Few things in sports are as clear cut as who the best college football coach of all time is. Bear Bryant owned every single one of the legitimate best coaches of all time that he had to face (Paterno, Bud Wilkinson, Woody Hayes, Jon Vaught, etc., etc.) he owned all of them. Except Bear didn't inherit any good teams anywhere he went (like several of these coaches did..which I'll touch on in a bit). He had to rebuild every program he took over from the ashes, and he had to do it WITHOUT the benefit of black players for a long time at Alabama. Bear Bryant integrated the SEC.
Several of these coaches don't even belong on this list, Jimmy Johnson doesn't belong, Frank Beamer doesn't belong, Bo Schembechler doesn't belong, and Mack Brown is debateable, but he deserves some credit for all those 10 win seasons at Texas, and what he accomplished while at UNC.
Bo Schembechler has ZERO perfect seasons, ZERO national titles, and a 5-12 bowl record that includes a 2-8 record in the Rose Bowl.
Jimmy Johnson has no business on this list. He won a national championship. Well, so did Bobby Ross. So did Bill McCartney, and neither one of them are on the list. Jimmy INHERITED a good team and a good program from Howard Schnellenberger, and then handed off a corrupt program to Dennis Erickson. Why isn't Erickson on the list? He only won TWICE as many national titles as Jimmy, played for 2 more, and rebuilt Oregon St. and Arizona St. Not that Erickson is an all time great, he's not...
The coaches who should replace those guys are Bob Neyland, Wallace Wade, Bob Devaney, and Eddie Robinson. Even Bear Bryant himself once said that Eddie Robinson was the greatest college football coach of all time in his opinion (paying him a compliment).
Bear is in a class all by himself, but Knute Rockne is the only one even close to Bear's neighborhood. Rockne died in a tragic plane crash when he was only 43 years old, what he was able to accomplish in that time is incredible, most coaches don't even get going good until they're 43.
Lou Holtz has won everywhere he's been. The man took William & Mary to a bowl game. He took Minnesota to a bowl game. Won a national title with the Irish in only his 3rd year following the darkest period in Notre Dame history post-WW2. Turned South Carolina from an SEC East doormat into a respectable foe, and setup Spurrier's success there. Holtz took dead programs and made them winners in 2-3 years every time.
Speaking of Steve Spurrier, he revolutionized SEC football with his offenses, but it always seemed to me that his teams tended to underachieve in big games. Somehow his 1992 team with Shane Matthews lost FOUR TIMES, including a rout to Miss St. His 1994 team blew a 31-3 lead on FSU in the final 11 minutes, and then lost to those same Noles in a bowl game. His 1995 team was considered the best in the land and got pulvarized by Nebraska in the NC game. It's not that they lost- they didn't even show up. In 1996 they lost their one IMPORTANT regular season game to FSU, afterwards Spurrier was whining about hits on his QB. He somehow lost to a mentally distracted Alabama team in 1999...TWICE, including a rout in the SEC title game. Even his national championship was only gained because Nebraska somehow managed to lose to an overwhelmed Texas team. Spurrier's Gamecocks didn't even bother to show up against Auburn in the SEC title game last year, nor their bowl game against FSU.
Tom Osborne would be included on my list of duds with Jimmy, Frank Beamer, and Bo Schembechler if he hadn't managed to put together that great 4 year run at the end. Osborne notoriously lost every single big game Nebraska played in until Tommie Frazier (best college quarterback I've ever seen) came along. He blundered away the 1983 national title against an overmatched opponent.... lost a rematch with Oklahoma in the late 70's... couldn't beat Bobby Bowden to save his life in 4 bowl games.... got shut out by Miami in an Orange Bowl.... somehow lost to Iowa St. in 1992, who hadn't beat Nebraska in three decades... blew a shot at a three-peat by getting shutout by Pat Tillman's Arizona St. team... and then bungled away the first ever Big-12 title game. Not to mention pioneering the use of steriods in college football, despite INHERITING a gift of a program from Bob Devaney.
Bud Wilkinson was even before my time, but he created the 3-4 defense at Oklahoma in the 1940's...
Bobby Bowden's 14 consecutive top 5 finishes ESPECIALLY in the 80's and 90's is insane. But he did it.
Nick Saban in 5 years could potentially separate himself and be in Knute Rockne and John McCay's neighborhood by the time it's over with.
Off of that list they have there, I'd rank 'em...
