Do you prefer a head coach with an offensive or defensive background?

Submitted by iawolve on September 16th, 2011 at 2:15 PM

This was bar stool conversation that I decided to take to the board. I actually prefer "competent", but that is not an option. When I looked at the College AP Top 15, there are 9 head coaches with Offensive backgrounds and 6 with Defensive. This flips in the NFL Power Rankings (weak, but the only comp I had) where there are 9 Defensive head coaches to 6 Offensive ones. I didn't take this beyond 15 because I wanted an odd number and dude, it's Friday so the analysis was just to spur conversation not get to Mathalete level.





September 16th, 2011 at 2:40 PM ^

Ding ding ding, we have a winner. I agree, this is one of the areas that I think Hoke is being successful in. He knows he isn't an offensive coach so he has a OC that knows his stuff and he lets him take care of it.

Being the HC is different than being a position coach or a DC/OC. You are the manager/leader, you must know what and when to delegate to your staff. Let them handle the problems that pertain to their areas.






September 16th, 2011 at 5:12 PM ^

If a coordinator leaves, what can you do? 

One option is to hire a new one from among your contacts. Ideally the head coach already has a number of good candidates in mind and can start interviewing immediately.

Another option is to promote from within. Again, you should have a pretty good idea of what your staff is capable of already, and be able to decide whether or not one of the positional coaches is ready to become a coordinator.

Honestly, any coach who's good at managing their staff and hiring assistant coaches should be able to do this without too much of a drop-off.


September 16th, 2011 at 2:21 PM ^

I would say defensive line minded. And that's not just joking around. I feel as though regardless of whatever else is going on, if you have a D line that plays at an elite level, your team will always have a chance.


September 16th, 2011 at 2:27 PM ^

Would you feel more comfortable with a really good offense but an ineffective defense, or a really good defense but an ineffective offense?   One, merely anecdotal example: I had no idea whether LSU had a bad, decent or good offense.  But I was confident they'd win last night, simply because I thought their defense would be able to contain MSUs offense.


September 16th, 2011 at 2:23 PM ^

I want one that will understand his strengths and delegate his weakness's to a person that knows his sh*t and won't medel.


that being said get a great offence and an ok defence you'll win 9-10 games a year and be relevent. have a great defence and an ok offence you could win it all.

Monocle Smile

September 16th, 2011 at 2:27 PM ^

Depends on what you mean by "ok."

Auburn and Oregon both had great offenses and ok defenses (barely) last year.

The '97 team had a great defense, but the most important part of their "ok" offense was reliability. They weren't explosive, but they didn't turn the ball over, either.


September 16th, 2011 at 3:41 PM ^



Scoring D (OSU)

Total D (OSU)

Scoring O (OSU)

Total O (OSU)

Auburn 2010

53 (5)

60 (4)

7 (11)

7 (20)

Alabama 2009

2 (5)

2 (5)

21 (49)

43 (67)

Florida 2008

4 (6)

9 (14)

4 (45)

15 (76)

LSU 2007

17 (1)

3 (1)

11 940)

26 (62)

The great teams are good at offense and defense, but if you want to win championships at National or Conference levels, it seems like defense is your better bet.

To answer the OP's question, a coach of any sort can succeed, as long as he compensates on his staff for whatever he's not good at.  So my head coach can be offensive or defensive minded. But I want my TEAM to be defensive minded, and great at that, first.

Monocle Smile

September 16th, 2011 at 2:22 PM ^

I guess my answer is that it depends both on how successful they were at their previous jobs as well as what coordinators they hire. For instance, if Greg Mattison was the defensive coordinator and some young unproven dude was the OC, I would prefer an offensive-minded head coach.


September 16th, 2011 at 2:31 PM ^

I'd say I'd prefer a defensive coach because it seems like it's more common to find young up and coming genius offensive coordinators than it is to find the same on the defensive side of the ball. Also it seems in general that defensive guys take a more hands off approach and let the OC do their job while offensive guys like to meddle with (see: screw up) the defensive coordinator.


September 16th, 2011 at 2:32 PM ^

Despite the Rodriguez fiasco, I still prefer the offensive guys.  It seems as if they are more likely to succeed.  I think that there is something about the OC's mind that makes him a better fit for the head coaching job.  Exceptions everywhere to the rule, of course. 


September 16th, 2011 at 4:38 PM ^

Though we'd generally classify him as an offensive minded coach, Rich Rod is an illustration of why this question is not black and white.  What background does he have?  He was a defensive player and was a defensive coach until he went to become the HC at Glenville.  All of a sudden he becomes an offensive minded coach and is the OC at Tulane.


September 16th, 2011 at 2:37 PM ^

Give me a coach who understands the importance of Defense, Special Teams and taking care of the football.........I don't care if he is offensive or defensive minded. 

