Thursday, December 04, 2008

First off: who's not coming

For instance, this guy better sure as hell not be.

Bobby Petrino. This is not an option. There's the no-compete clause in his contract, the fact that he just arrived at Arkansas and Auburn won't pay him THAT much more, the fact that we all know he may be the brightest slimeweasel in college coaching today but that he's still a slimeweasel. Seriously, if Auburn hires this guy, Jacobs might as well bring a cardboard cutout of Tubby to the press conference and take a dump on it, so we've got the clearest understanding possible of how much respect he'd have for Tubby's legacy.

Pretty much any of these guys. Noted Auburn sympathizer* Pete Thamel blogs at the NYT that ...
Other possible candidates (besides Mike Leach) include Texas Christian’s Gary Patterson, Tulsa’s Todd Graham, Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe, Air Force’s Troy Calhoun, Connecticut’s Randy Edsall and Arkansas’s Bobby Petrino.
The last guy on this list we've covered already. Troy Calhoun ... what? Edsall ... uh, he's done a good job, but if we were going to grab a coach from one of the Big East also-rans, I think it would at least be Jim Leavitt and his Florida recruiting connections.

The other guys are vaguely more intriguing, but I don't see it. Grobe's been outstanding, no doubt about it, but he turns 57 in February, the ACC seems to have his offense figured out (dude, their offense was worse than ours) and even his magical 2006 year was largely built on turnover and special teams smoke-and-mirrors. Graham's been a success at two different schools now, and his tag-team with Malzahn would probably open some recruiting eyes, but if Auburn's looking for an offensively-minded guy with no connections to the area, why not just go after Brian Kelly, whose track record is way way better?

Of this particular pool Patterson would probably be the best fit for Auburn because of his Tubby-like attention to defense, but he hasn't spent a second of his coaching career in the Southeast and even for all of his team's defensive prowess, they've only won one Mountain West title in six seasons. He probably shouldn't be dismissed outright at this early stage, but I think Auburn can do a little bit better.

Jim Leavitt. Since I mentioned him and since I'm sure his name will be brought up by someone at some point, since it always is. And not without reason, since building a program from dust into a preseason BCS candidate isn't an easy accomplishment. But the Bulls have badly underachieved in the Big East for two seasons now and just look undisciplined and poorly coached every time I see them. No thanks.

Bill Cowher. Sorry, Auburntron, but I don't see why Cowher would turn down his alma mater (NC State) when they had an open position and he was moving to Raleigh anyway, then one year later take on a job to which he has no connections whatsoever. To boot, the track record of even successful NFL-groomed guys (with certain *cough* exceptions grumble grumble) isn't even so much "spotty" as it is "pathetic". Don't see why Auburn would go this route, don't see why Cowher would reciprocate the interest anyway.

The top-25 mid-major brigade. I've seen Brady Hoke and Kyle Whittingham's names tossed around in a couple of far-flung places on the 'Net I can't find now; suffice it to say they just don't seem to have enough traction to be taken seriously. Besides, Whittingham seems far too entrenched at Utah to take a job that's not Pac-10, and while Hoke's obviously onto something now it took him a long time to ramp Ball St. up to speed. Longer than Auburn would give him, anyway.

That leaves Chris Petersen, who seems set on staying at Boise despite the fact there's an opening at Washington that would make a ton more sense for him from a geographic perspective. Personally, I'd pass anyway: the last two Boise bosses to move onto BCS schools--Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins--haven't exactly set the world on fire.

Derek Dooley. The B'ham News says he's a candidate, anyway, but he's just a name; if Smerek Smooley goes 12-12 over two seasons at Louisiana Tech somehow I doubt we're having this conversation.

And, unfortunately, this guy:

Will Muschamp. If I felt like Auburn really had a shot at him, he'd be on the JCCW shortlist and I'd run through the pros/cons with him the way I'm going to for those other guys. Although he'd be a bit of a roll of the dice--no head coaching experience, would need someone to run his offense for him--I can't imagine a coach would give Auburn more of an immediate shot in the arm or who recruits would be happier to play for. That he's a hell of a DC and a former Sabanite is just a bonus. If Auburn finds a way to make him a serious candidate, great, more power to them.

But I don't see it happening. I think Muschamp's perfectly happy where he is. When he signed up to be "coach-in-waiting" in Austin, he knew as well as the rest of us--better, probably--how long Brown's going to stay at the helm there. If he was really that interested in becoming a head coach, signing his new contract and letting Brown and the UT do their little song-and-dance about him while all the while looking for an opportunity to bolt anyway ... well, he just doesn't strike me as quite that devious.

If (like a certain Florida St. offensive coordinator) two seasons from now he's still stuck behind the head guy and the head guy isn't looking particularly anxious to move on, then I think he might be antsy enough to look around. But right now? Even if I disagree with his take on Fisher, when it comes to Muschamp I have to agree with the Good Doctor when he writes that Muschamp is "off the table both ethically and contractually."**

Next: what Auburn's looking for.

*The opposite of this.
**Here's to hoping that if this post jinxes Auburn into hiring any of these guys, it's this one.


dbh said...

I'm curious about one thing: is there any empirical evidence that Muschamp is actually any good?
Here are the things I know he's good at:
• Hanging around winners (Saban, Tuberville, Mack Brown).
• Jumping and down on the sidelines and calling people "motherf--kers."

On the other hand, I'm not so sure how good he is running a defense. Tuberville was always the actual DC at Auburn — even heard him say so prior to the '06 season — and Saban has always been the same wherever he went. If anything, his propensity for calling big blitzes at the wrong time hurt Auburn's defense as much as anything (I'm thinking of the '06 'Bama game specifically). And without looking it up, I can't say his Texas units are exactly lighting the world on fire — the 'Horns this season are basically the same group of speedy athletes in an "ALL O NO D" conference they've always been.

Of course, Saban, Tuberville and Brown all think very highly of him, which of course says something (those guys know a lot more about football than me). I just haven't seen one thing inparticular from him that makes me think, "Wow — the guy running this defense must be some kind of a mastermind."


Jerry Hinnen said...

It's an excellent question, dbh, and it's part of the reason why--while I'd be happy with a Muschamp hire, since it would mean Auburn wouldn't have just hired the NFL cast-off of the week--there's a couple of guys I'd rather have ahead of him.

I think the main thing he would bring would be his energy and how that would play into recruiting. I guess we don't know for sure, but I have a hard time believing a guy with that kind of rapport with his players wouldn't recruit like mad. Add in that despite his occasional screw-ups (you're exactly right about that '06 Iron Bowl, where Tubby had that unmistakable WTF?!? look), the guy can coordinate a defense (in retrospect, holding Oklahoma to just 35 points was impressive), and he's an attractive candidate.

But no doubt he's much less of a known quality than some of the other alleged candidates. He'd be a gamble. But a better gamble than most, in my opinion.