Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve felt the need to get worked up about a Stewart Mandel piece, but his lists of best and worst coaches in college football manage to scratch that itch. And they do it for the same reason that his M-word stuff did. Both are way too arbitrary and lacking in any logical cohesion to make much sense.
Take, for example, Bobby Petrino’s placement on his ten-best list. Petrino is, no doubt, one of the very best offensive minds in the game. Other than that, though, he brings little more to the table. He is at best an indifferent recruiter – ask his successors at his last two stops what kind of talent base they inherited from him – and institutional loyalty is an alien concept to him. Petrino’s got a mid-major title to his name and a sprinkling of double-digit win seasons on his resume. But how in the world does that add up to anything close to what Steve Spurrier has accomplished?
And how to explain Kevin Sumlin clocking in at number six, while David Shaw finds himself grouped in with the “maybe in three years” bunch? Sumlin’s got two hot years (there’s a losing season at Houston mixed in earlier, which Mandel conveniently ignores) while Shaw sits at 23-4 in two seasons as a head coach. At Stanford.
Tell me where that fits with this:
Before I get into my list, it’s necessary to revisit the methodology behind these admittedly subjective rankings. Please note that they represent the best and worst coaches right now. They are not career achievement awards. Picture an inverted triangle, with the most recent season on the top line (the widest), the 2011 season below that, and so on. Each season is thus weighted a little bit heavier than the last. Someone like Mack Brown, who easily made this list six years ago, is nowhere to be found because his past three mediocre seasons are more relevant today than his 2005 national title. That said, I do like to see more than a one- or two-year track record before anointing a coach. Consider it my lesson learned from Charlie Weis.
Speaking of Weis, he’s an easy entry on the worst five list, but most of the rest of that is a big a mess as the other. I yield to no man in my contempt for Junior, but there’s no way a guy who recruits as well as he does belongs with a group of the five worst college coaches. And his logic chopping of Kirk Ferentz – “Take away that one 11-2 season” – still leaves a guy with a winning record at a backwater like Iowa. Is Ferentz overpaid for the results he’s gotten recently? Sure, but that’s a long way from saying there is something like 120 better coaches than him. (It also begs the question of how Mack Brown doesn’t qualify.)
These aren’t the worst lists of their type I’ve seen – HP set the gold standard in that department (at least Mandel has enough sense to put Miles on the right side of the ledger) – but they’re pretty dumb. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Mandel was worried he might not have enough material to stretch out a couple of preseason Mailbag columns and wanted to make sure he could gin up some reader response.