Head man hierarchy
Unveiling the nation's 10 best and five worst coaches
Posted: Wednesday July 11, 2007 12:14PM; Updated: Wednesday July 11, 2007 2:48PM
Before I unveil the Mailbag's third annual list of the nation's 10 best and five worst head coaches, we're going to do a little exercise in geometry (a scary proposition, considering this was far from my favorite class in high school).
As always, these rankings are based primarily on recent performance. However, I've never actually made it clear what I mean by "recent performance." This was made painfully clear to me a few months back, when for the first time I did one of these columns for basketball, and was immediately deluged with e-mails lamenting the exclusion of Jim Boeheim, Lute Olson and -- I'm not making this up -- Gary Williams. Yes, all three have won national titles, but somewhere on Wikipedia, there's probably an entry for "College Basketball's Biggest Underachievers: 2004-07," with that trio's mug shots displayed prominently on the right-hand side.
I can't emphasize this part enough: This is not a career-achievement list. This is a real-time picture of who's doing the best and worst jobs right now.
So to try and avoid a similar, inevitable outcry for Bobby and JoePa, I want everybody to visualize a big, inverted triangle. Inside this triangle there are six horizontal lines. The widest one at the top? That's the coach's performance in 2006. The one below that, 2005. The one below that, 2004, etc., down to the sixth, really skinny one, which is everything prior to 2002. So not only am I emphasizing the past five years, but I'm also weighting the seasons within that period as well in descending order.
As a result, there were some changes this year to the 10 best. Former staple Kirk Ferentz plummets off the list following two mediocre seasons. Jim Grobe, meanwhile, wins an ACC title and jumps on board.
One other note: As always, candidates had to be a Division I-A coach for at least the past three seasons to be considered for either category. So Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, Charlie Weis, Bret Bielema and Chris Petersen aren't eligible just yet. Neither, mercifully, are Greg Robinson or Ed Orgeron.
Top 10 best coaches headed into the 2007 season
1) Pete Carroll, USC: Carroll's "worst" season since 2002 last year still involved 11 wins, a Pac-10 championship and Rose Bowl victory. He followed that up with a fifth straight top-three recruiting class.
2) Urban Meyer, Florida: Now 61-12 in six seasons as a head coach, Meyer has demonstrated a keen ability to adapt to his personnel, winning a national title while utilizing a receiver (Percy Harvin) and a QB (Tim Tebow) in lieu of a reliable tailback. Not a bad recruiter, either.
3) Jim Tressel, Ohio State: Throughout last year's 12-0 regular season, you could tell every last Buckeye marched to the beat of his coach. Tressel knows how to play to his team's strengths, whether by playing conservative during the '02 title season or spreading things out with Troy Smith.
4) Mack Brown, Texas: Another year, another 10-win season for the 'Horns, who have now posted six in a row. Last year's 10-3 finish came despite starting a freshman quarterback (Colt McCoy) and enduring a season of injuries and suspensions to what became an oft-torched secondary.
5) Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: As mentioned previously, Stoops' reputation has taken a hit in recent years, but let's keep things in perspective. The Sooners still won 11 games and a Big 12 title last year despite Rhett Bomar's dismissal and Adrian Peterson's injury.
6) Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech: After suffering a brief drop-off post-Michael Vick, the Hokies have won at least 10 games in four of the past five seasons and had the nation's top-ranked defense in each of the past two years (and No. 4 the year before that).
7) Jim Grobe, Wake Forest: Grobe was already highly respected before last season. Then he led a moderately talented team (compared to the NFL-stocked rosters elsewhere in the ACC) to a conference title, even after losing his starting quarterback and tailback to injury. Clearly, the guy can coach.
8) Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia: Rodriguez has been running the spread-option since before anyone knew what it was, but it's amazing how much recognition it can garner -- and how you can post consecutive 11-win seasons -- once you have Pat White and Steve Slaton.
9) Mark Richt, Georgia: You can't argue with his overall results -- 61-17 and two SEC titles in six seasons -- but Richt drops a few rungs this year for his mishandling of the Dawgs' quarterback situation early last season (when Georgia lost to Kentucky and Vandy) and the Sugar Bowl meltdown the year before.
10) Gary Patterson, TCU: Does anyone get less credit for running a consistently successful program than this guy? Since 2002, the Horned Frogs have posted records of 10-2, 11-2, 11-1 and 11-2 (wedged around a 5-6 aberration) and beaten the likes of Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
Just missed: Rutgers' Greg Schiano, Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, USF's Jim Leavitt, Navy's Paul Johnson and Cal's Jeff Tedford.