Coaches should not be judged on national championships

 

It’s Friday and on Friday all of us are given the freedom to present views that may be a little out of the mainstream. Here’s mine:

Mark Bradley’s blog on Thursday “Will UGA win at BCS title under Mark Richt?” reminded me of a conversation I recently had with a reporter. He basically asked me the same question about Richt  and I said something that shocked him a little bit and it may shock you. But I have believed this for a long time:

The question about Richt is irrelevant.

Why? Because I believe coaches should not be ultimately judged on whether or not they win national championships.

You read that right. Having covered this sport for a long time I have concluded that national championships are not an accurate measure on whether or not somebody is a good coach or a great coach. Now if a guy like Urban Meyer has won two national titles in three years and is favored to win another, it’s a pretty good bet that he’s a great coach. But the absence of a national championship does not mean that someone is a lesser coach.

Here is how I back that statement up. In the era of the BCS, and we’ve had some version of it since 1992, there are simply too many variables beyond winning games that factor into a coach and team just getting a CHANCE to play for the national championship. You have two human polls and a bunch of computer polls that are combined and spit out a formula that puts two teams into the national championship game. There is simply too much luck and too much good timing involved for the national championship to be the standard we use to measure coaches.

Let’s just take this decade:

**–In 2000 Miami beat No. 1 Florida State on the field, 27-24. Both Florida State and Miami ended the season with one loss and Miami finished No. 2 in the human polls. But the BCS formula gave the spot in the national championship game to Florida State. So Butch Davis is less of a coach that season because the computers didn’t allow his team to play Oklahoma for the title?

**–In 2001 Oregon finished the season ranked No. 2 in both human polls and had only one loss. Nebraska finished No. 4 in the human polls, also with one loss, a 62-36 thumping in its last regular season game by Colorado. But Nebraska goes to the Rose Bowl instead of Oregon and Joey Harrington. That was Mike Bellotti’s shot at the national title and but the computers picked Nebraska, who got embarrassed by Miami, 37-14.

In 2002, Ohio State went 12-0 in the regular season with a five-point win over Wisconsin, a six-point win over Penn State, and a 10-6 win over Purdue where Craig Krenzel threw a 37-yard touchdown pass on fourth down in the final two minutes. Then the Buckeyes needed overtime to beat Illinois and beat Michigan 14-9 with a touchdown with less than five minutes remaining. Ohio State could have seen its national championship dreams derailed several times but to the Buckeyes’ everlasting credit, they always found a way to win. Mark Richt’s best team at Georgia (12-1 with a loss to Florida), which finished No. 3 in the BCS Standings, just needed for Ohio State to lose one of those games and the Bulldogs are in the Fiesta Bowl against Miami.

I can go on. In 2004 Auburn went undefeated and won the SEC championship. Under normal circumstances the Tigers would have been a lock for the national championship game. But USC and Oklahoma started 1-2 and never lost. That was a great Auburn team that didn’t get a chance. So does that mean that Tommy Tuberville was not a national championship coach that season?

Urban Meyer has won two national championships at Florida but some things had to fall into place for him to get the chance. In 2006 UCLA pulled off a stunning upset of No. 2 Southern Cal and Florida jumped from No. 4 to No. 2 (over No. 3 Michigan) after beating Arkansas in the SEC championship game. Florida just destroyed Ohio State in the BCS championship game but what if USC had not lost? Would that have made Meyer less of a coach in 2006?

Last season Florida earned its way into the BCS title game by beating No. 1 Alabama in the SEC championship game. But what if Alabama had not been No. 1?  What if Alabama had been No. 10? Then Florida may have been watching Texas and Oklahoma in a rematch for the national title. Florida had the best team in the country and proved it in the BCS championship game. But some things had to fall into place for the Gators to get the chance.

