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The Worst Coach in the Country Wins More Than Anyone

The Dawg-o-sphere has pretty much thoroughly debunked CFB Pundit's recent article calling Les Miles "the worst coach in college football.  Seriously, go read Blutarsky and Gillett and Elkon gleefully tear the article apart. 

That is such a thorough demolition of CFB Pundit's ridiculous argument that there's really not much left for me to do other than pile on.  So let's pile on, just for the fun of it. 

Actually, it's pretty easy to see how he came to the absurd conclusion that Les Miles is the worst coach in the country when you read his opener: 

I hate when people say coaching doesn't matter, that it's all about talent.

If only talent mattered, we wouldn't be talking every year about Boise State or TCU worming their way into the BCS picture, would we?

You want to know where coaching doesn't matter as much?  The NBA.  The NFL.  Major League Baseball.  There, it usually is all about talent and matchups.

There is so much wrong in this rather innocuous opener, it's hard to get your hands around it.  First, who says "coaching doesn't matter?"  I mean, other than these anonymous "people".  You'd be hard-pressed to find a college football fan who would seriously argue that coaching doesn't matter.  If coaching didn't matter, well, schools wouldn't be paying coaches such outrageous salaries.  Coaching absolutely matters, and I don't know of anyone saying otherwise.

However, talent obviously matters a lot.  You take a look at the top teams in recruiting each year and -- surprise! -- those teams win more than teams that don't recruit well.  In fact, TCU and Boise sort of prove his point. I'll let Doc Saturday take this one:

When you get past the anecdotal evidence, even most of the low-on-the-totem-pole schools that consistently turn in the kind of winning percentages that put the initial assessments their lineup to shame - see Boise State, Cincinnati, UConn, TCU, Utah and other would-be BCS party crashers over the last five years - pile up those wins over other low-on-the-totem-pole outfits whose recruiting rankings didn't fare much better. Those five schools have combined for four regular season wins in five years over teams whose overall recruiting numbers (according to Rivals) put them in the top 25 nationally since 2006. The vast majority of upstarts feed on other would-be upstarts.*

*Emphasis is mine.

TCU and Boise party crash because they are more talented than the TEAMS THEY PLAY.  Sure, TCU doesn't have the talent of LSU, but TCU has a ton more talent than Wyoming.  So using TCU and Boise as an example that "talent doesn't matter" is a fallacy. 

But it's not even in the same ballpark as that third paragraph.  I want to quote it again so we can isolate it and marvel at its sheer stupidity:

You want to know where coaching doesn't matter as much?  The NBA.  The NFL.  Major League Baseball.  There, it usually is all about talent and matchups.

That's not just wrong, that's just so wrong I can't believe CFB Pundit even follows sports.  Just so we can follow the argument: he is seriously suggesting that coaching matters more in college football, a sport in which there can be a massive talent disparity, than in professional sports leagues in which the talent disparity is often marginal. 

Coaching matters less and less when the gap in talent gets wider and wider.  There is no amount of in-game strategy that will allow my rec league basketball team to compete with the Boston Celtics.  To a lesser extent, there is almost no amount of coaching that will lead to a Sun Belt school beating a top 25 team.*  The talent gap is simply too wide.  Coaching and in-game strategy only matters when there is relative parity in the talent of the two teams. 

*Insert your own obligatory UL-Monroe beating Saban's Alabama team joke here.

Also, did he watch the NBA Finals?  Rick Carlisle ate Eric Spolestra's lunch.  The Dallas Mavericks are essentially Dirk and a bunch of role players.  Hell, the Mavs' second best player is Caron Bulter, and he spent the playoffs in street clothes.  The Heat had a large talent advantage and managed to lose the title due to a series of truly indefensible coaching blunders (and Dwayne Wade spending more time flopping than that fish in the Faith No More video). 

So, it is from this worldview that CFB Pundit ranks Les Miles as the worst coach in college football.  When you start from an indefensible premise, it is inevetible you will get an indefensible result:

Here are 10 coaches who just don't seem to get the picture.  Sure, they may win once in a while because they just have so much talent on hand to save their hides, but take away some of that talent and they would be out of a job:

1. Les Miles, LSU - You could put a potted plant on the sideline at Tiger Stadium and get the same results Miles has gotten for LSU.  And there would probably be better clock management.  Selling his soul to the devil in exchange for wins in close games puts him over the top here

First, this argument ignores how talent gets to campus.  The head coach is responsible for recruiting, so if a team has so much talent on hand that they can't help but win most of their games, that means that the head coach is doing his job. Calling a head coach terrible because he is a great recruiter is a simply baffling position.  Miles recruits an abundance of talent and wins a lot of games, so therefore he is bad at his job.  Recruiting is part of the job description.  There is an amazing disconnect in this argument. 

But anyone who thinks that a potted plant could win at LSU obviously doesn't remember Curley Hallman.  LSU is only about a decade removed from an era in which LSU had six consecutive losing seasons and eight losing seasons in eleven years.  This isn't ancient history.  LSU very easily could have regressed after Saban left.  There was no guarantee  we would continue to rake in talent and wins.

Also, Miles hasn't just won, he's won more than any coach in LSU history.  Miles has a winning percentage of .784, which is the best winning percentage in LSU's history.  In fact, since World War II, only three LSU coaches have managed a winning percentage over 70% (Saban and Arnsparger).  Dietzel couldn't do it.  Neither could Cholly Mac. 

Miles won a national title.  He also has a 12-7 record against coaches who have won a national title.  So, judged against the best in the game, Miles has more than held his own.  Is he just winning because he's at LSU?  His record at Oklahoma St suggests otherwise. 

When he took over at OSU, the Cowboys had endured a losing season in ten of their last eleven seasons.  He took a program going through a decade of incredible futility, and turned it into a winner.  He enjoyed a winning season three times in four years, including all of his last three years.  Miles left OSU with the best winning percentage of any coach in OSU history (.571) since World War II except for  Dave Smith, who coached one season.  (This record has since been surpassed by Mike Gundy, his successor).  And remember, Jimmy Johnson coached at OSU.  That's right Miles won more than Johnson at OSU and Saban at LSU.  Perhaps he's doing something right.

Ranking Miles among the worst coaches in college football is utterly indefensible.  He is among the winningest coaches in the history of both schools he has coached.  He hasn't just won a ton, he has won a ton relative to the other coaches at the same programs.  He's won with tons of talent, and he's won without a lot of talent.  Most importantly, he has won.  That is the name of the game. 

Is he the best game manager in the world?  Nope.  But given the choice between a great tactician who is a mediocre recruiter and a great recruiter who is a mediocre tactician, which would you take?  Pete Carroll wasn't a great tactician, and USC seemed to do pretty well under him.  Bobby Bowden was a spectacular recruiter who has never been accused of being a tactical genius, and Florida St did all right under his watch.  On the flip side, Charlie Weis' Notre Dame teams had a decided schematic advantage -- he even told us so.  He also was a mediocre recruiter at a school that people used to think recruited itself.  And we saw how that worked out. 

You take your tacticians and we'll take our recruiters and motivators... and we'll see who wins more titles. 

Dear College Football World, please keep underestimating Les Miles.  Because it is working out great for us.