I’m not going to break down the Samford game today, partially because it shouldn’t even be a game and partially because looking up stats and highlights of Samford sounds about as entertaining as watching “That’s My Boy” again (which might be the worst movie I’ve ever seen). Instead, I’ll break down the different types of coaches Kentucky is courting and the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Note: Some coaches may appear in multiple categories.
The SEC Re-Tread
These are coaches that have been around the block a time or two and know the SEC. They are very rarely a sexy hire, and some do come with baggage. Most of these candidates have not been overly successful at all of their stops, but would provide some security to the administration.
Examples: Phil Fulmer, Bobby Petrino, Tommy Tuberville
Pros: These guys know the conference and the struggles that head coaches face. They understand the recruiting landscape, the opposition, and most importantly, the other coaches. They have all had winning seasons and winning records in the SEC.
Cons: These coaches fell on hard times on or off the field and were deemed unworthy by their school and our competition. Hiring a coach that didn’t work out for your competition is rarely a recipe for success.
The BCS Coordinator
These coaches are currently or formerly coordinators in the SEC or other BCS-Conference school. They have not ever been a head coach at a BCS school though. They know the big-time college football and are quality assistants that have waited their turn and are in line for a shot as the head man.
Example: Kirby Smart, Neal Brown, Brent Pease
Pros: These are coaches that have been successful as coaches and recruiters in college football. They know the landscape of the game and the competition. Hiring a coordinator is a great way to find the next “big thing” in coaching and some of these guys are going to be hot commodities in any offseason.
Cons: These coaches have never been head coaches at the BCS level and present a sort of an unknown. They typically only coach one side of the ball and their ability to recruit, coach, and manage the other side is usually a question. These guys are generally unproven and present a significant risk.
The Small Conference Coach
These coaches have found success at non-BCS (or Big East) schools and are looking to move their way into a power conference. They have a desire to move up in the coaching ranks and they have attracted attention to themselves nationally.
Example: Sonny Dykes, Butch Jones, Mark Hudspeth
Pros: When you hire one of these guys, you’re hiring a guy who’s been successful. If they haven’t shown the ability to win, then they wouldn’t even be a candidate. They have typically recruited subpar talent and coach them to higher levels to compete with better teams than they should historically.
Cons:You never know what you’re going to get with these coaches. Winning at a small school and winning in the SEC are two very different animals. These coaches are unknowns at this level and present a risk as no one knows if they can make the transition to coaching and recruiting in big-time football. Their success can also be a product of their competition. These coaches are difficult to get sometimes as many schools target them.
The Warts Guy
These coaches are guys that have made poor decisions on or off the field that lead to their dismissal. While most have been successful at some point or another, they are typically not pursued by top programs. These coaches do not necessarily have to have head coaching experience.
Example: Bobby Petrino, Mike Leach, Butch Davis
Pros: These can be some of the most high-profile coaches available, and may actually be guys that you wouldn’t get otherwise. They have recognizable names and most have proven track records in recruiting and coaching. They may be looking for redemption, and they may give you more than they would otherwise to make up for their past transgressions and prove themselves. They are also typically available for a price well below their actual value.
Cons: These coaches and showed a lack of good judgment, and sometimes more than once. They offer the most risk/reward of any coaching option but that means that they could blow up in your face. Hiring these coaches can bring unnecessary criticism and negative attention to your school.
The NFL Head Coach Guy
The coaches in this category have reached the pinnacle of the coaching profession. They have an established history of success to get their job and are savvy in most aspects of running a program.
Example: Rex Ryan, Jason Garret, Andy Reid
Pros: These coaches have ascended to the highest level of football and most have had experience in both college and the professional ranks. They understand the business side of football as well as the performance side, and offer unique perspective on how to build a team. It typically doesn’t get any more high-profile than these guys and all of them bring credibility with their name.
Cons: Most NFL coaches that are considering moving back to college have fallen on hard times and have been unsuccessful in the professional game. It’s always a crapshoot as to whether they’re even really interested in your school. These coaches are always more likely to go back to the NFL than guys that have come up in the college system. Their ability to recruit will always be a question.
