Breaking news: The football program is currently a steaming pile of horse (excrement). After getting murdered by Duke, Kansas still hasn't won a game on the road since Mark Mangino was head coach.
After Mangino was fired (I still say rightfully so), Kansas suffered through two years of the Turner Gill era (more on him later) and then hired Charlie Weis, who apparently is just in Lawrence to golf and collect paychecks before getting the hell out when his contract is up (don't let the door hit you on the way out, boss).
This is the second annual post in a series that I will probably be writing until I die, looking for KU's next football coach to try and rescue the disaster that is the two months of football before basketball starts.
Current FBS Head Coaches
Johnson, currently the head coach at Georgia Tech, has been aggressively mediocre since arriving in Atlanta, which of course would be a giant upgrade. He's won 6 or 7 games in three of the last four years, and his only 10 win season at Tech was vacated. Still, he's been to bowl games in each of the last 6 years (even if he's only won one of them) and is 31-17 in ACC play. More on his offense in a bit
Johnson's successor at Navy, Niumatalolo is 51-31 at Navy, and has been to 5 bowl games in his 6 full years at the helm in Annapolis. I wrote more on Niumatalolo last year, but he hasn't lost to Army yet, he beat Notre Dame twice in a row, he's coached two quarterbacks who held the career rushing TDs by a quarterback record, and Navy piles up yards on the ground and manages to compete against teams with a ton more size, speed, and talent than them.
Monken is in his first year at Army after a hugely successful run at Georgia Southern. Monken's Southern team went to three straight FCS Semifinals before moving up to FBS last year, where they capped off their season with a win at Florida. He was the architect of this year's Southern team, which should have nabbed a win at Georgia Tech last weekend. The Black Knights were crushed by Stanford this week (as to be expected) but reeled off 47 points in a season opening win over Buffalo, rushing for 355 yards (6.3 yards per carry).
Obviously the three coaches listed above all run the same (or virtually the same) offense. Can the triple option work at a place like Kansas? In my mind, absolutely. It's a lot tougher to recruit a quarterback who can both run and throw (and let's be honest, in this day and age you almost certainly need one who can do both) than it is to recruit a QB who can do one or the other. A heavy option attack allows you to recruit smaller offensive linemen as well, which would be helpful for a Kansas line that gets blasted into the backfield every time they have to pass protect. Kansas has proven, for all its faults, to be a bit of a stable of good running backs, with Avery and Mann being the latest two, and being able to get our best players the ball as often as possible seems like a good idea for any offense. There's less pressure to recruit well, theoretically the defense won't be on the field as often, and it requires fewer good players to have a successful offense. Add in the fact that no one in the Big 12 would be able to see it other than against Kansas and that's an advantage the Jayhawks would have over everyone else. Or at least it would be someone different.
The current offensive coordinator at Iowa State has put up 14, 28, and 20 points over the team's first three games. The Cyclones are 97th in Football Outsiders' offensive S&P, though after three games I'm not inclined to make a judgment one way or another.
The big can of worms with Mangino is obviously how his previous tenure ended. Would the administration be willing to admit they made a mistake? Was it a mistake to begin with? Would Mangino want to come back? My feelings have always been the same: he was a damn good coach, but without a behavioral adjustment I wouldn't feel comfortable with him at the helm of the football program. There are things worth more than winning football games. That said, I also believe in second chances, and there's no doubt Mangino knows football, so I wouldn't hesitate to welcome him back.
Gill obviously will never be hired back due to how disastrous his tenure in Lawrence was, but was only 2 years enough? Or could an inexperienced coach have gotten better? It's worth noting he's 15-10 in his first two+ years at Liberty, has lost just two conference games, and won two conference titles. Perhaps it's the program and not the coach.
Re-treads and Others
Kiffin is currently the offensive coordinator at Alabama, where anyone will look better than they truly are. It's worth pointing out, then, that Kiffin has a career 35-21 record as a collegiate head coach, but was aggressively mediocre at Tennessee and USC other than a 10-2 season in SoCal. He'd probably be able to recruit well, but some of his attitude problems would probably get on fans' nerves if the team didn't win (and let's be honest it probably wouldn't).
Neuheisel went 33-14 at Colorado and 33-16 at Washington before going 21-29 in four years at UCLA. Still, he put together good recruiting classes in Westwood. Neuheisel probably won't want to get back into the game by coming to Lawrence and trying to turn around our mess, and while I think he could potentially do a good job, I'm not sure he's worth paying the money it would cost to get him.
The former Nebraska quarterback and current Oregon offensive coordinator, Frost was also a linebackers coach and defensive coordinator at Northern Iowa, and was 9th in the FCS in scoring defense, before heading to Eugene. Frost's offense set a school record for total offense in his first year on the job. Some Oregon fans aren't happy with his playcalling, and I am not positive how much of the recruiting he does, but there's no doubt he'd be a hot name and someone to look out for in our coaching search.
Narduzzi certainly has earned a shot as a D1 head coach given the performance of his defenses at Michigan State lately. He's been the head of one of only two defenses to rank in the top 5 in yards per play allowed each of the last three years, and he's done it while not grabbing highly touted recruits. Narduzzi might not want to come to Kansas given the types of programs who are likely to be after him after this season, but he needs to be near the top of Kansas's wish list.
Clemson's offensive coordinator makes $1.3 million per year, so he's probably out unless he's willing to accept basically the same salary for a bump in title. Still, Clemson has been to two Orange Bowls and lost just 4 conference games while Morris has been in charge of the offense. Even in the ACC, that's impressive.
Texas A&M's offensive coordinator for the last two years, Spavital oversaw Brandon Weeden, Geno Smith, and Johnny Manziel over the course of his coaching career in college football. Because of his age (29) and salary (383k) he might be a good flier to take. Even if it's Kansas, it's tough to see a guy who has been an offensive coordinator for just a year turning down a major head coaching job, and if he works out he could (COULD) be KU's coach for 40 years.
He's the highest paid coordinator in college football and he hasn't taken a number of jobs that have opened up, so he's not coming.
Thinking Outside the Box
Wristen is currently the head coach of Division 2 Colorado State University-Pueblo. The program started in the latter part of the last decade, and it took Wristen only three years to turn it into conference champs. They were ranked 1st nationally in 2011 and 2012, and were the first D2 team to ever have three straight 11-0 regular seasons. They're currently ranked 2nd in D2 and just knocked off Sam Houston State, a top 15 team in FCS. He's had experience building programs from the ground up, so he'd likely be up for the task in Lawrence.
The big problem is some legal/off the field issues in his past, but on the field he looks like an interesting candidate.
Godsey, the Houston Texans' quarterbacks coach, got his start under George O'Leary at Central Florida. He then went on to coach the tight ends under Bill Belichick in New England. He's well regarded as an offensive mind, and with no head coaching experience would likely come cheap.
Stitt is the current head coach at the Colorado School of Mines. Though they play in Division 2, Stitt's innovation has been borrowed by some of the top offenses in the country. His main contribution is the fly sweep, but he's generally well thought of as an offensive genius. Stitt would be a goldmine in that he's won at a place where there are zero recruiting advantages, and his teams routinely lrank extremely high in many offensive categories.
He's won running an uptempo offense, a slower offense, while running, while passing, and everything in between. He's also racked up yards and points while having players who shouldn't be on the same field as their opponents, something he'd have to do in Lawrence as well, and he'd be a hire that would certainly create a lot of buzz around not just Lawrence but the college football world as a whole. It's time for Kansas to think outside the box, and that's why I think Bob Stitt should be the next head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks.