by Christian Mott
Every year during the college football season there’s one thing that always sticks out: the importance of good coaches. Every dominant team has a good coach. Alabama and Clemson are prime examples. Coaching is a fundamental aspect to winning games. There’s plenty of good coaches in college football but not all are made equal. With that being said, this is the rankings of the top seven coaches entering 2021.
Note that this is subjective and based off of personal opinion but reasoning behind the rankings will be provided. They will be ranked by a combination of factors: overall record, recent track record, ability to maximize talent and bowl success.
7. Jeff Monken – Army
With this entry some may invalidate this list right off the bat. A coach who has a 49-39 record since his takeover for the Black Knights is a top seven coach? Do not let the record fool you. Jeff Monken and the job he has done with the Black Knights is impressive. In the history of the Black Knights program how many ten win seasons did they have before Monken? The answer is one in 1996. The Black Knights football program started in 1891. Since taking over in 2014, the Black Knights have had two ten win seasons in that stretch.
What makes this more impressive is the fact that in the military academy, every recruit is preparing for deployment and training 12 hours a day on top of football activities. Additionally, the number that really matters is his success in the big rivalry game. He is 4-3 against the Navy Midshipmen. He has shown the ability to step up in big games. With Monken leading the way, Army has attained a 3-1 bowl record.
The cherry on top is his ability to successfully use the triple option offense at the collegiate level. As simple of an offense as it is to run, it’s just as easy for defenses to stop. With limited recruiting opportunities to help him land any major talent, it comes down to him and his staff to maximize the talent which he has. Coming into 2021, there is no doubt that this spot will be justified.
6. Kirby Smart – Georgia
Kirby Smart, one of many SEC coaches on this list, may be the most under the radar coach in college football. Being stuck in a conference with teams like Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M and LSU, its hard to come by wins. With a career record of 52-14, Smart has shown he can win in an elite conference. Unlike Monken, Smart has a plethora of talent to choose from. The key is how he utilizes it.
One underrated facit of coaching is how easy it can be to get complacent. Smart doesnt let all the talent get in the way of his coaching. Some may criticize him for his national championship collapse against Alabama in 2017, but they shouldn’t. With a respectable 4-2 bowl record, it’s hard to ask too much more from Smart’s staff. With everything Smart has shown in his first five years, it would be no surprise if he ranks higher on the list next year.
5. Kyle Whittingham – Utah
When m compiling a list is like this, it is eye-opening to see how many coaches get slept on. As much as Kirby Smart is slept on, the title of most underrated coach has to go to this man. Kyle Whittingham is closing in on almost 20 years of experience with a team and market that doesn’t get much national love. Utah on the national circuit is secondary to teams like USC and Oregon. However, that should be far from the case. With a great 134-66 record, Whittingham is one of the most experienced coaches on this list. Whittingham has taken the talent he has brought in and built a perennial Pac-12 contender.
Having won the Pac-12 South Division three times, Whittingham is still looking for that elusive PAC-12 championship. While he is 0-2 so far, that doesn’t tell the whole story. When it comes to the big games, Utah and Whittingham deliver. With an impressive 11-3 bowl record, its hard to hate on what Whittingham has done in his time with the Utes. the biggest thing holding Whittingham from being higher on this list is his inability to win the PAC-12. On top of that, his recent two bowl losses does hurt him slightly. Fans of the Utes know how good Whittingham is. The nation is about to get a taste of what coach Whittingham has done very soon.
4. Ed Orgeron – LSU
Maybe there’s some recency bias for this entry. However, Ed Orgeron’s recent track record shows he is deserving of being on this list. His first stint with Ole Miss was less than memorable. After briefly appearing with the Trojans for one year in 2013, he finally found his home in 2016 with LSU. Since becoming the Tigers head coach, he has completely reviaized a program. His 45-14 record since joining the team solidifies his placement. On top of that, one of the biggest reason he slides into the fourth spot on our list is simple: championships.
Coach Orgeron’s 2019 season squad may go down as the greatest single college team of all time. This is a team which he built on his own. He gave the reigns over to a transfer backup from Ohio State named Joe Burrow. The rest is history as he and the Tigers smoked the competition for that elusive championship. Some people may look at his 5-5 campaign in 2020 as a red flag. However with the recruiting and players who were out with COVID-19, LSU will return to form in 2021.
3. Jimbo Fisher – Texas A&M
Some people love him, some hate him but the thing is sure your teams gonna win if he’s there. Ever since his days at Florida State, its been hard to not put him on at least a top ten list. He is the full package. He has a combination of pedigree experience and constistency that is so rare in college football. A change of scenery didnt affect Fisher either, as he is now entering his fourth year as the Aggies coach.
He turned around a crumbled post-Manziel Aggies team and turned it into a legit contender in the SEC. Although they fell short of the playoffs last year, Fisher has won all three of his bowl games since becoming the Texas A&M coach. Including a national championship in his FSU days and an 8-2 overall record, its hard to argue against him on this list.
What holds him back from being even higher is his lack of another championship. Both of the two guys ahead of him have won multiple championships. Additionally, while Fisher has produced consistent seasons year in and year out, his teams just fall short of championship aspirations. With that being said, Jimbo still sits comfortably at three and could change his spot with a championship appearance.
2. Dabo Swinney – Clemson
Now the big hitters step onto the table. It’s hard to get much better than Dabo Swinney. What else is there to say about the guy? He stepped in midway through the 2008 season and didn’t look back. Since becoming the Tigers’ coach, he has made a bowl appearance including four national championships, winning two. His endless talent pool he brings in is relentless, from Hunter Renfrow to Trevor Lawrence, Dabo gets the most of everybody every Saturday. Its hard to say that he isn’t number one. He would be if this next man did not exist.
1. Nick Saban – Alabama
Well many are not surprised to see this man sit on top of the rankings. Every year, it has been the CrimsonTide vs the field. The reason for this is the great Nick Saban. It can’t be stressed enough that what Saban has done since taking over Alabama may never be seen again. He has done everything and anything that you possibly could want from your coach. Six national championships later and the Tide are the reigning champs yet again. If there is a checkbox for traits of the perfect coach, Saban checks almost every one.
From consistency to recruiting to winning, one can’t be asked to accomplish more than what Saban has done. When it’s all said and done, Saban may not just be number one right now but number one all time. As the years go by, people will be glad to say they saw Saban coach. One day there will be a new number one coach, but this spot is Saban’s until proven otherwise.
Featured image courtesy AP News