A Look at 2008 First Year Coaches

Before Bill Byrne went on his “National Search”, these were the names I thought should be considered:

Butch Davis, Tom Tuberville, Mike Leach, Kevin Sumlin, Will Muschamp, Art Briles (I swear), Randy Edsell (UConn), and Ron Zook.  Not saying all of these guys should have been interviewed but their interest should have been gauged and due diligence on them done.  We’ll look at the first year of Sumlin and Briles since the others were already head coaches except for Muschamp and we all now what he’s become.

Other first year coaches will look at are Bo Pelini (NU), Bobby Petrino (Arky), Paul Johnson (Ga Tech), Rich Rod (Mich), and Rick Neuhesiel (UCLA).

Kevin Sumlin (7-5):

Sumlin took over an 8-5 UH team that lost to TCU in the mighty Texas Bowl.

In Sumlin’s first year he took the Coogs to a 7-5 record.  All five of their losses came on the “road” with a loss in Stillwater by 19 points in his second game (How did Sherm do there?), a loss to Air Force by 3 which was moved to Dallas to Hurrican Ike, a loss by 3 to Colorado St.,  by 14 points on a Tuesday night to Marshall, and then by 14 points to the Mighty Rice Owls (HOOT!  HOOT!).

Let’s throw out the Air Force game as that wasn’t fair with Ike and the loss to Marshall as playing on a Tuesday night on the road is not fair.  If you’ve ever looked at the results, the home team on a weeknight game wins like 58% of the time and covers the spread like 65% of the time.  The scores skew so far from the norm that there’s an obvious advantage to playing at home on weekday night.  Remember when Fran clowned the Bobcats from San Marcos?  Oh, wait.

We could probably throw out the Col. St. game as well since that was still one week after Ike and the entire city of Houston was still recovering.  The losses to Rice and OSU are legit so it’s safe to say Sumlin could have gone anywhere from 7-5 to 10-2 without Ike and the weeknight game on the road.

He had two impressive wins when he went in and beat East Carolina on the road when they were ranked in the Top 25 just coming off two Top 25 upsets themselves.  They also upset a Top 25 ranked Tulas at home.  In fact, they clowned them 70-30.  That’s right, a 40 point victory over a Top 25 team.  UH will likely wind up in the Texas Bowl again so it’ll be interesting to see how they do.  All in all I’d say Sumlin did pretty decent considering the Ike circumstances.  He definitely played OSU closer than Sherman did in just his second game.

Art Briles (4-8):

Artimus took over a 3-9 Baylor program and most folks were snickering because Briles was below what A&M could hire.  At the time he seemed like a very Billy Gillispie hire in my book.  He has the same “aw shucks” demeanor and rose through the ranks of Texas high school and college assistant before getting an HC shot at a smaller Texas program and had decent success.

Briles only improved Baylor’s record by one game but let’s look at his 8 losses.  He got blown out at home in his first game to an at the time Top 25 Wake Forest when he trotted out three QBs before realizing Bob Griffin would be his man from then on.  He won his next two games blowing out both Northwestern State and Washington State.  Say what you want but Sherm didn’t blow anyone out as his win at ISU was only by 14 points.  Briles beat both of those teams by at least 28.

He would then take his team to Hartford, CT and see his team let a late lead slip away losing to UConn by 3 points.  Next came a blowout at home to OU by 32.  Sherm lost by 38.  He beat ISU at home by 28 and then traveled to Still water where he lost by 28 points which is the same as Sherm.  Next involved a 12 point loss in Lincoln where they actually lead at half time but couldn’t score any points in the second half.  Missouri visited Waco and snuck out with a 3 point victory.  Next was a 24 point loss in Austin.

The last two games included a 20 point thumping over Texas A&M and his final game was a 7 point loss in Lubbock where they lead by 14 at one point.

So in summary they lost 5 games by 12 or less with their greatest losses being 32 to OU, 28 on the road to OSU, and 24 in Austin.  Considering the talent of the programs they lost to I think Briles had a REMARKABLE first season.  4-8 might be 4-8 but I’ll take Briles’ 4-8 over Sherm’s 4-8 any day of the week.

If you’re an Aggie fan you should absolutely be steaming at what Briles did in Waco while seeing what Sherm did in College Station.  There is little doubt in my mind right now that Baylor made the better hire all because A&M was afraid to interview Briles because we thought we were better or smarter than that.

Bo Pelini (8-4):

Pelini took over a 5-7 Nebraska program that A&M beat last year and had arguably a worst defense than A&M.  Enter Bo Pelini and his crazy college experience and he took that crappy Nebraska team to an 8-4 record and closed out the season strong.

Pelini won his first game at home and suffered his first loss in questionable 30-35 loss to Va. Tech at home in prime time.  They woudl then get clowned at home by 35 points to then BCS contender Missouri.  The next week they pushed Tech to overtime in Lubbock only to lose by 6 points.  After that they would stomp ISU by 28, beat Baylor by 12,  lose to OU by 34 in Norman (Sherm 38 at home), beat Kansas by 10 at home, KSU by 28 in Manhattan, and then kind of lucking out with a 9 point victory over CU at home to close out the season.  They dominated CU statistically but CU had some big plays and NU had one HUGE bone headed fake kick that damn near cost them the game.

All of this has set Nebraska up for a Gator Bowl matchup with Ga. Tech for a battle of the first year coaches that over achieved.  Say what you want about playing in the North but it’s clear Bo Pelini is a better head coach right now than Mike Sherman.  Too bad he didn’t have any head coaching experience.

