Here is an interesting, yet admittedly-limited look at college football coaching from Bill Connelly: measuring results relative to win expectancy. (You just fell asleep when I mentioned advanced statistics, didn’t you. YOU WOULD.) It’s only one small piece of the picture in terms of measuring coaching acumen in football, which is super difficult and probably impossible, but it sheds some light on who is overachieving or getting fired.
In six seasons as a head coach, Dave Doeren has had basically zero impact, year-to-year, on his teams’ bottom line. Statistically his teams have underachieved by -0.03 wins per season, which ranks the Deezy 104th out of 224 coaches in this sample.
You can potentially distill coaching into two things: building a team that produces great stats and figuring out how to maneuver in tight games when neither team has a statistical advantage. The former matters above all (Nick Saban and Steve Kragthorpe, after all, are nearly even on this list ... and on no other list in existence), but if nothing else, this list might help us to understand which teams/coaches are good or bad at the latter.
None of this is an indictment of Dave Doeren’s coaching acumen—especially since it’s coordinators who really account for the majority of in-game results. How well you hire and how well you’re able to hire based on the resources you have and how well you coach are very different things. The relative influence of those particular factors fluctuate by school.
Nick Saban has about 400 people watching film for him every week; Steve Kragthorpe probably didn’t have that luxury. We really have no idea if Saban is actually good at coaching football (his NFL stint suggests he’s pretty average) but he is able to throw money at every single problem he finds at Alabama. You can’t understate that.
But this does offer some statistical account of what I’ve seen over the last four years, in Dave’s case at least; Doeren has made crucial mistakes, and he’s not a great coach, but he’s not a bad one, either. We’re all stuck in the fat part of the bell curve in one way or another—some manage to hide it better than others—and that’s life, and such is Dave.