Coaching is a noble profession, attracting people from all walks of life and from many different backgrounds. It is reductionist to say that all football coaches are the same, or that there is just one type of football coach.
Rather, there are exactly eight types of football coach.
Tend to have square heads, blunt features, and perfectly cylindrical bodies. Big on phrases like “this guy GETS it” and “he’s one of OUR type of guys” because there is a thin blue line in life, and everything is on one side or another. Their hair is short. Their shirts are tucked in. They were not in the military, but really wanted to be. In a few cases they seem to believe they were, despite fighting in no conflicts more serious than “The War Of My Huge Awesome Power Mower Vs. My Tyrannical HOA.”
Brian Kelly: The Sergeant Who Asks For Your Badge And Gun. Fond of emphasizing the team over all else, but also fond of blaming subordinates when trouble strikes. Parked in the handicapped spot without a sticker every day for years running. Eventually asked to leave two days into a long-overdue internal affairs investigation.
Greg Schiano: The Chief Who Vows To “Take Back The Streets.” Makes this vow while “earning the respect of the community” and “losing stuff from the evidence room at an alarming rate.” Makes $650,000 a year for reasons not even the policemen’s union really understands. Uses hacky motivational stunts in speeches to his officers like “attack the block,” where he swings a sledgehammer at a cinder block. Currently being sued by a former officer after a piece of cinder block hit them in the eye and detached their retina.
Pat Fitzgerald: The Strip-Mall Spartan. Turned off his body cam four months ago. Has a Punisher decal and a MOLON LABE sticker on his enormous lifted truck. Will leave the force for a moderately successful career in local talk radio. Does Crossfit, and just told you he does Crossfit.
Mike Gundy: The “Fun Sheriff.” Rules over a rural county known for putting prisoners in Santa Claus costumes. Through a very liberal reading of civil forfeiture laws, has ensured Beeneck County, Oklahoma has the world’s only police force where every officer drives a Dodge Hellcat.
Jimbo Fisher: The Genius, Just Ask Him About It. State bureau investigator with both a dark secret from his past and a tee time at the country club. His book of investigation techniques is over 700 pages long. No one has ever finished reading it.
Frank Leahy: The Old School Hardo. Made his players practice to the point of exhaustion and had his quarterbacks catch snaps until their hands bled. As a cop, he would eliminate all crime in his district. He would also nearly kill himself with stress, bankrupt the department via civil lawsuits filed against his officers and their overly aggressive tactics, and retire five years after taking the job.
The Military Coach might have been in the military, and even if they weren’t, they understand the realities of the military — duty, honor, and country are important, but clean socks, tedium, and retirement benefits are necessary worries, too.
The difference between Cop Coach and Military Coach? The Cop mistakes a general for a drill sergeant. The Military Coach knows the strength coach does that job first and best, and focuses on coolly pushing things forward. They can be just as insane, compulsive, and totalitarian as Cop Coach, sure, but they recognize that wears thin fast.
Both the Cop Coach and the Military Coach are werewolves. The Military Coach has the sense to wear a suit and pretend to be human 12 hours a day or so.
Urban Meyer: The General Who Looks Like The Generals In Movies Look. Spectacularly successful career marred by incidents of inept staff mismanagement. Good for the rush of invasion, not so good at state-building. Seems sane until the meetings start, then never again. Several career/health breaks taken for private sector work in cable television commentary. (Note: Not filed under “police” for obvious reasons.)
Mark Dantonio: The Slightly Mad Submarine Captain. Extremely competent commander whose crew respects him, but suspects he might have been under the surface too long. (Note: Not filed under police, see previous note under “Urban Meyer.”)
Kirk Ferentz: The General Who Only Respects Tanks. You got ideas about the Army? That’s fine. He’s got tanks. If you got questions about anything but tanks and tank-related things, you might want to talk to someone else. Tanks are his thing, and everything else is not a tank, and therefore not his thing. Got a lot of credit for some success early in tanks. Then, continued to do tank things for another 15 years.
David Cutcliffe: Ol’ Colonel Grumpus. Marine officer specializing in doing more with less. Exacting to a point where it might have hurt his career. Had heart problems due to job-related stress but was too stubborn to let them bother him. Found a niche assignment where someone understands the value of getting $10 production out of a $5 budget.
