a reason to keep him around. Notre Dame has a $6.5 billion endowment. B-B-Billion. The Irish can get back most of the $25 million left on the deal with one extra collection at Sacred Heart.

In the most interesting marriage since Liza and David Gest … Notre Dame, now you need the Big Ten. Big Ten, since your network has about ten minutes of juice left unless you get those cable companies to come around, and the national respect factor is at a stunning low, you need Notre Dame. If this was ever going to get done, and if the misnamed conference of 11 teams was ever going to add, this would be the time.

In a battle only slightly less gripping than the Illinois win over Minnesota … Most of America saw the final score of the Wisconsin – Ohio State game, 38-17 Buckeyes, and just assumed it was a blowout. Wisconsin battled hard for three quarters before its banged up defense got plowed over by the OSU offensive line allowing Chris Wells to keep cutting back and cutting back for big yards. Of course, few saw this game since it was on the Big Ten Network, with a contract stating that every team has to be on once for a league game. Ohio State hadn’t been on yet.

The BTN wants cable companies to simply add the channel to their lineups, at a potentially heavy price for everyone involved, including the customers, while Comcast, among others, wants to put it in a separate sports package and charge extra for it. Sorry BTN, but this one’s real simple: the cable companies are in the right.

If you really need to see Big Ten sports, then you won’t flinch at either making the switch to DirecTV, or paying $1 a month extra. Make it a premium channel and charge $12 a year, a pittance compared the cost of going to just one game. Sorry BTN, but if you didn’t think you could make it on a “sports tier” of programming, then you didn’t think this thing through.

With that said, the BTN is terrific for die-hard college football fans, especially with the replays of the games over the weekend, and I hope the SEC and others will follow suit, albeit with a better business plan.

Make sure the SafeSearch is on when you commence Googling. Or if you’re having an icky day, don’t. … Big Ten Network, you really want to end this pillow fight with the cable companies, right? Stop with the snoozer public relations campaign and rhetoric and get the public on your side with a simple one-line press release. “Charissa Thompson is the sideline reporter for the featured Big Ten game of the week.”

But let’s see the Broncos return a missed field goal 109 yards for a score … How great were the 2006 Big 12 defenses? How about the Boise State run defense of last season? Minnesota Viking star Adrian Peterson is ripping through NFL defenses like they’re on the way to Roger Goodell’s office to explain what it means to “make it rain,” highlighted by his NFL record-setting 296-yard day against San Diego. His best day as a Sooner? 240 yards against Baylor in 2004. He only hit 200 once last year, against Oregon, and was held to 77 by Boise State.

If you listen quietly, you can hear him tear off another 13-yard run against the Gamecocks ... A few weeks ago, there was a little bit of buzz about Boston College’s Matt Ryan being the possible top pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Now it’s all about Arkansas RB Darren McFadden, assuming he skips his senior year. Watch out for several teams to move heaven and earth to get college football’s ultimate home run hitter, as rumors are already starting that Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones will do just about anything to pair the Hog star in the backfield with the new Mr. Britney Spears.

By my rough estimate, right now McFadden would start for at least 22 NFL teams, and I’m including Seattle, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. It’s probably closer to 24 if St. Louis star Steven Jackson is hurting and if you want Reggie Bush to fill a do-it-all role for New Orleans. Only Buffalo (Marshawn Lynch), Pittsburgh (Willie Parker), Indianapolis (Joseph Addai), Kansas City (Larry Johnson), San Diego (LaDainian Tomlinson), Washington (Clinton Portis), Minnesota (Adrian Peterson), and Arizona (Edgerrin James) would likely stick with the current starter.

