Cavalcade of Whimsy - 2008 Best/Worst Coaches
Posted Nov 4, 2008

Who has done the best coaching job so far this year? Who has done the worst? What's the job status of the coaches at all 119 schools? All this and the star coach who isn't on a hot seat, but will be soon, 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? ... Fire off your thoughts  
Past Whimsies
2006 Season | 2007 Season
Preseason Cavalcade | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4
- Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … I’m trying to cover the Texas Tech receivers, but Graham Harrell keeps throwing it behind me on these back-shoulder, stop short routes.

Sorry, but the Guns Up hand sign that looks like they’re saying “Loser” doesn’t help the perception  … Is anyone giving Texas Tech a real, honest shot of playing for the national title? The assumption is that the bottom will drop out at some point against either Oklahoma State this week or Oklahoma, and if the Red Raiders magically get through those two games, then comes Missouri. Maybe it’s because Tech has a 2007 Missouri/Kansas feel, or maybe it’s because it’s Texas Tech, but don’t just assume this team has no realistic chance of running the table. It’s not like the Oklahoma defense is stopping anyone, and Oklahoma State, while incredible offensively, might not have the pass rush to consistently get to Graham Harrell. This is a veteran team that can play defense and can run the ball as well as chuck it. It's the real deal.

“Thank you Mr. Cowboy, I'll take it under advisement.  Hit it again.” … Football is an easy sport to figure out. Just get to the quarterback. Ask Tom Brady about the New York Giants. However, the true measure of the top quarterbacks is to see how they roduce when getting the tar beaten out of them. Colt McCoy was thrown around like a rag doll at times throughout the loss to Texas Tech, and he still kept coming back to do what was needed late to get the win. Of course, Harrell, who had time to throw on that epic final touchdown pass, just happened to be better.

“Pop quiz, hotshot. There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed.  If it drops below 50 it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?” …
According to the AP poll, Texas is ranked fifth and Oklahoma sixth. Of course, that doesn’t matter because the AP rankings are irrelevant. The two polls that actually influence the world have it embarrassingly wrong and without any possible reasoning. By what possible justification is Texas, who beat the Sooners 45-35, ranked seventh in the Coaches’ Poll while Oklahoma is fourth? According to the Harris Poll, Oklahoma is fifth and Texas sixth (the Longhorns even got one first place vote). If Michael Crabtree loses his balance just a little bit and his back heel goes down out of bounds, Texas probably survives the Texas Tech game and is the unquestioned number one. It took a perfect, perfect last second play for the Longhorns to end up losing, while Oklahoma, again, lost in the Red River Rivalry by 10.

Remembering that the Harris and Coaches’ Polls combine for two-thirds of the BCS rankings, the pollsters have to be better, and they have to be far, far smarter and more vigilant than this. Every once in a while I try to provide a little weed-‘em-out help with a test I demand all pollsters need to take to determine whether or not they know enough to continue voting in these polls. Simply put, if you can’t answer all five of these questions correctly, you shouldn’t be allowed to vote in a Mr. Tight Buns competition, much less the college football polls.

1. Name three players on BCS No. 1 ranked Alabama not named John Parker Wilson.

2. Name the BCS No. 10 ranked Boise State starting quarterback.

3. Who are Dez Bryant, Nate Davis, and Jerry Hughes?

4. Did Jamaal Charles run for more or less than 50 yards against Texas Tech?

5. Name two Penn State wide receivers.

“You shut your mouth how can you say/I go about things the wrong way/I am human and I need to be loved/just like everybody else does”
I keep getting laughed at/yelled at every time I say this, but mark my words, the Tommy Bowden/Phil Fulmer how-soon-is-now? clock is ticking on Georgia head coach Mark Richt.

He’s not on a hot seat, and he won’t be next year, but at what point does it become a problem that he can’t get his program over the hump? Florida not only isn’t going away, it’s getting stronger. Meanwhile, Tennessee is only going to be better with whatever A list hire it comes up with to replace Phil Fulmer. Forgive me for fanning the inferno of unfair and unrealistically high expectations for a guy who has gone 79-21, but this was supposed to be it for Richt. This was the year. Matt Stafford is a mortal lock to be off to the NFL early. So is Knowshon Moreno, and while the Dawgs have running backs by the truckload, there isn’t another top five draft pick bomber hanging around campus.

