|OC/QB @ Iowa St||2009-11|
|OC/QB @ Rice||2007-08|
|OC @ Texas St||2005-06|
|WR @ Sam Houston||2001-04|
|WR at Cal Lutheran, 1994-97|
These again. We're skipping Harbaugh because it's not like you need to be told about Harbaugh. In the event M does hire him, he'll get one.
These are in approximate order of personal preference.
I know, I know: must be head coach, if not head coach doom doom doom. To me that thinking is excessively narrow when you start talking about guys like Gary Pinkel and Steve Addazio. Many of the standout coaches in college football today started their head coaching careers at Power 5 schools—even major ones.
Here is a list of currently active college head coaches who had never been head coach before their appointment at a Power 5 school, in approximate groupings:
note: "outsider" includes people brought in from the outside as designated successors who went through a coach-in-waiting period like Fisher and Bielema.
Jimbo Fisher (Florida State), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Charlie Strong (Texas via Louisville), Dan Mullen (Mississippi State), Bret Bielema (Arkansas via Wisconsin), Bill Snyder (KSU), Mark Richt (UGA), Dana Holgorsen (WVU), Les Miles (LSU via Okie State), James Franklin (PSU via Vandy)
Steve Sarkisian (USC via Washington).
GROOMED INTERNAL CANDIDATES
Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Gary Patterson (TCU), Dabo Swinney (Clemson), Mark Helfrich (Oregon), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), Kyle Whittingham (Utah), David Shaw (Stanford).
WE HIRE THESE GUYS BECAUSE WE HAVE FEW ALTERNATIVES
- Paul Chryst (Pitt), Scott Shafer (Syracuse), Paul Rhoads (ISU), Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech), Kyle Flood (Rutgers), Derek Mason (Vandy), Mike Leach (WSU via Texas Tech), Mark Stoops (Kentucky), Kevin Wilson (Indiana)
This is biased in favor of good coaches because bad ones get fired, but this list contains 18 names before you even get to the "no alternative" section—approximately half of Power 5 existing head coaches had no experience with a top job when hired.
- In addition, there are a number of current head coaches with very brief or almost irrelevant head coaching experience. Before Nick Saban was hired at MSU he had all of one year as a HC at Toledo; Gus Malzahn was at Arkansas State for a single year before Auburn scooped him up; Hugh Freeze was at the same place for a single year and had a couple years at something called Lambuth beforehand.
When you take the guys who were hired based on things other than their head coaching experience you have a collection of assistant-hirin' schools that are amongst the biggest in college: Florida State, Oklahoma, Georgia, Oklahoma State, Washington, Oregon, Clemson, Wisconsin, Auburn, Ole Miss.
Hiring a hot assistant is a valid option if the right guy is available. And Tom Herman has a case that he's the right guy.
[After THE JUMP: all about that case.]
Xs and Os Proficiency
This is not much in question after Ohio State's third string quarterback blasted Wisconsin even deeper into the stone age in which they comfortably reside. Ohio State had the best rushing game in the country last year; this year they lost their QB, RB, and four offensive linemen and experienced almost no dropoff. In a couple metrics they actually improved!
[Italicized years did not feature the coach in question and are provided for comparison. I grabbed the previous two years at OSU to compare the Herman offense to the one piloted by Tressel and a junior Terrelle Pryor as well as the one-off Bollman year.]
Herman came to D-I after a prolific tenure as Texas State's I-AA offensive coordinator and turned the 2008 Rice outfit into an explosive 10-3 outfit—Rice's head coach is a defensive guy.
That got him a move up to Iowa State, where his offense was kind of okay in year one and then statistically horrible. Iowa State was 90th in scoring offense in Herman's third year, worse in yards per play, and the advanced metrics agreed. His Wikipedia page tries to make it look nice by noting that he put up 41 in an inexplicable blowout of Texas Tech; it does not mention that the next week the Cyclones put up 13 on Kansas and lost to Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl with the same number of points.
But Urban don't curr, so he gets hired at Ohio State. He had the twin advantages of not having a true freshman quarterback and not coaching under an interim, so a year-one surge was expected. For Ohio State to get instantly back to par with a very good Tressel offense featuring college superstar Terrelle Pryor was not, and the last two years he's taken OSU's offense into the stratosphere. He won the Broyles in a runaway this year.
