Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Bilo's FBS Coaching Hire Grades

With just days to go before the first bowl games of the season, every FBS coaching position for the 2017 season has been filled...head coaches anyway.
Here is my look at each of the 17 hires, and how I grade each along the way:

Art Biles, Jim Grobe Out
Matt Rhule In
Rhule's non history in the state of Texas has been well documented. Rhule was not the first choice for Baylor by far, as a deal with Chad Morris went south, and Tom Herman never really had any interest in the job. Rhule is a heavy discipline guy, which Baylor needs, and so far he is tapping the Texas High School coaching community for assistants, which is smart. Baylor may take a dive for a couple of seasons while Rhule fixes this mess, but winning is not outside of possibility here. Still, there are a lot of wait and see issues, so that is what I will do.
Grade: B-

Tommy Tuberville Out
Luke Fickell In
I think that this was addition by subtraction here. I have never been a Tuberville fan as far as his coaching style is concerned. I would rather watch grass grow than watch his teams over the years. I have long felt that he was one of the most overrated coaches in America, so losing him does not hurt the Bearcats one bit.
Fickell is a bit of a mystery to me. He has one season as interim coach at Ohio State between Tressel and Meyer, and it was not a great run for him, as he finished 6-7. To give him credit, however, was the fact that he held that team together during major turbulence, and for that to happen, he had to have some special skills. There is enough talent at UC to win now, but Fickell has to toughen up the culture first, and that is going to take some doing.
Grade: B-

Florida Atlantic
Charlie Partridge Out
Lane Kiffin In
Partridge was a mess in this job, and was never the right hire to move the needle at FAU. Kiffin's misadventures are well documented, and he was likely a coach too soon, without the maturity to properly handle the opportunities that he was being given. I still do not think that this is nearly thie hire that FAU hopes it is, but I may be wrong. If Kiffin gets this boat moving forward quickly, and he proves not to be as toxic as some feared during a nation spanning search for a head coaching job by Kiffin, this could work. He would also bail before getting a firm grip if given half the chance. If working with Nick Saban has not changed him for the better, we could have a possible mess on our hands.
Grade: C+

Florida International
Ron Turner, Ron Cooper Out
Butch Davis In
Butch Davis was a huge get for FIU, but he does come with baggage. He has been in some messy situations with the NCAA, and if he has not learned how to behave, this could be a huge risk hire for the Panthers. If he has the energy and drive, and if he can follow the rules, this hire could be huge. He has been trying to get back into the game for some time, and FIU has wanted him for a while, so this could be a perfect pairing.
Grade: B

Fresno State
Tim DeRuyter, Eric Kiesau Out
Jeff Tedford In
Fresno State went for comfort in the hiring of Tedford, but it may not have been the right move, and Fresno State may have been better off waiting things out a bit longer before jumping here. Tedford won at Cal, true, but in the end, he lost his energy, lost his team, and started not caring about academics at all. He has had other tenures as head coach at BC in the CFL, and worked on the staff at Tampa Bay in the NFL recently, with neither assignment ending well. This seems like all flash and little substance, but how much worse could it be than the DeRuyter era?
Grade: C-

Georgia State
Tim Miles Out
Shawn Elliott In
Elliott's experience as an FBS head coach was six games at South Carolina in the wake of Steve Spurrier quitting mid season. He went 1-5. With several high profile FCS coaches available, it is really an unknown as to why Georgia State felt compelled to go with Elliott here. He was hardly the best choice for this job.
Grade: D

Tom Herman Out (To Texas)
Major Applewhite Promoted
This has been a while in coming for Applewhite, who has been gunning for a head job for years now. Herman put Houston football back to good after the dip during the Tony Levine era, and now Houston is thinking huge. The Cougars will find a Power Five home between now and 2025, so they can hardly afford to slip back.
This job was given to Kiffin, if you believe Tilman Fertitta (you should not have), which spurred a full court denial by the AD. A day later, the job belonged to Applewhite with the major blessing of a majority of area high school coaches who do business with the Cougars. Kiffin and Les Miles, who were both finalists, did not have that.
Grade: B+

Kevin Wilson Out
Tom Allen In
I have no issue with Wilson being fired here (resigned, fired, same thing) as I never have thought that he was moving the needle upward quickly enough here. Indiana still played in the Big 10 like a backwater program, winning just enough to get bowl eligible the last two years while finishing at .500 or below in league play. Now that there are abuse allegations against players, I am totally good with this.
What I am not good with is just handing over the job to Allen with a 6 year deal after being on the staff for one season. He did improve the defense a decent deal, but this was a ridiculous, knee jerk reaction to a bad situation, and could end in disaster.
Grade: F

Les Miles Out
Ed Orgeron Promoted
I like Orgeron, and promoting him feels like the right hing on some levels, but not on all levels. When LSU felt like they became a bargaining chip for Tom Herman, they knee jerked back to Orrgeron, who a week earlier was out of the job. Jimbo Fisher declined as well, and it seems like Orgeron, after a hord of swings and misses on other candidates, happened to still be in the building. He calimed that he would hire Kiffin away from Alabama, and has already missed the mark on that, so the clock is ticking to fulfill some promises he made regarding the offense as part of the deal to get him the job.
Grade: C