This is year eight for Richt, and not only did the preseason No. 1 team not live up to the ranking, it was blasted in two of its big tests (Alabama and Florida). Granted, injuries have played a key role, but if coaches refuse to use bumps and bruises as an excuse (try asking any big-time head coach worth his salt about hurt players), then I won’t. Since Georgia last won a national championship, Florida has won two, LSU has two, Tennessee one and Alabama has one. SEC fans are a lot of things, but they're not patient.

Maybe he ended up being canned because everyone thought his barefoot kicking style for the Philadelphia Eagles was just too weird …
How’d that Tony Franklin firing go for Auburn? Since Tommy Tuberville whacked his offensive coordinator, Auburn has lost to insanely mediocre Arkansas, West Virginia, and Ole Miss teams, and now is on the verge of missing a bowl game. Meanwhile, the offense has gotten even worse.

“You drop a pass, you run a mile. You miss a blocking assignment, you run a mile. You fumble the football, and I will break my foot off in your John Brown hindparts ... and then you will run a mile.” ...
Even though the veins are popping in the neck and with bile blowing up in the belly, head coaches always have to put on a brave face and a positive spin after their quarterbacks give up a big interception for a touchdown. This last weekend, from Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, to Nebraska’s Bo Pelini, to Texas’ Mack Brown, the reaction was the same. They all clapped, they all yelled “let’s go,” and the all nodded their heads as if to make it look like the interception returned for a touchdown could actually have been a positive. Who couldn’t use that sort of encouragement after screwing up?

Awwww, dinner was awful … “Let’s go, let’s go.”

Alan Greenspan’s shocked disbelief? … (clapping) “Focus on the next play, that’s fine, that’s fine, shake it off.”

Yet another poorly written article? … Yanked for Chris Smelley after the visor is picked up off the ground. Not all of us get breaks.

Alright Brain, you don't like me, and I don't like you. But lets just do this, and I can get back to killing you with beer.”
Two strategy gaffes in the heat of the moment in two of last week’s better games. The first came by Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema, who called a time out just before Michigan State’s Brett Swenson nailed a 44-yard field goal for a 25-24 Spartan win. Michigan State didn’t have any time outs left and had to hurry on to the field and rush the attempt, but Bielema bailed the Swenson and the field goal team out by calling the time out. While the announcers criticized Bielema, it would’ve been a good move to save a little bit of time. Instead of the clock running out, you call the time out to give your offense a shot if the field goal is good. And then that excuse went out the window when Bielema called a second time out.

The second mistake came from Mike Leach in the Texas Tech win over Texas. After the Michael Crabtree touchdown grab there was just one second to play with the Red Raiders up 38-33. Why not go for two? At that point, the only possible thing that could hurt you would be a miraculous kickoff return for a touchdown, and if Texas could’ve pulled that off, it would’ve won the game with the extra point. Why not try to push the score to seven?

“You have chosen wisely. But the Grail cannot pass beyond the Great Seal. That is the boundary and the price of immortality.” …
I was the Grand Marshal of the Tebow For Heisman parade last year, and I keep believing Florida will win the national championship this season. With that said, consider me the head of the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword when it comes to giving out a second Heisman. I’m not sure I’m ready to make Tim Tebow a college football immortal.

Looking back, Archie Griffin really didn’t deserve to be the lone two-time Heisman winner, but that was before my time. The second two-time Heisman winner needs to be someone truly special, an elite once-in-a-generation talent, and not just a great player on a great team. Tebow might be close, and if he leads the Gators to the national title, then yes, in hindsight, I’ll accept a second Heisman. Anything less, and I’m chasing Tebow around Europe, including a boat battle in Venice, in an attempt to keep the honor safe. Meanwhile, me and my brethren will have an image of Herschel Walker tattooed into my chest as a reminder of the player who actually deserved to be a two-timer, and the caliber of player one has to be to get a second award.

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. Tommy Bowden is already gone, Ty Willingham and Phil Fulmer will be gone, and there are many more openings on the way. So while this might change a little, here’s my 2nd Annual Five Best and Worst Coaching Jobs Done This Season along with every team’s coaching status.

Worst Coaching Job of the Year – Fifth Place

Larry Fedora, Southern Miss
In a controversial move, Jeff Bower was let go at Southern Miss last year after 14 straight winning seasons. He left the cupboard stocked with decent talent from a team that went 7-6, got to a bowl game, and led Conference USA last year in scoring defense and was second in total defense. The Golden Eagles are coming off a 70-14 win over UAB, but under Fedora, they’re 3-6 overall, 1-4 in Conference USA play, and are 100th in the nation in defense.

Worst Coaching Job of the Year – Fourth Place

Shane Montgomery, Miami University
Last year’s Miami team won the MAC East thanks to the league’s second best defense and top scoring D. This year, with everyone coming back, this was a loaded RedHawk team that was supposed to be special, especially on defense thanks to its tremendous linebacking corps. Instead, MU is 2-6 win just one win over an FBS team while the defense is giving up more than 30 points per game. The offense is the second-worst in the league.
Worst Coaching Job of the Year – Third Place

Rich Rodriguez, Michigan
The season was all but over the moment Terrelle Pryor signed with Ohio State. However, most recruiting gurus knew early on that Pryor was a long shot for Michigan, yet Rodriguez’s first big move turned out to be a disaster as he put all the eggs in one basket. Granted, RichRod didn’t have all the talent to work with that Lloyd Carr had at the end of last year, but the defense was in place and the running game should’ve been great from the start thanks to a good backfield. Now it’s November, Brandon Minor is finally a huge part of the offense, and Michigan is out of the bowl picture for the first time in 33 years.

Worst Coaching Job of the Year – Second Place

Tommy Tuberville, Auburn
The Buck Stops Here. Tony Franklin was made the scapegoat for a disappointing start, but for all the problems, Auburn was 4-2 after a tight loss to Vanderbilt. Since then, the Tigers, who came into the season with good enough running backs and a strong enough defense to win the SEC West, have lost three straight and have gotten worse. If Franklin was such a drag on the team, then Tuberville has to be blamed for making the hire in the first place. Now Auburn is 4-5 and needs to beat either Georgia of Alabama, after the layup against UT Martin, to go bowling.

Worst Coaching Job of the Year – First Place

Bret Bielema, Wisconsin
Bielma is better than this. Far, far better. The Badgers came into the season with enough talent and experience to be a sleeper for the national title, and at the very least, they should’ve been a player in the hunt for the Big Ten championship. Instead, the coaching staff made the wrong call on starting quarterback Allan Evridge, the defense can’t tackle, and the in-game adjustments weren’t there to slow down the momentum in the epic collapse against Michigan and the gag against Michigan State. The team didn’t show up against Penn State and Iowa, and now, at 1-5 in the Big Ten and 4-5 overall, it might take a clean sweep of Indiana, Minnesota and Cal Poly (the nation’s leading FBS offense and fourth ranked rushing attack) just to go bowling.

Best Coaching Job of the Year – Fifth Place

Al Groh, Virginia
Virginia had not only started out the season getting blasted by USC 52-7, but it lost to Duke 31-0. It was over. The Cavs were 1-3 with no offensive production whatsoever, Al Groh was a lame-duck coach, and the season was over. And then came the 31-0 win over Maryland, the decision to boot QB Peter Lalich off the team for legal issues, and pump up Marc Verica into the number one spot. And the team started winning. The overtime loss to Miami last week notwithstanding, the Cavaliers have turned things around thanks to the ability to come through late time and again.

Best Coaching Job of the Year – Fourth Place

Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Johnson hardly had all the pieces in place when he took over, yet he has managed to get his brand of offense working. He had to change around the offensive line, he had to rely on young, untested quarterbacks, and he has led the way to close win after close win. Four wins came by four points or fewer, and the two losses have come by a total of ten points.

Best Coaching Job of the Year – Third Place

Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
Paul Johnson might have set the wheels in motion, but Niumatalolo has kept it all going despite the loss of starting QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada for stretches. It’s hard to properly convey the huge disparity of talent between Navy and many of the D-I schools it faces, yet there were wins over Rutgers and Wake Forest on the way to yet another bowl game. Navy has already accepted the bid for the EagleBank Bowl.

