Rumors are swirling that several candidates declined to coach the Gophers. Many Gopher fans were expecting a flashy, fancy, polished, expensive coach to ride into town with Hollywood-style hype.
Enter Jerry Kill.
Fans, sportswriters, and bandwagon hopefuls were in such shock that they didn't take time to evaluate the entire situation.
What do we know about Jerry Kill?
First, he's a real football coach who has proven for 17 years that he can coach winning teams and maintain a winning program. He didn't have just one or two good years due to lucky breaks or somebody else's recruits.
Second, Jerry Kill survived a battle with kidney cancer in 2005. It is doubtful that he takes anything for granted, or that he feels entitled to anything. He knows what it means to persevere when faced with adversity. My guess is that he's tough as nails, and will coach his players with that same level of determination and relentless focus.
Third, he used to be a high school coach. In particular, he should know how to relate to Minnesota coaches and high school level athletes. Is there anybody else tired of seeing Minnesota athletes find success elsewhere? He may not land all the recruits with delusions of 5-star grandeur, but will those guys ever stay in Minnesota when the smarmy plastic people of win-at-all-cost programs come calling?
Why might Jerry Kill win at Minnesota?
Let's face it. Minnesota will need at least several years of program building before recruiting alongside the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, USC, or SEC powerhouses. Minnesota's best chance of winning is to pick up as many three and four star recruits as possible, and to pursue guys with the right mentality. No primadonnas. Tough, smart, hard-working players. Teams such as Northwestern and Boise State have proven that you can out-coach and outsmart superior talent with the right group of middle-to-upper-tier recruits.
If anyone was going to consistently bring in 5-star recruiting classes to Minnesota, it was Tim Brewster. Nobody worked harder at recruiting than Brewster and his staff. Brewster was a master recruiter, and will probably remain so if his next job is at the college level. Brewster upgraded the talent level and brought in several potential stars, but he couldn't bring in enough talent to compensate for a lack of coaching experience. If Jerry Kill can bring in recruiting classes at least similar in ranking to those of Brewster, he may be able to mold them into an upper-tier Big Ten team within a few years.
Why do I like Jerry Kill, so far?
Minnesota is hungry for a winner. Kill has been a winner. So, why all the discontent? Take an unbiased look at the last few weeks. Twitter-crazed fans. Numerous false leads. False hope that a "Tubby Smith of football" considered Minnesota to be a dream job. Talk of $5 million salaries. In many ways, a win-at-all costs frenzy. Is that what Minnesota is all about?
Minnesota football has a history of tough, hard-working winners like Bronco Nagurski. It has a history of diversity for the right reasons, not just for winning games and making money. Minnesotans embrace tough blue-collar coaches like Bud Grant and Ron Gardenhire, and traditionally don't buy snake oil from fast-talkers with slick hair, fake tans, and white veneer teeth.
Maybe I'm wrong, but from what I've read and seen about Jerry Kill he should fit right in up here. He's tough, determined, hard-working, and he tells jokes. He doesn't need his ego stroked. He coaches smart football, and all indications are that he does things the right way.
I'm sick and tired of hearing about other programs with their revoked Heisman Trophies, allegations of payoffs, and sleaze-bag coaches who use negative recruiting tactics. Jerry Kill may be the best chance Minnesota has to not just win, but win the right way. There will always be programs that prefer bling over brains, and silicone over testosterone. But they're just not, nor will they ever understand, Minnesota. Jerry Kill just might be the guy who puts together a team that kicks their primadonna asses.