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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http://twitter.com/MrCFB

277 comments Add your comment

bubba

July 31st, 2009
8:30 am

spot on great info

Saint Simons

July 31st, 2009
8:33 am

((((((45-42)))))) hahaha

Eric

July 31st, 2009
8:35 am

Tony,

Coach Tuberville and Auburn won the 2004 People’s Choice National Championship. I know, I was there!

viningsgator

July 31st, 2009
8:37 am

What’s wrong with being called a good coach?

The word “great” gets thrown around way too much. In order for a coach to be considered “great” they must have won a National Title.

TECHnicallySpeaking

July 31st, 2009
8:37 am

Richt is a good coach. He may evolve into a great coach.

The2 Davids&VernLundquist

July 31st, 2009
8:38 am

Does CMR have the ability to “heal” his players after they are injured?

bmoney

July 31st, 2009
8:43 am

Sorry, Tony.

I think that you have to factor money into this equation. If a coach’s salary has to consistently increase when he wins to “keep pace”, then fans have every right to demand a national title. When coaches decide that they will settle for less pay, I think fans will have lower expectations.

Alabamadawg

July 31st, 2009
8:47 am

JB

July 31st, 2009
8:51 am

I’m a Dawg fan, but i think Auburn pulled the trigger on Tubberville too fast. He got caught in a lull of talent and no SEC caliber QB, plus the timing of Saban arriving at Bama. I think he should have been given time to right the ship…….On a “teachable moment”, Tubbs liked to fire assit. coach’s when things didn’t work, and we all scream at Richt to make changes, but I think firing coach’s hurt Tubbs in the long run…….Georgia’s coach’s may not be the best in the SEC, but they ain’t bad. As bad as the D played last year for lot’s of reasons, that unit STILL finished 22nd nationally !!!!!!!!!!

Tim

July 31st, 2009
8:54 am

Excellent Tony you are dead on

JB

July 31st, 2009
8:55 am

Another note, I think Clemson will regret not hiring Tubbs. I would have as AD.

jacketbacker

July 31st, 2009
8:57 am

agree with bmoney…if you’re coach is getting paid 2 mil+ per season, and more in some cases, there had better be some serious hardware in the trophy case…..an undefeated season is not easy but it is within a teams control….auburn in ‘04 was a fluke thing…..in most cases, if a team from a BCS conference does not lose they will be in very good shape to be in the NC game…..

Sunny Purdue

July 31st, 2009
8:57 am

If there is so much luck involved why do the same coaches (Carroll, Meyer, Tressel, Saban, Brown, Stoops) always seem to find themselves in the BCS championship game – or close to it? Take a look at the past few years – those are some lucky guys.

BankerDawg

July 31st, 2009
8:58 am

One of your best blogs to date, Tony.

Agree 100%.

Win your Conference title, and then watch the chips fall where they may, because the coach, as you pointed out above, has zero control over what occurs at that point.

Oh, and thanks for reminding me about 2002.

Craig freaking Krenzel…..unbelievable.

GO DAWGS!

geauxtigers

July 31st, 2009
8:58 am

good point Tony. Didn’t UGA talk too much about a national title run last year? That is what did them in, along with Matt’s inaccuracy.

Seriously?

July 31st, 2009
8:59 am

“In college football, especially in the SEC, the focus has to be on the conference championship. ”

Why throw in “especially in the SEC”? B/c you had such juggernauts as UT, UK, Vandy, Miss St, Arkansas, usce & Auburn last year??? I’m pretty sure that the goal of EVERY team is to win their conference first. This “SEC beats up on each other” mentality is a joke now kids (almost as bad as some GT fans who claim academics with every other breath, GIVE IT A REST). I don’t care how great these teams ONCE were, but I know they were crap last year, and there is absolutely no sign that they will all of a sudden be great this year (unless Coach O ripping his shirt off is the best motivator on earth, which it could be).

SEC couldn’t even fill up its alloted bowl slots last year. SEC last year was only top heavy. The rest of the conference was crap. Basically the Pac-10 except with 2 great teams, and 2/3 mediocre teams.

With the rest of your comments, yes, it normally does take some luck to get into the BCSNCG. But keep in mind that uga beat 1 team ranked in the top 25 in 2002 (No. 22 Auburn), and i believe only 3 with winning records. This was before everyone went SEC crazy, because it wasn’t the ALMIGHTY conference and its what the SEC is heading to again. Couple great teams, and then some other teams. How quickly we forget.

JB

July 31st, 2009
9:00 am

Sunny, those Schools have, get the best players in the Country….Put Johnson from Vandy at ANY of those schools, he wins a championship within 5 years.