Scott Frost: The G.I. Bro Model. Officer who keeps getting promoted because he looks and sounds a lot like what an officer is supposed to look and sound like. Does some good work, maybe even goes undefeated once, and due to looking like GI Joe, will only sort of have to answer for his eventual struggles. Like talking to wet paint — all-American, patriotic, square-jawed wet paint.
Robert Neyland: The Actual General. Because he actually was a brigadier general in the Army. Ruthlessly detailed. Prepared for the impossible task of moving supplies over the Himalaya and through the jungles of Burma in World War II by coaching Tennessee football.
Drifter/Old Prospector/Derelict Genius
The coaches who really didn’t have a choice but to be themselves. The Drifter/Old Prospector/Derelict Geniuses exist on the frontiers of college football, wondering when someone will look past the scruff and oddball soundbites to the program potential beneath all that grizzle. They innovate on the field and give good press conferences, allowing most people to give them a wide berth on dodgy things.
Dana Holgorsen: The Dizzy Prospector. Made a mint panning for gold in the Yukon. Got lost and either froze to death before he could spend it, or he buried it and forgot the location.
Mike Leach: The Eccentric Professor. Won a Nobel for his maverick ideas, and also the eccentric professor censured by the administration for problems his maverick ideas created. But seriously: How do you know viruses cause disease for sure, huh? Ever thought about that?
Should not be allowed on the internet, ever.
Gary Patterson: The Prince of Pannin’. King of this here prospectin’ camp, and don’t let none tell ya different! Last seen on a episode of Deadwood as “Illinois Jack,” a copper dealer thrown out of a bar for bringing his pet mule Sancho into the premises, and then re-entering the bar to start a brawl. If Sancho can’t have a beer in peace, no one will!
Lovie Smith: The Captain. They said they wouldn’t get those vaccines across the pass in the dead of winter. The Captain never bothered to listen to other people much, but especially so when it came to what a man could or couldn’t do in the mountains when he set his mind to it. It cost him three toes and two fingers, but that just proved even Death couldn’t eat him in one bite. Best it could do was nibble — and then stay hungry when the kids all saw a snow-covered, half-frozen figure towing a dogsled full of medicine down the hillside and into Rumdiggler Springs.
Pop Warner: The Original Rogue Football Genius. An actual polymath lunatic who did all of the following:
- Trained as a tinsmith on a ranch in Texas
- Only attended Cornell Law School after losing all his money betting on horses
- Got into football because Cornell’s coach saw him on the train and was “impressed by his weight”
- Invented the single-wing and double-wing offense, the screen play, the trap, and the counter play
- Drank “cough medicine” during cold days on the sidelines
- Wildly successful, yet coached at eight schools over 10 tenures (Cornell and Carlisle Indian twice each!)
- Actually used the forward pass?
- Ran the hidden ball trick in a regulation game (it worked) (against Harvard) (you idiots)
- Posted a .692 winning percentage in five years at Iowa State despite only spending a month with them a year before leaving to work at Georgia and then later Cornell
- Translated: Pop Warner coached Iowa State and Georgia/Cornell at the same time and left both with winning records despite having to coach Iowa State via telegram for much of the season
- Made this arrangement mostly because he lost an entire year’s wages betting on his own team in a 12-10 loss to the Butte Athletic Club’s squad in 1895
- Jumped into that Butte-Iowa State game to play guard himself
The most ironic of the archetypes. They try to maintain a level head as the “cool coach who doesn’t get mad.” In practice, this isn’t always the case, mostly because of the natural tension between a.) keeping things low-key, and b.) playing a sport based on beating the opponent’s ass like they owe you money. Do not misunderstand the sangfroid: They are assassins at heart, even if they never, ever want to give the impression that they are actually doing work.
Lincoln Riley: The Secretly Unchill Dude. Doing his best to yell “Fore!” even though he’s aimed the ball at your head. The guy with 38 clubs in his bag, several of which you have never seen before. One of them looks like a gun with a crowbar attachment? Not one of them is a putter.
Rick Neuheisel: The Continental. European Tour champion, 1996. Living in Orlando, pending resolution of tax issues with the Danish government. A genial competitor whose greatest enemy is himself, and also the Danish Ministry of Taxation.
