On assessing coaches and shifting fan perceptions

Obviously there's been a ton of talk about the performance of Nick Holt as defensive coordinator, and there are now some beginning to express some concerns about Sark himself.  Such is the nature of the beast when the Huskies suffer probably their least justifiable loss of the Sark era.

Plenty of chatter about coaches and people talking about who they'd want to bring in if they had their choice.  One particular thread over at got me thinking about how fickle are fan perceptions of coaches - a guy who's a hero one day can become a bum who needs to go the next.

I can't remember exactly when it was, but sometime earlier this season, AndyPanda from the Beavers' SB Nation blogosphere offered to trade Oregon State's defensive coordinator Mark Banker straight up for Nick Holt.  I recall being quite taken aback, as Oregon State has featured some pretty salty defenses under his watch during the Mike Riley era.  Just a few years ago I remember quite a few in the Husky message board fanbase clamoring to try to steal away Banker from Riley's staff.

Just to jog everyone's memory, here's how Banker's defenses have rated at Oregon State:

  • 2003: 288.7 ypg (7th nationally), 23.2 ppg (46th)
  • 2004: 313.3 ypg (18th), 24.5 (48th)
  • 2005: 406.7 ypg (84th), 33.2 (105th)
  • 2006: 333.9 ypg (59th), 22.2 (54th)
  • 2007: 306.2 ypg (8th), 22.6 (33rd)
  • 2008: 312.2 ypg (23rd), 23.1 (47th)
  • 2009: 349.5 ypg (46th), 25.0 (57th)
  • 2010: 407.9 ypg (86th), 26.8 (64th)
  • 2011: 387.7 ypg (66th), 29.2 (82nd)

Pretty good resume overall really, when you consider that the Beavers don't operate with top-shelf talent (as judged by the recruiting services).  But the difficulties he's had the last couple of years after experience quite a bit of success in 6 of his previous 7 years have turned-off some Beaver faithful.

Consider also the example of Jeff Tedford.  Tedford took a totally downtrodden Cal program and immediately made them respectable, and for a while they were a top-20, top-15 kind of program.  Tedford was hailed as a genius, and both times the Husky job came open while Tedford was at Cal, there was a large contingent of Husky fans clamoring for the UW to steal him away.

Now Cal has slumped to the middle of the conference, no longer the darkhorse candidate to go to a Rose Bowl, and some Old Blues are ready to cut ties and move on.  If you polled Husky fans, I'm sure far fewer would say they want Tedford over Sark than if you'd asked that 3 years ago.

I bring all this up because I think we need to remember that it's hard to judge a coach.  What we think we know about a coach can change over 2-3 years.  Is it because coaches stagnate?  Is it because even really good coaches are not immune from tough times?  Is it because most coaches are roughly average, and there are few truly outstanding coaches out there?  I tend to think the latter 2 points are true, and point number 1 has some merit as well.

Just keep this thought in mind when you start clamoring for the head of Nick Holt.  I don't say this to dissuade you from thinking he should stay or go, only that I think it's hard to find truly great coaches, and that judging the true differences between coaches may be harder than we think.  It's entirely possible we could jettison Holt and see him land somewhere else and post terrific results.  And conversely, we could poach a DC from elsewhere that's posted impressive numbers at his previous stop only to see him barely move the needle here.