I always enjoy Bill Connelly’s peek at overachieving/underachieving coaches, mainly because he asserts something I think is an essential truth.
You can potentially distill coaching into two things: building a team that produces great stats and figuring out how to maneuver in tight games when neither team has a statistical advantage.
That really is the game, isn’t it?
Saban is the living embodiment of the first example and Tom Herman appears to be the best representative of the second, at least according to Bill’s rankings of every coach since 2005 who’s run a program for at least three seasons, which are based on “average difference is per year — actual wins vs. win expectation”.
By the way, Mark Richt ranks one step higher than Kirby Smart. But I digress.
Bill acknowledges there is certainly some randomness involved. That being said, there’s a fair amount of affirmation of the second type of coaching prowess when you see people like Jeff Monken and Pat Fitzgerald ranked highly. It’s just that, because of sample size, we don’t know for sure how much credit goes to each factor.
Along those lines, here’s what he says about Tom Herman:
Texas’ fans collective response to being projected in the mid-30s in S&P+ was, shall we say, high in volume. And Herman’s presence atop the overachievers list here seems to verify that S&P+ is not well-equipped to handle a Herman team.
Maybe. But I need to see more because really, this four-year overachievement is a two-year overachievement.
Per second-order wins, his 2016 and 2017 teams should have won 15 games and won 16 instead. That’s pretty dead on. But he tops this list because of 2015 and 2018 — Houston overachieved by a whopping 3.3 wins in 2015, and Texas tacked on 1.7 more last fall.
So what’s the reality here? Has Herman, with his QB-Power-heavy third-down play-calling and his ability to craft big performances in big games while just barely skating by in the others — as if he knows his team has a finite number of good plays and deploys as few of them as possible against lesser opponents — unearthed a recipe for steady overachievement? Or is this a product of small sample sizes?
If you take to dice and roll 12 twice in four rolls, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re better than anyone else at rolling 12. But if you do it for eternity, it might mean you’ve got loaded dice. We’re just not going to know in four rolls.
If after a 20-year head coaching career, Herman has produced about 10 drastic overachievers, we’ll know. But maybe after 20 years, he’ll have still only produced the two. I hate saying “time will tell,” but…
Herman had that crazy season at Houston, where his team upset two top-five programs bookended around losses to Navy and SMU, and then proceeded to lose its last two games of the season. Last season, his Texas team started out losing to Maryland and wound up kicking Georgia’s ass. Maybe he’s a real overachiever, or maybe he’s just the opposite of Bob Stoops. Time will tell.
One thing’s for sure. It’s easier to measure the coaches who are excellent builders.