coaches say you can't, so don't sign a loi
Thought it would be worthwhile to do a second deep dive on Dan Mullen's background. I did a first pass on Mullen in late September when he had just beaten LSU for his biggest win of his career, can be read here. At the time I was only looking at the NCAA data for total offense/defense. This time I have a much more expanded statistical data - which tells me to worry about the same things about Dan Mullen.
Mullen is to 2014's search IMO what Kevin Sumlin was to 2013; the name of the moment. A year later Sumlin's shine has dissipated quite a bit. This is my worry with Mullen. If I brought him up as a CC 12 months ago I would have been laughed off the board. So does 1 year justify changing that?
12.5 months ago Mullen was sporting a 4-6 record with 2 games to go in year FIVE of his regime. Those 4 wins were over baby seals Alcorn State, Troy, Bowling Green, and soon to be 2-10 Kentucky. He did beat 3-9 Arkansas and won the Egg Bowl over 8-5 Ole Miss to finish off the year 6-6 before the bowl. So his regular season included 1 win of note...in year 5. Bret Bielema has done better in year 2 of his regime at Arkansas IMO in terms of upsets.
And his first 4 years were not super impressive either; until 2014 Dan Mullen spent 5 years beating bad teams he should and losing to almost every decent team that came across his desk. Including an UM team that had given up on its coach.
2009-2013 wins and losses
List of wins year by year
- 2009: Jackson State, (2-10) Vanderbilt, Middle Tenn State, (7-6) Kentucky, (9-4) #20 Miss State.
- 2010: Memphis, (6-7) Georgia, Alcorn State, Houston, (8-5) Florida, UAB, Kentucky, (4-8) Ole Miss, Michigan
- 2011: Memphis, LA Tech, UAB, Kentucky, Tennessee-Martin, (2-10) Ole Miss
- 2012: Jackson State (3-9) Auburn, Troy, South Alabama, Kentucky, (5-7) Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, (4-8) Arkansas
- 2013: Alcorn State, Troy, Bowling Green, Kentucky, (3-9) Arkansas, (8-5) Ole Miss, (10-4) Rice
List of losses year by year
- 2009: Auburn, LSU, Georgia Tech, Houston, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas
- 2010: Auburn, LSU, Alabama, Arkansas
- 2011: Auburn, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas
- 2012: Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, Ole Miss, Northwestern
- 2013: Oklahoma State, Auburn, LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama
Miss State beat NOBODY of value in years 3 and 4 of his regime. In year 5 he beat one - an 8-5 Ole Miss. That is 3 years with no regular season wins of value other than 1 team. He has a massive dearth of wins over >.500 Power 5 conference teams. Every single opportunity he had to spring a major upset ala Arkansas in year 2 under Bret he failed in those years 3, 4, and 5. In year 4 he had a team that could not beat Northwestern in a bowl.
His best win in 5 years was 8-5 Florida. His 2nd and 3rd best wins were rivalry games vs decent, not great Ole Miss in year 1 and year 5. I cannot find a 4th best win in his first 5 years - it would be between Rice in a bowl and UM in a bowl. So in 64 (including 4 bowls) opportunities in 5 years I am at a loss to find a 4th quality win.
Yes as many have said "he coaches at the Indiana of the SEC" but Harbaugh took over 1-11 Stanford and by year 3 had beaten top 10 teams like USC and Oregon. And Stanford is not any different than a Purdue level program - they bounced from bad to average for most of 25 years. So the open question is - why no major upsets in 5 years, why cannot you do what Bert B did at Arkansas in year 2 in 5 years? He had way more opportunities than most coaches to spring upsets as he is in the SEC West.
But let's look at the stats because it tells us a lot about how a team is built. It also disputes some notions. Right now the meme is Dan Mullen is an offensive guru due to working with Urban Meyer and his offenses at MSU. The data shows otherwise - this is not a Mike Leach offense or Kevin Sumlin offense or any high powered offense. MSU is not a team that spent 5 years losing 45-31 under an offensive guru like a Texas Tech did under Leach. If anything MSU was an above average defensive team whose offense was sorely lacking for 5 years.
I am worried Mullen is getting the "Brett Favre" effect. Lions fans will recall so many "offensive gurus" who coached Brett Favre. They's go elsewhere (including the Lions HC) and be exposed. Brett Favre made a lot of people a lot of money they didn't deserve.
This is always a worry with hiring a coordinator who works under a HC whose expertise is his side of the ball. Urban Meyer has had high powered offenses with any OC he works with. So to say "Dan Mullen developed Chris Leak" is no different than saying "Tom Herman developed JT Barrett". No folks - Urban friggin Meyer is the consistent piece there - right Tim Tebow? Did UF's offense go thru the crapper when Mullen left? No.
