With Dan Quinn all but hired as the Atlanta Falcons head coach and only Central Michigan open among the FBS ranks, we thought now was the time to summarize trends from the 2014-15 head coaching hiring season.
As a refresher, here’s where things stand in the NFL:
– First things first: You’ll notice there are only 15 changes, less than half of the 31 changes from just two years ago. It’s the fewest number since only 11 programs swapped coaches between the 2005 and 2006 seasons. The law of averages say we’re in for a much larger number this time next year.
– Why only 15?: Aside from programs choosing to retain their staff for another year rather than role the dice with a coaching change (see: Virginia), perhaps the biggest reason the number stayed so low this year was a lack of chain reactions setting off coaching changes throughout FBS. A year ago, a change at USC caused a change at Washington, which caused a change at Boise State, which caused a change at Arkansas State. Similarly, Mack Brown’s resignation at Texas caused changes at Louisville and Western Kentucky. This year, only one such change occurred, and it had a two-pronged effect. Nebraska’s firing of Bo Pelini and thief-in-the-night hiring of Mike Riley away from Oregon State caused subsequent changes at Wisconsin and Pittsburgh. Rarely do you see a chain reaction go off so close to the original source with a Nebraska firing causing Wisconsin to scramble for a new coach.
Had Michigan not struck gold with the right coach being available at the right time, the Wolverines’ opening could have easily created another opening or three on its own.
– A dividing line between the FBS and the NFL? For the first time since the 2008-09 hiring cycle, an NFL franchise did not swoop in and part an FBS program from its head coach. While that could be a simple product of timing and coincidence, one other trend has become clear. The path of NFL assistant to FBS head coach hasn’t become the slam dunk it once was. After Bill O’Brien left the Patriots for Penn State before the 2012 season and Sean Kugler, Matt Rhule, Ron Turner and P.J. Fleck bolted NFL position coaching jobs for the college ranks a year later, 38 jobs (and counting) have now been filled without an NFL assistant grabbing one.
– Defense need not apply: Seven FBS assistants grabbed their first head coaching jobs – Mike Bobo, Tom Herman, David Beaty, Pat Narduzzi, Chad Morris, Neal Brown and Philip Montgomery. Only Narduzzi comes from the defensive background. He’s also the oldest among the group, and with a break-in date of 1990 waited the longest to get his first head job. Athletics directors want to do two things when making a hire: win games and sell tickets, and it’s abundantly clear they view offense as the shortest route to get there.
At the same time, almost all the NFL open jobs have gone to defensive guys. Why is that? Circumstance? Coincidence? The difference between the two games? Owners trying to find the next Bill Belichick or Pete Carroll? I genuinely have no idea.
– A trend not worth repeating: For the first time since the 2000-01 coaching change season, an FBS school did not hire a black head coach according to the College Football Poll database. Among the coaches hired before the 2001 season: Dennis Franchione (at Alabama), Les Miles (at Oklahoma State), Jim Tressel (at Ohio State), Rich Rodriguez (at West Virginia), Pete Carroll (at USC) and on and on and on. In hiring terms, 2001 was a lifetime ago. Let’s hope this year’s hiring cycle was an anomaly and does not extend into 2015-16.
– Want to hit the big time? Get a job at a Texas high school: One quarter of the 2014-15 hiring class has Texas high school football experience, with former Eustace, Elysian Fields, Bay City, Stephenville and Austin Lake Travis head coach Chad Morris landing at SMU, former North Dallas and Irving MacArthur head coach David Beaty grabbing the Kansas job, former Stephenville and Denton assistant Philip Montgomery taking the Tulsa job, and one-time El Paso Irvin assistant Tony Sanchez landing at UNLV. (Admittedly, the last one is a stretch but go with me here.)
Additionally, DeSoto head coach Claude Mathis is now coaching running backs at SMU, Spring Westfield head coach Corby Meekins joined Tom Herman’s staff at Houston as tight ends coach, and former Arlington Bowie head coach Kenny Perry left a job as TCU’s cornerbacks coach as Kansas’ co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach. Morris, Beaty and Sanchez join Sonny Dykes (California), Art Briles (Baylor) and David Bailiff (Rice) among FBS coaches with experience in the Texas high school ranks.
– The Wild, Wild American West: Three American Athletic Conference West Division (which forms in 2015, for those of you that aren’t realignment nerds) programs, all located in urban areas in the same region of the country, all tore the exact same page from the book in making their head coaching hires. First, SMU hired Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris, then Tulsa hired Baylor offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery, and then Houston plucked Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman to serve as its head coach. Those three offenses combined to post 41.6 points and 501 yards per game – and those numbers would have been much higher if not for quarterback troubles at Clemson. Together with defending AAC champion Memphis (36.2 points per game) and Navy (31.8 points per game), the American West should be one of the most entertaining divisions to follow in the coming years.
– A most welcomed (non) change: For the first time since the 2009-10 seasons, Arkansas State will retain its head coach for a second consecutive year.
– If you’re an Air Raid team and like your defensive coordinator, give him a hug: The Texas Tech defensive coordinator job came open Sept. 18 and wasn’t filled until Jan. 5. Texas A&M’s defensive coordinator slot came open Nov. 28 and stayed open until New Year’s Eve. Washington State? Nov. 30 and Jan. 14. Philip Montgomery needed nearly a full month to hire his defensive coordinator. A lot of extenuating circumstances went into each of those searches, but that’s a long time for each program to go without a defensive coordinator.
– Strangest decision: That would go to former Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone. There are 32 NFL head coaching jobs, and he backed out of one of them without another job waiting. Sure, he’ll get paid like a head coach, but do you think he spent the early days of his career dreaming of being the Bills’ head coach or the Jaguars’ offensive line coach?
– Best negotiating tactic: Though some didn’t see it that way, Jeremy Foley’s pursuit of Jim McElwain was brilliant. Knowing Florida couldn’t (or just flat wouldn’t) pay his $7.5 million buyout, Foley made his pursuit of McElwain – and, just as important, McElwain’s pursuit of the Florida job – as public as possible. In the process, he made the idea of McElwain returning to Fort Collins untenable, thereby giving Florida some leverage with Colorado State’s administration. In the end, Foley knocked $2.5 million off the buyout, with a $2 million guarantee game in Gainesville in the future.
– SEC swap meet: Though only Florida changed head coaches, the following schools have made coordinator changes, either by choice or necessity – Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. All told, 11 of the 14 schools will have changed play callers on one side of the ball or the other.
– The SEC gets even more competitive: Florida’s change at head coach and Texas A&M’s defensive coordinator change created a game of musical chairs that saw college football’s most competitive conference – on the field and in recruiting – find a way to get even more homicidally competitive. The league lost D.J. Durkin to Michigan, but in the process gained Ed Orgeron and Tosh Lupoi and saw Will Muschamp jump back into a more active role on the recruiting trail.
While most head jobs are under wraps, the coaching carousel for assistant jobs is still spinning at warp speed in both the NFL and college football. As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.