Sharply Focusing On Our Coaching Search

Bruin Blue helps us keep our eye on the ball zeroing on the only topic that will matter to UCLA football fans all across nation. The remaining games don’t matter at this point. Any fluke wins in those games will be just that – meaningless flukes. Let’s keep the discussion on who will be the next coach of UCLA football who will be delivering birthday presents to the entire Nation on game days instead to the Secretaries’ cubicles in Morgan Center. GO BRUINS. -N

As far as I am concerned, it is all about the coaching search now . The soft L.A. media can try to make excuses for Dorrell; he can act like he's still working on the future; but it doesn't matter. Dorrell is gone. If I'm somehow wrong, so be it; but I am going to concentrate on the all-important task of looking for a new coach. Of course, I'm not the one who will make the decision, though I sort of wish I were. I wish that I could be sure that Dan Guerrero and whomever he chooses to help with the process are going to do it in the right way: systematically, thoroughly and patiently. Please don't rush this hire just to try to save a few recruits whom you are probably not going to lose anyway. Please don't make it impossible to get a really good coach by turning him off with demands that he keep Walker or any of the other assistants; let him have a free hand in recommending his own choices. And don't do what UCLA usually does: rush this process because it somehow feels uncomfortable to be looking, and you feel it is embarrassing to be turned down by your first or even your second choice. All that ultimately matters is that you end up with the best possible coach, even if it should take you three months to get him.

In response to some posters who were flattering enough to ask me to more thoroughly lay out my thoughts on the major prospects, I will do so. Now, I like to think that I am pretty good at this. I have followed college football very closely for many years; have written about it for a living, and have even wagered on it at times. And the key to that is being able to discern who are the better coaches and who are more glitter than substance. I am surely not saying that I am always right about coaches, or that anyone else should defer to my views;; but I think that putting down my thoughts about the major prospects will help spur a more comprehensive discussion. None of us can convince Guerrero to pick our best choice; but we can write to him and help at least to convince him that some of the bad choices are unacceptable. Okay; here are my thoughts on various coaches, in no particular order at all.

Mike Leach: I do not like him. He is a jerk, as he exhibited again this weekend. But more importantly, he is a "bully" coach who pounds bad teams with a fairly clever gimmick offense, but has no ability to beat the big boys. My best calculation has him 3-20 against ranked teams in his tenure. And does he ever give up the points. 59 to Texas this year. 49 to Oklahoma State. 41 to Missouri. He even managed to lose to Colorado this year; Last year, he also lost to every good team he played. and 2-10 Colorado for good measure. To those who would argue that he is at talent disadvantage relative to some other schools in the Big 12; that may be true, but he certainly has enough talent to show some kind of a defense. If you are a good coach, you occasionally beat better teams, and you occasionally stop them. Not Leach. He wants this job, but we should not let him have it.

Paul Johnson: He's someone I do like; how could one not? He was OC at Hawaii, and Lou Holtz recently said on TV that he developed one of the best passing offense Holtz had ever faced. Then he went to Georgia Southern, completely turned that program around and won two Divison AA titles. He went to Navy, who was woeful, coming off 1-20 in two years. His first rebuilding year was only 2-10, but after that Johnson has gone 35-15 going into this year. In 2004 he went 10-2 and was coach of the year. He now runs the option offense, and no one really stops it. He has taken Navy to four Bowl games. I don't know whether he would want to consider coming west, but he is someone who is a proven rebuilder of programs and who actually has pulled upsets against more talented schools.

DeWayne Walker: No, no, no, no, no. He has never been a head coach. He has only been a defensive coordinator for two years. He is better than the last DC, but that's about it. He hasn't stopped a spread offense yet. And even if he ever did, why would anyone want to give him this job? He is part of a failed regime; and UCLA desperately needs to start fresh with a whole new family tree.

Norm Chow: I wouldn't hire him. Yes, he is unquestionably a great offensive coordinator. But there is a reason that no one has ever given him a head job, and it's not racism. He apparently hates recruiting, which is not an insurmountable obstacle, but sure doesn't help. He is now 62. Why would UCLA want to take a chance with those negatives? There have been plenty of other touted OCs (Tollner, Hackett, Crowton, Cameron, Turner, Martz, among others) who failed as head coaches. Some have suggested letting Chow be HC and keeping Walker as DC. That would be a terrible idea. Chow would either fail miserably, or do pretty well and then leave after four years, making Walker the head coach.

Chris Peterson: He's my favorite choice, slightly over Johnson. I realize that he is a bit of a risk. He has only been a head coach for two years; and the other two coaches from Boise State who moved up have struggled, to put it mildly. Even so, I think that Peterson is better than those two. I have watched plenty of his games, and Boise simply looks better under him. Offensively he is as creative a mind as there is in the entire country. And Boise usually plays much better defense than they did under the previous coaches. Peterson's teams have gotten better each of his two years. Peterson actually controlled the line of scrimmage against Stoops for most of last year's Fiesta Bowl. I am afraid that we will not be able to get Peterson, and that he will go to another school, to turn into the next Urban Meyer. There is no risk-free hire this year; but I think that he has the most upside of anyone.