Here is 7 years of data including 2008 (Croom's last season) for comparison
|W/L||Tot Off||oFEI||oS&P+||Tot Def||dFEI||dS&P+|
For comparison here is U of M's 8-5 2012 team so we can compare to a decent but not great team
|W/L||Tot Off||oFEI||oS&P+||Tot Def||dFEI||dS&P+|
My advice is to ignore the NCAA's "total offense" and "total defense" measures and drift your eyes to the advanced stats. Why? Total offense and total defense measure nothing but total yards gained or given up in a game - they are simple measures that do not adjust for strength of schedule, garbage time, conferences, or anything. See the disparity in UM's 2012 Total Offense vs advanced stats or MSU's 2014 Total Defense vs advanced stats. So look at FEI and S&P+ instead..
Let's exclude 2009 because you can't do much as a coach in year 1 when you take over a bad program but begin to recruit and adjust your team. From 2010 forward we see a team that until 2014 had Greg Mattison type defenses (excluding 2012). That's not bad but not great. 2014 was different in that was a very good defense via advanced stats - although you'd never know it by using total defense via the NCAA.
As for the offense. Offensive guru? Hell no. This was a mediocre offense for 5 years. Only in 2014 with an early Heisman Trophy candidate did it take off. Seeing how bad it was in years 3-4 is very troubling. 2011-2012 advanced stats mirror what 2014 UM is doing; FEIs in the 80s for a Power 5 team is putrid. And no Miss State doesnt recruit like Purdue or Indiana - its classes were generally in the 30s in Mullen era, which is no different than Michgan State and not much below where a Nebraska or Penn State recruits. And ahead of Stanford and Wisconsin. So there is no excuse for this bad of an offense for 5 years, including 2 years of Michigan 2014 level offense.
As for year 6 in the regime? Stats look awesome across the board. But if you are hiring a coach for what he did in year 6 after 5 year's of mediocre you are taking a massive risk.
Throw all that together PLUS the transition costs of switching to his run based spread where we just got rid of all the type of players that fit it and I do not think Dan Mullen is a good risk as a HC for UM. Bert B is already doing better things in year 2 at Arkansas than Mullen did in year 5 at Miss State. Some say Mullen is not a 1 year wonder - I say thus far until proven otherwise next year - he is.
Football Outsiders FEI measure and (3) Football Outsiders S&P+ measure are 2 advanced stats I am using. Both of these incorporate various strength of schedule adjustments, garbage time adjustments, blowout adjustments etc to give a more comprehensive view of a unit other than yards gained or yards given up. Read more about them here and here.
The board's choice for our new head coach is pretty clear: Jim Harbaugh. But who comes in second?
It turns out that's also pretty clear:
Les Miles won the board poll by a hefty margin, garnering an even 49% of the vote. The runner-up, Dan Mullen, mustered barely better than half that number (24.79%) and from there it's a steep drop to any kind of third place. Here are the results, followed by a few thoughts:
- Les Miles - 342 votes (49%)
- Dan Mullen - 173 votes (24.79%)
- Tom Herman - 64 votes (9.17%)
- Other - 64 votes (9.17%)
- Todd Graham - 23 votes (3.30%)
- Jim McElwain - 19 votes (2.72%)
- Greg Schiano - 8 votes (1.15%)
- Craig Bohl - 5 votes (0.72%)
I would attribute the lower number of votes to yesterday's news--before the confirmation of Hoke's meeting with Hackett, the votes were coming in much, much faster, but the board got understandably focused on other things by the afternoon. That said, the trends were clear: Miles stayed around 50% the entire time, and Mullen was always the clear runner-up in the 25% range. Tom Herman was a bit surprising as the #3 choice, even if he was dead even with "other."
Jim Hackett's press conference was flawlessly executed. That said, he built an idealistic picture of a coach that's going to be awfully hard to find. It seemed he weighs on-field success and character about equally, and even Jim Harbaugh has plenty of detractors in the latter category. Don't get me wrong--if Harbaugh wants the job, he's got it. But Hackett's focus on integrity is going to give the media lots of excuses to try to dig up dirt and question his commitment to character.
For that reason, I strongly believe that Les Miles will NOT be considered a serious candidate for the job. If all you know about Miles is that he has been extremely successful in CFB's best division, you only know some of the story. Les has been the subject of many rumors of scandal and impropriety over the years, and, while I'm sure not all are true, there is plenty of ammunition for the media to throw in Hackett's face should he hire Les, creating another press-fueled shitstorm the university does not want.