He’s right, but after returning, Dorsey bought himself a few more yachts to waterski behind … Give CBS’s fantastic analyst Gary Danielson credit for seeing the big picture when it comes to the top players. When LSU star DT Glenn Dorsey, an almost certain top three pick in next year’s NFL Draft, if not No. 1 overall, was on the turf hurting against Alabama, as he was still trying to get healthy after a cheap shot block suffered against Auburn, Danielson suggested that Dorsey not play because there’s too much at stake. He’s right. Dorsey is potentially risking around $25 million in guaranteed money every time he steps on the field for the Tigers. While I agree with Danielson, and think players like Darren McFadden and Kentucky’s Andre Woodson are nuts for playing one more down of college football than they have to, they’re not going for a national title. Dorsey is, and that’s the difference. You can’t buy that, unless you’re …

Announcer: “Big Ern, a million dollars. What are you going to do with it?
Big Ern: “l don't know. All l know is, l finally got enough money that l can buy my way out of anything.” …
Fully realizing I’m about to become one of those brainless zombies who ignored the grand jury testimony, the personality, and all the obvious evidence to suggest that Barry Bonds cheated his way to the home run record, I simply don’t care about the Reggie Bush situation with the sports marketing firm that allegedly gave him money while he was at USC. If Bush had cheated on an exam, done steroids, got caught spying on the other team’s plays, or ordered a water and filled it with Sprite at the drink machine, then we’d have a problem. Take money from anyone who wants to give it to him? Whatever. It’s business. With that said, if you want kick Pete Carroll back to the NFL, this investigation, and any potential probation, could turn out to be your shot.

Martin Prince: “As your president, I would demand a science-fiction library, featuring an ABC of the genre. Asimov, Bester, Clarke.”
Student: “What about Ray Bradbury?”
Martin Prince: “I’m aware of his work.” …
I’m still sticking to my core belief that Peyton Manning will never win a big game. Yes, I know. I still believe

And after the handshake he told Miles to “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.” … Bobby Knight once joked when he was at Indiana about being worried during a tight game against LSU, but then feeling better when he looked down the sideline and remembering that Dale Brown was still coaching the Tigers.

No, LSU’s win over Alabama didn’t prove that Les Miles is the better coach than Nick Saban. Bama is good, but the talent level isn’t even close between the two. All Miles proved was that he could pull out a tight game on the road. During the congratulatory post-game handshake, Saban said to Miles, “You’ve got a great team. Good luck to you.” While he was paying a compliment, part of Saban had to be making a comment on the talent he helped compile.

With that said, remember, Saban only had one year at LSU with fewer than three losses. Miles is almost certain to make it three for three on seasons with fewer than three losses. Yeah, Miles is doing this with a slew of Saban’s players, but he’s doing better overall with Saban’s players than Saban did. 

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength

We’re still a few weeks away from the end of the regular season, but by this point, it’s relatively easy to figure out who the best and worst coaches of the year have been. So while this might change a little, here are the five best and worst coaching jobs done this season.

Worst Coaching Job of the Year – Fifth Place

Phil Bennett, SMU
Piling on the already canned, Bennett was supposed to turn SMU into a player in the Conference USA race with a veteran offensive line, emerging playmakers on defense, and a star QB in Justin Willis to work around. The Mustangs are 1-8, with the one win coming against North Texas, and are winless in conference play.

Worst Coaching Job of the Year – Fourth Place

Sonny Lubick, Colorado State
With nine starters back on offense, the return of bruising back Kyle Bell, a great receiving corps, and a veteran defense, Colorado State had all the pieces in place for a resurgent year. The Rams beat UNLV, but that’s been it in a 1-8 season.

Worst Coaching Job of the Year – Third Place

Tim Brewster, Minnesota
Brewster was a controversial hire to begin with, a relative no-name who didn’t provide the splash that Gopher fans wanted after the not-that-bad Glen Mason era, and then he took a team that was an all-timer of a Texas Tech comeback away from being a bowl winner and made it among the worst teams in America. At 1-9, Minnesota’s only win came in overtime to Miami University early in the year, while there have been losses to Bowling Green and Florida Atlantic. The defense is dead last in America allowing 549 yards per game. However, Brewster was hired because he could recruit, so he’ll get time.

