Thursday, October 27, 2011

Todd Graham's start far from unusual

The point of this article is to show that Todd Graham is no different than most coaches of the past, many of them some of the best of all-time.  The list below are the 70 coaches in roughly the last 30 years who've taken over a team with a winning record, and came from outside the program.  After the list, you will see that there is nothing to worry about with Graham at this time.

Todd Graham, Pittsburgh  4-4   Previous Season:  8-5 (Dave Wannstedt)  Note:  Graham still in first season.

Todd Graham, Tulsa  10-4  Previous Season:  8-5  (Steve Kragthorpe)

Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia  3-8  Previous Season:  7-5  (Don Nehlen)

Rich Rodriguez, Michigan  3-9   Previous Season:  9-4  (Lloyd Carr)

Dan Henning, Boston College  7-4-1 Previous Season: 9-3 (Tom Coughlin)

Ken Hatfield, Clemson  10-2  Previous Season: 10-2 (Danny Ford)

Tommy West, Clemson  5-6   Previous Season:  9-3  (Ken Hatfield)

Bill Lewis, Georgia Tech  5-6  Previous Season: 8-5  (Bobby Ross)

Chan Gailey, Georgia Tech  7-6  Previous Season:  8-5 (George O'Leary)

Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech  9-4  Previous Season:  7-6 (Chan Gailey)

Gene Stallings, Alabama 7-5  Previous Season:  10-2  (Bill Curry)

Mike Shula, Alabama  4-9  Previous Season:  10-3  (Dennis Franchione)

Dick Tomey, Arizona 4-4-3  Previous Season:  9-3  (Larry Smith)

Bruce Snyder, Arizona State  6-5  Previous Season:  6-5  (Larry Marmie)

Dennis Erickson, Arizona State 10-3  Previous Season: 7-6 (Dirk Koetter)  Note: Erickson is 20-23 since that first season

Bobby Petrino, Arkansas 5-7  Previous Season:  8-5 (Houston Nutt)

Keith Gilbertson, California  4-7  Previous Season:  10-2  (Bruce Snyder)

Rick Minter, Cincinnati  2-8-1  Previous Season: 8-3 (Tim Murphy)

Brian Kelly, Cincinnati  10-3  Previous Season:  8-5 (Mark Dantonio)

Butch Jones, Cincinnati  4-8  Previous Season: 12-1 (Brian Kelly)

Rick Neuheisel, Colorado  10-2  Previous Season: 11-1 (Bill McCartney)

Gary Barnett, Colorado  7-5  Previous Season: 8-4  (Rick Neuheisel)

Dan Hawkins, Colorado  2-10  Previous Season: 7-6 (Gary Barnett)

Randy Edsall, UConn  4-7  Previous Season: 10-3 (Skip Holtz)

Paul Pasqualoni, UConn  3-4  Previous Season: 8-5 (Randy Edsall)  Note: Pasqualoni in his first season but his odds of getting to 8-5 doesn't look good.

Steve Spurrier, Florida  9-2  Previous Season:  7-5 (Galen Hall)

Urban Meyer, Florida  9-3  Previous Season:  7-5 (Ron Zook)

Mark Richt, Georgia  8-4  Previous Season:  8-4 (Jim Donnan)

Dana Dimel, Houston  3-8  Previous Season: 7-4 (Kim Helton)

Kevin Sumlin, Houston  8-5  Previous Season:  8-5 (Art Briles)

Bill Curry, Kentucky  4-7  Previous Season:  6-5 (Jerry Claiborne)

Rich Brooks, Kentucky  4-8  Previous Season: 7-5 (Guy Morriss)

Les Miles, LSU  11-2  Previous Season: 9-3 (Nick Saban)

Ron Cooper, Louisville 7-4  Previous Season: 6-5 (Howard Schnellenberger) Note: Cooper fired after 1-10 season two years later

Bobby Petrino, Louisville 9-4 Previous Season:  7-6 (John L. Smith)

Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville  6-6  Previous Season: 12-1  (Bobby Petrino)

Randy Edsall, UConn  2-5  Previous Season: 9-4 (Ralph Friedgen) Note: Edsall still in first season but it's projecting as a losing season

Dennis Erickson, Miami  11-1     Previous Season: 11-1 (Jimmy Johnson)

Butch Davis, Miami 8-3      Previous Season: 10-2 (Dennis Erickson)

Al Golden, Miami  4-3       Previous Season: 7-6 (Randy Shannon) Note: Golden still in first season