The 2007 season is the best example of all of how it takes more than talent and good coaching to play for the BCS title. LSU began championship Saturday with two losses and ranked No. 7 in the BCS standings. The ONLY way the Tigers had a chance to get to the big game was by beating Tennessee in the SEC championship game and hoping beyond hope that both No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia BOTH lose. The odds against that were incredible but it did happen and LSU got its shot. LSU was the best team in the country at the end of the 2007 season but the Tigers would have never gotten the chance to prove it without some good fortune.

 

The point is this: In college football, especially in the SEC, the focus has to be on the conference championship. That is the thing as coaches and players that you can control.  If you are consistently playing for the SEC championship, then more years than not you’re going to be in the hunt for the national championship.

A coach is either consistently playing at the top of his conference or he’s not. If your coach has all the resources to compete for the conference championship and proves over a period of time that he can’t do it, you should certainly question whether or not he should continue to be your coach.

 But if two guys are consistently playing at the top of their league there is nothing magical that makes one a national championship coach and the other something less. It’s about winning your conference and then hoping the right dominoes fall into place that will give you the opportunity to play for something more.

Steve Spurrier told me during his great run at Florida that he never discussed the national championship with his players. “Our goal was to always win the SEC championship. That was the thing we could control,” Spurrier said. “If we won the conference championship, we figured there was a pretty good chance that we would get to play for the big title. But it doesn’t do any good to focus on that because you have no control over it.”

So what about this? Am I totally wrong here? The floor is yours. Have a great weekend.

 

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277 comments Add your comment

BravesFan79

August 2nd, 2009
5:38 pm

Im a strong believer in playoffs. Its what makes sports exciting! I always thought Joe Hamilton could of led GT to a national championship given a 8 team playoff, just like i felt the David Greene/ David Pollock team could of won the national title given a chance. Because those teams were never given a chance, i have since found CF boring and pointless. Oyea… the 2010 champion will either be USC, Florida or Ohio State…..just like almost every other year! BORING!! I cant believe the # of people that waste their money on such a sham of a sport!

matt

August 2nd, 2009
7:01 pm

Tide Rising

You have proven twice now that you cannot read or you choose to not read a full post when it does not agree with your point of view. You are a Bama homer who sees nothing but Crimson. You’re fooling yourself if you really think Saban will sign a contract that long. The man does not stay in one place longer than 5 or 6 years. Look back at his ENTIRE coaching career. Do you know what 1 million over 10 years comes to? I do. It’s 100,000 year. Chump change to Saban and any program in the SEC. What, is Saban paying for the new Outhouses on campus? He’ll hand over the remaining amount in cash as he is cleaning out his office in the next 4 or 5 years. Also, I said, my only hope is that Saban comes back to coach at Auburn after leaving Bama. I know you are laughing but every LSU fan had a little chuckle when the rumors starting coming out about Saban and Bama. We all said that wouldn’t happen. Guess what? It did.

Is the f-bomb really that bad? I’ve heard worse from the women and children of Alabama so I’m sure nobody was really that offended. I’m sure though that you are really proud of Nick “I’ll NEVER be the coach at Alabama” Saban. Yeah, what a role model he is. “Just lie to them son, everything will be ok.” Cursing is a word, lying is an action. Actions speak louder than words. You stay classy Tuscaloosa!

As for the rivalry. You are right, any LSU fan who says Bama is our biggest rival is wrong. Since Bama hasn’t really meant much in the past 12 years or so (to anyone), Bama is about 6th on LSU’s radar. You choose to ignore the fact that LSU has owned Bama for the past decade or so but I’m sure you’ll come back with something like “Bama has been on probation most of this decade.” To that I ask, Isn’t Bama ALWAYS on probation?

LSU is 7-3 against Bama in the past decade. Including now 4 wins in a row on the road against Bama. In a sport who’s motto is “What have you done for me lately” I find it amusing that you have to dig so deep into history to find stats. Oh by the way, who else did Bama own during their glory days? EVERYONE. So it doesn’t really hurt my feelings when you bring up the fact that Bama won a ton in Baton Rouge during the 60’s and 70’s. LSU is winning a ton NOW. And that is all that matters.