Plus give me a coach who is confident in his assistants and lets them do their job and coaches his coaches during the week so he doesn't have to on game day.... Ie his staff and players are prepared for key situations.




September 16th, 2011 at 2:45 PM ^

Mathlete or some analytical contributor had a post a year or so ago that demonstrated that being superior at defense was slightly more important than being superior at offense.  There was a scatterplot chart that showed the National Title winning teams compared to all other teams.

Clearly, competent at being a head coach is the most important but that was not the question.


September 16th, 2011 at 2:57 PM ^

What I mean is that I want a guy that is more of a CEO type (recruiter, public face) of the university vs. a genius football coordinator/ coach. Hoke is a great face for Michigan (Michigan Man, hates Ohio, recruits well, and HIRES AWESOME COORDINATORS). That last part is capatilized, because it's key.

RR is/was an awesome offensive mind, but that hurts him as a HC, because he (and others I'm sure) want to coach their side of the ball which in a day with finite hours means neglecting some other duty (PR, recruiting, fundraising...).


September 16th, 2011 at 3:51 PM ^

Even though the last guy did it (and there's nothing wrong with doing it that well...lots of successful head coaches are involved in scheme), you don't have to be a tactical genius to be a good head coach. You have to be a good manager and leader. And hire those types of people. I never thought Lloyd was a great defensive coordinator; but I had hope of him as a head coach because his players loved him and would run through walls for him. He knew how to lead men, if his schemes were a bit fuddy duddy.

The perfect example is James Lee Howell.  Who? He won a championship coaching the New York Giants, taking them to 3 championship games in the 50's. He may have been a savant, but we don't really hear much about him. His coordinators? We know them. Some guy named Tom Landry on defense, and Vince Lombardi on offense.  (No WONDER Vince couldn't help our defense last year...he was an offensive guy).  And considering both those guys were pretty good, and on opposite sides of the ball, I think you can do all right no matter what side of the ball you come from.

Seattle Maize

September 16th, 2011 at 7:56 PM ^

I agree with everything you said.  One thing I would add though is that Hoke is, at the same time, a very hands on coach.  He knows his speciality is the DLine and is good at coaching that along with the managerial/CEO role.  In that respect Hoke coaches in a similar way as Nick Saban who is very specialized in coaching DBs. 


September 16th, 2011 at 3:04 PM ^

I'm gonna go ahead and turn in my Michigan Man card and say offensive minded coaches are my preference.  It is neat, however, when they decide to hire defensive coaches who are competent.  It is even more neat when they don't mess with said competent coaches.


Edit:  Is anyone else annoyed with all the I WANT A GOOD COACH WHO WINS GAMES comments?  I think no human on the planet wants a bad coach.

Oaktown Wolverine

September 16th, 2011 at 3:16 PM ^

I took a look at last years final top 15. Here are my results; 

1: Chizik Auburn Defensive,
2: Peterson TCU Defensive,
3. Kelly Oregon Offensive,
4. Harbaugh Stanford, Offensive,
5. Tressell, Akron State, Defensive,
6. Stoops, Oklahoma, Defensive
7. Bielema Wisconsin Defensive,
8 Miles LSU Offensive 
9. Peterson Boise Offensive,
10. Saban Alabama Defensive
11. Ault Nevada Offensive
12: Petrino Arkansas OC
13: Gundy OK state Offensive
14 DantionioMSU Defensive
15 Mullen MSU Offensive
So to sum it up, 7 defensive, 8 offensive, but of top 10 you have 6 defensive and 4 offensive, though I think Miles at LSU should be counted as defensive. 


September 16th, 2011 at 5:25 PM ^

What I would really like is a great head coach who is a competent leader of men who has an excellent staff of coordinators on both sides of the ball and in all phases of the game - I think is what we now have. That being said, if I had to choose, I would rather have a head coach  whose experience was on defense because I am in the school that believe that this is what can win you the difficult games. 


September 16th, 2011 at 5:55 PM ^

Defensive head coach for me.  Defensive coaches seem to be more inclined for tough, physical football.  I feel like they also tend to see that the key to winning games is in the front lines of both sides of the ball.  In a perfect world, I want an Alabama/LSU-type defense that is huge and tough with an offense like Urban Meyer's Florida offense which is quicker.

Most of the time the numbers are going to be similiar from team to team on 40s, bench, etc. so on paper they look to be the same size and have the same strength.  But during the game, it's easy to tell which teams are tougher and quicker.  Felt like our team lacked the mental and physical attitudes the last couple of years, even though I liked Rich.  Of course, I might just be saying that because of Hoke instilling it in my head.

Seattle Maize

September 16th, 2011 at 8:00 PM ^

I would prefer defense because they are more inclined to put their best athletes for defense.  Offensivley you can be good with great fundamentals and decent athletes but to be a great defense you need both great fundamentals and great athletes.