Brady Hoke, Michigan 6-1 Previous Season:  7-6 (Rich Rodriguez) Note: Hoke still in first season

David Cutcliffe, Mississippi 8-4     Previous Season:  7-5 (Tommy Tuberville)

Bill Callahan, Nebraska 5-6     Previous Season:  10-3 (Frank Solich)

Bob Davie, Notre Dame 7-6     Previous Season:  8-3 (Lou Holtz)

John Cooper, Ohio State  4-6-1   Previous Season:  6-4-1 (Earl Bruce)

Jim Tressel, Ohio State  7-5   Previous Season:  8-4  (John Cooper)

Mike Riley, Oregon State 8-5  Previous Season  8-5  (Dennis Erickson)

Paul Hackett, Pittsburgh 3-7-1  Previous Season:  8-3-1 (Mike Gottfried)

Dave Wannstedt, Pittsburgh  5-6  Previous Season:  8-4  (Walt Harris)

Ken Hatfield, Rice  5-6  Previous Season:  6-5  (Fred Goldsmith)

Dave Bailiff, Rice  3-8  Previous Season:  7-6  (Todd Graham)

Steve Spurrier, Florida  7-5  Previous Season:  6-5  (Lou Holtz)

Skip Holtz, South Florida  8-5  Previous Season:  8-5  (Jim Leavitt)

Larry Smith, USC  8-4  Previous Season:  7-5  (Ted Tollner)

John Robinson, USC  8-5  Previous Season:  6-5-1 (Larry Smith)

Paul Hackett, USC  8-5  Previous Season:  6-5  (John Robinson) Note:  Hackett fired two seasons later

Jeff Bower, S. Mississippi 4-7  Previous Season:  8-4 (Curley Hallman)

Larry Fedora, S. Mississippi  7-6  Previous Season:  7-6  (Jeff Bower)

Bill Walsh, Stanford 10-3    Previous Season: 8-4  (Dennis Green)

Buddy Teevens, Stanford  2-9  Previous Season:  9-3 (Tyrone Willingham)

Derek Dooley, Tennessee  6-7  Previous Season:  7-6  (Lane Kiffin)

Mike Sherman, Texas A&M  4-8  Previous Season: 7-6 (Dennis Franchione)

Mike Leach, Texas Tech  7-5   Previous Season:  6-5 (Spike Dykes)

Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech  8-5  Previous Season:  9-4 (Mike Leach)

Bob Toledo, UCLA  5-6  Previous Season:  7-5  (Terry Donahue)

Karl Dorrell, UCLA  6-7  Previous Season:  8-5  (Bob Toledo)

Kyle Whittingham, Utah 7-5  Previous Season:  12-0  (Urban Meyer)

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech  2-9  Previous Season:  10-1-1 (Bill Dooley)

Jim Caldwell, Wake Forest  2-9  Previous Season:  8-4 (Bill Dooley)

Mike Price, Washington State  6-5  Previous Season 9-3  (Dennis Erickson)

In the 65 examples above (not including the five coaches currently in their first season),  24 either had the same record or improved on the season before.  That's just 36.9%.

Todd Graham, Tulsa    8-5 to 10-4
Paul Johnson, Navy    7-6  to 9-4
Dennis Erickson, Arizona State    7-6 to 10-3
Ken Hatfield, Clemson    10-2 and 10-2
Bruce Snyder, Arizona State   6-5 to 6-5
Brian Kelly, Cincinnati    8-5 to 10-3
Steve Spurrier, Florida   7-5 to 9-2
Urban Meyer, Florida   7-5 to 9-3
Mark Richt, Georgia   8-4 and 8-4
Kevin Sumlin, Houston   8-5 and 8-5
Les Miles, LSU    9-3 to 11-2
Ron Cooper, Louisville   6-5 to 7-4
Bobby Petrino, Louisville  7-6 to 9-4
Dennis Erickson, Miami  11-1  to 11-1
David Cutcliffe, Mississippi   7-5 to 8-4
Mike Riley, Oregon State  8-5 and 8-5
Steve Spurrier, South Carolina 6-5 to 7-5
Skip Holtz, USF   8-5 and 8-5
Larry Smith, USC  7-5 to 8-4
John Robinson, USC  6-5-1 to 8-5
Paul Hackett, USC  6-5 to 8-5
Larry Fedora, S. Mississippi  7-6 and 7-6
Bill Walsh, Stanford  8-4 to 10-3
Mike Leach, Texas Tech  6-5 to 7-5

Of these 24, four basically replaced mediocrity with mediocrity with Spurrier and Leach going from 6-5 to 7-5, Fedora remaining at 7-6, and Snyder remaining at 6-5.

