Ted Roof And The Art Of Falling Up

In reading Mike Leach’s recent book Swing Your Sword, there are a couple of things that really stick out.

First, someone needs to hire Mike Leach immediately!

Second, Leach’s ideology of not accepting the status quo and always looking for a unique approach to coaching are a central theme in his book and his coaching career. He is always challenging his own thought process and searching for new ways to gain an edge on his opponents. His approach reminds us of one our favorite axioms: Even the most efficient dinosaur is still extinct.

At one point in the book, Leach talks about the importance of knowing when a change needs to be made on a coaching staff regardless of how loyal you may be to that person. This experience led Coach Leach to post a sign in the athletic offices that has become one of our favorites at CBTN. That sign read:

“You’re either coaching it or allowing it to happen.”

It seems in today’s sports world there are too many people “allowing it to happen.” In Major League Baseball, the same coaches get recycled year after year after failing at their previous jobs. In the NFL, guys like Chan Gailey continue to get hired for seemingly no other reason than “well, he’s coached in the NFL before so he is a safe hire.” Too many GMs and ADs these days aren’t willing to challenge their own thought process and are quick to accept the status quo. Too many coaches are hiring mediocre to bad coaches because they are loyal to a fault.

The irony is that this leads to complacency, which ultimately leads to the demise of the original decision maker. In his latest article for Wired magazine, author and really smart guy Jonah Lehrer writes about irrational decision making in pro football as it relates to going for it on 4th down. From the article:

According to Romer’s analysis, teams would have been better off going for it on fourth down during the 1st quarter on 1100 different drives. Instead, coaches decided to kick the ball 992 times. This meant that NFL coaches made the wrong decision over 90 percent of the time.

Why does this irrational decision making continue? From the article:

The second reason coaches stink at making decisions on fourth down is that they stink at statistics. As Romer politely writes, “Many skills are more important to running a successful football team than a command of mathematical and statistical tools…It may be that individuals involved want to make the decisions to maximize their teams’ chance of winning, but that they rely on experience and intuition rather than formal analysis.”

For a case study in stinking at statistics, we turn to Ted Roof. A quick look at his individual coach profile might leave you scratching your head as to why he is highly sought after as an assistant? Looking at the numbers, here is what you will find: Ted Roof as a head coach at Duke (2004-2007):

  • 4-42 overall record
  • 1-31 conference record
  • 3-11 non-conference record
  • 0 wins against Top 25 teams (0-25)
  • 1-29 against teams finishing the season over .500

We know it’s Duke, but these numbers are still pretty atrocious. But, hey, we recognize that some guys are great coordinators and not necessarily meant to be HCs. So let’s fast forward to the present and take a look at Coach Roof’s numbers as the defensive coordinator at Auburn from 2008 to the present:

  • Given up 30 or more points 14 times in 30 games
  • Giving up 29.43 pts/game on average
  • Giving up 426 yards/game on average
  • Average national scoring rank 80 (out of 120)
  • Average scoring conference rank: 11 (out of 12)
  • Average recruiting rank: 8 (out of 120 teams)

These numbers are also unflattering and this is at a school that has some serious talent advantages. In fact, since Roof has been the DC at Auburn, the Tigers have had superior talent in 22 of 30 games (73.33 percent). So, add all these numbers up and sprinkle in a season as Georgia Tech’s DC in 2001 and Minnesota’s DC in 2008 and here’s what you have (since 2001):

  • Given up 30 or more points 55 times
  • Given up 40 or more points 29 times
  • Giving up 29.7 points/game on average
  • Giving up 400 yards/game on average
  • Average national scoring rank (82)
  • Average scoring conference rank (9)

Throw in the fact that Ted Roof defenses have finished 12th in a conference in scoring defense in four out of 10 years (currently 12th in SEC also), and it is remarkable that he keeps getting hired to run defenses.

We are firm believers at CBTN that the head coach can’t be a “jack of all trades, master of none.” The HC needs to be a master of one aspect of the game and either coach it or be extremely involved in the game planning part of it. Steve Spurrier and Chip Kelly run their offenses. Frank Beamer runs his special teams. Nick Saban, while not the official DC, runs his defense.

Gene Chizik has great numbers as a defensive coordinator. We are not saying that he shouldn’t have a defensive coordinator, but we saying that he should certainly play a larger part in running his defense. So we ask you, the fans, to take a hard look at your program and ask yourself this: Are your coaches coaching it or allowing it to happen?

Even if your statistics stink, you don’t have to stink at statistics. Gene Chizik has a problem with Ted Roof and it will be very interesting to see how he solves it.

For more great analysis of the college football coaching ranks, check out Coaches By The Numbers.