Brian Polian Out
Jay Norvell In
I really hate this hire. Norvell has been around forever as an assistant, and gets too much love for his role in the Arizona State offense. He has never been more than an average coordinator on offense, and was only a WR coach at ASU. Funding is at the bottom of the Mountain West for Nevada, and this hire certainly does nothing to raise the profile for more money and revenue. Norvell was on a path to being a career assistant, and this was the best that the Pack could get?
Grade: F

Mark Helfrich Out
Willie Taggart In
Poor Mark Helfrich suffered the curse of Chip Kelly's shadow the entire time he was at Oregon. Hiring Brady Hoke to fix the defense was an abject failure in 2016, and it cost Helfrich his job in the end. His over reliance on FCS transfers at QB stung him badly as well as bad decisions on the field, such as going for 2 and missing 4 times against Nebraska in a 3 point loss. Helfrich always seemed like an odd fit for a program that was becoming a major power, and he allowed the program to plummet during his tenure.
Willie Taggart was one of the smartest hires of the season. All he does is build and win, as he has done at stops like Western Kentucky and USF. Both programs were disasters when he entered, and were major players when he left. That is what we call legacy coaching. Taggart will win at Oregon, and with the right staff, could do so right away.
Grade: A+

Darrell Hazell Out
Jeff Brohm In
Brohm is a wiz on offense. That can not be denied. He won at Western Kentucky by scoring points by the truck load. What does not fit for me is that he is being hired to build up an offensive power house in a league that has crushing defenses at Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Brohm had better hire on hell of a defensive coordinator, because he knows nothing on the subject. This could be a disaster if he does not bring in the right guy to run his defense.
Grade: C

San Jose State
Ron Caragher Out
Brian Brennan In
This hire was just the worst hire made this year. Brennan has been a WR coach at Oregon State, a school who had one of the worst passing offenses the last two years running nationally. He was hired because he had served on the SJSU staff from 2005-2010 (hardly glory years), his father played football there, and his mother was a cheerleader. Those are awful reasons to hire a head coach. This was a cheap and lazy way out of actually doing some work and finding someone who can take you to the next level. San Jose State should be bounced out of FBS football for purely not giving a damn.
Grade: F-------

Willie Taggart Out (To Oregon)
Charlie Strong In
This is what we call a home run, win-win, slam dunk hire. Willie Taggart moved on to Oregon, and USF wasted no time in moving in on Strong to replace him, making the hire in just days. Strong is a Florida guy, knows how to recruit the state in a huge way, and will be able to navigate the USF political system a hell of a lot easier than he had it at Texas. There is a massive amount of talent on the current roster (thanks, Willie), and with Quinton Flowers coming back to play in 2017 at QB, he may have the best QB he has ever had waiting for him. This is a huge move, proving that USF is ready to become a national player.
Grade: A+

Charlie Strong Out
Tom Herman In
Strong was never really a good fit at Texas. He was never fully accepted, and even though there was talent in place to win in 2017, it seemed as if the administration and boosters were intent on pushing him out a very high window.
Herman checks all the boxes, but he fell well short of expectations in 2016, just his second season as a head coach. It seemed once placed in a fish bowl, he faltered somewhat. He will be in an even smaller bowl in Austin than he was in Houston, and losses such as the ones he suffered this season against Memphis, Navy, and worst of all SMU will not be tolerated at Texas. Too much has been invested in this move, right or wrong. I like Herman, and his potential, but this has some risks.
Grade: B

Matt Rhule Out (To Baylor)
Geoff Collins In
This is the second time in recent years that Temple has tapped the Florida staff to find a head coach, as they had hired Steve Addazio before. Rhule replaced Addazio when he left for Boston College. Collins has had a strong hand in the recent semi-success of Florida football, as defenses have carried the Gators during his tenure, and he also had a strong run as DC at Mississippi State. Collins never did, however, beat Alabama, and that is a point to consider when you look for big time win when he was on staff. Collins has been rumored for a long while for a job of his own, but he is still an enigma, and the players wanted Phil Snow to stay as the head coach from the former staff. There may be some sore feelings in Philly on this one. Collins has also never worked the northeast before, so that is a concern as well.
Grade: C

Western Kentucky
Jeff Brohm Out (To Purdue)
Mike Sanford In (Apparently)
No official word has been given, but it appears that Notre Dame OC Mike Sanford will be the new coach at Western Kentucky. Sanford's last head coaching job was at Indiana State, where he took an abysmal Sycamore team to the FCS playoffs in short order. Western Kentucky does not need to reinvent the wheel here, and they just need someone who can keep the offense running as it has since Willie Taggart was there. Maybe coaching some defense may help as well, but that hasn't stopped the Hilltoppers before. There is no word on what the contract will be, but Sanford has some issues at Notre Dame, as he had plenty of talent, but yet often struggled to score, or at least score consistently as the Irish fell to 4-8. I will update on this move when I am able.
Grade: Incomplete

Note: I will be writing a separate piece on the FCS hires next week, as several jobs remain open at this point. 

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