Worst Coaching Job of the Year – Second Place

Bill Callahan, Nebraska
The cupboard is hardly bare. Callahan recruited well, but his team has completely collapsed on him, especially on defense. No, the Huskers haven’t quit; they’re simply awful. There are too many great athletes and too many top talents on the team to be giving up 240 rushing yards per game. The biggest problem has been the lines, a staple of the Husker program for so many years.

Worst Coaching Job of the Year – First Place

Charlie Weis, Notre Dame
Where are the reinforcements to take over for Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija and Darius Walker? Where are the linemen? Two BCS seasons should have stocked the shelves, but instead there appears to either be a woeful lack of talent, or good young players who aren’t being coached correctly. Notre Dame is dead-last in the nation in total offense, dead last in sacks allowed, 116th in passing efficiency, and 1-8 after doing the unthinkable and allowing the 43-year winning streak over Navy end,

Best Coaching Job of the Year – Fifth Place

(tie) Turner Gill, Buffalo & Al Golden, Temple
Buffalo and Temple haven’t just been lousy programs, they’ve been bad on an all-time scale. Gill and Golden have become two of college football’s most dynamic new head coaches who have done the impossible to make their woebegone teams relevant. Buffalo and Temple were actually in the MAC title hunt going into November.

Best Coaching Job of the Year – Fourth Place

Les Miles, LSU
He might have a heater hand, but he has had to work to keep this ultra-talented team in the national title hunt. Some of his calls might have been nutty, but the fourth down plays against Florida, the fake field goal flip against South Carolina, the late deep ball call against Auburn, as misguided as that might have been, and the last few minutes against Alabama all worked out for the Tigers. Miles has given the team a swagger under all the pressure.

Best Coaching Job of the Year – Third Place

Lloyd Carr, Michigan

Yes, that Lloyd Carr. Think of where this team was on September 8th. The defense was supposedly too slow. The team was about to be in for the season Notre Dame is dealing with. There was no hope in sight, and Carr was as good as canned. And then the wins started coming, winning eight in a row going into the Wisconsin showdown, and Carr and his staff have done it with QB Chad Henne and Heisman-caliber RB Mike Hart getting hurt.

Best Coaching Job of the Year – Second Place

Troy Calhoun, Air Force
Air Force had become irrelevant, making the most news in recent years for the controversy around former head man Fisher DeBerry and his remarks about needing more black players. Calhoun has stepped in and turned things around in his first year, leading the way to a 7-3 mark with wins over Utah and TCU. Remember, Air Force is a service academy with a limited talent level.

Best Coaching Job of the Year – First Place

Mark Mangino, Kansas
All Mangino has done is take a team full of average high school prospects and molding them into the number four team in America. Kansas isn’t just beating teams, it’s killing them, ranking second in the nation in scoring, second in scoring defense, and is now a position to possibly play for the national title by winning out. Talent-wise, the Jayhawks aren’t even close compared to most of the Big 12, but they’ve still been dominant. Yeah, the schedule stinks, but this is Kansas. Kansas?!

The 2007 Coaching Status For Every Team

As the saying goes, coaches, like Subway Sandwich Artists, are hired to be fired. At this point in the year, fan bases start of the underachieving start to wonder about the possibility of getting a new head coach to turn things around, but which ones are really in trouble? Here’s a quick breakdown of all 119 coaching situations.

100% job security for 2008.
They’re not likely to bolt for at least a year, and won’t be fired unless they get arrested for tapping toes in a Minneapolis airport bathroom.

