6/1 Roundtable - The One Coach You'd Want
USC head coach Pete Carroll
USC head coach Pete Carroll
Posted Jun 1, 2009

You get to choose one head coach for one game. Not a season, not to start a program, but for one game. It's the Monday topic in the CFN Daily Roundtable Discussion.

CFN Daily Roundtables

June 1

For one game, which coach would you take?

Over the next several weeks, as part of the CFN 2009 Preview, we'll examine some of the key questions going into the year with a daily discussion of the big topics.

Past Roundtables
May 28 Should the Big Ten expand? If so, then what team should be added?
May 27 Should the Pac 10 expand? If so, then what two teams should be added?
May 26 Chizik, Kiffin or Mullen?
May 25 Heisman race sleepers 
May 22 2009's most interesting teams

May 21 Is Tebow the best QB ever?
May 20 When should preseason polls come out?
May 19 Does 2008 Utah have a beef?
May 18 No BCS, No Weis?

Pete Fiutak, CFN

Q: One game, one coach. You'd take ...

While it would seem like Urban Meyer or Pete Carroll would be the choice, and I'd probably go with Carroll between the two for one big game, the question isn't about who's the best college football head coach. There's more to being a coach than just Xs and Os. As Meyer and Carroll can attest, 90% of the gig is getting the right players through recruiting, and 5% is having the right facilities and infrastructure to succeed. Does that mean that Meyer and Carroll would be the best choices if all things were equal?

While there's no way to go wrong with either one of them no matter what the criteria, there are several other coaches I might be more interested in taking if all the factors were equal. Take recruiting out of the equation for a moment, and forget about developing players over time. We're talking about one game and one coach, and I want a proven winner who could, as the old saying about Bear Bryant went, take his'n and beat your'n, or take you'n and beat his'n.

I debated about taking Wake Forest's Jim Grobe, Cincinnati's Brian Kelly, Boise State's Chris Petersen, or NC State's Tom O'Brien, but I'm going with Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson.

If the talent level is even, forget about it. No defense with the same athleticism, or same skill as Johnson's offense would have a prayer. The option didn't go away because it didn't work; the option went away because it was hard to get the top-shelf quarterbacks to run it and it because passé in the world of NFL-like attacks and spread offenses. Give Johnson high-end talent and he'll dominate. Give Johnson mediocre talent and he'll still win.

It's impossible to overstate just what a miraculous job he did at Navy, setting the wheels in motion for a program that, maybe, has 20 real, live FBS-caliber players on it, and maybe ten guys who could start for mediocre BCS teams, and two or three who could find playing time at a high level. Those Navy teams that Johnson coached were outmanned every game, and yet they were always competitive and always got to bowl games. I'm not sold that Meyer or Carroll could do at Navy what Johnson did.

The Peach Bowl, sorry, Chick-fil-A Bowl blowout against LSU came when a fast, rested Tiger team had a month to prepare. In this scenario of a one-game format, presumably the other team would get a chance to prepare, but again, the talent and athleticism wouldn't be superior. Johnson's system works. He'll show that even more over the next few years in Atlanta.

Richard Cirminiello, CFN

Q: One game, one coach. You'd take ...

The obvious choice would be Urban Meyer. So would the correct choice.

Everybody likes to get cute with these types of queries, but these days, you’d be foolish to suggest someone other than the Florida Gator, who’s become the best big-game coach in the country. Plus, some of the nation’s other premier coaches, like Bob Stoops and Jim Tressel, have hardly been impeccable in their biggest games over the last few years.

Meyer has it all in a one-game scenario, from Xs and Os and in-game adjustments to preparation and keeping the kids focused. He has this steely determination and win-at-all-sacrifices mentality that’s produced five bowl wins in six tries, four conference championships, three BCS bowl victories, and a pair of national championships. Go back and look at the film of the BCS championship game wins over Ohio State and Oklahoma to truly understand how great coaching wins titles. Sure, the players executed, but those games were all Meyer and his staff. If that single game matters, you’ve got to really bring it to out fox this guy.

Although no one asked, my No. 2 choice would be Pete Carroll. Yes, his teams are prone to lapses when you least expect them, but in a one-game, for-all-the-marbles scenario, he’s been sensational since getting to USC. He keeps his kids loose, without losing them, and always has a dynamite defensive gameplan. Heck, you can’t argue with the record, which is punctuated by an 88-15 record and six BCS bowl wins in seven tries.

Meyer vs. Carroll for the first time? Now, that would be the rare coaching chess match worth the price of admission.  

Matthew Zemek, CFN

Q: One game, one coach. You'd take ...