Matt Campbell: The Technician. Discipline has gotten him to a level of success beyond his age. Somehow still with his original sponsors despite bigger offers, even though his agent screams at him every time they talk. Also still using kids clubs? It’s weird. Kind of an uptight hang, if we’re being honest, but good at his job.
Steve Spurrier: The Needler. Insists game is all about fun, if winning. If losing, coughs during other golfers’ backswings and gives misleading advice on club selection and ball placement. Would never cheat, but might agree on putts under four feet being gimmes, and could tolerate a gentle nudge of the ball from the rough to the fairway. (Cause it was there the whole time, right? RIGHT?) Will openly laugh at someone shanking the ball onto State Road 83 traffic.
The shepherds, if shepherds ran their flocks tax-free under a holy shield of overlapping classifications as non-profit organizations. Praise be, and consider the collection plate and how you haven’t put a damn thing in it today.
Dabo Swinney: Pastor, Warmlife: A Community of Faith (formerly known as First Charismatic Apostolic Baptist). The fun church! Where they don’t talk about hell or tax records! The smoothest in the business who hasn’t lost the common touch, not even when raking in millions and building his personal house of the Lord, complete with its own adult-sized playground slide.
PJ Fleck: The Intense Preacher With The Headset Mic. Posts a few too many shots of himself at the gym on Instagram. Detail-oriented and so fond of catchphrases, they qualify as their own language. His god is a caffeinated god. Leads the congregation’s fun run every Sunday. Just a little too insistent about finishing the fun run ahead of anyone else.
Tom Osborne: The Quiet Rock. A steadying force who never yells, but preaches the virtues of hard work and the community. Leads a peaceful flock who, from the outside, appears to have very few problems. This is definitely accurate, and will always stay the same, even when the pastor retires and is replaced by a new, undoubtedly better successor!
The Vice Principal only cares about plaques and positive press. The Vice Principal wants the floors to shine in exactly one precise way only he can teach you. These are the workers and doers who keep the school running, even when it wants to walk. Asthma is in the mind!
Nick Saban: The Scary Vice Principal. Demanding, relentless, and exists seemingly without the need for sleep, water, or food. The only thing holding this school together. Fear embodied. Don’t ever call him “the Principal.” The Principal schmoozes with the school board and takes junkets to conferences. The Vice Principal actually does the work.
Pete Carroll: The Cool Vice Principal. Charismatic, ageless, and always on top of things even though he seems too carefree to be on top of anything. Maybe isn’t too tight with the “rules,” a word he does not say without air quotes. Has cornered a few students to ask if they wanted to know what really happened on 9/11. Left last year for a job with city schools, and no one seems to know why.
Dino Babers: The Cinematic Inspirer. The relentless optimist specializing in cases of untapped potential. Tells people he is proud of them and means it, and that’s why they go cry in the break room for a minute. Definitely wore bad shirts no one made fun of because they liked him too much. Pep talks for DAYS.
Jeff Brohm: The “Let’s Just Get Through This Assembly, People” Guy. A guy who just wants to do his job, if someone would let him. Aggressive planner, with circumstances limiting what he can do, the LJGTTAPG lives somewhere between stoic despair and quiet conviction it will turn around. It will turn around, he says, tapping the steering wheel of his truck and hoping he can just get through the assembly without something ruining the whole thing. Which will totally happen, he thinks.
Woody Hayes: The Too-Scary Vice Principal. The one that got real militant with parents about keeping it moving through the pickup lane at dismissal. Brutal haircut. Taught a class on World History and only covered the bloodiest wars. Ate school lunch every day with the students in a short sleeved button-down and dared everyone to say something. Punched a kid once. (Three times.)
Committed to the mission of education, the Teacher seeks to lead by instructing, not managing. Then, when that fails, he yells, grows despondent, or shows videos for class until the Vice Principals notice. The difference between the Vice Principals and the Teachers is a sincere belief in the value of learning above all else. The Vice Principal knows he can’t do it all himself, and hires Teachers. The Teacher believes they can, and the gap between what’s in their heads and the flawed reality on the field either drives them mad or to despair.
TL;DR: Might have been staring at the whiteboard too long, now cannot come back.
