Candid Coaches: Who are the most overrated and underrated college football coaches?

Our CBS Sports college football writers spoke with one-fifth of the 129 active coaches leading FBS teams entering the 2018 season. They asked for their honest opinions on everything from NCAA rules to social issues to their peers in the profession. We will be sharing their candid thoughts over a two-week period leading into the season.


Coaches are very respectful of one another, which is why it is so difficult to get them to speak truthfully about their peers in the profession. Still, if you are in the business long enough, you have a very good handle on which of your fellow coaches get a bit too much love -- whether from fans, the media or pollsters -- and those that do not get enough regardless of how far they take their teams any given season.

Under the condition of anonymity, we asked our coaching panel to speak out about their peers. Who is undeserving of all the praise they receive? Which coaches need to be talked about more? Let's take a look at their responses. 

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Graphic illustration by Michael Meredith

Who is the most overrated coach in college football?

CoachResponses

Willie Taggart, Florida State

20 percent

James Franklin, Penn State

20 percent

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa 13 percent
Lane Kiffin, FAU 13 percent
Five other coaches 34 percent

Who is the most underrated coach in college football?

CoachResponses

David Shaw, Stanford

12 percent

Chris Petersen, Washington

12 percent

Dan Mullen, Florida

8 percent

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern8 percent

Kyle Whittingham, Utah

8 percent

14 other coaches

52 percent

Explain yourselves (overrated)

  • "James Franklin. His coaching peers know he is full of it."
  • "I would say Willie Taggart at Florida State. He was only at Oregon for one year, and it's not like he really transformed that program -- and that's a place that's won for a long time. Not that he isn't good -- he's won. But usually when you get a job like Florida State, it's because you've won some championships or done something really amazing."
  • "[David Shaw] does a great job but, oh my Lord, I mean, it's like God's gift to football. I didn't say he didn't do a good job." 
  • "Willie Taggart because he still has a career losing record." 
  • "When [Franklin] got the Penn State job, I thought, 'Man, he's a good marketer.' He did a nice job with that. It'll be interesting without Saquon [Barkley]. He's underrated. He turns a lot of no[-gain] plays into 60-yard touchdowns."
  • "I'm probably a little jealous [of Lane Kiffin]. If you're born on third base, that's great, but don't think you hit a triple."
  • "We're going to see in the next three years [what happens with Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M]. That disaster last year at Florida State, he prides himself on being just like Nick Saban. He only worked for him for a couple of years. He never has the organizational skills. He flies by the seat [of his pants]. It looks like it's organized and the words he uses are the same, but if you talk to people who work in his office, the desk is sloppy, the rooms are sloppy."
  • "If you had the No. 1 recruiting class in the country every year [you'd win like Nick Saban]. He shows up at every single game with a better roster than the teams he 's playing. … If you count cheating and getting the best players in the country as part of running a program, he's the best in the country. It's like saying an NFL coach is the best coach in the league if he gets 25 first-round picks every year."
  • "I like Urban [Meyer], but there have been some characters that played for him that I thought should have not allowed."

Explain yourselves (underrated)

  • "I thought what [Dan Mullen] did at Mississippi State was amazing. Mississippi State, who wants to take that job?"
  • "Mark Dantonio [is underrated]. He gets no respect because he isn't flashy and in the same state with a flashy guy that is unproven and hasn't won a big game yet."
  • "Underrated would be Blake Anderson at Arkansas State. They've won every year. Blake does a great job, and I never hear his name for jobs to move up."
  • "Underrated is Chris Petersen at Washington. There's a program that, prior to the last five years, had been down for a long, long time, and he's done an unbelievable job."
  • "[Stanford] can beat anybody in the country on any Saturday." 
  • "[Jeff Brohm and Paul Chryst] I've always said, 'Show me a coach that wins at Alabama and Clemson, I'll show you a good coach. Show me a coach that wins at Wake Forest, I'll show you a great coach.' It's hard to mess it up at Ohio State and Penn State. It's really hard to win at Iowa State."    

Breaking it down

Interestingly enough, three coaches -- David Shaw (Stanford), Tom Herman (Texas) and Kirk Ferentz (Iowa) -- received votes in both polls. As one would expect, the comments regarding the most underrated coaches were quite tame compared to those for those considered overrated by their peers.

Nick Saban (Alabama) and Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M) took some significant shots above, but both only received a single vote from their peers as "overrated." Calling Franklin "full of it" is interesting considering he took Vanderbilt from 6-7 in his first season to 9-4 in consecutive years before taking Penn State from 7-6 in its first two seasons to 11 wins in each of his last two. Meanwhile, comments on Taggart mostly surrounded jealously that he obtained a job like FSU despite not necessarily putting the resume on paper that some others have to this point in their careers.

Candid Coaches series

CBS Sports Writer

Chip Patterson has spent his young career covering college sports from the Old North State. He's been writing and talking about football and basketball for CBS Sports since 2010. You may have heard him... Full Bio

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