Let me open by saying that I'm not proud of what I'm about to do here. I hate, hate, HATE Iowa and enjoy mocking Kirk Ferentz whenever possible. Normally reading a hit piece on Kirk or Iowa football would elicit a chuckle from me. I'd watch Iowa fans melt down across the interwebs and enjoy a healthy dose of schadenfreude. But today? Well...that's not going to happen. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself here. What could possibly have convinced me to defend Captain Curt?
The five worst coaches (in alphabetical order)
Tim Beckman, Illinois. I may be jumping the gun here, but Beckman -- hired at Illinois following a pair of eight-win seasons at Toledo -- has done little to inspire confidence either on the field (2-10 in 2012) or on the recruiting trail with the Illini.
Ron English, Eastern Michigan. Patience is a virtue in Ypsilanti, Mich., where the Eagles have gone 10-38 (7-25 in the MAC) in four seasons under the former Michigan and Louisville defensive coordinator.
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa. The 2009 Orange Bowl proved an aberration in Ferentz's otherwise unimpressive recent tenure. Take away that one 11-2 season and the Hawkeyes are 47-41 since 2005 under their $3.6 million-per-year coach.
Lane Kiffin, USC. Any confidence inspired by a breakthrough 10-2 campaign in 2011 was shattered by last year's 7-6 implosion, when Kiffin's USC squad -- without question -- finished as the biggest underachiever in the country.
Charlie Weis, Kansas. Weis' past five seasons as a college coach consisted of 3-9, 7-6 and 6-6 records at Notre Dame, one 7-6 campaign as Florida's offensive coordinator and a 1-11 debut at Kansas.
Now, I have to admit the illogical inclusion (more on that in a bit) of Kirk Ferentz on this list normally wouldn't be enough to get me to defend Kirk. Especially since work like this is essentially Reusse style link bait. Unfortunately last week I may or may not have written this:
On the national level I'm a fan of Paul Myerberg and (sometimes) Stewart Mandel. Stewart falls into the traditional national CFB guy traps far too often for my tastes and I must lament his move away from the wackier side of his mailbag, but I'm still a weekly reader.
Now, in my defense I called Stewart out as a national writer who often excels at delivering #TAKES. On the whole though that was still a (lukewarm) endorsement and I need to hold myself accountable. The result of my desire for self accountability? A (shudder) defense of Kirk Ferentz.
I Can't Believe I'm Doing This
So, back to the facts of the matter. You may recall that just a few paragraphs ago I declared Mandel's inclusion of Ferentz to be illogical. You might be wondering what I'm basing that on. Well, lets start by taking a look at Stewart's own criteria for his piece.
Before I get into my list, it's necessary to revisit the methodology behind these admittedly subjective rankings. Please note that they represent the best and worst coaches right now. They are not career achievement awards. Picture an inverted triangle, with the most recent season on the top line (the widest), the 2011 season below that, and so on. Each season is thus weighted a little bit heavier than the last. Someone like Mack Brown, who easily made this list six years ago, is nowhere to be found because his past three mediocre seasons are more relevant today than his 2005 national title. That said, I do like to see more than a one- or two-year track record before anointing a coach. Consider it my lesson learned from Charlie Weis.
As for my criteria -- well, it varies. National coach of the year awards tend to go to guys deemed to have overachieved at their respective school, as doing more with less is an obvious sign of effective coaching. There are plenty of those guys here. But make no mistake, it still takes a strong leader to consistently win at a traditional powerhouse. This list offers a mix of both.
That all seems pretty reasonable. Don't judge anyone on 1 season, put recent results above previous success, try to acknowledge differences in program strengths. Yep, that all looks good. The problem really isn't Stewart's criteria, it's his application of said criteria.
I mean, Kirk has delivered some pretty consistent "MEH" at Iowa for several seasons in a row now. No one (not even Iowa fans) disputes this. But does that make him one of the 5 worst coaches in all of college football? Um...no. I could break into a big list of better choices, but it's been done already (looking at you Black Heart Gold Pants). But lets face it, you don't need a list. Just read the following from BHGP and apply some logic:
Put yourself in Gary Barta's shoes. Hey, nice shoes! You have the opportunity to trade Ferentz and his contract for any other coach and his contract in D-I. You don't have to worry about any fallout from boosters or the Big Ten or whoever; this is strictly about improving your team on the field. There's no value in loyalty here; you can have whomever you want.
Now, think of the coaches who would be a downgrade from Ferentz. There's probably a whole lot more than four, right? Like way, way more than four. So what the hell's up with this ranking? It's not like Ferentz is Mack Brown, who recruits to Texas and still has underachieved on a level that probably exceeds Ferentz, all things considered. It's not like Ferentz has no track record of success to speak of. This is just some horseshit, half-baked opinion that some people can get away with because of who pays them. It's a shame.
Not convinced? Here's a random sampling of Twitter pushback, all of which makes more sense than Mandel:
you dropped him in 2007 citing a "recent slide," just before a 9-4 season and Top 20 finish followed by a 11-2 season and BCS win @slmandel— PlannedSickDays (@PlannedSickDays) July 8, 2013
Not sure what PSD is referring to? Well, previously Stewart Mandel had named Kirk one of his best coaches. So kind of a swing in opinion are we talking about here?
