Saturday, December 01, 2007

Football: Head Coaching Thoughts

I'm grumpy. This coaching search stinks. Our basketball team is currently getting drilled by Vandy by more than 20 points. and very well could be the worst defensive team in the entire country. That stinks. I'm just a grumpy guy right now.

I've been thinking a lot about the coaching search and who should get the job. Honestly, at this point I'm fairly apathetic about the whole thing. At the end of the day, there are a lot of good candidates. None of the ones I've heard so far really just hit me as "he's the guy". Every candidate has pro's and cons.

I was having a discussion with a fellow GT guy I work with and he had an interesting point. It should not be hard to find a guy who can continue to win 7 games a year and take us to mediocre bowl games. It really shouldn't. There are a lot of proven guys that would take this job that are "safe". However, if D-Rad really wants to take us to that next level, it would seem that we need to take a chance. I'm not sure what that means in terms of a candidate profile, but here is where my head is at in terms of the names out there.

Not sure what it is, but my gut keeps pointing me back to this guy. He wins everywhere he goes - a lot of games. He's young, but he's been a head coach since he was about 26 years old. He runs an exciting offense that tailors the game to the talent on the field. If you want to check out his bio - click here. The guy has won awards every year he has been a coach. He has a reputation as an incredibly hard worker and a guy that relates VERY well to his players. In addition, he is an ex-QB, a record setting QB at that. The only real negative I see is that he is unproven at a major college program. People out there liken him to a Div II-A young Steve Spurrier.

You know what else you might be able to get excited about? Hatcher is known as one of the best QB coaches in the country. Seriously. He played the position and he knows how to coach it. He tutored Daunte Culpepper at Central Florida and Tim Couch at Kentucky. His offenses score lots of points and his QB's play well. Wouldn't THAT be a welcome change?

From an image standpoint, this guy is good with the media and he's witty, but he also has a swagger about him.

Honestly, I just can't shake the feeling that this guy is a star in the making. I just can't help getting excited about the possibility of getting a guy who knows the state of Georgia and has strong ties in Florida as well. He could recruit the heck out of the state.

Folks, this guy would strike some fear and worry in the hearts of UGAg fans. Oh, they'll talk a good game, but anyone who knows football in the state of GA knows this guy is good. Is Hatcher the next bigtime collegiate coaching star? Is he the next Mark Richt type?

Hiring him would be taking a risk, but again - isn't that what we're after here?

There is one more thing to consider. If we hire away Hatcher from GaSouthern, guess who would probably be inline to take the Eagles job? Giff Smith. The dream scenario is that Giff stays at GT's recruiting coordinator but will that happen? Not so sure.

#2 Choice - Paul Johnson
Johnson has worked miracles at Navy. He is a hard-worker and know as an offensive innovator. Don't get the idea that he would only have run-oriented wishbone offenses. This guy builds an offense around the talent he has on the field. He's done it through the air and he's done it on the ground. Johnson also has strong ties in the state of Georgia.

Johnson also knows what it takes to sell in a challenging academic environment. He's a proven winner and is probably ready for a new challenge. The real question is if there is interest by D-Rad? Supposedly there has been no contact, but maybe we're waiting until the Army/Navy game is over.

There is also strong word that he's interested in both the SMU and Duke jobs. Make no mistake - if Duke hired Paul Johnson, it would be MUCH bigger news than any hire we make - including Paul Johnson. That would be a great get for either of those programs and a great get us too.

Is PJ friendly with the media? Opinions vary. Is he a splashy hire? Not bad if you ask me, but he is not known as a media friendly guy. Frankly I don't care as long as he wins games, but "friendly with the media" comes across very different when you are winning versus losing. If you're witty and winning you get Steve Spurrier. If you're witty and losing you get Chuck Amato. Just win the games man.

#3 Choice - Jimbo Fisher
My 3rd choice is the first guy I list without real head coaching experience. He's the hot name the past couple of years and as we know has ties with Dan Radakovich. Now that Les Miles is staying with LSU, that job opening is off the list for him. His name has been linked with SMU and others.

I have him third because his reputation centers around offense. If there is a remote possibility that he becomes head coach and we miraculously keep Jon Tenuta as the defensive coordinator, then I like it a lot. It is a serious win/win.

However, if we get Jimbo Fisher and Jon Tenuta leaves town, then I immediately move him to #4 and move Edsell up one spot.