Best Coaching Job of the Year – Second Place

Nick Saban, Alabama

Don’t forget that Alabama was supposed to be at least a year away from being a major player. The tone was set for the season with the 34-10 win over Clemson to start, while the first half against Georgia was breathtaking. Even though things haven’t always been smooth, the Kentucky and Ole Miss games were a bit too close for comfort; Saban has been able to keep the team focused all the way to the No. 1 spot in the BCS rankings. The defense has been tremendous, while the offense has done its job with the SEC’s best running game and an efficient passing attack.

Best Coaching Job of the Year – First Place

Tim Brewster, Minnesota
Minnesota went 1-11 last year with the lone victory coming in overtime over Miami University. The Gophers lost their final ten games thanks to the nation’s worst defense, no pass rush, and an inability to hang on to the ball. They were 114th in the nation in turnover margin. Brewster hired former Duke head coach Ted Roof to handle the defense, instilled an aggressive attitude from game one, and now, the team is 7-2, going to a bowl, and is second in the nation in turnover margin helped by one of the Big Ten’s best pass rushes. The defense isn’t anything special, but while it bends, it doesn’t break all that often.  

The Coaching Status For Every Team

As the saying goes, coaches, like Wal-Mart greeters, are hired to be fired. At this point in the year, with a few big-name coaches already fired, fan bases of the underachieving start to wonder about the possibility of getting a new head coach to turn things around. Which ones are really in trouble? Here’s a quick breakdown of all 119 coaching situations.

“Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for the fjords.”
100% job security for 2009. Outside of something crazy happening, these coaches are all going to be back next year.

Alabama: Nick Saban; Arkansas: Bobby Petrino; Arkansas State: Steve Roberts; Arizona State: Dennis Erickson; Army: Stan Brock; Baylor: Art Briles; Boston College: Jeff Jagodzinski; Bowling Green: Gregg Brandon; California: Jeff Tedford; Central Michigan: Butch Jones; Cincinnati: Brian Kelly; Colorado State: Steve Fairchild; Connecticut: Randy Edsall; Duke: David Cutcliffe; Florida: Urban Meyer; Florida Atlantic: Howard Schnellenberger; Florida International: Mario Cristobal; Fresno State: Pat Hill; Georgia: Mark Richt; Georgia Tech: Paul Johnson; Hawaii: Greg McMackin. Houston: Kevin Sumlin; Illinois: Ron Zook; Iowa State: Gene Chizik; Kansas: Mark Mangino; Kentucky: Rich Brooks; Louisiana Tech: Derek Dooley; LSU: Les Miles; Marshall: Mark Snyder; Maryland: Ralph Friedgen; Miami: Randy Shannon; Michigan State: Mark Dantonio; Middle Tennessee: Rick Stockstill; Minnesota: Tim Brewster; Missouri: Gary Pinkel; Navy: Ken Niumatalolo; Nebraska: Bo Pelini; New Mexico: Rocky Long; North Carolina: Butch Davis; NC State: Tom O’Brien; Northern Illinois: Jerry Kill; Northwestern: Pat Fitzgerald; Notre Dame: Charlie Weis; Ohio: Frank Solich; Ohio State: Jim Tressel; Oklahoma: Bob Stoops; Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy; Ole Miss: Houston Nutt; Oregon: Mike Bellotti; Oregon State: Mike Riley; Pitt: Dave Wannstedt; Purdue: Danny Hope; Rutgers: Greg Schiano; San Jose State: Dick Tomey; SMU: June Jones; South Carolina: Steve Spurrier; South Florida: Jim Leavitt; Southern Miss: Larry Fedora; Texas: Mack Brown; Texas A&M: Mike Sherman; Troy: Larry Blakeney; Tulane: Bob Toledo; UAB: Neil Callaway; UCF: George O’Leary; UCLA: Rick Neuheisel; UL Lafayette: Rickey Bustle; USC: Pete Carroll; Utah: Kyle Whittingham; Vanderbilt: Bobby Johnson; Virginia: Al Groh; Virginia Tech: Frank Beamer; Wake Forest: Jim Grobe; West Virginia: Bill Stewart; Western Michigan: Bill Cubit; Wisconsin: Bret Bielema

“No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'. Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage.”
A.K.A. Double Secret Probation. 2009 had better be big or there won’t be a 2010, and a least three of them will be fired..

