The first coaching casualty of the season has already arrived: June Jones is out at SMU.
While Jones exited stage right, a number of coaches at high-profile programs moved closer to and away from the hot seat in week two. There’s a lot to discuss about the nation’s FBS sideline sultans.
Question No. 1: Is Brady Hoke on the hot seat, and if he wasn’t on the hot seat going into the season, why would (should?) he be now, just two games in?
On Twitter @TheCoachBart
Coaching is a bottom-line business. You win, you’re a great guy even if you’re not, really. You lose, you’re a horrible person even if you’re not, really.
Anyone who does it, be it middle school, high school, college, or pros, either understands it, learns to understands it, or gets out of it. There’s no gray area in coaching. You understand how you’re rated and what determines whether you keep your job or not.
Bottom line is, Brady Hoke isn’t winning enough, and in the end, that’s his job. Worse than that, Michigan is getting worse. Every coaching job you take has an arc that you understand going in.
You take a job at Indiana, you have time to win eight games and make the alumni base happy. You take a job at Michigan, winning eight games is eventually going to get you fired.
Michigan isn’t winning football games, and the Wolverines don’t look like they’re getting any better in losing them. That’s why he’s on whatever a “hot seat” is. Win, keep your job. Lose, you don’t. It’s pretty black and white.
On Twitter @SectionTPJ
When I saw this question, my first reaction was, “Surely, you can’t be serious.”
But I did speak with several Michigan fans this weekend, who all answered the question by saying, “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.”
All kidding aside, Brady Hoke is not on the hot seat. Sure, Saturday’s turnover-filled loss against Notre Dame was embarrassing, but there are still ten games left on the schedule. As long as the Wolverines take care of business the rest of the way, they can still win the Big Ten championship and play in a major bowl game.
In other words: losing to the Fighting Irish didn’t destroy the 2014 campaign the way people said it did. Instead of pointing fingers, Michigan needs to go back to the drawing board and find a way to win. After all, the Wolverines still control their own destiny.
For those fans that still want Hoke’s head on a platter, I offer you two words of advice: Chuck Reedy.
If you’re wondering who he is, Reedy was the head coach at Baylor from 1993-’96. After two straight winning seasons in the Southwest Conference, the Bears limped to a 4-7 mark in their initial campaign in the Big 12. Rather than give him a chance to right the ship, the school canned Reedy at the end of the season. Baylor would go to 39-110 (.261) over the next 13 years, failing to post a winning record during that span.
That dreadful period makes even the Rich Rodriguez era look successful.
On Twitter @SectionMZ
Given that Brady Hoke was painted into a corner, to the point that he had to cut loose his offensive coordinator from San Diego State, Al Borges, this did not seem like a situation in which Hoke would automatically get a 2015 season, regardless of the result.
No, Michigan did not need to flourish this season, but by the end of 12 games, the Wolverines needed to be able to know (not just feel, but know) that they were headed in the right direction.
After two games, the lack of progress on the offensive side of the ball is so pronounced that the Wolverines find themselves in an “inch-along” situation. If Michigan can’t begin to take whole steps forward — if this team can’t begin to improve by miles, not just inches — it will be hard to deny the notion that Hoke is not the man for the program.
He’s not on the hot seat in terms of an in-season firing, but he’s on the hot seat in terms of his job status at the end of the season in early December.
Question No. 2: Not including Brady Hoke, which coach is in the most trouble after week two?
Matt did this before me, so I guess props on not procrastinating, but Mike Leach is my answer.
Leach has never been a big booster butt-kisser, and that sort of thing works when you win because… see my answer above to the Brady Hoke question. However, that same tendency sort of gives a coach a shorter rope when he doesn’t win. I’m not saying one thing or the other about what should have happened at Texas, but the acrimonious ending to the Mack Brown regime came about because Mack was good with people that have money, and that keeps you around a little longer when you don’t win games.
It’s a band aid, for sure, but Leach is his own man. If it works, he’s a visionary and a genius and the envy of coaches who have to pander and coddle the big money fan base. If it doesn’t work, you find yourself out on your backside pretty early.
Losing to Rutgers in a stadium where it looked like only the seats were watching, and then to Nevada while not really scoring much of anything in spite of a ton of returning talent, tends to get people to frown at you. When the boosters have power and they don’t really care for you to begin with, it gets you fired.
Living in Seattle, I can see the fire in Pullman, Washington, from my house. Mike Leach’s first two games of the new season at Washington State have immediately adjusted the way his latest coaching stop is being evaluated… and will continue to be assessed.
Yet, Leach delivered a bowl game last season, so in light of all that WSU has invested in him to this point, a bad 2014 probably won’t (and shouldn’t) get him a pink slip.
If there was a coach who had really stepped into a cauldron after week two, it was the coach who decided — properly, it should be said — that he should no longer continue.
It makes complete sense that June Jones ran out of fuel, a reality amplified by this tweet after the news broke of his resignation from the SMU head coaching position:
I spent some time with Jones at AAC Media Days. Every coach handles that stuff different, but he certainly came off as spent.