1. Bear Bryant (.7800 winning pct., 6 National Titles, 13 Conference Titles)
2. Knute Rockne (.8811 winning pct., 5 National Titles)
3. John McCay (.7486 winning pct., 4 National Titles)
t4. Bud Wilkinson (.8258 winning pct., 3 National Titles)
t4. Barry Switzer (.8368 winning pct., 3 National Titles)
5. Woody Hayes (.7594 winning pct., 3 National Titles)
6. Darrell Royal (.7490 winning pct., 3 National Titles)
7. Tom Osborne (.8355 winning pct., 3 National Titles)
8. Joe Paterno (.7468 winning pct., 2 National Titles)
9. Bobby Bowden (.7431 winning pct., 2 National Titles)
10. Nick Saban (.7154 winning pct., 2 National Titles)
11. Urban Meyer (.8189 winning pct., 2 National Titles)
12. Lou Holtz (.6508 winning pct., 1 National Title)
13. Steve Spurrier (.7165 winning pct., 1 National Title)
14. Mack Brown (.6692 winning pct., 1 National Title)
15. Jim Tressel (.7516 winning pct., 1 National Title)
I'm not ranking any of those other coaches, as they don't belong. Bob Neyland, Wallace Wade, Bob Devaney, and Eddie Robinson would be on there and it would round out my top 20.
Last edited by TedSlimmJr; 05-28-2011 at 04:20 PM.
Jim Tressel is a better coach than Jimmy Johnson? Give me a break, take a step back from crushing Miami and you will see Jimmy is a better coach than at least 7 of the guys on that list.
Do you Cane fans EVER make any sense? Ever?
Jim Tressel won FOUR (4) I-AA national championships at Youngstown St, beating teams like Marshall and Boise St., who are now Division-1 programs... he also played for TWO (2) more I-AA national championships at YSU.
He's led Ohio St. to EIGHT (8) BCS bowl games, including 2 national championship appearances where he was unfortunate enough to have to face the SEC both times and lost. Most of all, he OWNS Michigan. He's the reason Michigan can't keep a coach...
If you're going to be on a list of "all time" great college coaches with the likes of Bear Bryant, John McKay, Darrell Royal, Bowden, Paterno, and even Steve Spurrier...you better have some longevity and endure the ups and downs of a career in the profession. INHERITING a good program and sticking around for 4-5 years just long enough to corrupt it, and then hand it off to someone else doesn't constitute an all time great college football coach... which is what Jimmy Johnson accomplished.
Jimmy's Miami teams blew a 31-0 nothing lead to Maryland... he was 1-1 in national title games, and had a 2-3 bowl record overall. Hardly an all time great resume there..
If any Miami coach deserves to be on that list, it's Howard Schnellenberger. If any coach at least deserves an honorable mention, like I said it's Dennis Erickson... not Jimmy. He won TWICE as many national titles as Jimmy, has the best winning percentage of any head coach in Miami's history. However, what makes him a better college football coach in the pantheon of history is the fact that he went on to rebuild both Oregon St. and Arizona St. That's how you build a resume in college football. Either have longevity in one place as an established winner, or prove you can take dead programs and rebuild them into respectable teams. Jimmy didn't do any of the above...
Jimmy Johnson was a good coach, and had a good eye for talent. He belongs nowhere near a list of top 20 all time great college football coaches... and any knowledgeable college football fan would know better.
Gene Stallings is closer to being there than Jimmy... so is Paul Johnson.
My evaluation criteria for college coaches is based on 4 components: Character building/academic emphasis, Organizational skills, Innovation in the game, Longevity, and obviously Win/Loss record (specifically in the big game when it matters).
Bear Bryant developed the defensive numbering system that is used by defenses to this day (3-Tech, 5-Tech, 1-Tech, etc..). Everything else need not be mentioned.
Knute Rockne had his life cut short by tragedy, nothing but a winner, emphasized character. He took the single wing offense (invented by Pop Warner) and modified it into the Notre Dame Box look.
Bud Wilkinson had "The Streak". Emphasized character and academics. Perfected the wishbone, and invented the 3-4 defense.
Darrell Royal, this is the guy Bear Bryant called when he wanted info on the wishbone. Winner. Royal was very influential on Bear Bryant.
John McKay is the coach who made the Power Play a staple of run oriented offenses.
Nick Saban's character building and organizational skills are off the charts, no matter what garbage jilted Dolphin fans spew to one another. He's a defense trend setter and has 2 National Championships to his credit, perhaps with more to come. He's run a squeaky clean program everywhere he's been, and he builds quality men out of these kids.
Joe Paterno is a little light on innovation, but excels in every other category, and has for 50 years. He's always done it the RIGHT way, and never wavered, even through rough patches when every sportswriter out there was calling for his head.