Brian Kelly: Several people have mentioned him. He's doing well in his first year at Cincinnati, but with a program which Dantonio had built up. ( liked Dantonio, the ex-Tressel DC, and wish he were available now). He came from Western Michigan, where he had two losing years and then one good one, which he parlayed into this job. He is obviously a more than decent coach, but I don't think he extrapolates upward as well as Johnson, Peterson, Mendenhall or Edsall.

Rick Neuheisel: Some years ago, I might have been for this idea, but not now. Neuheisel simply hasn't shown enough as a head coach. He had a couple of good early years at Colorado with the previous coach's players; but the boosters were ultimately happy to see him leave Boulder. He did take Washington to the Rose Bowl, but had ordinary years as well. His teams have never played effective defense. The personal baggage I could put aside, but I just think that under Neuheisel UCLA would be somewhat behind a few other Pac-10 coaches and teams.

Tom O'Brien: He, along with Les Miles, were my top two picks to replace Toledo. I really like this guy, who built Boston College into a very strong program. Unfortunately, we are now a year too late, as he went to NC State, where after a slow start ,he has won four in a row. I don't think he'd jump again so soon, but I wanted to mention him, just in case. He is a really good coach.

Gary Pinkel: He's certainly doing well this year, but the Big 12 is way down. (It's not coincidence that Kansas is having a once-in-a-century campaign). Pinkel's records in his early years at Missouri were nondescript. He was 37-34 overall. Missouri gets its share of talent, particularly on offense. Remember, any decent coach who is given enough time always has a couple of really good seasons at a school. The media then says, "Look here; they gave him enough time, and see what he's done," as if this improvement is going to continue or at least plateau. Usually the coach has the couple of good years and then sinks back down into mediocrity. Remember Bob Toledo? Ron Turner went 10-2 at Illinois a few years ago.

Steve Mariucci: An interesting prospect, but another who presents uncertainty. One year coaching Cal; started an impressive 6-1, then lost five straight, including a Bowl game to Navy. Then jumped to San Francisco, where he had two really good years, two woeful years and then two good ones to finish. Maybe it was the management, including our favorite, Terry Donahue. He finally went to Detroit and did poorly, again possibly hamstrung by management. But certainly a really good coach would have done at least somewhat better than 15-28. And the other questions about Mariucci are whether he still has the fire after being away from coaching for more than two years; and whether he would simply see UCLA as a springboard to another NFL shot if he did well. Frankly, I think that he is somewhat overrated, being more flash than substance; although he certainly is not a bad coach by any means.

Rich Brooks: Give me a break. He's had a losing career record everywhere he's been. He's not a terrible coach, but he's hardly a great one; and he's 67 years old. What could we possibly gain by hiring him, except keeping Terry Donahue happy?

Randy Edsall: He's done a very nice job at Connecticut, taking that program from nonentity status to definite respectability. A few years ago, I was very high on him. I'm not quite as high now, but he's certainly having a solid year this year. We could do worse, but we could also do better.

Bronco Mendenhall: People tell me that he will not leave BYU; but I do think that he has done a very nice job, and would be a good potential hire. His offense is very effective and smoothly functioning. His teams almost always play to their potential. He would fit in well here, probably being the equal of Bellotti and Tedford.

Steve Spurrier: Not impossible, as he seems to be realizing the limitations of South Carolina in the SEC. But I'm not sure that he really has the fire he once had; this year's team looks like it's floundering. Lou Holtz did a better job in Columbia. Spurrier is unquestionably a great offensive mind; but his best days could be behind him. He has all the money he needs; and I wonder if he might want to retire soon and spend his days golfing or color commentating.

There are other names, of course. But I think that they would be major longshots, given how UCLA seems to go about hiring coaches. I don't think that we will go after a coordinator outside of our program. If we did, there are several interesting names, but they are obviously risks. There are also longshots among the ranks of unemployed ex-NFL coaches, including Schottenheimer, Mora, and someone I rather like, Jim Fassel. But Schottenheimer probably doesn't want this job; and the other two would leave at the first sign of success and go back to the NFL. I don't like Mora that much anyway. There is a real longshot, David Cutcliffe, who was the best coach Mississippi had since Vaught, but somehow got fired. He is currently OC at Tennessee, doing a nice job. Bobby Petrino would be a great hire, but if he really wants out of the NFL, he's got all sorts of Southern schools to choose from. Wouldn't I love it if we actually went after Mark Richt or Bob Stoops, but it won't happen. I think that the above list is pretty exhaustive, and that our next head coach will come from there.

Those are some of my thoughts, anyway. This next few weeks are going to be fascinating, but the wheels are already in motion, so the time to weigh in is now, before our new hire is a fait accompli. amd the next five or ten years beckon.

-Bruin Blue

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.

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