Pat Narduzzi: The Enthusiastic Teacher. No one’s sure what kind of math Mr. Narduzzi teaches, exactly. But whatever it is, it’s taught with radiant intensity. Math works better the harder you press the marker into the whiteboard! Pops up when you least expect him to, rarely when expected.
Lane Kiffin: The Recently Rehired After Mysterious Absence Guy. Has a resume with three advanced degrees and can’t understand why AP Physics is hard for students. Couldn’t work for the county for a while due to vague reasons, but got work as an adjunct professor at the college in the meantime, only to come back two years later for equally vague reasons? Drives over the traffic cones on his way toward a faculty spot not reserved for him. Likes the noise they make, dragging under his car.
Chip Kelly: Former Teacher Of The Year. Bright star of the profession. Might be sad. Sometimes people just get sad, it happens. Maybe he needs new pants. Ones that fit. Don’t ignore the psychological effects of a pair of pants that make you feel like a real together-type person. A nap? Like, maybe a three year-long nap? That might do it.
Will Muschamp: The American History Teacher. Also coaches the teams. (All of them.) Bit another coach at a swim meet and had to take unpaid leave. People generally like him, unless he bites them. Seen fighting a holly bush outside the Olive Garden. His version of American History has a strong focus on Bigfoot and other monster trucks. Thinks no one would need therapy if they just did. Their. Job.
John Heisman: The Sketchy Professor. Uses $10 words like “oblate spheroid” when “football” would do. Loves to lecture. Brilliant, but unfortunately knows it. Would have been an actor had he been any good at it. Had to leave town after a disastrous divorce.
Recently Indicted CEO/Governors
Suave, smiling, endlessly charismatic, and set on schmooze for life. These are the grinning, gladhanding, backslapping bullshit artists who know that there may only be 12 games or so in the regular season, but there are 365 chances a year to make a friend before you need one. It’s not that they can’t do the nitty-gritty work. After all, that’s how they got here in the big office, smelling expensive leathers and fielding ticket requests from congressmen and tycoons!
It’s just that … if you get here, why wouldn’t you want to hire people to do all that? And instead focus your energies on staying here, in the big comfy chair smelling of success? Make no mistake: The Recently Indicted CEO/Governor ain’t dumb, and he sure as hell isn’t broke.
Manny Diaz: The Technocrat. A brainy CEO-type with a political background and the savvy to use it. Like a lot of data-driven types, has connections and a nontraditional background giving him the ability to “disrupt” the profession. Like many data-driven types, has not won anything and has been associated with prominent financial disasters. A true Wharton grad-type in that he left Philadelphia as soon as he could.
Mack Brown: Mr. Shareholder Value. Never shy to point to a decade straight of beating the market. Often neglects to mention how things got a little stagnant at corporate HQ, or how a lot of those gains were matched or exceeded by corporate rivals with more daring and innovation. Gets jobs on the strength of his results and ability to delegate, yes. Keeps jobs by not rocking the boat with the board of directors. Knows where the camera is, and how he’s gonna look on it.
Dan Mullen: Chief Financial Officer Recently Turned State’s Evidence In Federal Trial.
James Franklin: The Governor. Will turn this state around and get it back on its feet this year. Not next year, but this year. Which year is “this?” It’s this year, unless it’s next. Maybe not the next year, either. There are many years, and I could be pointing to any of them when I say “this”. Things take time. Time is relative, and one person’s year might be 10 of ours, right? That’s what they say about the Hindu gods, that centuries just feel like a second to them. Speaking of relative things, how’s your family? Lindsay doing well? LORI! I’m sorry, not Lindsay, hey, that’s a mistake you want me to make, not you, right?
[LAUGHS FOR EXACTLY FOUR SECONDS]
Those shoes you got are something else, I tell you what, next time you come around the office, you’ll have to show me where you got them. When? Whenever. I got time. Years, even. Just drop by this week, or next. You know, whichever comes first.
Bobby Bowden: The Bobby Bowden. No one can prove to me that Bobby Bowden wasn’t the four-time governor of Mississippi during the 1970s and into the 1980s, and that he didn’t appoint his sons to run the state into the ground. That is biblical truth. VOTE PAPPY!