With Apologies to FJM: Jeff Schultz Gets it Half Right on Coaches

Disclaimer: I did not invent this style of post. The guys at did. They are smarter and funnier than I am. You should probably go read some of their posts about the 2008 NLCS instead of this. Though I did not invent it, Jeff Schultz demands it. Still here? Ok on we go....

Some levity leading up to LSU vs. Alabama. 

There are two really good teams playing football tonight. You might have heard about it. These teams have coaches who are both good at what they do. Our friend Jeff Schultz would like to take that a step farther....let's discuss:

Alabama, LSU have what everyone else wants: great coach

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Nick Saban turned 60 on Halloween, and his players – tempting fate and possibly their scholarships — turned off the lights in a meeting room and yelled, “Surprise!” when their coach walked in. 

It's funny because Nick Saban really does lure unsuspecting people into dark rooms, yells surprise!, and takes their scholarships. It's a fact! It is just a part of his greatness. 

As it turned out, even in the week of the Alabama-LSU game, the little curmudgeon showed a humorous side.

Interesting side note, synonym for "curmudgeon," from, "bear." Moving on. 

After acknowledging, “It’s hard to think about birthdays,” Saban referenced the No. 60 jersey that was presented to him and cracked, “I wasn’t thinking about age. I was thinking I’m a skill player. There’s no way I can sport this 60. I’ve got to have a lower-than-50 number of some sort.”

Alabama ended 2010 with 84 players, lost 12, signed 22 and ended up with 85. I'm just saying to make 60 of something less than 50 of something you have to make 11 disappear. Nick's done it before. He's not just great, he's a magician!  

Might as well give Saban and Les Miles jersey Nos. 1 and 2.

Les miles was an offensive could probably just give him the 60 and he'd be fine with it. I mean no need for a second jersey....

They coach the two best teams in the nation.

I think that either LSU or Alabama, would probably beat Boise State, Stanford, Oklahoma State, or the winner of the SEC championship, but it isn't like it's a fact. Look Alabama has convincingly beat Penn State and Arkansas which are good teams. LSU has convincingly beaten Oregon and West Virginia (so has Syracuse, update now Louisville too) which are good teams. All things considered, they probably look like two of the best teams in the country, but there's a long way to go. 

They’re probably the two best coaches.

All right, you just hold on one second there. I'm going to give you Nick Saban as the best coach in the country, but The Hat? You're going with Leslie Edwin Miles as The. Second. Best. Coach. In. The. Country? The entire Country? That wasn't a typo and you meant that they were the best coaches in the county (I guess Louisiana has Parishes so you must be serious)? With just a 30 second google search, there are 16 active coaches with better career winning percentages than Les Miles, 7 of which have been doing it for longer. How do you know Miles is the best?  

Maybe we think of them differently:

We do. We think of Nick Saban as the best coach in college football. We think of Les Miles as not. 

Saban as cold, evil, I-hate-him-I-hate-him-can-I-get-him-on-my-team brilliant.

That is correct.

Miles as goofy, grass-eating, Mega-Millions-lottery-lucky

Right so could just end the sentence there....


Swing and a miss. Let me simplify this a little bit. Saban is a really good football coach, and people hate him. Miles does funny things, grazes and has gotten very lucky. So I guess that I have to agree, I do think of them differently. As a result of this difference, I put them in different places on the list of best college football coaches. 

Let's take a closer look at some of Les Miles's brilliance: 

From the

"The play that we are getting from our defense is specific in my mind to the play that we are getting from the participants."

It's a way in which your mind slants your world to pick up the things that you need to perform well. I have a scotoma against....all that other stuff. I don't see it, I can't reflect on it, it draws no feel, it's non-destructive.

But unlike our favorite correspondent, Les isn't a writer, what do we care if he can't put his thoughts into English? Has he actually done anything dumb?

How about 2009 against Ole Miss in which Les Miles's team failed to get a snap off from the Ole Miss six yard line trailing by two as time expired?

How about 2010 against Tennessee where LSU was only saved from Miles clock management by Dooley's personnel management. 

For your review here is a discussion of both plays.

Everyone has a bad day, but I don't think the best coach in America makes mistakes like these. 

So what do you think Jeff?

But they give Alabama and LSU the things every other college football program wants:

LSU fans do not want good decisions at the end of the game. Fact.

identity, direction, championships.

Whenever someone tells you something like "this team doesn't have an identity," what they mean is, "this team is shitty." Yeah, yeah, I get it, Georgia would be better if they focused on running out of the I, blocking better at the point of attack, and going play action, they don't have an offensive identity; you know what, if Georgia was scoring 40 points per game, no one would care one bit about how many formations they used to do it. 

Direction doesn't mean anything.

Championships. That's a good trick, combined Les Miles and Nick Saban do have more than one championship.

