Here are the ten best current coaches presented in an inarguable top ten list:
10 Jeff Tedford
You know that guy who always calls the money play in Madden? The play you can never stop no matter what you do, so you end up with a controller shaped hole in your wall? Tedford is the real life version of him.
His offenses have always produced, and his QBs have always gone on to absolutely shitty careers in the NFL. Why? Because they are products of a system, the same way Tech QBs are. Nobody realizes it because Cal and Oregon had strong running games under Tedford, and they almost never ran any shotgun stuff. It doesn't look like other stat padding offenses, so it must not be.
The offense is very similar to Gary Barnett's, using powerful single back sets to run the ball, and passing off of that action. He'll often put both WRs on the same side of a two TE formation, meaning he can both block 7 man fronts and easily flood any zone coverage you run with an 8 man front. Why more teams don't do this I don't know, but it's an relatively easy offense for a QB to run, to the point where Akili Smith is going in the top 3 in the draft.
Applying that formula to a moribund Cal program and bringing them to national prominence earns Tedford a mention with the elite.
9 Mack Brown
Look, he has a national championship and a shitload of wins, OK?
8 Dennis Erickson
Say what you want about his ethical makeup, the guy gets results. One of the best measures to a coach is immediate improvement. Can you take an average to good player and improve him right away? Check this out:
School's record in the year prior to arrival: 34-45-1
First year record at schools: 50-30-1
Second year: 38-7 (you may remember one of those 38 wins, or perhaps you've blocked it out by now)
That's impressive. A slow start at Washington State (3-7-1) and a Miami school that was already good before he got there (11-1) skew the numbers that can stand on their own anyway.
Arizona State's emergence on the national level was no surprise, thanks to having a head coach that knows how to build a running game (a single back zone blocking scheme with misdirection can work even with a slow QB! Who knew?) and a defense. They aren't on a level with USC, or even Oregon, but if he sticks around they will be.
7 Bob Stoops
Had Brent Musburger written this, Stoops would hold all top 5 positions on the list, and his keyboard would have certainly suffered electrical failure due to the buckets of drool that drunk would excrete.
Stoops isn't the best coach in the country, but he is the exact definition of lucky: when preparation meets opportunity. The Big 12 was fading fast, his main rival is a paper tiger, and he has a premium brand name thanks to, frankly, one of the most amazing seasons I've ever seen.
It wasn't just that they won, it was how. They were crisp, professional, confident, aggressive, just all around dominant. That team had more talent than anyone gave them credit for at the time, but Stoops brought an energy and a style that nobody had really seen before at this level and elevated a team that should not have gone undefeated.
OU has descended as a threat since then, due mostly to poor reactions to being out recruited by Brown, poor QB play, and the fact that pretty much everyone but us caught up to him in one way or another.
Still, the man can put out a defense. Nobody tackles as well and as hard as they do. Nobody plays with the aggression. It'll bite them occasionally, but for the under prepared or overwhelmed, it's a deadly formula to face.
6 Rich Rodriguez
Say what you want about his ethical makeup, the guy gets results. Wherever he's been, offense has followed. It takes a good coach to see a good scheme and adapt it to his players, it takes an even better coach to invent something from scratch. You can always tell the poser from the real deal by how well they adjust to different situations and personnel.
Legend has it he came across the zone read at Glenville State after his QB messed up in practice. That may or may not be true, but it's indisputable that he was one of the earliest adopters of the spread option offense, along with guys like Randy Walker and Urban Meyer. It's such an effective offense that he's led a mundane Tulane program to a 12-0 season as it's OC, and a mediocre WVU program that averaged 7 wins a year since joining the Big East into a national power. They were a broken thumb from the MNC game last season.
Pretty much everyone runs that damn offense now, but almost nobody does it as well as Rodriguez.
5 Nick Saban
Say what you want about his ethical makeup, the guy gets results . . . hmm. Anyway, the resume speaks for itself.
4 Mark Mangino
This is a bit of a homer pick, in that I've been high on Mangino since 2000 and refuse to back down on this. He's a grotesque natural disaster but his units consistently play at a very high level. OU's MNC team compares well to Texas' 2002 baseball team. Everybody knew exactly what to do at all times and executed every play. It's easy to say, but it is so hard to do. When a coach can continuously get his teams to perform like this, you can't ignore it.
He manufactured a running game out of nothing. The offense always had an answer to everything, could attack your weakness no matter what it was, and played with the aforementioned crispness and professionalism that was a joy to watch as a football fan. Less fun as a Longhorn, though.
Defense is the hardest thing to build in college, since speed is relatively limited, but he's managed to field a team that will shut your ass down with players nobody else wanted. Taking guys you ignored then beating you with them is about the most emasculating thing a coach can do, I would say.
But mostly, he got Kansas into the BCS. Kansas. Motherfucking Kansas. Jawhawks. The football team. They won, too.
3 Jim Tressell
Hiring Jim Tressell as your head coach is like getting a new dishwasher for Kwanzaa. It's going to be so handy, and you'll save a load on electric bills, but damn if you don't leer at your sibling's new XBox, green with envy.
He's not a sexy coach. I sat in a film room for a week straight watching coaches prepare to play his 1-AA powerhouse Youngstown State program. It would be quite impossible to find a more vanilla team. They played the most basic 3 deep coverage, they would run the ball as much as humanly possible, and they played with absolutely no external passion or joy. Blue collar to the bone, and they just won, and they won, and they won.
He was hired by OSU the next year, and has continued to prove that the lunch pail will beat the banker collar any day of the week. When you play teenagers every week, it's safe to bet that they will fuck up if you let them. RC Slocum took the "just don't screw up" approach and dominated the SWC for a decade, Tressell put a sweater vest on it and is in contention every single season, no matter how bad his QB is.
2 Pete Carroll
Put an NFL eye for detail and variety into the body of a natural salesman and you end up with the best program of the last 5 years. Not that anybody needs a refresher course, but the 2004 USC team is probably the best team since Nebraska 1995 (honorable mention: '05 Texas, '01 Miami, and '00 OU), and would've had a repeat had he not run into a buzz saw in Vince Young.
1 Urban Meyer
It's one thing to recognize possible innovation when it happens on accident, it's the one thing the spread option and penicillin have in common. It's another thing to watch an offense, understand it's principals, then make a radical change to make everything you do more effective. Whether it was divine intervention or the work of a mad genius, the offense borne of that lighting bolt moment change the game forever.
Much like Mike Leach, there is nobody that does it quite the way Urban Meyer does. He'll boil a play down, take it's essence, and reduce it to the most simple, effective manner possible. What makes him so much better than others is the madhouse that his overall offense resembles. Players line up seemingly anywhere they please, reverses aren't tricks, they are mainstay principals, and anyone from anywhere could end up with the ball.
But it's all sound. It's all effective. He's won with different QBs - the do-everything Alex Smith, the pussy footed, light armed Chris Leak, and the human tank Tim Tebow. All had different strengths and weaknesses, and the offense was exactly as complicated as it needed to be for each player.
For Smith, it simply featured a west coast passing scheme with a flexbone type option game. For Leak, a similar passing game with more emphasis on deception in the backfield since Leak wasn't much of a runner. For Tebow, it's practically a 1920's wedge offense.
It's not just crazy schemery that makes him great. Most coaches seem to be one or the other, scheme or player development. Meyer brings both, and understands the regimented intensity that you need to win football games. Even if he was just another I formation pro style coach, he'd be effective. He values defense, hard work, and discipline, which makes him a rarity with the nutty professors of the game. He's the total package and worthy every ounce of hype.