Sunday, October 11, 2015

Why Your Team Should Just Fire that Awful Coach Already

Ties aren't bringing Swag back to The U, Al Golden.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Here's your early Sunday reminder that coaching is pretty darn important in college football.

In fact, if there's one thing the early goings of the 2015 season have taught us, it's that a good coach can make all the difference. Thought of as a lost program without Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow the last few years, Florida is now contending in the SEC, and on the verge of a Top-10 national ranking under its first-year head coach, while Michigan has folks in Big Ten country legitimately terrified under Jim Harbaugh. This coming just a year after the Wolverines served as the Midwest's punching bag.

So, if your favorite college football team has an awful coach, why are they sticking with him? Some coaches have large buyout clauses at smaller schools, while some are inextricably linked to an athletic director or administration that doesn't want to admit a mistake.

While there are examples of coaches turning around terrible starts (Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin, Kirk Ferentz at Iowa), you have a pretty good idea of whether or not your coach is a good fit by Year 3 running the program. If he isn't producing by then, it's time for your athletic department to swallow its pride (and maybe eat a ton of money), and cut bait.

Here are just a few examples of programs thriving with a new head man, and a few others that maybe held onto their coach one year too long.

Florida under new coach Jim McElwain: 6-0, 4-0 SEC, 1st place in SEC East. About to be Ranked in Top-10.

Through Week 6 Last Year: 3-2, 2-2 SEC, middle of SEC East pack, would go 3-3 the rest of the regular season.

To be fair, the Gators would have been 4-2 in 2014 if their opener against Idaho hadn't been cancelled, but that's hardly the point. Those Gators, led by coach Will Muschamp, finished right in the middle of a down SEC East and won six games the entire regular season, finishing the year with a low-level bowl win against some Purple Pirates, a game only memorable for its poopy-pantsed MVP.

Also, Florida was absolutely throttled by Missouri in Week 7, 42-13.

This year's installment just went on the road and dominated Missouri to start 4-0 in the SEC, claiming 1st place in the SEC East and a likely spot in today's AP Top-10. The biggest difference for Florida has been McElwain's handling of the quarterback position, where redshirt freshman Will Grier has at least been serviceable for the Gators after last year's inconsistent struggles from Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris.

Obviously, the season is far from over, and next week brings a trip to LSU where the Gators will likely be underdogs, but this team has the inside track to the SEC East title, and seems to be capable of contending for a national championship in the next few years.

Michigan under new coach Jim Harbaugh: 5-1, 2-0 Big Ten. Defeated BYU,
Maryland & Northwestern by a combined score of 97-0 the last three weeks. About to be ranked in Top-15.

Through Week 6 Last Year: 2-4, 0-2 Big Ten. Lost to Notre Dame 31-0.

The glory of yesteryear was the only thing any Michigan Man (or Woman) could brag about under Brady Hoke last year, as Notre Dame trounced the Wolverines 31-0 in the teams' last meeting of their historic rivalry before a hiatus.

UM would go on to finish the year 5-7 and just 3-5 in the Big Ten, missing a bowl and sitting at home while hated rival Ohio State captured a national championship.

Enter coach Jim Harbaugh, whose team lost its opener to talented Utah, but then went on to win its last five, allowing just two touchdowns in the process, and posting three consecutive shutouts. If Michigan can continue its defensive dominance and efficiency running the ball (two Harbaugh staples from his days at Stanford and in the NFL with San Francisco), then the Wolverines are probably just a quarterback away from contending for a national title.

Pitt under new coach Pat Narduzzi: 4-1, 2-0 ACC defeated Akron by 17.

Through Week 6 Last Year: 3-3, 1-2 ACC, lost to Akron by 11.

Pitt had been stuck in neutral under Paul Chryst, who went 6-6 in all three regular seasons he coached in the Steel City. But, after Chryst left to take the vacated head coaching job at Wisconsin, the Panthers were forced into an upgrade, hiring former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.

