As no less an authority than Big Daddy Kane pointed out, pimpin' ain't easy. That's why the guys who represent America's football coaching talent get paid the big bucks and go to confession weekly. But once the ink is dry on the multimillion dollar contract, a strange thing happens: people actually expect you to win football games.
Everybody is a "solid hire" in December, but it's important to remember that every one of these guys was available for a reason. So, while some jobs are still available, now seems like a good time to take a critical look at some of the new program saviors who are busy settling into their well-appointed offices. I'll be grading the new college coaching hires. And like your college Portuguese Lit. Professor, my judgments are totally subjective. Really, if I rely on any objective data, I swear it's completely unintentional and won't happen again.
So without further ado:
Bobby Petrino, Univ. of Arkansas.
Pro: Offensive genius. I'm not sure what qualifications that entails. I mean, Charlie Weis is one. Urban Meyer was supposed to be one. I keep hearing the same about Petrino, so it must be true. Of course, the last offensive genius Arkansas hired is now at Tulsa. Which must have been a smart move, because folks in Arkansas say Gus Malzahn is a genius.
Con: Arthur Blank thinks he's a lying sleazeball, and Lawyer Milloy says he's a coward. Apparently will be spending time with Jerry Jones, thereby further improving his credibility. Won lots of games at Louisville using far superior talent against the Cincinnatis of the world, will now get to see how the other half lives. Cold, beedy eyes.
Grade: C+. Arkansans can't possibly hate him any more than the last guy, character issues be damned. Speaking of which . . .
Houston Nutt, Ole Miss.
Pro: Crazy as hell. No, seriously. With all those despots, murderers and other assorted sinners around, Hell is a pretty crazy place. Nutt's craziness is quantitatively equal to the craziness of Hell, though qualitatively very different. The new Head Reb's a good crazy. A kinder, gentler crazy. A "hey, I've got the best tailback in the country, I think I'll let him throw the ball around some. . . " kind of crazy. If he had retained Ed Orgeron as his defensive coordinator, 38.7% of college football bloggers would have moved to the Oxford metropolitan area by now, including yours truly. Because that would be solid bloggin' gold. I for one am waiting for Nutt to samba through The Grove clad in a Colonel Reb outfit on his way to Ole Miss's first home game. Just tell me he won't do it. Go on. I dare ya.
Con: Crazy as hell. As many a college football fanbase has learned, "flipping nuts" is the sordid underbelly of "coaches with enthusiasm". At some point next season, Nutt will do something and the assembled masses in Vaught-Hemingway will look at each other and ask "what just happened?" Arkansas fans will smile knowingly.
Grade: B+. Nutt led the Razorbacks to three SEC Championship games. Whether featuring man/ent Matt Jones at quarterback or Darren McFadden at, well, everything, he's historically figured out how to make due with what he's given. So perhaps he's crazy like a fox. But as long as he wins 1 conference game next season, he will improve on his predecessor's performance. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt to a guy who has figuratively made silk purses out of a series of sows' ears at Arkansas. Look for Nutt to set up a satellite office at South Panola High within the week, and to find all sorts of players in Mississippi's sprawling junior college football ranks.
Tommy Tuberville, Auburn: Not a new hire, you say? That's news to me.
Pro: Changes coordinators like socks, and still beats Florida like clockwork. Couldn't lose to Alabama unless Auburn was quarantined the night before the Iron Bowl due to (yet another) monkeypox outbreak. May be a leprechaun, or the lovechild of Lou Holtz and Shug Jordan.
Con: Tommy Two Ears rattled his sabre at Jay Jacobs and crew, rattled his team's fanbase, and perhaps rattled his reputation among the Auburn faithful. While it's nothing that an 11-2 campaign in 2008 couldn't fix, Tubs has turned his tenure on the Plains in a new direction. Auburn fans believed that the Petrino/Lowder unpleasantness was a distant memory. They had crawled back into the sack with their diminuitive imp of a coach. Then they caught him making eyes across the bar at some swarthy hogfarmer (Tip of the hat to EDSBS, and incredibly profane, but since Orson wrote it you already knew that. . .) and they may never trust him again. In one fell swoop, Tuberville managed to a) alienate many of the people who one week earlier were ready to give him their firstborn, and b) gave Nick Saban all the ammo he'll ever need on the Alabama recruiting trail. He'll be looking to make amends with a new offensive coordinator and possibly a new DC too, while breaking in a new quarterback.
Grade: B-. Tuberville handled the offseason coaching carousel just about as badly as he could have. Next season will be the start of a new chapter on the Plains. If Auburn prospers under new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin and the defense is what it always has been, all will be quickly forgiven. For now.
Larry Fedora, Southern Miss.
Pro: He's a man. He's 45. He worked for Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State and coordinated a generally prolific offense.
Con: Bulldog fans last saw his prolific offense getting smacked around in Sanford Stadium on September 1. Served as Florida's Offensive Coordinator under Ron Zook in 2004. That can't be good, even if his offense was one of the best in the conference that year with Christy Leak taking the snaps.
Grade: Incomplete. There's a part of me that honestly wants to see the Southern Miss football team wander in the wilderness for a while after the bush league firing of Jeff Bower. But then a host of football fans from Orange Beach to Biloxi and beyond would suffer as a result. I cannot endorse the suffering of the innocent. Fedora has never been a head coach and he's going to need one of those defensive coordinator fellows to avoid being on the wrong side of some 45-42 Thursday night losses. Jury's still out on this one.