Terps coaching search part 1 - Stay away from the loony bin
Welcome to the first half of my analysis of the search for the next Terps football head coach. Make sure to check back later in the day as well; the second half isn't far behind.
As you may have heard by now, Mike Leach seems to be far and away the front runner to succeed Ralph Friedgen as Maryland's next head football coach. But I'm here to caution you (are you listening, Kevin Anderson?). When searching for the next head coach of your football program, a good rule of thumb to follow is to stay away from the loony bin.
Before I get too far into bashing the man affectionately known as "The Pirate," Leach does have some great qualities as a head coach. First and foremost, he never posted a losing season in his ten years as coach at Texas Tech, and he had Texas Tech in the hunt for a national championship for the majority of the 2008 season. That is a fantastic accomplishment that cannot be discounted.
His offensive prowess has been better documented than Albert Haynesworth's conditioning drills. Leach consistently led the Red Raiders to top-10 finishes on offense in both passing yards and scoring. There is no doubt in my mind that if selected as the next head coach, Leach would instantly mold the Terps already talented roster into a scoring machine. That alone would put exponentially more warm bodies in the seats at Byrd Stadium.
To me however, Leach's positives are outweighed by the negatives, both on and off the field. On the field, Mike Leach's rushing offense has never finished in the top 100 in the country. I know some of you will say, "But his offenses pass for a bazillion yards." Yes they do, and passing yards are flashy, but in order to consistently win big games you must stay balanced and run the ball when you need to. Since 2004 (the earliest date for which ESPN has statistics rankings), no national champion has finished lower than 38th in the nation in rushing offense, with most finishing in the top 20. That's a trend that cannot be ignored.
His off-field antics are worrisome as well. While his eccentricities are great material for the media (not to mention YouTube clips,) they're not something I want to see out of the next Maryland head coach. He has revealed a penchant for not being able to connect with his players or the university at times. While there were a few players that came to his defense after he was fired from Texas Tech, I recall far more "unidentified players" coming out and being relieved that he was gone. Furthermore, Leach hasn't been a big fan of being in front of massive amounts of microphones and reporters. Being in the D.C. area is worlds different than being in Lubbock. For better or worse, everything Leach does will be magnified tenfold here, and I'm betting on the latter.
What's more, Leach reportedly has a healthy disdain for recruiting. Personally, the biggest gripe I had during the Friedgen era was our inability to recruit the D.C. area successfully, routinely losing recruits to Penn State among other powerhouse programs that reside hundreds of miles away. I can't imagine a scenario in which this would change under Mike Leach, unless of course we coerced the recruiting guru Mike Locksley to come back home to Maryland (which I will get to in part two.)
You can't ignore the reason Leach was fired from Texas Tech, whether it was true or not. Nowadays, the matter of concussions is no laughing matter in any sport at any level. With the reports of his alleged mistreatment of Adam James being all over the media, you can bet that the parents of prospective student-athletes will hesitate to turn their son over to Leach.
Mike Leach also seems to have a frosty relationship with ESPN. Leach recently filed a lawsuit against ESPN accusing them of libel and slander for the way it covered his alleged mistreatment of James. Then there are the rumors that Leach is apparently looking to add Sean Salisbury to his staff, the same guy who was fired from ESPN a few years back for reasons I won't mention here. Now admittedly I don't know much, but I'm pretty sure you don't want to alienate the self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader in Sports." This, right or wrong, would be very likely to happen if both Leach and Salisbury resided in College Park.
Mike Leach is not the man to lead the Terps into the future. Heck, I'd rather have (your name here) be named the next coach at Maryland. If he was hired I would still support the Terps, I wouldn't be able to help it. But the potential for disaster outweighs the potential for greatness with Leach in my humble opinion. I would have serious reservations about the Terps future.
Check back shortly to see my wish list of my top four coaching candidates for Maryland.
| December 23, 2010; 1:55 PM ET
Categories: Rick Nelligan, Terps | Tags: Rick Nelligan, Terps
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