#4 Choice - Randy Edsell
Coach Edsell is elicting a definite mixed reaction around Jacket nation. Those who chose to look at his record at UConn will see that it isn't even above .500 after 7 years. However, you have to really keep in mind that Edsell is the guy that brought UConn to Div IA football. He saw that transition through and effectively coached them to the Big East championship where they lost to West Virginia. Edsell has truly done a remarkable job at a school that has difficult recruiting, has a weak in-state base, and is known as one of those "basketball factories".

Edsell does have ties with GT as he was the DC for one season before taking the UConn job. A number of former GT players who played for him have expressed their endorsement of Edsell as one of the hardest working guys out there and a guy who truly cares for them and respects the game.

Edsell is more of a defensive oriented guy, so it would probably be a longshot that Tenuta sticks around, but you never know.

Edsell would be a great choice for GT, but I see it as more of a "safe" choice. I am just not convinced that he has a high ceiling as a head coach, even given the chance at a bigtime program.

#5 Choice - Jon Tenuta
If anyone has earned the right to be given a chance at the job, it's Tenuta. I think we all know what he brings as a DC, but will he make a good head coach? Well, honestly that's the question with a lot of guys. Does it make sense to give another defensive coordinator who hasn't been a head coach like Muschamp or Strong the shot at the job and not Tenuta? I don't think so.

However, there are serious question marks about JT. First, he doesn't like to recruit. Sure, he'll close a deal every once in awhile, or target one guy in the midwest somewhere to go after, but for the most part his philosophy was that his time was better spent preparing his current team for games and not out on the road recruiting. We all know how important recruiting is to a program.

Second, how would he deal with the media. JT is known as a fiery, foul-mouthed coach - and I mean that in a good way. But can he really deal with the media and be a good front-man / CEO for this program? Guess we wouldn't know unless he was given a shot, but I have doubts.

Third, what about the offense? It's the part of the game we all want to see improve, but who would be his OC? What type of offense would he run?

At the end of the day, I just lean towards hiring a guy with an offensive mind, and then getting a top notch DC to take care of that side. If we can somehow keep JT as DC, that is a serious win.

#6 Choice - Charlie Strong
Again, a current Defensive Coordinator with no prior head coaching experience. Throw in the fact that he has been interviewed repeatedly the past few years and nobody has pulled the trigger to give him a chance. Either he needs to start charging appearance fees for interviews or everyone inside the industry knows something about the guy that is holding him back. He would be a great recruiter, but I just don't know much else about the guy.

He's worked under Spurrier, Holtz and Meyer and has an incredibly strong resume. But again, we already have a great DC that wants a shot at head coach. I just think if we're going this direction, JT should get the nod.

#7 Choice - Will Muschamp
Go back and read #6. It's the same story - a good DC who wants head coaching job. The differences are that Muschamp is probably a more fiery guy who is known for ranting, raving, breaking whiteboards, and jumping up and down all the time. He also has ties with D-Rad from LSU. He's got a good resume and he's young and eager.

Oh yeah, there's that other issue - he's a UGAg grad. There are some who will implore people to please be mature and look past this insignificant fact. There are others who will NEVER look past it from day one.

And therein lies my reason for putting him so low on the list. He might be a great up-and-coming aggressive, fiery, future winner. However, if you thought Tech fans were divided now - wait until we hire a mutt as head coach. Chan Gailey divided many on day one, and this guy would too. I just don't see it working. He would be guilty until proven innocent, which means I don't see people rallying around him until he proves he wins a lot of games.

No Choice - Rick Neuheisel
I'm sorry, but I am not interested in this guy. Character matters to me, and his past isn't just checkered - it's tartan, or maybe a nice plaid. Not only that, from a pure winning perspective, he has an "M.O." - which is - 1) show up and win a lost of games the first few years with the prior guy's players 2) start to wear on people and win fewer and fewer games, and 3) get out before the bottom completely falls out.

Here's the other thing - UCLA is his alma mater and his dream job. That job is probably coming open soon or maybe next year. If it's open he'll take it if offered. I don't want a guy that's going to leave us high-and-dry in a couple of years (of course I don't mind Chris Hatcher doing that to GaSouthern).

Character matters to me - and this guy isn't it. He will recruit with the best of them for sure. However, I have serious questions about what he stands for as well as his long-term ability to win on a sustained basis. Also, why is his head coach so dang eager to get rid of him?