Air Force: Troy Calhoun; Alabama: Nick Saban; Arizona State: Dennis Erickson; Army: Stan Brock; Boston College: Jeff Jagodzinski; Bowling Green: Gregg Brandon; Central Michigan: Butch Jones; Cincinnati: Brian Kelly; Clemson: Tommy Bowden; Colorado: Dan Hawkins; Connecticut: Randy Edsall; East Carolina: Skip Holtz; Florida Atlantic: Howard Schnellenberger; Florida International: Mario Cristobal; Fresno State: Pat Hill; Georgia: Mark Richt; Georgia Tech: Chan Gailey; Hawaii: June Jones. Houston: Art Briles; Idaho: Robb Akey; Illinois: Ron Zook;  Indiana: Bill Lynch; Iowa: Kirk Ferentz; Iowa State: Gene Chizik; Kansas: Mark Mangino; Kansas State: Ron Prince; Kentucky: Rich Brooks; Louisiana Tech: Derek Dooley; Louisville: Steve Kragthorpe; Miami: Randy Shannon; Miami University: Shane Montgomery; Michigan State: Mark Dantonio; Middle Tennessee: Rick Stockstill; Mississippi State: Sylvester Croom; Missouri: Gary Pinkel; Navy: Paul Johnson; Nevada: Chris Ault; New Mexico: Rocky Long; New Mexico State: Hal Mumme; North Carolina: Butch Davis; North Texas: Todd Dodge; Northern Illinois: Joe Novak; Northwestern: Pat Fitzgerald; NC State: Tom O’Brien; Ohio: Frank Solich; Ohio State: Jim Tressel; Oklahoma: Bob Stoops; Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy; Oregon: Mike Bellotti; Purdue: Joe Tiller; Rutgers: Greg Schiano; San Jose State: Dick Tomey; South Carolina: Steve Spurrier; South Florida: Jim Leavitt; Southern Miss: Jeff Bower; TCU: Gary Patterson; Texas: Mack Brown; Texas Tech: Mike Leach; Toledo: Tom Amstutz; Troy: Larry Blakeney; Tulane: Bob Toledo; Utah: Kyle Whittingham; UAB: Neil Callaway; Vanderbilt: Bobby Johnson; Virginia: Al Groh; Virginia Tech: Frank Beamer; Wake Forest: Jim Grobe; West Virginia: Rich Rodriguez; Western Michigan: Bill Cubit; Wisconsin: Bret Bielema; Wyoming: Joe Glenn

“This is too nice a suit to ruin, Mr. Takagi.  I'm going to count to three.  There will not be a four.  Give me the code.”
A.K.A. Double Secret Probation. They’ll probably be back, but 2008 had better be big.

Akron: J.D. Brookhart; Arkansas: Houston Nutt; Arizona: Mike Stoops; Baylor: Guy Morriss; Arkansas State: Steve Roberts; Kent State: Doug Martin; Colorado State: Sonny Lubick; Maryland: Ralph Friedgen; Memphis: Tommy West; Minnesota: Tim Brewster; Ole Miss: Ed Orgeron; Notre Dame: Charlie Weis; Oregon State: Mike Riley; Rice: David Bailiff; San Diego State: Chuck Long; UNLV: Mike Sanford; Pitt: Dave Wannstedt; Washington: Tyrone Willingham; UTEP: Mike Price

Flip a Coin.
Job is secure, but these coaches are 50/50 to be around with the same program for the next few years. They might retire or move on to another gig.

Auburn: Tommy Tuberville; Ball State: Brady Hoke; Boise State: Chris Petersen; Buffalo: Turner Gill; BYU: Bronco Mendenhall; California: Jeff Tedford; Florida: Urban Meyer; Florida State: Bobby Bowden; LSU: Les Miles; Michigan: Lloyd Carr; Penn State: Joe Paterno; Stanford: Jim Harbaugh; Temple: Al Golden; Tennessee: Phillip Fulmer; Tulsa: Todd Graham; UCF: George O’Leary; USC: Pete Carroll

Lost All Their L.A. Privileges.
Stay gone and be gone. It’ll be a stunner if they keep a parking spot past 2007.

