Nick Saban is the best coach in the SEC and maybe the history of the world. But now we ask: Who’s the second-best coach in the SEC?
Jim McElwain? He has won the SEC East with Florida two years running, which might say more about the SEC East than about Jimmy Mac. (He’s 2-7 against ranked opponents.) Gus Malzahn? His Auburn Tigers played for the 2013 BCS title but are 11-13 in league play since and have gone 0-6 against Alabama and Georgia the past three seasons.
Beyond that, who’s left? Hugh Freeze? Dan Mullen? Bret Bielema? Butch Jones? Kevin Sumlin? Will Muschamp? None has graced even an SEC title game. (And now there’s again Ed Orgeron, who was 3-21 in SEC games at Ole Miss.)
Just for fun, let’s stack that array against those of the other Power Five leagues.
ACC: Jimbo Fisher, Dabo Swinney, Bobby Petrino, Paul Johnson, David Cutcliffe, Justin Fuente, Pat Narduzzi, Mark Richt, Larry Fedora, Bronco Mendenhall.
Big Ten: Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh, Mark Dantonio, Kirk Ferentz, Paul Chryst, Mike Riley, James Franklin, Pat Fitzgerald.
Big 12: Bob Stoops, Bill Snyder, Gary Patterson, Mike Gundy, Dana Holgorsen, Jim Grobe and now Tom Herman.
Pac-12: Chris Petersen, David Shaw, Kyle Whittingham, Mike Leach, Mike MacIntyre, Clay Helton, Jim Mora, Rich Rodriguez, Todd Graham, Sonny Dykes.
Time was, the SEC was a repository of coaching excellence. Here were the coaches in the East in 2000: Spurrier, Fulmer, Holtz and Donnan — three of whom are in College Football Hall of Fame, and Spurrier will be soon — plus Hal Mumme, whose disciples (Leach and Holgorsen, to name two) still dot the landscape. And Saban and Tuberville and Nutt and Cutcliffe and Jackie Sherrill were in the West.
If you’re a big-time program with a vacancy — Oregon, let’s say, or maybe Notre Dame — is there anyone from the SEC (apart from Saban) you’d be lusting to hire? And if you’re wondering, “How is it that only one team in the biggest conference managed nine wins this season?” … well, isn’t the answer obvious? The coaches in the biggest league have gotten small.