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Les Miles, Not Actually The Worst Coach In Division I-A? The Heck You Say!

If you're a Georgia fan, the name "Heismanpundit" immediately triggers a Pavlovian giggle. A football wonk with an affinity for the spread offense that borders on the obsessive-compulsive, HP named Boise State to his nebulously defined "Gang of Six" teams that had supposedly elevated the spread to an art form -- and, accordingly, predicted that the Broncos would embarrass the Bulldogs in their 2005 season opener in Sanford Stadium. Barely 24 hours later, he was hastily composing the kind of non-apology apology worthy of a scandalized political candidate, admitting his prediction was wrong but reaffirming that his critics were still wrong-er because they'd been "right for the wrong reasons," or something like that.

HP's been a punching bag for Dawgbloggers ever since, Michael Elkon and Senator Blutarsky chief among them. Blutarsky got a particularly contentious ball rolling earlier this week when he pointed out the inanity of HP's "10 Worst Coaches in College Football" list, a roster that, unfathomably, included the likes of LSU's Les Miles (at #1, no less) and Florida's Will Muschamp, who's still waiting to coach his first game. Elkon took said ball and ran with it, slicing both the list and the arbitrary, tunnel-visioned criteria behind it with a "Kill Bill" samurai sword.

We're well past the time when Miles's success could be attributed to Nick Saban. Larry Coker he's not. (Coker in year six: 7-6, #49. There was no year seven.) Honestly, you have to be an utter idiot to look at those numbers and conclude "worst coach in college football!" At a minimum, you ought to have a better argument than "a potted plant" could win at LSU. Perhaps Heisman Pundit never heard the names Gerry Dinardo or Curley Hallman?

HP claims he based his list on "coaches that do the least with the talent on hand" and challenged anyone to come up with a better list based on that criterion. I decided to take him up on the challenge, and not only did I come up with 10, I found them all in BCS-conference programs without copying a single name off his original list. This thought exercise took me all of five minutes. After the jump, my list of 10 Coaches Who Are Empirically Worse Than Les Miles.

1. Ron Zook. If his criterion was wasted talent, then how Heismanpundit could leave off the Zooker is beyond me, particularly given all the attention HP paid the Florida program as Zook's replacement labored to rebuild the program by installing the almighty spread. Zook brought a ton of talent to the Swamp -- talent with which Urban Meyer would win a national title in only his second year -- yet Zook could never do anything better with it than 8-5 and an Outback Bowl loss. Epic fail, HP.

2. Tom O'Brien. Even meathead Chuck Amato managed to lead the Wolfpack to a winning season in his first year; O'Brien only managed that in his fourth year in Raleigh, despite having QB Russell Wilson at his disposal the entire time. Tellingly, Wilson elected to find another program at which to spend his final year of eligibility.

3. Turner Gill. He's a classy enough guy that you hate putting him anywhere near a list like this, but a 3-9 record would've been a disaster even by predecessor Mark Mangino's standards, particularly if it began with a 6-3 home loss to North Dakota State. For his sake I hope the Jayhawks succeed under his tutelage, but the immediate indicators, at least, are not promising.

4. Danny Hope. No, Purdue's not a historical powerhouse, but Joe Tiller managed to get them into bowls on a consistent basis. Hope has yet to do that, and the Boilermakers certainly don't seem headed to the Rose Bowl anytime soon.

5. Paul Wulff. Washington State isn't a powerhouse, either -- depending on who you ask, they're the most godforsaken program in any of the Big Six conferences -- but Mike Price succeeded in getting them to a couple Rose Bowls, and even poor Bill Doba managed not to get blown out by 50 points every other game.

6. Houston Nutt. Given Heismanpundit's singleminded obsession with offense, you'd think he would've noticed that Nutt has brutally axe-murdered the prospects of just about every QB he's ever coached. Yes, Nutt deserves credit for resurrecting the Ole Miss program from Ed Orgeron's smoldering pile of wreckage, but since then all he's done is prove there's a definite ceiling to all that "does more with less" credit he used to get at Arkansas.

7. Tommy Tuberville. I realize that I hardly represent the majority here, but I've considered Tuberville to be one of the most overrated coaches in college football for a while now. Tubs built up a wellspring of goodwill with Auburn's unbeaten campaign in 2004, then systematically squandered it over the next four seasons with an offense that sometimes seemed to be trying not to score points. If he pulls off the same collapse in Lubbock, it'll be bad news indeed, because the Red Raiders' defense was a Superfund site last season.

8. Gene Chizik. Yeah, I said it. Heismanpundit justifies slagging off coaches such as Les Miles by saying that "if you take away some of that talent . . . they would be out of a job." Well, I submit that if you'd taken Cam Newton and Nick Fairley out of the equation, Chizik would be on just as hot a seat as Miles would be under the same circumstances. Even Auburn fans don't believe Chizik is the true braintrust of that organization; this, after all, is a guy who went 5-19 at Iowa State, and when he was inexplicably hired away by AU, relative nobody Paul Rhoads came in and led the Cyclones to a bowl win in his first year. Take offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn off that coaching staff and Chizik becomes Sylvester Croom with a stronger chin.

9. Butch Davis. Even if you give him the Costco economy-sized benefit of the doubt and accept his claims that he didn't know that his assistant head coach was an agent's runner, or that many of his star players were getting paid, or that many others were getting term papers written for them, you're still left with this: Davis' team had all those unfair advantages going for them and he's still only 28-23 since arriving in Chapel Hill. Which means he's either a mediocre coach or a guy with a terminal lack of ambition, but regardless, Les Miles doesn't seem to have either problem.

10. Dennis Erickson. Miami-era Erickson is excluded from this list; Arizona State-era Erickson, on the other hand, has gone 25-24 without a single winning season in the last three years. Not sure whether his offensive scheme qualifies as a "spread," except in the sense that it involves the quarterback's brains being spread all over the field (Sun Devil QBs have been tagged for a staggering 147 sacks since Erickson arrived, something Heismanpundit surely would not find conducive to an efficient offense).

There you have it: Ten coaches worse than Les Miles, and I barely even broke a sweat finding them. Then again, I did just spend more than a thousand words defending the proposition that a guy with a 62-17 record and a national championship ring isn't the worst coach in all of college football, so maybe the joke's on me after all.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.