UGASlobberknocker

July 31st, 2009
9:03 am

At what point does the moderator of this blog say “enough is enough” with the constant juvenile postings of St Simons and that score. Does the ajc not have the ability to delete asinine posts, especially the repetitive BS of this mental midget? Ive gone from being mad about it, to thinking its funny, to my position now that his postings are a pathetic indicator of some serious psychological problems. Obviously this guy needs some therapy; or at least a girlfriend.

Step up, Mr. Moderator. and show some gonads. Delete this loser’s 45-42 posts the second they appear. Otherwise, this blog is going to continue to degenerate into a pissing contest, eventually leading to the serious fans abandoning it as a forum for losers and spankers. Given the sorry state of the printed version of this paper; can the AJC stand to lose its online customers?

shankit

July 31st, 2009
9:03 am

Steve had a losing bowl record while coach at Florida.
Did win a NC, only with a rematch with a team which
had already beaten him during regular season.
Another example of the screwed up system. FSU
should never had to play Florida twice.

Eric

July 31st, 2009
9:06 am

JB is right about Auburn and Tuberville. I just hope it wasn’t a huge mistake. Maybe Gene Chizik will be the next golden boy. I certainly think the potential is there. War Eagle!!

Eric

July 31st, 2009
9:09 am

Grow up Slobber. Just ignore the posts you don’t like.

CharlotteGator

July 31st, 2009
9:10 am

Interesting take Tony. For the most part I agree with your take. Conference championships usually are the measure. Of course, continually being at the top of the Big East or ACC or Sun-Belt is like being the valedictorian of summer school. :) Sorry, had to do it. ACC Truthers, flame away…

I wonder though, I’m not sure the Mark Bradley article was arguing whether Richt was a great coach or not, I think that’s a given. If the question is will UGA win a BCS title with Mark Richt, could the issue at hand or at least posed by the question be his ’style’ or the intense competition in the league, etc. I think it’s a valid question. My personal opinion is that he’ll have an opportunity, but there’s a big hurdle to climb just to win the SEC. Given the talent, competition, etc., I don’t know that any coach wouldn’t be a little ‘lucky’ to win the conference and play for a title. So much has to go your way just to make it to Atlanta. This year is a perfect example. Although everyone picks the Gators to win the SEC, there’s not one level-headed Gator fan who can boast supreme confidence over this happening for sure. Even though our schedule isn’t the toughest, we can still see land mines all over it if a few things happen or if attitudes sour.

Anyway, I’m interested to hear everyone else’s take.

Joe M

July 31st, 2009
9:11 am

This is very simple in relation to Richt. In 2002 he and Van Gorder were out coached by Ron freaking Zook and Ed stinking Zaunbrecher. That started the trend that I have seen under Richt, which is Georgia will lose one game a year they shouldn’t lose. Starting with the 02 loss to Florida there was 03 Florida (Zook AGAIN!), 04 Tenn., 05 Sugar Bowl/WVU debacle, 06 Vandy(AT HOME) and Kentucky, 07 S. Carolina, and Tech last year with a 17 point lead at half.

Not to mention the blowouts that have accumulated in the past 4-5 years.

Love Richt, but he is simply too nice to reach that level. I say you can be good w/o a National Championship, but not great. Great coaches find a way to get it done, no matter the odds they face. My God, Les Miles found a way, LES MILES!

rocksteadyfreddie

July 31st, 2009
9:12 am

Tony I agree with your premise. Consistent success at the conference level should be the measuring stick, but getting to a BCS CG game and winning it while there is a factor IMO.
Either way you look at it, Meyer is a better coach than Richt though.

geauxtigers

July 31st, 2009
9:13 am

Hey St. Simons: 38 – 3. Who cares about your acc, it’s a basketball conference anyway.

Bamafan

July 31st, 2009
9:15 am

Tony, Good article and hope one day Mark Richt wins a cystal trophy. It is really hard to win a national championship these days with the computer polls and other coaches polls. Great coaches
are measured by national championships like the best Bear Bryant and Bobby Bowden and Urban Meyer. Saban is a very good coach and would be considered a great coach if he was a media darling,
but he was in the top ten poll of the most hated sports people the other day and finished 9th in the poll.ROLL TIDE!!

CharlotteGator

July 31st, 2009
9:18 am

On a totally separate note, since it’s Friday, just wanted to fill you guys in on the hot CFB topics on Charlotte sports radio this morning.

UNC wanting to push back the game with South Carolina now, because they’d rather play LSU. Are you kidding me? Do they prefer a beatdown?