Of the 20 remaining,  three had the luxury of having great talent left behind.  At Clemson, Ken Hatfield replaced three straight 10-2 seasons by Danny Ford,  Les Miles was left an LSU program that shared the national championship two seasons before, and Dennis Erickson took over a team that went 44-4 for the four previous seasons.

Now we're down to 17 coaches out of 65 (26%!!) that did what Graham was expected to do (in his case, get to at least 8-5 coming from outside the program), and Graham was one of them.  Of the other 15, only two (Ron Cooper and Paul Hackett) can be considered flops.  The rest are considered quality coaches.  They are:  Dennis Erickson (he is on the list twice), Urban Meyer, Paul Johnson, Brian Kelly, Steve Spurrier, Skip Holtz, Larry Smith, John Robinson, Mark Richt, Kevin Sumlin, Bobby Petrino, David Cutcliffe, Mike Riley, and Bill Walsh.

Now take a look at some of the names who did not improve on the winning record the season before they arrived:  Rich Rodriguez (twice), Gene Stallings, Bobby Petrino, Butch Jones, Randy Edsall (soon to be twice), Bill Curry, Rich Brooks, Butch Davis, Jim Tressel, Jeff Bower, Tommy Tuberville, Kyle Whittingham, Frank Beamer, Jim Caldwell, and Mike Price.

Rodriguez was 33-5 in years 5-8 and turned WVU into a national power.  Stallings won the National Championship in year three.  Petrino was 8-5 in year two and 10-3 in year three at Arkansas. Jones is currently 6-1 in season two at Cincinnati.  Edsall was a two-time Big East Coach of the Year and brought UConn respectability.  Davis finished No. 2 in season six.  Brooks managed winning records for seasons four, five, six, and seven, no small feat at Kentucky.  Tressel won the National Championship in season two.  Bower led Southern Miss to fifteen winning seasons.  Tuberville is 5-2 in second season at Texas Tech and just beat No. 1 Oklahoma on the road.  In seasons 4-6, Whittingham had a record of 33-6.  Beamer has had twelve 10 win seasons and has finished in the top ten seven times.  Caldwell is currently the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and went to the Super Bowl in his first season. Price finished in the top ten three times at Washington State of all places.  And these are the coaches who did not do better immediately than his predecessor, which Graham did once at Tulsa.

Does all of this mean that Graham is going to definitely be great while at Pitt?  Of course not.  But this does show that very few coaches come in from outside a program that won the year before and win right away, and those that do include names like Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier, Dennis Erickson, Bill Walsh, Brian Kelly, Bobby Petrino...and Todd Graham.

Other big names coaches also started slowly.  Bronco Mendenhall was 6-6 in his first season at BYU then went 43-9 over his next four years.  Bobby Ross was 2-9 at Georgia Tech then won the National Championship three years later.  Kirk Ferentz was 1-10 at Iowa in his first season, then 3-9 in his second season.  In year four he was 11-2.  At Michigan State, Nick Saban started 6-5-1 and Mark Dantonio started 7-6.  Gary Pinkel was 4-7 at Missouri and didn't break through with a great year until year seven.  Bob Stoops was 7-5 in his first season at Oklahoma then won the National Championship in his second season.  Les Miles and Mike Gundy both started 4-7 for Oklahoma State.  Miles didn't win 9 games until season three while it took Gundy until season four to get there.  Mike Harbaugh was 4-8 in his first season and 5-7 in his second.  Gary Patterson replaced Franchione after a 10-2 season and promptly went 6-6.  Barry Alvarez took over a 2-9 Wisconsin team and still managed to do worse at 1-10.

If anybody doesn't get the point after all of this, then you may just want to admit that you love to be miserable because I've proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's highly unlikely that any coach, even a great one, starts at a program in rapid fashion.  If you want, criticize Graham for not knowing this and setting expectations too high, but the truth is, there are zero signs that Graham is a flop at this stage.  In fact, if you look closely at this data you will see that it's more likely that he will eventually be the opposite.