Our #2 guy isn't without warts either. Dan Mullen's recent scholarship withdrawal from QB Chason Virgil--whom Mullen had asked to enroll early and is just a few days from graduation now--didn't please the recruit's coach:
Chason Virgil -35 tds/6int passing -8td rushing. One of the best young people I've ever coached -only flaw was trusting "coach" Mullen.— Coach Jeff Neill (@neill_jeff) November 21, 2014
Tom Herman seems clean so far, but he hasn't run a program yet. Todd Graham switches jobs more than Taylor Swift switches crushes. McElwain also looks clean, but is a front-runner for the Florida job. Schiano has his detractors--though more in the Harbaugh vein of abrasive intensity--and most people don't even know who Craig Bohl is.
What I'm getting at here is that I believe it's likely that there is a candidate who has a good shot at winning the job that we are not currently considering. A good point was made by a poster last night that Bob Stitt might be a better fit for Hackett's criteria than many names we've on which we've fixated. Here's a good place to learn a bit about Stitt. He makes no secret about his desire to coach at the top level.
I have no idea who it might be, but it may be time for us to think outside of the names we've gotten used to in the past few months. Then again, it may just be Jim Harbaugh.
UPDATE - Final Results:
Les Miles - 663 (59.62%)
Dan Mullen - 449 (40.38%)
Votes from 13 countries.
Assuming neither Harbro is available, whom would you want to be our next HC?
Miles crushed Schiano...but what about Mullen?
CLICK HERE for the new poll...I will post results tomorrow.
I'll keep posting polls this week until we have an MGoBlog champ.
UPDATE: Next poll will have all non-Harbaugh options.
Per 247Sports, Mississippi State has pulled the scholarship of 3* QB Chason Virgil, who had been committed to the Bulldogs since May and planned to early enroll.
"They called my coach today and (Mississippi State) is wanting me to grayshirt," said Virgil. "Just knowing that I am graduating early in a month, it is hard to just sit out a whole year without playing and being in a program. So I have to start over now. I haven't talked to any other schools in awhile so I just have to see what happens."
The kid's coach is hopping mad an not afraid to tell twitter about it:
Miss St. pulls scholarship from our QB Chason Virgil w/16 days til graduation. Classless move by "coach" Dan Mullen— Jeff Neill (@neill_jeff) November 21, 2014
Chason Virgil -35 tds/6int passing -8td rushing. One of the best young people I've ever coached -only flaw was trusting "coach" Mullen.— Jeff Neill (@neill_jeff) November 21, 2014
Obviously we've only seen one side of this story, and will only see one side of this story, but this situation makes Mullen look real scummy, imo. Mullen had been my #2 CC behind Jim Harbaugh, but this is making me really reevaluate that. It would kill me if Michigan ever did something like this to a kid.
The AD change has happened, and most everyone expects a coaching change to follow. I don't know about you, but my views have evolved quite a bit since the whole CC bit started in earnest after Minnesota. Most of that change has been the result of research into the candidates, but some has also been feelingsball.
I'm curious to see what everyone else thinks. Here's my current opinion, broken into tiers:
Tier 1 - Harbaugh
Jim or John, I'd be equally ecstatic with either. Jim is the proven college HC, John is the nicer guy with the SB ring.
Tier 2 - Yes, please
These are the guys that I believe are the best candidates not named Harbaugh.
- Dan Mullen - Offensive guru who has built a defensive juggernaut. Appears to be the total package and has the added bonus of echoing the Woody/Bo relationship vis-a-vis Meyer. My top choice in tier two.
- Todd Graham - All he is does is win, wherever he's coaching. Not sure he'd move to the midwest.
- Gary Patterson - Defensive coach that decided to evolve offensively this year and is knocking on the playoff door. Would overhaul the roster as much as anyone.
- Jim McElwain - Former 'Bama OC has turned Colorado State (3-9 for three straight seasons before McElwain) into a double-digit win team that has progressed steadily on both sides of the ball and will probably win the Mountain West.
Tier 3 - Ummm...okay
Guys that make sense, I guess, but I would not be pumped about.
- Mark Stoops - Has rapidly advanced a once-pathetic Kentucky team. Will the improvement continue?
- Greg Schiano - Demeanor aside, his HC record is good, but certainly not great. Is he a good coach?
- Tom Herman - My favorite coordinator candidate. He seems capable of adapting to his personnel and changing the plan mid-game. Also, I like the idea of taking Urban's top assistant. But can he run an entire program?
- Mike Gundy - Seems like a good coach and a great quote, but hasn't been amazing since 2011 and the Les Miles ties cocern me. Would he run a clean program?
- Kyle Whittingham - Having a pretty impressive season at Utah, and wasn't too stubborn to change his offense. Is he ready for a big-time job?
Tier 4 - DO NOT WANT
- Les Miles - Call me arrogant, naive, or whatever you want--I still don't want a douchebag running our program.
- Dave Doeren, Butch Jones, Craig Bohl, Matt Wells, Mark Hudspeth - Not proven yet.
- Scott Frost, Kirby Smart, Bud Foster - Would they stay?
If I didn't put a name on the list, I'm not currently interested. What does the board think?