2018 CFB coach hiring *and* firing grades, updated
Let’s keep track as the coaching carousel spins or whatever. Below, brief notes on each FBS head coaching change, along with an INSTA GRADE. The difference: let’s also grade the firing part as well. Why should only hirings get graded? Onward. Note: I’m not factoring buyouts or salaries here. You’re probably paying him too much to leave/arrive. That’s your boosters’ problem, not mine. Akron Terry Bowden firing grade: C. He led two of Akron’s three bowl trips and only bowl win, and a four-win base line is basically Akron’s historical norm. It sounds like everyone just got tired of things. Tom Arth hiring grade: B-. Really interesting. His 9-13 record at Chattanooga wasn’t much, but he went 40-8 at previously mediocre John Carroll in Division III, where he also played. He’s only 37, but has spent almost all of his life within about an hour of Akron. Appalachian State Scott Satterfield left for Louisville. Eli Drinkwitz hiring grade: A (be advised I’m handing out lots of As). The NC State OC ran a good group in Raleigh, has a good rep among coaches, and has experience in the state (obviously) and Sun Belt. Bowling Green Mike Jinks firing grade: A. At some MAC schools, you might as well just stick with whoever you have. But BGSU had won under four straight coaches before its former AD reportedly Googled his way to a poor fit. Scot Loeffler hiring grade: D. He’s only been an OC, so let’s look at his offenses. As he’s coached four different schools, his offenses have ranked Nos. 32, 73, 91, 94, 72, 124, 101, and 95 in opponent-adjusted S&P+. The old joke about the majority of his resume being “was Tom Brady’s position coach at Michigan” seems to still apply. Central Michigan John Bonamego firing grade: B. CMU wasn’t supposed to be good this year, and he led three solid seasons, but — well — this was the worst season in program history. Considering how hard it is to hire well in the MAC, I think I would’ve given him a chance to prove this was a fluke, but I get it. Jim McElwain hiring grade: B. Hey, you got a two-time recent SEC East champ in the MAC! Nevermind how strangely his Florida tenure ended. Also nevermind how bad the SEC East was. He’s since spent time making connections as a Michigan assistant and has coached at Michigan State before. Charlotte Brad Lambert firing grade: A. It was time for the program architect to move on. Will Healy hiring grade: A. I mean, he had a winning season at Austin Peay. That’s basically impossible. Colorado Mike MacIntyre firing grade: C+. Building 10-win teams at San Jose State and Colorado is hard ... but what’s he done over the last decade if you take out those two years? CU’s good year didn’t feel sustainable, considering how senior-heavy that team was. Mel Tucker hiring grade: B. Well, the Georgia DC led one of college football’s best units for three years and was in demand, being considered for jobs like UNC’s. There’s the question of how his experience will translate to the West, in a state where a former UGA coordinator is struggling at Colorado State. But there’s no particular reason to doubt he can build decent teams. East Carolina Scottie Montgomery firing grade: A. This had been a simple call for about two months. Mike Houston hiring grade: A. He’s the only FCS champion head coach from somewhere other than North Dakota State since 2010, a North Carolina native, and career-long Mid-Atlantic vet. Do we hand out bonus points for ECU stealing him from Charlotte or demerits for Houston apparently breaking a verbal with Charlotte? Let’s call it even. Georgia Tech Paul Johnson retired. Geoff Collins hiring grade: A. The former Temple coach and Georgia native will try to make Georgia Tech feel like modern Atlanta’s team. That’s a tall task, when you already have Migos rooting for UGA, but long overdue. Houston Major Applewhite firing grade: C- by conventional metrics, but I’m gonna give this one a T for Texas. Because firing a coach after two winning seasons is stupendously Texas-y. Dana Holgorsen hiring grade: A, I guess! There’s reason to think he can win bigger at UH than he could at WVU. Kansas David Beaty firing grade: B+. KU improved during the first-time head coach’s four years, but not much. More importantly, things don’t look that much better going forward than they did when he showed up. Les Miles hiring grade: C+ for now, because the expectations matter greatly. Is Miles’ task to stabilize the program and set it up for a young innovator? In a weird way, his beloved gritball might be an underdog tactic in the wide-open Big 12 (see: some of Kansas State’s best recent teams), but he must be willing to evolve his Schembechler-ian tendencies. Kansas State Bill Snyder retired again. Chris Klieman hiring grade: A. Some K-State fans didn’t like the idea of hiring an FCS coach whom the AD already knew. Counterpoint: North Dakota State would’ve beaten Kansas State in Manhattan this year — again. There’s reason to wonder if this will work, but that’s the case with ANY HIRE ANYWHERE. Keep this in mind: a former Division III coach just led Buffalo’s best team ever. That’s a way bigger jump than Klieman is making. Liberty Turner Gill retired. Hugh Freeze hiring grade: lololololol of course Louisville Bobby Petrino firing grade: A+! Lamar Jackson