Even while facing injuries, Narduzzi's Panthers have shown a discipline and mental toughness they never did under Chryst, taking care of business against the schools they should beat (*cough* Akron *cough*), and gutting out critical conference games at Virginia Tech and home against Virginia.

The ACC Coastal Division is wide open at the top, with Pitt, Duke and North Carolina all still unbeaten in ACC play. These may not be the Panthers of the 70s and early 80s, but under Narduzzi Pitt could become a nationally relevant program again.

The Other Side of the Coin

Miami under "should have been fired" coach Al Golden: 3-2, 0-1 ACC. Now 0-5 vs Florida State in his tenure, with no bowl wins and a 16-17 record vs the ACC.

At this point, we know what Golden is: A decent, not great coach, that just doesn't fit in culturally at "The U." Recruiting "The State of Miami" has always been critical for any Canes coach, but under Golden, Miami has watched the top prospects in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach county flee in droves to Tallahassee, Gainesville, Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge and cold-weather programs in America's Heartland.

That isn't going to cut it, and neither is an 0-5 record against chief rival (no pun intended) Florida State. Heck, Golden isn't even above .500 in an average ACC, and has yet to win a bowl game. Golden seemed to have things figured out in early 2013, but everything has come crumbling down ever since, with a pair of bad bowl losses and hardly a signature win to speak of (the Nebraska win this year is "meh" after losing to Cincinnati and FSU).

With an average record on the field and on the recruiting trail, fans in Coral Gables now know Golden isn't the guy to bring Swag back.

Purdue under "should be fired today" coach Darrell Hazell: 1-5, 0-2 Big Ten. 5-25 with 3 wins vs FCS teams and 2 vs FBS teams (1 Big Ten) in his 3-year tenure. Just 1-20 vs Power 5 competition.

Hazell inherited a team that had gone to back-to-back bowl games under oft-maligned coach Danny Hope, so this was far from a scorched-Earth rebuild. Undaunted, Hazell proceeded to go 1-11 his first season, producing what may have been the worst season in the long history of the Big Ten conference. Purdue narrowly defeated FCS Indiana State on a last-minute interception that year, and lost to everybody else, often in blowout fashion, as Hazell continued to smash square pegs into round holes.

The Boilermakers showed a glimmer of hope early in 2014, defeating Western Michigan (yes, beating a MAC team is now cause for celebration in West Lafayette), and topping Illinois for Hazell's first Big Ten win. Other than those two games, Purdue has not defeated a Division 1 FBS team during Hazell's tenure, and the spastic coach has changed quarterbacks three times in his two-and-a-half seasons.

For those keeping track at home-
Wins vs FBS Teams: 2
Quarterbacks Used: 4

Even for a program as historically below average as Purdue, this simply can't go on any longer. The program wasn't in great shape when Hazell took over, but he's leaving it an absolute dumpster fire. Now, attracting a solid coach to West Lafayette may have gone from hard to impossible.

Maryland under "should have been fired coach Randy Edsall: 2-4, 0-2 Big Ten. 22-34, including 2 low-level bowl losses, in his 5-year tenure. Team went 9-4 with a bowl win the year before he arrived.

Edsall was actually successful at Connecticut, and Maryland was struggling to find consistency under former coach Ralph Friedgen, so this hire made sense back in 2011.

We now know, however, that things just aren't working out. Much like Hazell's first year at Purdue, Edsall took a hatchet to what was a bowl team, going 2-10 after a promising season opening win against Miami. After that win over Al Golden's group (GOLDEN!), the Terps only beat Towson the rest of the way, but to his credit, Edsall did get things back on track, doubling his win total to four games the following year, then getting Maryland back to the postseason the last two years (though they did lose two low-level bowl games and were just 7-9 in conference play).

Now the wheels appear to have fallen off. Edsall's Terps were blown out by Bowling Green 48-27 in Week 2, and have lost their last three games by a combined 88 points.

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