Mouse Davis invented the Run-&-Shoot, Steve Spurrier tweaked it to be more balanced. One of the best the SEC has ever seen. He's lost some of his enthusiasm and concentration as he's aged, better earlier in his career. If he could get his teams to at least show up in big games consistently, he'd be thought of even better. He's always been too dependent on his quarterbacks, which in turn causes him to put too much pressure on them, which in turn causes him to lose his cool and deviate from his game plan.
Lou Holtz knows the game. He was a winner everywhere he's been. He really tried to build better men, not just football players.
Urban Meyer's innovation of the spread has taken football by storm with it's option elements. Extremely organized and a big time winner everywhere he's been (Florida, Utah, Bowling Green, etc..). His only problem is he lacks an emphasis on building character.
Frank Beamer is the pioneer of innovation on special teams in college football, he just loses every big game somehow. His defense under Bud Foster has made an impact with his "robber 2" coverage.
---The coaches I'm fixing to list below were winners, but contributed little or nothing to posterity of the game in program organizational methods or schematic innovation, and stood on the shoulders of those who came before them...
Barry Switzer was a big time winner, strong organizational skills, but not very innovative. Not to mention dirty, and ran one of the biggest "outlaw" programs of his era.
Tom Osborne was a disciplinarian that just didn't innovate. He tried to run the same "I-back"/Power Option offense as his mentor and predecessor Bob Devaney, he just wasn't as good at it (until Tommie Frazier came along).
Woody Hayes won a lot of games, but was very eccentric and ended his career in disgrace. Wasn't even a match for Bear Bryant.
Bo Schembechler's regular season record is fine, and a high character coach. He just couldn't win the big games, and no innovation to speak of.
---These coaches I'm fixing to list below all have questionable recruiting tactics, have ran non-complying programs, and/or are generally "light" on discipline. It's easy to build a winner with a bunch of 4 and 5 Star thugs that can run fast, but to build one that creates men of character while still winning ball games takes a REAL coach in my opinion. Also, some of these guys just walked right into a perfect situation.
You can't deny Pete Carroll's success, but his personality is definitely more suited for a program like USC. I don't think it would fly in the SEC, just ask Lane Kiffin. Did Pete really recruit all that well to begin with, or did the city of Los Angeles and all the ladies?
Mack Brown is essentially the same as Bobby Bowden, except Mack walked into the easiest recruiting job in the country. High character coach, in a weak conference. Hey Mack... how about the Longhorns play a big non conference game OUTSIDE the state of Texas...
Jim Tressel is the same as Mack, except they WILL travel. The situation he's gotten himself into should probably cost him his job, and perhaps more importantly his legacy. I don't believe for a second that Tressel is the only one to blame here. I think he's covering for his superiors and falling on the sword to an extent. He has better sense than to lie as much as he has about all this. Jim Delaney and the OSU athletic director are just as culpable in this mess as Tressel is, and they know it.
Jimmy Johnson - No discipline and doesn't care. Schnellenberger tried to build men of character and handed that type program over to Jimmy. Jimmy was responsible for the original "Thug U". There's a lot more to coaching than just the W/L column if you want to be mentioned with most of the coaches on this list, and that doesn't even the coaches that should be on there to begin with. Guys like Eddie Robinson, Robert Neyland, Wallace Wade, and Bob Devaney.
Bobby Bowden's streak of top 5 finishes is as impressive as anything you'll see. He built FSU but at what cost? How many stories of thugs, criminals, and rule breaking? Make no mistake, Bobby is a man's man and a good guy, one of the classiest gentlemen on the face of the planet... he's just a little too much of a player's coach.
Well you mentioned the thing that really frustrated me with Spurrier. His UF teams were loaded every year. Even his first team in 1990 would have been named SEC champs (no SEC title game until '92) if they weren't on probation. But nearly every year there was that one game against an outclassed opponent where the Gators would come out and play their laziest game of the season and blow it. Mix that in with the big-big games which seemed to always be hit-or-miss (except for the SEC title game) and you saw a lot of two-loss seasons for those Gator teams. And they were mostly heartbreakers too. The '01 Tennessee game that was bumped to December because of 9/11 was the absolute worst, but the '00 MSU and '01 Auburn losses come to mind as well. Also, the '97 LSU and UGA games, the '98 UT and FSU games, and '99 is basically a forgotten Gator season with the way that ended. Gator defenses were mostly **** after Stoops left for OU. But those last two Spurrier teams were really good. He hit the trail hard his last few seasons and pulled in guys like Grossman, Gaffney, Caldwell, Jacobs, Graham, and Sheppard, and then laid a complete turd with his final class in '01.
And now his fires have gone out.