evidently covered up even more warts than we realized, and the program was crumbling. Scott Satterfield hiring grade: A. The Appalachian State HC had one of the best teams in FBS, period. He’s not Jeff Brohm, but so what? He’s a fantastic second option. Give him time to clean up Petrino’s mess. Maryland D.J. Durkin firing grade: Far more serious things than football to consider here, so not playing around with grades on this one. Mike Locksley hiring grade: No grade on this either, because this is a complicated one. Miami Mark Richt retired. Manny Diaz hiring grade: A. Well, as I wrote about his hire at Temple days earlier: “He was responsible for the only thing the Canes were good at, has been a smart and elite defensive coordinator for years, and should be able to bring some Florida athletes to Philly.” All that, minus the Philly part. North Carolina Larry Fedora firing grade: B. He had really rough roster situations for the last two years and led UNC’s best season this millennium, but five wins in two years against mediocre schedules ain’t getting it done. Mack Brown hiring grade: C-, until he shows Texas’ six or so down years were a big fluke. He was UNC’s second or third best coach ever before becoming Texas’ second best coach ever, but his last really good team was 11 seasons before his first at UNC. Unlike Kansas, UNC had more inspiring options. Northern Illinois Rod Carey left for Temple. Ohio State Urban Meyer retired. Ryan Day hiring grade: B. The Ohio State OC’s side of the ball was the reason the Buckeyes won the Big Ten. He’s only 39, and this is one of the biggest jobs in football, but it appears he led the team capably during Meyer’s three-game suspension. Continuity is nice, as long as he’s ready to make significant staff changes on defense (he since has). Temple, round one Geoff Collins left for Georgia Tech. Manny Diaz hiring grade: A. He was responsible for the only thing the Canes were good at, has been a smart and elite defensive coordinator for years, and should be able to bring some Florida athletes to Philly. My only real concern as Temple would be the Miami head job possibly opening in the next few years, but that’s down the road (I wrote this sentence before Richt retired, so it stays). Temple, round two Manny Diaz left for Miami. Rod Carey hiring grade: B. It felt like NIU fans were often frustrated with Dave Doeren’s replacement, but Carey ended up with two MAC titles, two more MAC West titles, four wins over Big Ten teams, and five winning seasons in six years. Philly’s a little east of his stomping grounds, but not far. I will update shortly when he leaves for the Miami job. That’s a joke among friends. Texas State Everett Withers firing grade: B. Wins had yet to arrive, with only seven in his three years at a school that joined FBS in 2012, and Withers’ personality wasn’t a great fit, but at least recruiting was going well. Jake Spavital hiring grade: B+. Lots of relevant experience in the area and air raid roots that should be popular in Texas and stand out somewhat in the Sun Belt. Texas Tech Kliff Kingsbury firing grade: A. Yeah, five straight years of losing the same way and producing .500-ish seasons at a school that would prefer its Mike Leach records is gonna get a person fired. Both parties should better succeed apart (I wrote this before he ended up BEING NAMED AN NFL HEAD COACH, so it definitely stays). Matt Wells hiring grade: A. The geographic fit isn’t perfect, but other than that? Wells was head coach or coordinator for Utah State’s three best seasons since the 1960s, and could’ve had even more than that if not for rotten injury luck. Per Steven Godfrey in the offseason, other coaches believed Wells would get it turned back around. Troy Neal Brown left for West Virginia. Chip Lindsey hiring grade: I’ve been keeping up this post for about two months now, and I’m running out of opinions. A review of the record suggests the former Auburn OC is a B+ hire. UMass Mark Whipple firing grade: A. Five years with nothing better than 4-8? Amid significant roster turnover, this sets up as a fresh rebuild. Walt Bell hiring grade: C+. The former Arkansas State, Maryland, and Florida State OC has minimal ties to the Northeast and is only 34, but will strive to oversee an offense more creative than FSU had in 2018. Utah State Matt Wells left for Texas Tech. Gary Andersen hiring grade: Well, A, I guess! Worked out great the last time. West Virginia Dana Holgorsen left for Houston. Neal Brown hiring grade: Lemme slap an A on that one. He just led the three best teams in Troy’s FBS history, including wins at LSU and Nebraska, and he has Appalachian familiarity, hailing from Kentucky. Western Kentucky Mike Sanford firing grade: C. A 9-16 record is a clear step down from Jeff Brohm’s three straight bowl wins. But canning a previously up-and-coming coach after two years at a school that’s still a C-USA newbie suggests he was way in over his head. Do four one-score losses in 2018 and two comfortable wins to finish the season support that? Hard to say from afar. Tyson Helton hiring grade: C. Basically the same resume as Sanford and wasn’t exactly on the rise at Tennessee. If there’s a secret reason he’s a significantly better choice than Sanford, tremendous. This post will be updated after each FBS head coaching move.