Herman has a slightly better QB recruiting record than Al Borges
Data relatively thin what with his existence at Iowa State (no recruiting possible) and Ohio State (the prospects throw themselves at you), but Herman was named the 2013 Rivals Big Ten recruiter of the year. He live-tweeted a recruiting trip when he got caught in the Atlanta ice storm earlier this year; he ended up spending 19 hours in a car. That's some terrific battery discipline.
Herman's been tasked with Texas for the most part and has done major work there:
In the 10 years that Jim Tressel led Ohio State, the Buckeyes attracted the same amount of Lone Star State recruits to Columbus as Herman has in the past 10 months.
Those recruits included five-star LB Mike Mitchell, Dontre Wilson, and JT Barrett; Herman spent a decade coaching in Texas before moving to Iowa State.
None so far; he's coordinator.
It is worth noting that Urban Meyer coordinators have been top notch when offered head jobs. Dan Mullen just had a season where Mississippi State contended for a playoff spot; Charlie Strong made Louisville into a powerhouse and is now at Texas; Kyle Whittingham has been impressive in a decade at Utah; even Steve Addazio has done decently in two years at BC, though the jury is still out on him.
That's quite a hit rate, and indicates that Meyer both finds excellent coaches and lets them do their thing.
In addition, Herman is a really smart guy. He loathes the fact that a long time ago he signed up for MENSA and people continually bring this up, but it's true. He does party tricks:
Herman’s interview signified “the most intense 24 hours” of his life, he said. Meyer threw concepts at him to memorize and scolded him for using “should” instead of “will.” He wanted to see how Herman processed and relayed back information. He did not yet know that Herman could call an entire game on offense without glancing at a call sheet. Or that he would dominate on “Jeopardy!” and opine on everything from the Bible to ancient history to pop culture.
A couple years back Gerry DiNardo sat down with Herman after Herman's first season in Columbus to break down some plays; Herman comes off as friendly, eloquent, and totally in command of his material. He veritably radiates head coach.
How much of his success is Meyer? Same question we asked with Mullen. Herman has steadily moved up the ranks, which speaks to how impressive he is in person, but before his OSU gig his main claim to fame was a single year at Rice. Like Mullen, I think there's a good case that Herman is a big reason for OSU's success here. Meyer was never a coordinator and his OCs call the plays; he provides a structure for the offense. Steve Addazio's tenure provides a counterpoint to people who assume any Urban OC is going to be good, and yeah Brantley is not Tebow but guess who has not recruited any Brantley-like QBs at OSU? The OC/QB coach.
Also, Herman's ability to get Miller, Barrett, and even Cardale Jones to perform over his tenure has been impressive.
But he's never been a head coach. It's a risk. You're fooling yourself if you think that just because head coach X has track record Y that your hypothetical other candidate is not a risk. See: Rodriguez, Rich. All kinds of head coaches move and lose their mojo.
The lack of experience does move Herman behind guys who have an obviously great track record like Stoops, but once you get past the slam-dunk level those advantages dim quickly. In the event that the Gundy/Patterson/Stoops level guys are off the table I'm not looking at Herman's relative lack of experience as much of a problem.
But what about the spread transition? It's a downer, but it's really not that different from what Michigan ran most of this year: inside zone. OSU runs it more vertically than most; it's still the same principles. The main problem is at QB, where there's not an obvious spread guy available. It's an issue. Michigan could scrape by with Morris or Malzone doing the Connor Shaw thing where he keeps 'em honest; it won't be ideal.
A hire like this would be hoping for a 20-year tenure, though, and some early bumps are happening no matter who gets the job unless you think a QB answer is going to pop up next year under a pro-style coach. Honestly, a spread that offers the potential to take hard decisions away from the QB is probably a better spot for Morris than your generic West Coast offense.
THAT WOMAN test. Herman passes; more generally, his demeanor and background fits with Michigan's culture. No one is going to deride this guy as a hillbilly.
Would He Take The Job?
It's a swing for the fences… one I'd be fine with. If you can't beat 'em, steal 'em—Michigan learned that lesson a long time ago. Herman's done outstanding work, has all the recruiting ties you'd need now, and Urban Meyer coordinators have been some of the surest things available in coaching.
He's also on the upside, unlike a lot of the previously mentioned options. I would take him over many names mentioned in this search. Right now my list goes Harbaugh, Stoops, Herman.