— Steven Godfrey (@38Godfrey) September 8, 2014
The reasoning for why Jones needed to go is something which extends far beyond the near-total absence of offense through two miserable games against Baylor and North Texas. It’s not hard to understand: Jones wanted, at least for a period of time, to go to Arizona State (the job Todd Graham got instead), but he wound up back at SMU. Jones was frustrated with his experience in the Dallas area, but he reconsidered — how reluctantly is something only he knows in full. Yet, when Jones encountered that moment of complete disgust, the moment that made him explore Arizona State as a new landing spot, SMU administrators should have profusely thanked him for reviving the Ponies in the post-Death Penalty era… and sent him packing, since he had already arrived at the true endpoint of this particular job in his own mind.
When a coach has a crisis of confidence borne of frustration with his program, the athletic director should step in and bring aboard someone who completely wants to coach that program. June Jones did SMU a favor by stepping away now. Then again, he did SMU no favors at all by returning to the program a few years after he had already committed “coaching infidelity” in his heart. The (Sun) Devil(s) didn’t make him do it; June Jones brought this on himself.
As many of you know, I wrote a column titled “7 Coaches On the Hot Seat” during the preseason. It listed the coaches that were most in danger of losing their jobs based on their entire body of work so far.
Neither Mike Leach nor June Jones appeared in the article.
However, FIU’s Ron Turner did. His lone season as the Panthers’ coach was a complete disaster as the team went 1-11, including a loss to Bethune-Cookman of the FCS. The offense – Turner’s specialty – was absolutely awful, finishing dead last in the nation with a paltry 222.3 yards per game.
The 2014 campaign has been more of the same. FIU didn’t fare much better against Bethune-Cookman this season, mustering just 186 yards in a 14-12 loss to the Wildcats. Moreover, despite playing both of its contests against the lower subdivision, the Panthers still rank 120th nationally in total offense with a pedestrian 281.5 yards per contest.
That’s not going to get the job done in Conference USA, which has quietly emerged as one of the top “Gang of Five” leagues this season, certainly better than many might have expected two weeks ago.
So, would the school really give Turner the ax after just two seasons?
It wouldn’t surprise me. If AD Pete Garcia dismissed Mario Cristobal – who put the program on the map – after one subpar season, it’s safe to assume that everyone’s fair game.
Question No. 3: Which head coach or coordinator impressed you the most in week two?
Without question, the answer is Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster.
Make no mistake about it: Foster earned my respect years ago. His defenses have been the gold standard in the ACC ever since the Hokies joined the league 2004. Opposing offenses simply can’t find the end zone against the Tech defense. In fact, Virginia Tech has finished either first or second in scoring defense in nine of its ten years in the conference.
Only the 2010 ACC championship squad failed to the finish in the top two. It ranked “only” fourth in the league in scoring defense.
Despite these superlatives, Virginia Tech opened Saturday’s night’s contest as a decided underdog. Most experts – myself included – expected the Ohio State Buckeyes to move the ball at will against the Hokies.
Oh, were we wrong about that! Once again, Foster came up with a game plan to take the opposing offense completely out of its element. The Virginia Tech front seven dominated the line of scrimmage, limiting Ohio State to just 108 yards and a paltry 2.7 yards per carry – both lows for the team under Urban Meyer. This forced the Buckeyes to the air, which didn’t work out very well as the Hokie defense picked off three passes, and held J.T. Barrett to completions in just 9 of his 29 attempts.
It’s hard not to be impressed with this effort, especially when you consider that Ohio State hadn’t lost a home opener since 1979.
Last year, I buried Scot Loeffler, the offensive coordinator of the Virginia Tech Hokies. I seriously questioned the wisdom of Frank Beamer when he kept Loeffler on his staff, all because of the loyalty Beamer shows to all of his assistant coaches. I felt that Beamer’s enduring loyalty — one of his best traits as a man — was becoming a problem within the context of coaching: The Hokie icon was giving assistants a second chance even when they didn’t seem to deserve one.
Well, after Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio, the reality of the situation at Virginia Tech is very different.
Writers and public commentators have to admit when they’re wrong, especially when they’re loudly and severely wrong.
I was loudly and severely wrong about you, Scot Loeffler. Full stop.
This is a copout answer I suppose but going with Matt Viator. Don’t know who he is? Use Google. Or keep reading. He’s the head coach of McNeese State, who was an odd bounce on a late fumble from probably having a shot at beating Nebraska in Lincoln this past weekend.
I say it because I looked at the dejection of the McNeese State players when Ameer Abdullah went “He Man” against the entire defense with 20 seconds left and scored the game-winning touchdown. Viator’s players looked destroyed.
Granted, you lose, you sort of feel that way organically, but you could tell in that moment that the young men from McNeese State came in genuinely expecting to win. They felt that they let a lot of people down when they didn’t.
FCS coaches don’t get the “scribe time” they probably deserve. For so long, there’s been what feels like a metaphorical glass ceiling on making the jump to the next level. It’s not easy to lead undersized, under-fast, under-talented players to the point where they feel like they should win, nearly do, and are dejected when they don’t against a heavyweight with elite recruits such as Nebraska.
There’s little shame in losing. There’s a lot in not giving it everything you had on the way there. Viator’s kids at least gave that.