I suspect Dave Doeren doesn’t really give a crap about the ACC Coach of The Year award that was handed out on Wednesday. He’s got an eight-win football team to prepare for the Gator Bowl. There are bigger things on his plate, but that doesn’t make it any less of a highway robbery that Doeren finished second in COY voting.
Brian Kelly won the award after taking his Notre Dame team, which was very obviously going to be the second-best team in the conference, to a second-place finish in the conference. The exclamation point on his case was getting cold-cocked in the ACC Championship Game by Clemson.
It’s not that Kelly wasn’t deserving of consideration. It was perfectly reasonable to consider him in the running for the award with a team that went 10-1 and 9-0 in the league in the regular season. But this isn’t about Kelly, or Dabo Swinney, or Manny Diaz, or whomever else not deserving the award. This is about Dave Doeren deserving it more. He had unequivocally the best case for the award and should have been a runaway winner, but for some reason wasn’t the winner at all.
There are so many levels to the challenges Doeren faced in 2020. Every team faced the challenging task of navigating through the pandemic, but nowhere should the effect of that be felt harder, at least in a football sense, than on a team with a rebuilt coaching staff.
Doeren had made sweeping staff changes following the explosive turd of a season that was 2019, and the road back from that catastrophe seemed quite long when the challenges started to mount before the season even began. Not only was the preseason minimized as a result of COVID-19, but Doeren also lost his starting quarterback for a chunk of the little preseason he did have due to contact-tracing.
The Pack ended up starting the season with a backup quarterback that threw one touchdown and four interceptions the year prior. But not only did State overcome all of that to win its opener against a solid Wake Forest team, it got all the way to 4-1 after getting its starting quarterback back. But then the obstacles got even more obstacley.
Forced to return to its backup quarterback after losing starter Devin Leary for the season, State would finish the year with four straight wins, grab a win over a ranked team on the way out, and end up fifth in the conference.
A team, coming off a 4-8 campaign, with a rebuilt coaching staff, no preseason, down a starting quarterback and its two starting cornerbacks for the whole season, with as much youth on the field as State had, would never be expected by any sane person to put up much of a fight in the ACC. But NC State was 3 points away from finishing third in the conference.
The hurdles in the way of State having even just a decent season proved much larger than any of these other teams that had coaches receiving votes. Overcoming those obstacles and then some should have made this a no-brainer.
Ultimately, it’s not all that important, and this isn’t a decision that deserves more than one quick explainer as to why it was wrong. But Doeren deserved the recognition for his coaching job this year more than any other candidate, and he didn’t get it for some reason, which we can be certain was less than legitimate.