@slmandel So going ~.500 in the B1G over the course of 7 years takes a coach down about 115 spots in your rankings?— Adam Jacobi (@Adam_Jacobi) July 8, 2013
Hmmm...that seems totally reasonable. I mean, that .500 record is just bloated by the 11-2 season in 2009 right? And Iowa has missed bowl games since then right? Oh wait...no. Just last season. So in the last 4 years Kirk is 30-21 (16-16 B1G). Wait, that sort of resume seems familiar...it's almost like Art Briles!
. @slmandel art Briles is 17-25 in the Big 12. He is one of your top 10.— Hawkize (@Hawkize) July 8, 2013
That stat is his 5 year Big 12 record. But let's drop the Art's first season at Baylor (which makes him look better BTW) and keep it to 4 seasons like I did with Kirk. His record the last four years? 29-22 overall (15-19 Big 12). Wow, good thing Stew wasn't thinking about Art or he'd be on the worst list too.
/gets message from the producers in my earpiece
Um, let's head back to Mandel's piece for a second. This is from his list of the best coaches in college football:
10. Art Briles, Baylor. Briles doesn't get nearly the national recognition he deserves, particularly considering just how astonishing Baylor's rise would have seemed just four years ago. The Bears failed to post a winning record in their first 14 seasons in the Big 12; they've gone 25-14 in the three seasons since, twice knocking off top-five teams, producing a Heisman winner and maintaining one of the nation's most explosive offenses even after RGIII's departure.
Now I'm befuddled. Despite similar overall and conference records, Art is on the best list while Kirk is on the worst. This makes no sense. Don't worry though, Stew has the answer to that too. Let's go back to his blurb explaining Kirk's inclusion:
Take away that one 11-2 season and the Hawkeyes are 47-41 since 2005 under their $3.6 million-per-year coach.
Wait, what? Everything about this is fucked up. Let's count why:
1) Since when is it ok to ignore inconvenient facts that contradict your argument (i.e. leaving off the best season in a given time period just because)?
2) I thought we only cared about recent results Stewart. I mean, to put Art up on the best list you only counted the last 3 seasons (good thing for him too since those first 2 seasons were brutal). Why are you talking about records since 2005 when slamming Ferentz? Heck, even if we hold Kirk to the same time period (3 years) he only falls to 19-19 overall and 10-14 in the B1G. That's not worlds different than the 25-14 overall and 14-12 record that Briles posted in the same period. It's worse, but in the sense that we're now comparing mediocre to above average, not TOP 5 WORST to above average.
3) What does his salary have to do with this? Where did you list salary in your stated criteria?
And ultimately, that's what this all comes down to. Stewart makes that clear on Twitter:
Kirk Ferentz's inclusion on today's worst coaches list drawing by far the most backlash. Iowa fans apparently OK w/ $3.6M/yr to go 4-8.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) July 8, 2013
Now he's just trolling. Iowa fans pointing out that you made a crappy argument doesn't mean they're ignorant of the results or ok with them. For example?
@slmandel You want to do a list of overpaid coaches? He's right at the top. But for "bad" coaches? You've lost the plot, sir.— Patrick Vint (@HS_BHGP) July 8, 2013
Minnesota fans pointing out your crappy arguments on the other hand? Well, let's just say I'm ecstatic about Iowa overpaying for MEH and I hope Kirk's bloated contract handcuffs the Hawkeyes for years to come. That said, he's still not one of the worst 5 coaches in college football. Being overpaid doesn't = worst coach. Worst athletic department investment? Definitely. In the end it just means your AD is an idiot/you have a good agent and that you have a golden parachute ready to go in case you get fired at some point in the future.
So congratulations Stewart. You made an argument that Pat Reusse would be proud of.
I just wrote way too many words defending a coach I don't like. I can't stress this enough, I would LOVE to see Kirk earn a spot on this list by falling flat on his face in the coming seasons. When Mandel does this again in 2 or 3 seasons I want him to highlight Kirk as having delivered 2 or 3 winless seasons in a row. But I'm also someone who has seen too many shots taken at Gopher sports using similar illogic. I mean, if this piece gets written post 2011 I guarantee you Mandel has Kill on the worst list. So I can't just sit here quietly and pretend that Kirk flat out sucks based on flawed #TAKES logic. This stupidity cannot stand man. FWIW, Tim Beckman also got a bit of a shaft in this list, as Stewart broke his own "don't judge anyone off of 1 year" rule to place Becks on here. But The Champaign Room has already left to his defense and frankly, I just love how Timmy has replaced Brew as the epitome of bad coaching in the B1G too much to spend time defending him as well.
Y U BRING UP POINT BREAK?
The 3 of you who stuck with me through the end might be asking yourselves "Why does the headline include a reference to Point Break? Are you ever going to tie up that plot thread?" Indeed I am.
- Point Break is a mediocre to bad movie that I always get sucked into watching whenever it's on TV.
- Stewart Mandel is a mediocre to bad columnist that I always get sucked into reading on CNNSI.com.
- Ergo, Stewart Mandel is the Point Break of college football sportswriters.
This revelation calls for a GIF.