clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

#FIRE[COACH]:On Coaching Change, Expectations, and Reality

Some perspective on that bum.

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing in college football happens in a vacuum. Recruiting runs on hot streaks. Once in a lifetime players appear like shooting stars. Coaching staffs move and shift like sand dunes, never revealing the same topography twice. Opponents change, getting stronger, then weaker, then stronger again. Still other factors are likely the very most important (but we don't talk about that).

None of this is news and every fan who has followed college football for any length of time accepts these as unfortunate truths at worst and reasons for watching at best. However when it comes time for our team to evaluate the coaching staff, logic and reason are obfuscated in a cloud of cliches and platitudes. "Any coach can win with our talent." "Conference championships should be the expectation, not the exception." "A big name program needs a big name hire." We all know the tumultuous nature of this insane obsession. So why, then, do we write it off so cavalierly when it comes time to make a coaching change?

Internet AD's on keyboards around the world use selection, recall, and cognitive bias with the same skill that an ice sculptor uses a chainsaw, violently but deftly removing the ugly parts in order to leave a beautiful proof of why a coach must go now. How else could a fan base like LSU's convince itself that they should get rid of Les Miles, despite the fact that he has given them as many double-digit win seasons during his tenure as they have in their entire history before that.

Everyone seems to agree on the immutable fact that Nick Saban is the greatest coach in all of college football, and he has the records and championships to back up this assertion. Depending on whose story you believe, Saban has been offered biblical sums of money to vacate his throne in Tuscaloosa, and yet he remains, slowly grinding the bones of his enemies into a paste used to create his terrible life's work.

But why not leave? Why not take the bigger paycheck, the new challenge, and the great frontier to conquer and make permanent your status as god among coaches? It may be that he and Terry really love living in Alabama. Maybe he has bonded with the alumni, maybe they have a great bridge club they'd hate to leave, maybe his favorite sandwich shop is right down the street, and maybe Tuscaloosa is just a little slice of heaven tucked away in the Alabama hills.

Or perhaps Saban understands something about college football that others talk about but still can't see. Perhaps he knows that his presence, though a very significant component, is not even the primary reason for the Tide's success. The same Nick Saban who has 4 national championship rings had only a single season at Michigan State where the Spartans finished with more than 7 wins. Recruiting territory, facilities, booster donations, bag men, coaching staff, star players, and scheduling are all constantly undulating, cyclical things. Those coaches who have the good fortune to catch them all at coinciding peaks do well to continue to ride that wave out as far as it will take them. Some just get to ride farther than others.

For every coach that is able to catch that perfect wave a hundred are tossed back on to the shore and have to pick themselves up and paddle out to try again. Coaching is a business with an insane turnover rate, a game of musical chairs played in quicksand with everyone trying to succeed enough to survive. No one wants to be a failure at their job, and these people do not fail on purpose to spite you or your internet forum. Yes, they get paid a lot of money. They also work hours that give pre-bar lawyers chills and work themselves into long term health problems trying to beat a rigged game.

There will be coaching changes this off season, both around the league and more likely than not right here at home. And as excitement grows around the fresh new faces and limitless possibilities, somewhere that man that was the source of all your problems is picking himself up and preparing to try again. And with any luck there will be another fan base somewhere excited he will be at the helm, and talking excitedly about the limitless possibilities.