I’m sure you didn’t make it this far because you got a headache trying to sound out words. But remember, LSU almost beat undefeated Bama last year with Pick-6 Lee and a shoddy defense. Next year will be much different in your backyard. Have a great day!

matt

August 2nd, 2009
7:13 pm

Bravesfan79—

The UGA’s of earlier this decade were given a chance to play for a national title. They lined up and played a 11-12 game schedule like every other team in the nation yet they lost too many games. That is nobody’s fault but their own my friend. While a playoff is the best way to decide a champion, in the system we have right now, every game is a playoff and the final weekend of the season is a HUGE playoff. In ‘07 UGA did not make it to the final weekend and in ‘03 they lost in the final weekend. Nobody’s fault but their own, once again.

What’s the excuse going to be when there is a playoff and UGA or GT still gets left out?

matt

August 2nd, 2009
7:23 pm

Bravesfan79

The UGA’s of this decade have been given a chance to win a national title. Unless I missed something they lined up and played a full schedule while not on probation or any other punishment that would have excluded UGA from competition. They simply lost too many games. As the system is now, the full season is a playoff. The last weekend being the most important. In ‘03 UGA lost during the last weekend and in ‘07 UGA didn’t even make it to the last weekend. Nobody’s fault but their own my friend. In ‘03 Oklahoma played for a national championship without winning their conference. Everybody with the exception of OK fans complained and the system was changed. However, we are still hearing from UGA fans that they were screwed in ‘07 becuase they were the “best team” in the nation. You cannot have it both ways guys.

MLB has a playoff but I can tell you now that either the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers are going to win the World Series. The NFL has a playoff and I can tell you right now that either New England or Pittsburg is going to win the Super Bowl. The NBA has a playoff and I can tell you right now that the Lakers will win next year as well.

However, in a sport where only one single loss may or may not eliminate you from contention, the pressure and excitement are always top notch.

matt

August 2nd, 2009
7:28 pm

sorry for the double post, computer messed up.

Army Vet

August 2nd, 2009
8:11 pm

UGA will be lucky to win 7 games this year……no NC for CMR this year.

southgadawg88

August 2nd, 2009
8:23 pm

Personally I am sick of all the Saban this Saban that talk!!Let’s look at THE GREAT SABAN’S actual coaching record…LSU 2000 he went 8-4 2001 10-3 2002 8-5 2003 13-1 2004 9-3 2007 ALA 6-6 2008 10-2 WOW…That’s sooooo impressive!!Considering his history look for ALA to be around 8-5 this year.For the record at MSU 95 6-5-1 96 6-6 97 7-5 98 6-6 99 9-2 .Those are the FACTS…SOMEBODY PLEASE TELL ME WHY THIS MAN IS SUCH A GREAT COACH?

southgadawg88

August 2nd, 2009
8:31 pm

BAMASTAN,TideRising,Tony all you other Saban lovers….ANYBODY?

BravesFan79

August 2nd, 2009
9:05 pm

Matt: First of all… the CELTICS are the REAL champs and will beat the lfakers in the finals again just like when they were healthy! (i also root against Queen James just to be fair)
And as far as college football goes… the idea of “every game is a playoff” is a VERY weak argument. You might have a argument if all the teams played the same schedule! Is the pac 10 not weaker than the SEC? Dosent the fact that Ohio State dosent have to play a confrence title game make them more likely than other schools to be a lock for a title game slot? All is NOT fair in college football scheduling, so that argument does not work.
And as far as baseball goes… Atlanta will win the wild card, beat the Dodgers in the 1st round, and then beat the Phillies in the NLCS. Then beat the Red Sox in the World Series. But hey i have the blind faith of a true fan….. ; )

matt

August 2nd, 2009
10:17 pm

Southgadawg

I made the same statement a couple of days ago. Bama fans just seem to ignore those facts. The fact remains though, Saban has yet to put together back to back double digit win seasons. However, he is labled a great coach because he has a national championship. I do not agree with it but it is what it is. LSU fans are greatful though for what he did for LSU. Although, Les has done better!!