Question of the Day was “What’s your dream inter conference matchup?” During my 15 minute drive in, 3 USCe fans all called in independently of each other and said they wanted a piece of the Trojans to find out who the real USC was. Again, do they just prefer beatdowns? This made no sense to me.

One super intelligent USCe fan went on for a few minutes about how if they hadn’t rotated QB’s last year they would have beat UF in the swamp. The hosts laughed him off the air.

Man I miss living in real SEC country.

Eddie

July 31st, 2009
9:21 am

Excellent article Tony. You are right on with your comments. It is nice to have the MNC by your name, but that is not what makes you very good or great. As one previous writer said, “great” is thrown around a lot of places that it does not belong.

UGASlobberknocker

July 31st, 2009
9:21 am

Eric, you are probably right about the uselessness of my last post, although I dont think it is me that needs to grow up.

AUtiger

July 31st, 2009
9:22 am

I have mixed feelings about Tubbs.. great personality and that team in 2004 was just loaded. 4 first round picks on that team. But another measure of a great coach is can they consistantly recruit top talent and win with that talent. Auburn hasn’t had a good QB in 5 years and we should have recruited one by now.

JB

July 31st, 2009
9:25 am

T, good call, per usual.

The Dawgs could have easily played in the NC, and won, several times. Nobody wanted to play us in’07.

That said, bring on a playoff. ;-)

HBTD!!!

UGASlobberknocker

July 31st, 2009
9:26 am

AUTiger is right about no QB lately, but to me, another problem is that Auburn used to have dominating lineman on both sides of the ball..I dont see that any more.

SugarHillDawg

July 31st, 2009
9:27 am

Only if you don’t play for national championships.

Jack G.

July 31st, 2009
9:27 am

Saint Simon—-your constant 45-42 HAHAHAHAHA has become more of an embarassment to GaTech than to UGA.

gatorman770

July 31st, 2009
9:27 am

Tony good insights.

The current BCS system screwed Urban’s undefeated Utah team as well as undefeated Auburn in 2004.

Only a playoff system will make the NC truely legitimate and a playoff system will have to be implemented in steps and the first step is to equalize the conferences over the next couple of years and the independents, like Notra Dame, will have to join a conference or be left out.

Delusional SEC Fan

July 31st, 2009
9:27 am

Yes, Charlotte Gator, we are quite delusional down here. Prime example: Eric, an Auburn fan, said Chizik has the potential to be the “Next Gold Boy.”

But seriously, UNC is looking at the national exposure the Kickoff game provides. The stomping they will receive is an afterthought.

Huh?

July 31st, 2009
9:31 am

“Steve Spurrier told me during his great run at Florida that he never discussed the national championship with his players.”

Very interesting. Many times I’ve heard low IQ haters claim that Georgia aims low and only wants to win division and conference titles and is too scared to aim for National Championships. I’m paraphrasing a little bit but that is basically the jibba jabba that these idiots have been spewing for years, especially since Richt won a couple of SEC titles.

“Either way you look at it, Meyer is a better coach than Richt though.’

I don’t think Tony said that he wasn’t. In fact, I don’t think Tony made any comparison between the two at all. Its entirely possible that BOTH are great coaches. Did you ever think of that? Sure, you’d have to give the edge to Meyer right now. That’s a no brainer, but it doesn’t mean that Richt is not a great coach. This stuff is not an either/or mutually exclusive proposition people.

Chew on this St Simons

July 31st, 2009
9:33 am

7 out of 8. 14 out of 18. 23 out of 31. 59-39-5 total.

Huh?

July 31st, 2009
9:35 am

“Not to mention the blowouts that have accumulated in the past 4-5 years.”

I count a grand total of two 20+ point losses that “accumulated” from ‘04 through ‘08. What’s the count in the fantasy world that you live in? Dismissed.

Denver Dog

July 31st, 2009
9:38 am

Good job, when Tech won thier championship in 90, they tried to find a team not to play. They could’ve played Colorado in the Orange bowl, but chose not to. At least Bama, UT, LSU, UF have played some real teams to win it.

DawginLex

July 31st, 2009
9:40 am

tony,

Is Joe Cox better than Craig Krenzel?

That’s why UGA has a chance this year. All depends on the defense. The OL is going to be the strength of this team instead of the achilles heel.

Richt is a great coach. Your SOS quote os the ONLY thing that came out of his mouth that I agree with. I still predict he will be unemployed this time next year after an 0-2 start.

