clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Stuff and Shenanigans: A Very Big Decision

Uncontrolled variables and famous duos, name a better duo.

Cameron Cleeland

First, of course, the news everyone’s talking about; the news that’s sweeping the nation. The news that’s taken the PNW by storm. The development that has Washington in a frenzy.

I’m speaking of course about the radio duo of Elise Woodward and Cam Cleeland who, it turns out, pwn n00bs as the kids say*.

Due to a poorly-timed commitment, I only got to watch the first 30 minutes of this game and this was my first time listening to the radio broadcast this season. I’m not particularly opinionated on radio broadcasts usually other than those that are very great and the very terrible (verrible, if you will), but quite enjoyed Elise and Cam together.

They’re like Team Rocket, if Team Rocket wasn’t famous for getting their ass whooped by Pikachu n’ gang but rather for being good at talking football words at you. So I guess not really like Team Rocket at all, other than there being two of them. (We should come up with a better duo example... like John and Paul, Austria and Hungary, Bret and Jemaine, Marshawn and Skittles, Russia and being invaded in the winter, Poland and being invaded always, Sue and Megan... hmm... I’ll keep thinking about it...)

I don’t really have anything to actually add on to this but, since the last couple weeks have been an absolute cluster of glorious proportions, I figured it’d be nice to note something genuinely positive. And this isn’t to take anything away from Tony Castricone, who’s absence for paternity leave is what led to Woodward taking the temporary reign — generally I’ve found him pretty good, not to mention his voice is fantastic for radio — but I hope we see Elise whenever the possibilities arise in the future. She’s been such a great presence in Washington and Seattle sports for so long, she deserves more opportunities like this. And Cam was good too! Yay! Exclamation marks!

*if the kids in question are from 2005.

And now on to The Der Big Fat Head Coaching Hunt of the Year

I decided there’s not much I could add to the now hundreds of thousands of words that have collectively been written or spoken about Jimmy Lake’s departure. So let’s move on, because it’s now time to make A Very Big Decision.

Unfortunately, most college football head coaches — like most college quarterbacks — are not what scientists would call “great.” And those who are already clearly, without any blip of a doubt, Great, are already at Alabama. Or, like... no, actually, just Alabama*. Georgia maybe... Even Dabo over at Lil’ Ol’ Clemson has fielded mediocrity this year.

I mention that first because for so many fans and athletic departments around the country, there seems to be a hang up on “high profile name = good coach.” Except most big name coaches are big name simply because they come from an established high profile position, and as we’ve established, pretty much all of these head coaches are the shrug emoji incarnate save for Nick Saban.

*Oh shoot and Mel Tucker! Nick Saban and Mel Tucker, the only good P5 coaches.

From my angle, it seems like the general trade off is you can pick either A) a head coach who’s already a head coach at a comparable Power Five to Washington (give or take), who has an alright floor but won’t take you to any particularly inspiring heights, or B) a head coach who’s been exceptionally successful at a “lesser” program who might not be as sure but has a much more intriguing ceiling. (Also in the B column is a coordinator who’s proven they’re an innovative genius at position coaching and schemes, but then you have no proven floor for how they can do the totally different job of being in charge of every aspect of a Power Five university football team. Obviously at Washington, we would have no recent history with this.) Or hire Nick Saban.

Personally, I’d rather roll the dice than go for someone you know maxes out at eight wins give or take.

But I’d also rather roll a dice where four of the sides say six on them.

In other words, rolling the dice but doing your best to control for variables, reduce to a common denominator, whatever you want to call it... Just equating a a head coach to his win-loss record is gonna leave you disappointed; winning eight at at Kansas is more impressive than 10 at Alabama. But even an eight at Kansas could be misleading.

So with that in mind, variables I want “controlled” for when looking at head coach candidates:

  • Did he have an elite (for college, anyway) quarterback who elevated his schemes and other player development beyond the credit he deserves? For example, Derek Carr or Lamar Jackson being disproportionately responsible for Fresno State and Louisville’s success while they were there.
  • Did he have an elite assistant who elevated his schemes or player development beyond the credit he deserves? For example, Joe Brady for Ed Orgeron at LSU (not to mention Joe Burrow alongside Joe Brady makes Ed the double-deuce of “elite quarterback plus boy wonder offensive guru”).
  • What are institutional advantages at the school/s he’s been head coach at? For example, nine wins meaning more if Matt Campbell pulls it off at Iowa State versus Lincoln Riley taking over a smoothly-running program that’s been a powerhouse for decades. Same goes for recruiting — being a great recruiter for Ohio State can mean a lot, but an accumulator of equal talent at Minnesota would mean more.
  • How many wins or losses did his teams have that were closer than they should have been? On a small scale, for example, Jimmy Lake’s Washington wins over Arizona and Stanford count as a W in the record book, but I’m sure we can all agree did not inspire confidence in his future projections as a head coach. Similarly, close losses when you’re running a team with a talent disparity tends to project more favorably than crappy wins for a team with talent advantage. (Just look at how 2015’s 7-6 record by itself was “meh” but their 2016 season was projectible if you looked beyond just wins and losses.)

In other words, these all come down to whatever the college football head coach equivalent to WAR in baseball is. For those who are not total dorkfaces baseball stats fans, WAR is “wins above replacement,” and while you don’t need to outright metric-ify it for projecting head football coaches, it’s still more useful than much of the outdated buzzword-based thinking that seems to drive so many hires. “Splash hire,” “big name,” “offensive guru,” etc.

Obviously I’m sure there’s more variables that should be controlled for when judging a head coach’s past performances to project their future, but these were the first main ones that popped in my head.

But most importantly, football coaches suck more often than not, fans and administrators and coaches and pundits are just winging it and actually don’t know what we’re doing, and our first reaction to whomever ends up as Washington’s new head coach will probably show up on Old Takes Exposed in three years.

Lines of the Week

A Stuff and Shenanigans in the year of our lord 2021 wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that Race Porter is:

And all of us the last, what, 10 minutes or so of that game?

Lastly, I haven’t the faintest idea what’s happening here but I stumbled upon this and feel compelled to include it:

Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.