Bravesfan: Yes, I agree that not all is fair in college football scheduling (I’m looking at you Ole’ Miss). That still doesn’t take the excitment away for me though. In no other sport can one single regular season loss shatter the hopes and dreams of the players and fans of a program. In baseball a team can lose 40-45% of their games and still make the playoffs, giving them a chance at a championship. In Basketball, teams with losing records always seem to sneak into the playoffs and in football, we’ve seen teams with 7 or 8 losses make the playoffs and go to the superbowl. In 2007 LSU was the first two loss National Championship for quite some time. USC is always 1 loss away from being eliminated. We are starting to see now moreso than ever in college football teams realizing that they need to schedule better teams. USC plays in a weak conference so they must go play the likes of Ohio St., Virginia, Auburn, Arkansas, etc… Same goes for Ohio State. Florida though can afford to play The Citadel or Bama will play Louisiana-Monroe because the SEC is tougher on the whole.

Gotta give you credit for your faith in the Braves though. Maybe, just maybe!!

H. OBAMA

August 2nd, 2009
11:10 pm

JUST ONE THING TONY. LSU WAS NOT THE BEST TEAM ON 07. UGA AND S. CAL WOULD HAVE DEFEATED LSU IF GIVEN THE CHANCE. OHIO ST WOULD NOT HAVE HAD A CHANCE. LSU WAS LUCKY AND BEING A MEDIA FAVORITE ALLOWED THEM TJE OPPORTUNITY TO MOVE INTO THE NC GAME WITH LATE SEASON LOSSES THAT SHOULD HAVE ELIMINATED THEM. LSU WAS NOT EVEN THE BEST TEAM IN THE SEC IN 07.

matt

August 2nd, 2009
11:48 pm

H. OBAMA

LSU won the SEC in 2007 though. And that is all that will be remembered!!

MiamiDawg

August 2nd, 2009
11:55 pm

Loser talk.

The goal is to win a NC. Why else spend the kind of money Georgia’s athletic dept does?

aaron

August 2nd, 2009
11:56 pm

Enter your comments here

aaron

August 2nd, 2009
11:59 pm

Sunny boy, 3 of those 5 don’t play in the SEC…meaning they play an easier schedule oveall in comparison.Richt has finished as high as #2, & #3 in the nation…playing in the conference. I definitely think Meyer & Saban are great coaches, but it definitely takes a little luck, or at least for things to fall the right way to play for, & win a championship.

southgadawg88

August 3rd, 2009
12:09 am

True Matt and they never respond when it’s put out there.I look forward to the season though ..college football is so unpredictable it has to be the most exciting sport in my book.I see the media is pumping OKL,TEX and FLA to be the super teams again which means that 1 or 2 of them is going to fall flat on their face.OU is in serious danger of becoming the next Ohio State…I really don’t care what kind of numbers they put up this year I want to see them beat SOMEBODY in a bowl game…Stoops is running out of excuses.Tex plays in the same weak Big12 but they seem to step it up more in Bowl games.FLA has it’s own issues..Harvin was a special player,they lose their top WR as well..Tebow is not going to morph into some great passer his SR year and I just don’t think Tebow left,Tebow right,Tebow up the middle is going to get it done.Somebody else will bring home the NC this year…who that might be is up in the air but I’m sure it’s not gonna be one of those schools.

Mike Bobo 17 INT

August 3rd, 2009
1:05 am

Dog Fans

If you want to kick around worthless statistics, then fine. However, National Titles are all that count and for a program to only have 1 title in 116 years, and only 2 Heisman winners is pathetic.

Someone from Athens please get real and start hammering your own program. UGAY fans continue to support a program and a coach that is in the tank, plain and simple.