Bobby Petrino (5-7):

Bobby eeked out his first two wins over Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe but he did get the win.  He then got clowned by Bama, Texas, and Florida.  Next came an upset of Auburn on the road.  Next was a one point loss to UK in Lexington, a 2 point loss to Ole Miss, and then a 7 point win over a decent Tulsa team.  They then lost by 14 in Columbia, SC, 3 points to MSU in Starkville, and then beat LSU by 1 point at home.

Everyone wants to talk about how bad Arkansas was in Petrino’s first year but when you look at it, he did pretty damn good.  Sure he struggled in his first two wins but then got blown out by 3 of the Top 4 teams in the current BCS.  Is that so bad?

You take out those three games and he went 5-4.  Of his other 4 losses, three were within 3 points and the other was by 13.  I don’t think that’s bad at all in a tough SEC.  Say what you want but Bobby Petrino had a much better season than his record and three blowout games indicate.  His team definitely got better as the season went on which is a sign of a good coach.

Doesn’t bode well for A&M next season and I think it’s safe to say Arky hired the better coach.  Don’t be shocked to see Arkansas competing for the West division next season.

Paul Johnson (9-3):

Johnson took over a 7-6 Ga. Tech that lost their bowl game last season.  He went 9-3 with wins over BC, Clemson, FSU, Miami, and UGA.  In the brand name department that’s damn impressive in your first year.   The BC, Clemson, and UGA wins were on the road.  That’s outstanding for a first year head coach to do that on the road.  He destroyed Jacksonville St. at home in his first game which is an indicator of potential future success based on my research.  His greatest loss was to UNC by 21 points in Chapel Hill.  His other losses included a 3 point loss to Va. Tech in Blacksburg, and a 7 point loss to UVA at home.

Yep, Ga. Tech hired the better coach.

Rich Rod (3-9):

Rich Rod took over a 9-4 Michigan that won it’s bowl game.  He went 3-9 and got his ass beat by Notre Dame, Illinois, Penn State, and Ohio State.  The other losses were by less than 14 points and including by 2 points at home to Utah in his first game.  Uh oh.  Utah is a solid team though so it’s not that damning but it’s not good.  He lost by 3 at home to Toledo.  Yep.  3 points at home to Toledo.  The Michigan coach.  Lost to Toledo.  At home.  In his sixth game.  Not good.  His other losses included a 14 point loss at home to Michigan State, a 6 point loss to Purdue on the road, and a 7 point loss at home to Northwestern.

His three wins included a 10 point win at home over Miami of Ohio, a 2 point win over Wisconsin at home, and a 23 point win over Minnesota on the road.  He was 2-5 in games at The Big House and 1-4 on the road.  Hmmmmmmm, that sounds familiar with one less loss on the road.

I never really thought about it but Rich Rod could be a Fraud on the level of Coach Fran.  He ran a gimmick offense in a lesser conference that relied solely on getting talented guys that could run.  He did finish in the Top 10 in 2005 and 2006 while winning the Sugar and Gator Bowls respectively.  Now that’s much more impressive than Fran but the most amazing part is that with an opportunity to play for the National Championship he spit the bit and lost to a Pittsburgh team coached by Dave Wannestedt’s mustache at home.  Maybe he can’t get over the hump and will struggle in a legit conference where he might or might not get the two key people to run his offense.

There’s another similarity to Fran in that Rich Rod took over a big program that just let a very successful head coach go just because he’d become stale and their main rival had taken them to the woodshed and was playing for national championships.  I think the similarities between R.C. and Carr are pretty close.

Look at how he and Fran left their respective gigs.  Both where known flirters for other jobs prior to the season they left and left after one of their best seasons ever while leaving their players high and dry.  It’s okay if the fan base is upset with your leaving but when you don’t even feel welcome in the state you left by ANYONE something is wrong.  I think it’s safe to say West Virginia isn’t on Rich Rod’s favorite places to visit these days just like Fran will say with Alabama.

Not saying Rich Rod will fall on his face but I won’t be surprised if in five years he’s let go without ever accomplishing anything.  Maybe he can get a job after he’s done in 5 at UMich on ESPN Radio doing color commentary where he just interjects random thoughts in a nasaly pitched voice while having no rapport with his play by play guy.  That’s what Fran’s doing.

Maybe Rich Rod will be the exception but his first year doesn’t look good for future success.

Rick Neuheisel (4-8):

Neuheisel took over a 6-7 UCLA team that lost it’s bowl game.  He’ll go 4-8 as I assume he’ll get beat by USC.  I never quite understood this hire as it just seemed like getting the band back together.  I thought they were absolute fools for not hiring Mike Leach as he’d be perfect for this gig.  The yin to Pete Carrol’s yang while running the craziest offense in the Pac-10.  Hey, there’s safety in memories.

Rick started off his career with a pretty amazing overtime win over Tennessee or so it seemed but it quickly went downhill after that.  He was blown out 59-0 to BYU and then lost by 21 to Mike Stoops’ Arizona team at home.  He then lost by 5 points to Fresno St. at home.  Fresno is good but UCLA doesn’t need to be losing to that team at home.  His other losses included a 7 point loss to Oregon on the road, by 21 points to Cal in Berkley, by 28 points to Oregon St.  at home, and by 25 points to Arizona St. on the road.  That’s 5 losses by 21 points or more and that doesn’t included his pending game with USC.  Half his total games could be losses by more than 21 points which is just not good.

His wins are not really that impressive as Tennessee wound up not being that good, he beat a HORRIBLE Wash. St. team by 25 at home, Standford by 3 at home, and beat Washington by 20 in Seattle.  Not one of those is really that impressive.

All in all I’d say the Nueheisel hire is pretty close to Sherman.

It looks like everyone but Michigan and UCLA hired better coaches than A&M at the same time.  Only time will tell but it’s not looking good for A&M, Michigan, and UCLA so far.  Let’s come back and look at these coaches next year.

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