Northwest Coaching Supremacy
The regular season is wrapping up this Saturday with rivalry weekend in the northwest. The Apple Cup and Civil War may not decide a champion in the Pac-12, but the games still mean plenty for the four schools involved.
Out of these four schools we love so much, which coach has done the best job this season? Here are my rankings for 2012.
4. Mike Leach, Washington State
When Leach entered Pullman, there was a sense of hope for the Cougars that had been missing in recent years. Leach was changing the culture, and as cliché as it sounds, excitement was in the air.
Things took a strange turn early on when Leach called out his seniors for a lack of leadership and poor play. Perhaps this was meant to inspire, but hindsight makes this a difficult assumption to make.
Following their only two victories of the year, WASU dropped the ball against Colorado, arguably the worst team in FBS (division 1) football. This began an 8-game losing streak with their only hope of winning a PAC-12 game coming at home this weekend against UW.
With the Marquess Wilson situation looming overhead, it is safe to say Mike Leach has been the least affective coach in the northwest, but I still expect him to be in Pulman for a few (hopefully better) years.
3. Steve Sarkisian
In reality, the Huskies tough schedule (5 top-11 teams) would be their undoing.
Washington’s three game losing streak in October that culminated with a 52-17 embarrassment at Arizona, had me wondering if Sark would last the entire season as head coach, but fortunes turned quickly, and UW got back on track.
It seems crazy to think a coach that beat a number 8 team (Stanford) and 7 (Oregon State) in the same season would be fired, but the conversation loomed in Seattle.
If the Huskies win a bowl game and represent the PAC-12 well, expect Sarkisian to return next year, but if they struggle and somehow falter at WASU, there may be change at the helm.
2. Chip Kelly
If I wrote this last week, coach Kelly would be number 1, just like if the Ducks won on Saturday, they would be number 1.
Funny how things change.
Yes, Coach Riley has had an amazing season in Corvallis and is deserving of the number 1 ranking in this prestigious poll of northwest coaches, but Kelly was two games away from leading the Ducks back to the title game.
Stanford played an amazing game Saturday because they outcoached Oregon. Stanford forced Oregon to play their game, and Oregon can only win one way. Kelly’s lack of aggressiveness and inability to get receivers open on shorter routes left the Ducks hanging.
Every time Marcus Mariota scrambled for an extra 4 seconds in the second half, his receivers failed to get open. That was mind-blowing to watch. At every level of football, when the QB extends the play, the offense has the advantage.
Kelly is still number 2 on the list because of a stellar season and the potential for a BCS game, but that bitter taste in Oregon’s mouth will only get worse when he leaves for the pros.
1. Mike Riley
Coach Riley has been a boss this season. Who knows why we didn’t see it coming. Every three of four years, Riley loads up his team with good kids that develop in the program and challenges for a Rose Bowl.
The Beavers came a little short of their goal this season, but an 8-2 record is far beyond the expectations for this team.
The Beavers are also undefeated at home, where they will host the Ducks on Saturday.
Riley essentially has a life contract with the Beavers (there is a clause in his contract that increases in years whenever OSU makes a bowl game), and the Beaver-faithful could not be happier.
Perhaps his greatest achievement as a coach this season is his team’s ability to excel no matter who was at QB. Both Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz have struggled and played well (sometimes in the same game!), but Riley has been leading the whole time.
Congrats Mike, the trophy is yours.