The Blog Referee

July 31st, 2009
9:42 am

UGASlobberknocker,

Yes, the blog “moderator” does have the ability to delete blog postings that violate the AJC blog user agreement. Generally, profane, overtly sexual, or racially offensive comments will be deleted. Since the AJC does not proactively patrol its own blogs, it relies on good citizens like yourself to report offensive comments by clicking on the “Report this comment” link, found underneath every blog posting, and complete the information requested.

Given the AJC’s policy of erring on the side of free speech, the AJC will generally not delete comments merely because they are juvenile, repetitive or annoying.

BTW, I have no official capacity as “The Blog Referee.” I am merely a self-righteous fellow blogger who gets irritated enough to periodically report the more offensive comments and request their deletion. You can do exactly the same thing, and you can become “The Blog Line Judge” or “The Blog Referee II” or . . . well, you get the idea. GATA.

Delusional SEC Fan

July 31st, 2009
9:42 am

If Richt was in the Big 10, he would have played for a national championship by now. His team would have been crushed by an SEC team but at least he would have played for one.

Instant Classic1

July 31st, 2009
9:43 am

Like it or hate it, great coaches are defined by NC’s. If Sprurrier hadn’t won one at UF he would not be thought of so highly 13 years later. Think of it this way, if Richt ends his career with more wins and no NC’s than Vince, are they both great coaches?

Thanks Tony, always enjoy reading your pieces.

KR

July 31st, 2009
9:45 am

Part of what led to Tuberville’s downfall at Auburn was his steadfast loyalty to a core group of his assistants. While there was a revolving door at some of the assistant positions, it appeared that others couldn’t do anything that would get them fired.

He also wouldn’t step in and override one of his coordinators’ decisions during games, no matter how bad the decisions they were making. (For example, see 2008, Vanderbilt, 4th and goal on the 3 yard line…)

Tuberville was a good coach. But if the measure of a good coach is conference championships, then Tuberville came up short. He fielded a lot of good teams but didn’t really rack up a whole lot of SEC championships with them. The biggest frustration was that we (me and my Auburn friends) were tired of eeking out wins, losing some games we should have won and generally achieving in the top 3rd, but rarely at the very top.

In the end, Auburn and its fans wanted more than he could or would achieve. Gene Chizik may or may not be the answer. But after 10 years, we did know that Tommy Tuberville was not.

Not Disappointed

July 31st, 2009
9:46 am

I’m a do or die Georgia Tech fan and Alumni.

That being said, “Coach Richt is a great coach and human being.” It’s hard not to like him or his family. I brought back a spark to Georgia that I hadn’t seen since the early 80’s.

He is a good Coach.

I remain, “Not Disappointed and a Ramblin Wreck!” Good weekend all. Yeah pups too.

Joe M

July 31st, 2009
9:46 am

04- L to Auburn 26-6, 06- L to Tenn. 51-33, 07- L to Tenn. 35-14, 08- L to Bama 41-30 (and don’t even try to act like that wasn’t a blowout) and L to Florida 49-10 and it wasn’t that close.

That’d be FIVE blowouts in 4 yrs. DISMISSED!

Huh? Serioiusly?

July 31st, 2009
9:48 am

Huh?,

Nice try. I know you put 20+ points as your line of demarcation but c’mon we know blowouts when they happen. Not to mention they were blowouts in key games that really affected the Dawgs’ seasons. Let’s not dismiss so easily.

2008
UF 49-10
Bama 41-30

2007
Tennessee 35-14

2006
Tennessee 51-33

2004
Auburn 24-6

2003
LSU 34-13

reality check

July 31st, 2009
9:48 am

JB I also thought Auburn pulled the plug on Tuberville too fast, but the true story is that Tuberville found out Auburn had approached Houston Nutt about the Auburn job and that triggered a clause in his contract that he walked away with $8 million. It was Tuberville’s decision. Bobby Lowder & company are not the brightest candles on the cake. Tuberville found out about it because he and Houston Nutt have the same agent.

The news media never reported this, but I can assure you that is what haqppened.

Georgia News - 7/31/09 | MrSEC.com

July 31st, 2009
9:51 am

[...] In a cost-cutting measure, there’s a chance some Georgia coaches could be forced to take furloughs.  If football coaches have to take furloughs, just when will they take them?For Georgia fans, traveling with the Dawgs is an expensive proposition.  Just to gain the right to buy tickets from Georgia’s allotment at Neyland Stadium this year, a fan has to have donated at least $21,950 to UGA’s Athletic Association over the course of their lifetime.  Well, at least it’s cumulative.Will Georgia win a national title under Mark Richt?  The AJC’s Tony Barnhart says it’s a faulty question because coaches should not be judged by their national championship trophies. [...]