Edit made: changed Cutcliffe to a C, because, apparently that is the only thing that is important in this post.
A word of warning about coaching searches
I see a lot of conjecture about who should be our next coach, and I laugh when I see some of the options that are thrown about, but even more I laugh at the names that are dismissed as not being worthy with nothing more than a comment about their record, or their position in their conference, etc.
Ask yourself this, if we hired a Coach who went 6-5 at Minnesota last year. Wouldn’t you all be screaming bloody murder for our AD, no matter who he was?
If we do end up in a coaching search, please do not let ESPN tell us who we should hire, like they did with Brian Kelly. (Disclaimer. I did not want Brian Kelly, and I have hoped over the years that I was wrong and unfortunately, i’m pretty sure I was not)
Its easy to see now, but how could we have known back then. Well, it was not that difficult. If a coach could win anywhere, then there would be a lot less movement. Coaches move, to improve their ability to do their job, get better talent, better facilities, better money, etc
So how do you tell a good coach coming up? Well, one thing for sure, don’t look at their record. This will lead you to a whole black hole of formerly “Hot” coaches (See Gary Barnett)
Here is what I believe. Look for a coach, who’s teams performance exceeds its talent, with a mind on historical perspective. Lou Holtz’s record wasn’t stellar. But, his teams performed. They increasingly took Top ranked teams to the wall, and they upset ranked teams, while rarely getting "rolled" by anyone outside of the top 10.
Some coaches jump out at you and are easy to spot, like Mullen and Freeze this year, but others thrown out in the same breath like Cutcliffe, look like good candidates based on their records, but are deceiving. Cutcliffe, has 0 wins over top 10 teams over the last 2 years, and their match ups have been blowouts. His success, while I applaud it, is more a factor of the deterioration of the ACC than the birth of a Duke powerhouse. This closely mirrors Brian Kelly’s resume when he was hired by ND, impressive records with few if any quality wins, in a conference that was in clear decline.
With that in mind, I put together a list of coaches of in major conferences, who I believe are exceeding expectations based on their talent and their teams recent history, and then ranked them as I see it on these factors (competitive games vs top teams, wins vs top 10/25 teams, and the pattern of improvement)
(NOTE: this list does not include Established Championship level coaches, and does not include coaches who inherited established programs)
TCU - Gary Patterson A+
Utah - Kyle Wittingham A-
Ole Miss - Hugh Freeze A-
Miss St - Dan Mullen A-
UCLA - Jim Mora B+
Missou - Gary Pinkell B+
Arkansas - Bret Bielema B+
BYU - Bronco Mendenhall B
ASU - Todd Graham C+
Minn - Jerry Kill C+
Ga Tech - Paul Johnson C
Indiana - Kevin Wilson C
Kentucky - Mark Stoops C
Maryland - Randy Edsall C
Northwestern - Pat Fitzgerald C
Duke - David Cutcliffe C
Some of these names are too new to grade very well (Wilson, Stoops, Edsall) but have shown something and we should keep an eye on them for the future if we do keep Kelly in 2015.
Some of these names won't come to ND for religious or character issues, but that is not factored in to their resume.
This is just my 2 cents to maybe add some perspective on who we think would be a slam dunk of a coach.