Duke: Ted Roof; Eastern Michigan: Jeff Genyk; Marshall: Mark Snyder; Nebraska: Bill Callahan; SMU: Phil Bennett (already fired); Syracuse: Greg Robinson; Texas A&M: Dennis Franchione; UCLA: Karl Dorrell; UL Lafayette: Rickey Bustle; UL Monroe: Charlie Weatherbie; Utah State: Brent Guy; Washington State: Bill Doba

Nuggets for the upcoming week, now made with white meat, at participating restaurants …

- The toughest award call of the year isn’t the Heisman, it’s for the first team All-Conference USA running backs. Tulane’s Matt Forte leads the nation in rushing averaging 182 yards per game. UCF’s Kevin Smith is second with a 161-yard average. Houston’s Anthony Alridge, one of the nation’s most dynamic playmakers, is seventh averaging 135 yards per game, and East Carolina’s Chris Johnson leads the nation in all-purpose yards after a 301-yard rushing day vs. Memphis. Pick two. Good luck.

- The second toughest award call of the year: three linebackers for the first team All-Big Ten squad. Most would immediately put Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis on the list, especially after being everywhere in the win over Wisconsin, but Penn State’s Dan Connor has been the best linebacker in the conference, and in America. Illinois senior J Leman has once again been a tackling machine for an underrated run defense, Penn State’s Sean Lee has been a perfect sidekick to Connor, and is third in the Big Ten in tackles, and Iowa’s Mike Humpal leads the league in stops. Michigan’s Shawn Crable has been a terror in the backfield as one of the nation’s most disruptive players. There’s no right answer, but if pushed, it has to be Connor, Crable, and then a battle for the third spot, with Laurinaitis in as the leader of the top ranked D.

- For years, Nebraska fans have been lauded for the way they politely clap for the vanquished opposing team after home games. The shoe was on the other foot this week as Kansas fans clapped for the Nebraska as it walked off the field. Several Nebraska fans have commented on how condescending the nice gesture really feels to the other side.

- Watch out for Arkansas. The SEC world could get even more bizarre in the coming weeks if the Hogs really have found their stride making a trip to Tennessee this week, playing Mississippi State to follow, and then going to Baton Rouge with a chance to put a damper on LSU’s dream year.

- Before kicking Karl Dorrell out to the curb, it would be interesting to see what UCLA could do with a healthy quarterback. What was once an abundance of riches with Ben Olsen and Pat Cowan has quickly disintegrated into a nightmare, and the team’s season has followed suit.

- The nation’s hottest offense? Texas Tech? Hawaii? Try Toledo. The Rockets have been unstoppable in a 4-1 surge averaging 581 yards and 46.6 points per game.  The next game is on November 13th against a Ball State defense currently ranked 92nd in the nation in total D.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world

1) Overrated: 35 carries for 323 yards vs. South Carolina  ... Underrated: 36 carries for 321 yards vs. South Carolina
2) Overrated: Tom Brady   … Underrated: Danny Wuerffel
3) Overrated: 296 yards vs. the San Diego Chargers ... Underrated: Southern Connecticut State’s Jerom Freeman’s D-II record 418 yards vs. Bryant
4) Overrated: Three Big 12 teams in the top 6 ... Underrated: Three Big Ten teams from 23 to 31
5) Overrated: T. Boone Pickens ... Underrated: Phil Knight

My Heisman ballot this week would be … I vote based on a combination of three things: Most valuable player, most outstanding player, and the signature player of the season. I might wildly change my mind weekly, but I’ll sort it all out at the end. 1) Dennis Dixon, QB Oregon, 2)
Tim Tebow, QB Florida, 3) Pat White, QB West Virginia, 4) Darren McFadden, RB Arkansas, 5) Chase Daniel, QB Missouri

“You know I'm born to lose, and gambling's for fools/But that's the way I like it baby, I don't wanna live forever” … The three lines this week that appear to be a tad off. (Ugh. Back to 0-3. Thanks Maryland, UTEP and Wisconsin for collapsing late … 9-19 overall.) … 1) Iowa -14 over Minnesota, 2) Air Force -2.5 over Notre Dame, 3) Central Michigan -3 over Western Michigan

Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … it wasn’t rock bottom. Losing to USC 38-0 and knowing the column wasn’t competitive, that was rock bottom.