Les Miles has been a head coach for 10 complete seasons, four at Oklahoma State and six at LSU. In 2007 LSU won the SEC championship and the national championship. In the nine other seasons he has been a head coach Les Miles's teams have won one division title (SEC West in 2005) and zero conference titles. His teams have finished third place in the division or worse in their division five times. His teams have never, including the national championship team, lost fewer than two games in a season (this season not withstanding).

Mark Richt, who is clearly not the best coach in the country, has a higher career winning percentage, more wins, more division championships and more conference championships.

Bob Stoops has a higher winning percentage, more wins, more division conference championships, more conference championships and as many national championships.

I know he's won a national championship and his team this year looks pretty darn good, but these numbers just don't hold up over the longer term.  

If you don't like the numbers let me pose a scenario. You are I are athletic directors starting new college football programs. We each get to choose from any current football coach to start our program. I got to go first and picked Saban. Can you honestly tell me you would take Les Miles?

They are the reason the SEC looks down on every other conference. 

They are certainly part of it; but good teams at the top of the conference are not sufficient for that. If that was the case the PAC 12 would be just as condescending with Stanford and Oregon. Hell the Big 12 could say look at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and say, what about the year we had Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech in contention for the national championship. The reason the SEC is the best conference is depth past the top teams. Even in a down year in the SEC, you have to handle Mark Richt at Georgia, Steve Spurrier at Carolina, Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, hell even Gene Chizik at Auburn after you get by the two best teams. 

Saban and Miles (and, before his career timeout, Urban Meyer) are why so many other coaches wonder about job stability.

If this article was written in 2008 about Urban Meyer and Nick Saban it would be better. 

Because if Saban and Miles hadn’t set the bar so high, other fans bases wouldn’t scream, “Why can’t you win like them?”

Good question, let's do a little role playing: 

Georgia fan: TQCOA, why can't Mark Richt win like Les Miles

TQCOA: Good question Georgia fan, you know it's kind of funny, but if you look at the numbers Mark Richt has won almost exactly the way Les Miles has won. They have very similar winning percentages and numbers of wins. Actually Mark Richt has won more conference championships than Les Miles. 

Georgia fan: but what about national championships?!

TQCOA: yeah, I hear you, but you know what, the year Miles won the national championship his team had two losses, Richt's Georgia team probably had as good an argument to play in that game as LSU did, but hey, what can you do, sometimes it doesn't bounce your way. 

Georgia fan: yeah, that's true, and Miles is kind of dumb ass too. 

TQCOA: yeah, he is. 

We have waited two weeks for Alabama vs. LSU. It’s like a Super Bowl,

In that it's a football game between two good teams? With Bud Light commercials? It's kind of like the Super Bowl I guess, isn't it more like a divisional playoff game? 

only without the Hollywood-on-steroids halftime show, and a trophy when it’s over.

So in summary other than the fact it does not decide the championship of anything or have any of the non football celebration/marketing designed to make your wife or girlfriend tolerate the game, and it won't have very good quarterback play, or be aired on Fox, or be played on Sunday, or have beer at the stadium, other than those things it is like the Super Bowl. OK.  

This game won’t decide a championship,

Unlike the Super Bowl, or the SEC Championship, or the BCS championship, all of which will be played this year. 

but it will set the GPS.

The rank of significant moments in sports is: 

  1. Win championship
  2. And in a very close second - set the GPS

Saturday’s winner at Bryant-Denny Stadium will win the SEC West.


The winner of the SEC West almost certainly will win the SEC title.

They would certainly be the favorite, but crazy things happen bro. Remember when everyone was doing all that "Oklahoma is the greatest team of the century" talk, and they got smoked by Kansas State in the Big 12 championship. Or remember that time in the ACC championship....I'm just kidding no one remembers an ACC championship. What I'm saying is, don't cash the check yet. Long way to go yet.

The winner of the SEC will be an overwhelming favorite to win it all.

Unless it's Georgia or South Carolina. But overwhelming favorite? They would certainly be a favorite, but you don't think Stanford could give them a game? I mean hell I'm going to watch it anyway. 

The loser from Saturday will be somewhere else come bowl time.

Correct, playing another really good team from another conference, that's why college football is so cool. Not only will it be fun to watch, but we'll get to know a lot more about how good that team and the SEC are

That’s about the only downside of this.

Are you saying you want to see this game played twice? I like the SEC as much as you do, but I don't want to see it twice; for that matter I might be drunk the first time so I might watch it like .75 times.  

The two best teams should not be deciding this much on Nov. 5.

So, and let me make sure I've got you here, you want this game to be less important? 

But barring an unforeseen series of losses by other teams, and an unforeseen series of votes in human polls to somehow make a rematch happen, this is as good as it’s going to get.