  1. Chris,
    Your post depends on Pitt fans having faith when over the course of the last decade there has been no consistency in coaching fires and hires and the two most recent head coaches, Wannstedt and Graham, actually set the program back in their first year on the job. There is no way this team finishes 8-5. It is a bad football team. You are selling that Pitt is improving and there is no present evidence on the field that it is. Call it the victimization of Pitt football or Pederson's folly but when Todd Graham was hired to bring in a brand new system that didn't fit the athletes on hand,the decision to piss off and alienate an already bedraggled fan base was made at the top. I don't believe in wasting a season - the embarrassment of hordes of empty seats in Pederson's rent-a-stadium, a head coach who mostly looks confused during entire games, and an unacceptable number of injuries - all point to a disposable season. You may well be right but by the time that happens, will there be any fans left to notice? This season is Steve Pederson's fuck you to the entire Pitt fan base.

  2. I never said I expected an 8-5 season this year. Injuries and a drastic system change were too much to overcome. And I'm not selling that Pitt is improving this year. I gave up on an excellent season long ago. All I'm pointing out is that a slow start is the norm for a new coach. Unfortunately, Pitt fans are angry about 30 years of mediocrity and it's all coming to a head for Graham's first season, when it really shouldn't. Like any coach, Graham deserves the same grace period of any other coach, even if he didn't ask for it.

  3. Graham deserves time, doesn't mean we have to like and not bitch about it! The "High Octane" nonsense will be on his gravestone if he fails. Overpromising and underdelivering; salemanship 101 Do's and Don'ts.

    Memo to Graham: shut up and win

  4. Chris - People would take you alot more serious if you came across as objective. Many of your pieces are extremely defensive.

    When will you be defending the Panthers OOC basketball schedule because I definitely want to read that one.

  5. Chris - Keep writing as the contrarian PITT football fan view. If you wrote what they believed then you would be taken seriously, by them, as the blogger who understands the plight that is PITT football or athletics. I like diversity of thought.

    I may or may not agree with your editorial, but I enjoy reading it.


  6. Objective? Now I'm a homer? You must be new here because that's a first. Usually people complain because they say I'm too harsh on Pitt football and basketball. I don't think that pointing out that you should wait until more than eight games until you say a coach is a failure is being a homer. Hell, some fans already decided Graham was a failure in the first quarter of the first game. I'm just trying to bring rationality back into things.

  7. This team would have been bad under Wanny too.

  8. I have to say, Chris is far from a homer. He has been extremely critical of both programs over the years, especially football.

  9. Doke,

    Don't take Anonymous (not very gutsy not to identify yourself fella) seriously at all. He shares no facts for his accusations, so they are worthless.

    You know that you are producing quality work and highlighting the FACTS about how other new coaches performed in Yr1 is interesting and a good baseline for Graham v3.0.

    As for Graham ... the key mistake that he made was expectation mismanagement. Had he been more mature, he could have talked about the exciting things to come with High Octane, but that it is a tough transition for 18-22 year old kids to make so quickly.

    The reality is that he over-promised versus the reality that we are seeing and that is a shame, especially as it was not necessary.

    Unless of course the administration asked him to be vocal to sell season tickets, but I doubt that was the case as then Graham would have to be one of the better actors on the planet.

    Let's just hope that Yr2 and Yr3, especially in a much tougher ACC, are properly matured and exciting High Octane years for Pitt Football.

    Thanks for posting Doke and please do not take these negative posters seriously. In fact just delete their posts. If they are just here to heckle, then they do not deserve space on your blog. They can go to a Comedy Club and ply their trade there at their own cost of a ticket ...

  10. Random question: what has happened to Ejuan Price-- haven't seen him on the field the last 2-3 games, is he hurt, benched?

  11. Question... when was the last time a North Eastern school won a national championship? or even played for one?

  12. Bowling Green PantherOctober 30, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    I really do think (no proof, just my opinion) that Graham was asked to sell his program and sell tickets after the way the Wannstedt era and the Haywood "era" played out.

    I also think it was just in his nature as well.

    He clearly promised that the goal was to win the BE this year. ...And every year... If he had said the goal was to go .500 his first year the Pitt fans would have crucified him. He did temper his predicitions by telling us how hard it was to learn his system. He said he expected only 65% of it to be in place this season. He aslo said it would be next season before his players would be in game condition for the pace he wanted.

    As typical Pitt fans, we over react. Last year we went from thinking it could be an average year to expecting BCS when the BE media picked us for first with about 4 other teams. Not exactly a ringing endrsement. And then when you point out the players we lost and our holes, we get called a homer or an apoligist.

    Keep up the good work, Chris.