1) Among active coaches: Pete Carroll. The January Genius. 
Not much else needs to be said, except for the fact that his teams don't employ funky offensive systems. This isn't a dig at Urban Meyer (anything but); it merely illustrates that if I needed one coach to win one college football game for me, I'd want someone who could motivate, scheme, and get my players to perform with peak precision and intensity. In other words, if Urban Meyer was coaching one game with the fate of the universe hanging in the balance, but Tim Tebow wasn't his quarterback, would I feel supremely confident? No... at least, not as confident as I would with Mr. Carroll at the helm.
2) Among former/inactive/deceased coaches: Bear Bryant.
"He can take his'n and beat your'n, and he can take your'n and beat his'n." A better compliment has never been paid to a college football coach.

Kevin Carden
, Publisher, SCPlaybook.com

Q: One game, one coach. You'd take ...

A: For me this is an easy one, Pete Carroll is the man for the job. Hollywood’s leading man has won 85% of his games in eight seasons at USC, so I’ll gladly take those odds. The knock on USC has been that they have lost to lesser teams like Stanford and UCLA in the past, but when it comes down to a big game with all the hoopla and pressure, Pete Carroll’s teams always come ready to play, boasting a 32-7 record against AP Top 25 teams.

In seven BCS bowl games, which are as big a stage as there is in college football, Carroll has a very impressive 6-1 record with his only loss coming against Texas in the 2006 Rose Bowl with a legendary performance by Vince Young. And the Trojans just don’t win big games; they usually dominate, with all six BCS bowl wins coming by 14-plus points. 

The genius in Carroll’s preparation is that everything from encouraging fans to attend the open practices, to the hard-hitting intensity, it’s all designed to have his players perform in high pressure situations.

Jon Miller, Publisher, HawkeyeNation.com

Q: One game, one coach. You'd take ...

A: First, I want to construct some rules for this.  We will play this game in a vacuum, otherwise we can narrow the list down to three or four coaches who coach at historical powerhouse programs that pretty much get most of the best players year in and year out and have for the past several decades.  Honestly, how hard is it to recruit to Ohio State, USC and Texas?  That being said, I give strong consideration to Pete Carroll and Jim Tressell, but not Mack Brown.  How about ‘Big Game Bob’ Stoops?  Nah, that moniker has almost become an albatross, hasn’t it?  Mike Leach of Texas Tech?  Imagine what that guy could do with Longhorn talent.  That’s the direction I am going here; coaches that have won at schools that are at significant recruiting disadvantages.  Basically, these guys have to work harder and smarter to be successful. 

There is a reason why Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is one of the highest paid coaches in the sport, and it’s not because Iowa is playing in the BCS national title game each year.  It’s because he has done more with less than most any coach in the nation over the past eight years.  Two Big Ten titles, an undefeated Big Ten season, five January bowl games in the last seven years, something only four other programs can claim and those programs are among the blue bloods of the sport.  Give me one game, give me equal talent, and give me Kirk Ferentz.

Hunter Ansley, Publisher, DraftZoo.com

Q: One game, one coach. You'd take ...

A: If I could pick any coach at all, I'd probably go with Bill Belichick.  If nothing else, it would fun to see him coach a college game.  But I'm assuming we're talking college coaches here.  So Urban Meyer got some serious consideration.  He won with Zook's players, then proved he could win with his own talent last year.  Not to mention the fact that he led Utah to an unprecedented crashing of the BCS, and an undefeated season.  So if I was building a program, he'd be the guy.

But for one game?  I'd go with Houston Nutt.  There may not be a better motivator on a single game basis in the entire country.  He's a giant-killer, even if he struggles with consistency.  Look at his career.  Nearly every time Arkansas needed to pull a major upset, it happened.  Even if that upset gave them only their sixth win of the season.  He's taken the art of knocking off teams with more talent to another level.  He had some major skill in Arkansas at times (Darren McFadden, Matt Jones, etc), but he's never had the cupboard that a team like LSU had.  But, every single year, that game was a toss-up because of Nutt's ability to inspire.

Then there's what he did at Ole Miss last year.  Taking a team that had gone 0-8 in SEC play the year before and leading them to a nine-win season with a blowout of seventh-ranked Texas Tech is incredible.  Especially when you consider the fact that he did it in the SEC.  He's also a master play-caller.  If I've got one game to make an impression, I want the guy who brought the WildCat offense into the spotlight.  I want the guy who isn't afraid to go for it on fourth down or let a tight end throw for a touchdown.  Time will tell if he and the Rebels can handle the pressure of lofty expectations, but Nutt will put on a show, no doubt about it.