Sports Illustrated recently set out to grade all of the recent coaching hires in college football — an impossible and arbitrary task, but a piece of #content that I clicked on nonetheless.
A few things stood out:
*There was a Big Ten team/new coach that received an “A” grade, but it wasn’t the Gophers and P.J. Fleck (more on that in a minute). Instead, it was Purdue and its hire of Jeff Brohm. The Boilermakers have been awful lately, but when they’ve been good its largely been because of their offense (think about the Joe Tiller/Drew Brees era, which included a Rose Bowl bid after the 2000 season). Brohm brings with him from Western Kentucky a reputation for offensive creativity and takes over a program that can go nowhere but up.
*Two other coaches were graded “A” hires (Charlie Strong at South Florida and Brent Brennan at San Jose State). Tom Herman at Texas got an A-minus. And then we get a cluster of five coaches graded with a B-plus, including Fleck — a very nice grade, but not elite in the eyes of SI. He is acknowledged as one of the hottest names in coaching. Of him it is written: “Fleck oozes enthusiasm (about football, rowing the boat, life and cotton, among other things), and he’ll be able to connect with kids on the recruiting trail.“
*Eleven other coaches are graded below Fleck, and most of them at least pass. But then we get to poor Lane Kiffin, who played in high school locally at Bloomington Jefferson before himself becoming one of the hottest young names in coaching.
Kiffin was the head coach of the NFL’s Raiders as well as storied college programs Tennessee and USC, all before the age of 40. The brightness of his star seemed to dim a little at each stop, though it didn’t stop him from being Alabama’s offensive coordinator the past three seasons. Now? He’s the head coach of Florida Atlantic — a move Sports Illustrated grades as its only F of the bunch.
“Kiffin is considered one of the best offensive minds and playcallers in college football. And that’s where the positives end (they’re also up for debate after Alabama’s College Football Playoff game against Washington.”
Ouch. And it doesn’t get more flattering from there.