The NFL Coordinator Guy
These Coaches have worked through the ranks in the college and/or professional game to this point. They are typically very well versed in one side of the ball or the other and know their preferred scheme inside and out.
Example: Dirk Koetter, Rob Ryan, Jay Gruden
Pros: These coaches typically know their side of the ball better than anyone. They know how to take big-time players and create an effective unit out of them. There are familiar with the spotlight and wouldn’t be out of place with the high-profile nature of the SEC. Most have experienced coaching in college in some capacity.
Cons: Similar to the college coordinators, some NFL coordinators have little-to-no head coaching experience. In fact, some of these guys have never coached the college game at all. Their ability to manage not just the team, but also the program, makes them a question mark. They also have no track record in recruiting in some cases. The ones with college experience of typically been away from the college game for quite some time.
The Broadcaster Guy
These coaches have stepped away from the game in front of the camera out of the stressful life of coaching. They have experience in college, the NFL, or both.
Example:Tony Dungy, Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden
Pros: Networks typically do not pursue broadcasters that have not been successful coaches, so most of these guys have a history of winning. Some actually have a history of winning for a long period of time and had a very high level. They’re winning tradition and visibility as TV personalities make them huge names and hot commodities.
Cons: Because of their success, these can be some of the hardest coaches in the country to get. They are typically targeted by the top programs in college football as well as the top NFL teams looking to fill the vacancies. The relatively low stress nature of broadcasting (compared to coaching) may be hard to pull them away from, and some have indicated that they have no desire to go back to coaching.
The Who? Guy
These coaches are little known names that have found success without attracting national attention. Some of these coaches are from the Non-BCS,JUCO, NAIA, lower division, and even high school ranks. They differ from the “Small Conference Coaches” in that they are not well know and are typically not household names.
Example: Gary Anderson, Mike McIntyre, K.C. Keeler
Pros: These coaches offer a huge reward if they work out. They’re typically not attention-loving and are more focused on their job. They are typically conservative coaches that do not take many risks on the field and run traditional sets of offense and defense. There is typically no cheaper way to go.
Cons: These coaches lack of star power can be a hindrance in many ways. Their ability to recruit at the top level is always going to be questioned and they typically do not sign prestigious classes. They have never been head coaches at a BCS conference, and some cases at all. The hiring of these guys typically does not put butts-in-seats in your stadium on Saturdays.
The Hometown Guy
These are coaches that have one or more connections to your program, state, or are former players. You can connect the dots and figure out why they would be interested in the job fairly easily.
Example: Rex Ryan, Rob Ryan, Bobby Petrino
Pros: These coaches can be high-profile in some cases, and do typically stick around longer than a normal Coach would. They know full well what they’re getting into and typically know the area that your team recruits and plays in. They can also be very successful recruiting locally, as they are typically well known in the area your school is located in.
Cons: Sometimes these coaches come up through rumors and speculation and there is no real interest behind it at all. They may be interested in relocating to a place where they have connections because they’ve been unsuccessful otherwise and just want to go home.
The Coaching Tree Guy
These coaches are part of a coaching tree that is familiar to your program or athletic director. They have been under a particular head coach at some point in time, and have moved on to some level of success on their own.
Example: Neal Brown, Sonny Dykes, David Cutcliffe
Pros: You typically have a good idea of what you’re getting offensively or defensively through these types of coaches. Going after these guys can be a way to get the style of a coach you want without actually having to hire that particular coach. It can save you money in some cases and keep you away from a potentially problematic guy as well.
Cons: Just because a guy has coached under someone or uses their system does not mean that they can produce the same results as their head coach. These guys carry a high risk as well, as their success and ability to reproduce the results of their mentor is always a crap-shoot.
Personally, I prefer Kentucky pursue someone in the “Re-Tread Guy” or “NFL Coordinator Guy” categories. This hire needs to be a big one and most of the other categories won’t recapture the affections of the fanbase that have been lost over the past two seasons. While there are some risks involved with both, there are higher rewards for both as well.