I'm going to give you a choice of two games you tell me which one you want: 

  1. Undefeated conference champion Alabama or LSU vs. undefeated conference champion Stanford or Oklahoma State, the best offenses in the country vs. the best defense, the South vs. the West, rednecks (or cajuns) vs. hippies (or whatever they have in Stillwater....wrestlers?) or....
  2. Undefeated conference champion Alabama or LSU vs. one loss, non conference champion Alabama or LSU, in a rematch of a game that has already happened 

You are saying that the series of events leading to a rematch is what you would like to happen? Dude, I love the SEC too, and even I don't want to see that. 

Regardless, this game is why no other conference has an argument about superiority.

I have never really enjoyed arguments about conference superiority, but if you want to have one, I think you still can. The bottom of the SEC is pretty lousy and the middle is questionable. The teams in the middle (UGA, South Carolina, Arkansas this year) are no cupcakes, but they're nothing special either. 

We can talk about how the SEC is down this season (and it is).

Let's not forget that LSU's other big win besides Oregon (West Virginia) just got beat by Louisville making them a three loss team. The thesis is that LSU and Alabama have the best defenses in the known universe, so the SEC is the best conference. Well look, you've got to at least acknowledge that there are some terrible offenses (Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida, Vanderbilt) in the SEC too. 

We can point out that schools from the Big 12 and the Pac-12 (numbers subject to change) and even Boise State have legitimate chances to win the BCS title.

Right. You could also point out the Big 12 offensive numbers are a mirror image of the SEC defensive numbers. Yeah I think the SEC would win, but it's a conversation. I've seen Boise State, they're really good. So is Stanford.

But only the SEC — in a down year — can give us a No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the first week of November and lead some to wonder, “Why can’t they play again in January?”

But look, if you assume that they are the two best teams in the country without playing the other really good teams elsewhere in the country, and use that assumption to justify them not playing one of those other good teams, you haven't really proven anything right?  

Saban and Miles don’t win championships every season.

Miles hardly ever wins them.

But they make everybody believe they’re going to contend for them. 

You know who else believes they are going to contend for a championship every season? Clemson. It isn't exactly unique.

They are why so many other coaches, particularly in the SEC, wonder about their own job stability.

True for Saban. Would have been true about Meyer. Not quite buying it about Miles. 

If these two didn’t set the bar so high, other fan bases wouldn’t scream, “Why can’t you win like them?”

Crap I messed up cutting and pasting and somehow copied a line from the article twice.....(checks) nope you just wanted to make this point twice. Give em hell. 

Players for these coaches know how to win conference games, road games and games with national ramifications.

The win a lot. In Miles teams case, not quite as often as 16 other active coaches in division one, but yup, no argument here.

You never expect either to crack.

With Miles teams, so far it's been a mortal certainty that they would crack no fewer than twice a season. And they crack in pressure situations involving clock management because of Les Miles. Of course this year could be different, and for what it's worth I'm rooting for Les. He seems all right to me. Not the best coach in football, but he seems all right.

Imagine what that feels like.

Playing Georgia Tech

“I want the players to enjoy the glare and the light of the big stage,” Miles said earlier this week. “I want them to enjoy the opportunity to play for a big victory. Once I’ve prepared the team and after I feel I’ve done a quality job, I want the players to play with freedom.”

He probably goes a little too far to this extreme, see Ole Miss 09 and UT 2010. But he's had success; just not enough to be the best coach in the country. 

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers this week. Alabama has won eight games by an average score of 39-7. LSU 39-11.

That's true. But listen, a lot of those teams really aren't very good. 

Alabama’s defense has allowed 359 yards rushing all season. That’s 44.8 per game and 1.7 per carry.

Not to mention allowing 180 yards per game in total. It's otherworldly. The best defenses in college football in the past five years (who is generally TCU) have allowed about 220 yards per game. That's a big improvement. To be honest it's so good it's suspicious. We'll see if it holds, but until then I'm questioning the offenses they've played. I mean don't get me wrong Alabama's defense is really good, but if they are this good we're seeing something fairly historic. 

LSU has trailed has for only 6 minutes, 33 seconds all season (6-3 against Oregon in Week 1. The Tigers went on a 30-7 run and won 40-27.)

They have played really well.

It’s two teams and everybody else in the SEC,

Right, you get it, you see why the winner needs to play the best team from outside the conference in order to see if they are really the best! Because these otherworldly numbers they are putting up could be because the SEC is kind of down. I'm glad we talked about this and that you understand why the rematch is such a bad idea. 

and the nation,

Oh. Listen, I'm going to give you a test to see if you really believe this. If you think these two teams are the best in the country by that much, and you think a rematch is impossible, stop watching college football after tonight. Because what's the point? It will all be decided.

and it’s not hard to figure out why.

Not when you're here to help us. Thanks Jeff.

Look at the sideline.

You see how he made it singular there? Not look at the sidelines or either sideline. He knows.

By Jeff Schultz

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