The following is an attempt to capture what each year of a new coaching era looks like. The old adage is “every coach should be able to stick around long enough to coach their own players,” but this may help provide a standard for how long a coach should really have and perhaps even what expectations should look like for each of those seasons. It should be noted that all of these descriptions of how the years go are generalizations to what the trends seem to be. It obviously won’t capture each coach’s experience.
This is easily the most predictable of the bunch. The initial season of a new coaching tenure has shown it go a few different ways. For Jeff Tedford or Bryan Harsin, new blood being injected into the program can turn into magical seasons. For others, it can be a complete debacle where nothing seems to go right, and all the potential is run off by injuries, inconsistency and a lack of cohesion. Look no further than the 2017 Spartans and the 2017 Wolf Pack.
There is only one new football coach in the Mountain West Conference this season, and even then, Gary Andersen has previously coached the Aggies. Still, the part of this Andersen will fall into during his second go around with the Aggies remains to be seen. An optimist would say he returns the best QB in the conference in Jordan Love as well as many other players from the team that won 11 games last season. A pessimist would claim the Aggies lost too much talent on offense and are destined to take a step back in 2019.
This is the year that is usually rock bottom. The new system is in place, but some spots are a force fit. Players from the old staff are transferring out, and the new coach is either left with a patchwork type of roster or else has committed to a full youth movement, playing true freshmen. Either way, the struggle is real. Young players take their lumps while getting much-needed experience.
See Hawaii and San Jose State in their respective year two. The Spartans looked all different shades of bad for their 2018 season, finding new ways to lose and compiling just one win all year. On a similar note, the Rainbow Warriors in year two under Rolo looked pretty underwhelming after a successful first season. They were in such disarray that Rolovich overhauled the offensive scheme in the following offseason.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Coach Norvell guided the Wolf Pack to a very successful second season. From 3-9 to an 8-5 with a bowl victory in hand. This is far from a typical second-year jump, and it may end up being similar to what Hawaii did in the past (a solid second year with an awful year three), but nothing should or can be taken away from the Wolf Pack’s fun 2018 season.
This is the year something needs to happen. Maybe not a great season, maybe not a bowl birthday, but some mark of improvement. The foundation should be in place, and the players on the field are mostly ones recruited by the new coach.
Tedford falls into this range, but the description above doesn’t necessarily apply to him. He’s been nothing short of amazing and therefore isn’t in any danger of losing his job. However, the point about having his own players still rings true. It will be interesting to see what he can do now that his recruits will be seeing more time on the field.
Norvell is on a good path, as he did great in year two. However, there is still room for a speed bump in year three with players transferring and now the young, inexperienced ones now needing to step up.
Brennan has had a rough go of things record-wise during his first two years at the helm. However, he has two things going for him. One is that the players and staff seem to have bought into the culture he is establishing at SJSU. Second, the Spartans have recruiting pretty well in back-to-back seasons. Still, this is the year the team needs to take a step forward. They don’t have to win the division or even come close. However, they do need to notch a few more wins, play competitively, and show outsiders that something is happening at San Jose State.
At this point, a coach and the program he has built is basically who and what they are. By this time, all “his players” and his schemes are in place. They have enough of a track record to provide evidence of their successes or failures. If they haven’t been able to make a significant impact by now, it’s in doubt whether or not they ever will.
All eyes on Bobo and Sanchez here. Bobo brought some consistency to the Rams but then the wheels fell off last year and things don’t look great going into 2019. The Rebels have improved every year under Sanchez, but at a snail’s pace, and they have yet to make a bowl game. Both likely need successful seasons to keep their jobs and both are probably who they are at this point.
Rolovich certainly isn’t on the hot seat after a solid 2018 season. Also, in some ways, he may have extended himself some years with switching to the run-and-shoot in year three, but nevertheless he is going into year four. He’s been pushing the youth movement as well so the jury is still out until 2020 at least.
The other five coaches have pretty much gotten into “emeritus” status, meaning they have good job security. Well, everyone but Davie at least. He’s only still at New Mexico because their athletic department is a mess financially, so the marriage remains arranged for probably one last season.
As for the other four, they are who they are, and the teams have liked the results. All have proven their methods are working and wins are occurring. Unless something drastic happens, the schools won’t be looking to change coaches anytime soon. The only question for them that remains is if retirement happens (Long) or other teams and bigger paydays come calling (the others).