Akron: J.D. Brookhart; Arizona: Mike Stoops; Auburn: Tommy Tuberville; Colorado: Dan Hawkins; Idaho: Robb Akey; Indiana: Bill Lynch;
Iowa: Kirk Ferentz; Nevada: Kansas State: Ron Prince; Louisville: Steve Kragthorpe; Memphis: Tommy West; Miami University: Shane Montgomery; Michigan: Rich Rodriguez; Mississippi State: Sylvester Croom; New Mexico State: Hal Mumme; North Texas: Todd Dodge; UNLV: Mike Sanford; UTEP: Mike Price; Washington State: Paul Wulff

“Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!”
The jobs are 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.

Air Force: Troy Calhoun; Ball State: Brady Hoke; Boise State: Chris Petersen; Buffalo: Turner Gill; BYU: Bronco Mendenhall; East Carolina: Skip Holtz; Florida State: Bobby Bowden; Chris Ault; Penn State: Joe Paterno; Rice: David Bailiff; Stanford: Jim Harbaugh; TCU: Gary Patterson; Temple: Al Golden; Texas Tech: Mike Leach; Tulsa: Todd Graham

“'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! This is an ex-parrot. ”
Stay gone and be gone. These coaches are either canned already or will need nothing short of a miracle to keep a parking spot past 2008.

Clemson: Dabo Swinney; Eastern Michigan: Jeff Genyk; Kent State: Doug Martin; Syracuse: Greg Robinson; Tennessee: Phil Fulmer; Toledo: Tom Amstutz; UL Monroe: Charlie Weatherbie; San Diego State: Chuck Long; Utah State: Brent Guy; Washington: Tyrone Willingham; Wyoming: Joe Glenn

Random Acts of Nutty … Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be you (or vice versa) a.k.a. things I didn’t feel like writing bigger blurbs for.

- The SEC will have a rough time filling all of its bowl slots, and there could be at least two openings for at-large teams to step in. The smaller bowls with SEC tie-ins would love for Tennessee to win out and for Auburn to win two of its final three.

- You can’t reaggravate an injury. You can only aggravate it.

- Texas Tech has thrown the ball 444 times and has allowed a mere five sacks.

- No matter what side of the fence you sat on regarding the Tommy Bowden era at Clemson, there’s on major silver lining. You’re not going to have to hear the words Bowden Bowl as much this week.
- Utah is ranked eighth in the BCS polls, but what’s the best win? Oregon State might be it, and that was a struggle. The second best win was probably the win over Air Force, not Michigan.
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Oregon’s home uniforms ... Underrated: California’s all yellows
2) Overrated: The ACC and Big East races … Underrated: Inviting two non-BCS league teams into the BCS
3) Overrated: Joe the Plumber ... Underrated: Herkey the Hawkeye
4) Overrated: Indiana losing to Ball State ... Underrated: Indiana losing to Central Michigan
5) Overrated: Matt Williams ... Underrated: Donnie Carona

“I hearby designate   Graham Harrell, Texas Tech   as my First Choice to receive the Heisman Memorial Trophy awarded to the most outstanding college football player in the United States for 2008. To the best of my knowledge he conforms to the rules governing this vote.”

My Second Choice Is:
 Colt McCoy, Texas  
My Third Choice Is: Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

“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.

I had a record, epically bad week overall against the spread. You couldn’t try to do what I did with the Expert Picks last week. Here, I went my normal 1-2 to get to 10-19-1 overall.

I press on by taking the three games I’m sure of  … 1) Kentucky +10.5 over Georgia, 2) Arkansas +10 over South Carolina, 3) Houston -14 over Tulane

Last Week: 1) Texas A&M -3 over Colorado (WIN), 2) East Carolina -3.5 over UCF (LOSS), 3) Indiana -2.5 over Central Michigan (LOSS)

Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … I ran into a cart at Marshall and now I’m out for the year.