Ron Mexico

August 3rd, 2009
9:05 am

Whether or not a coach is good or great has nothing to do with the answer to the question “will he win a NC at UGA”. You can be good and win a NC, and be great and not win one. The question is do you think it will ever happen for him?

Jeff

August 3rd, 2009
10:32 am

When you look at all the “fortunate” things(I won’t say luck) that happened to open the gates for some teams/coaches you’ve mentioned, and compare that to Auburn/Tuberville in 2004, it lets you know that it’s never a level playing field when you start rating teams or coaches by awards they won.

DawginLex

August 3rd, 2009
11:02 am

Move the above post from the interception idiot to the top of the dumbest post ever list:

UGA ruined donnan’s career?

UGA caused Donnan to do the following:

1.) Play Quincy Carter even though the whole world knew he was a drug using low life

2.) Recruit Sanks instead of Jamal Lewis even though Lewis was bigger and stronger and just as fast and was begging to come to UGA.

3.) Decided to run “just 1 more play” against GT in 1999 instead of taking a knee and kicking the game winning FG.

4.) Running reverse after reverse even though the whole stadium knew they were going to be run and continue to lose yardage.

5.) Promote Rodney Garner to DC and let him run the same defensive alignment the entire first half against Auburn in 1997 with no adjustments. This denied UGA a chance to go to ATL for the SECCG.

Donnan made all these decisions on his own. UGA had nothing to do with it. He made his own bed and got fired because of his own decisions.

BIGBOY

August 3rd, 2009
1:26 pm

DAWGINLEX Rodney Garner has never been a DC at UGA….EVER…As for as Quincy Carter if he was using drugs while at UGA that would mean the entire Athletic Department was in on the cover up of his failed drug test including Dooley

BIGBOY

August 3rd, 2009
1:32 pm

Furthermore you claim to have played for Dooley…if that’s true you of all people should know that drug use was rampant in Athens during the 80’s remember Nate Lewis?Or do you even know who he is?

Will

August 3rd, 2009
1:47 pm

IN 2000 11-1 Washington beat 11-1 Miami and 11-1 Oregon State, lost to 10-2 Oregon. Yet No Mention of them, wonder why?

BIGBOY

August 3rd, 2009
3:08 pm

DAWGINLEX I guess you don’t anything to say.For the record the DC you are talking about was actually TENN secondary coach(name escapes me at the moment)Donnan overreached on that call and the guy only lasted 1 year.As for the drug use that’s not a knock on Dooley but it was rampant all over college football during the 80’s.Guys got away with a whole hell of lot more than these kids today could even dream about.A lot of players didn’t even go to class and that was also happening all across the college football back in the 80’s.

Tom

August 3rd, 2009
4:08 pm

You made an error in your reporting ..Ohio State was 13-0 in the regular season and ended up 14-0.. By the way, it does not matter if a team wins by one point or 21 points, a win is a win.
That same OSU team snapped a @34 game win streak Miami had going and OSU also sent a record 14 players off that team to the NFL.

[...] Just ran across this. Lots of good points in this article….. Coaches should not be judged on national championships | Mr. College Football [...]

CC

August 21st, 2009
7:35 am

“Tech…tried to find a team not to play. They could’ve played Colorado in the Orange bowl, but chose not to”

Denver Dog, what’s your basis for that statement? Source? Link please? Maybe some UGA friend made it up and you thought it sounded plausible somehow?

I think that GT would have loved to play Colorado, but they were REQUIRED to represent the ACC in Orlando. So they went there and pounded Nebraska by 24. Big Eight champ Colorado was contractually obligated to go to the Orange Bowl.

(And Colorado needed a late questionable clipping penalty call and a missed PAT by Notre Dame earlier just to win their bowl game by a single point.)

I wish GT could have played Colorado instead…or Notre Dame for that matter. I watched both of those bowl games, and based on the way they everyone played I would have REALLY liked Tech’s chances against either of those teams that day.

As much as the BCS sucks, if it had been in effect that year we probably would have had that GT-Colorado matchup. Oh well…