(Notre Dame Football News | The Rock Report) – The 2010 regular season is in the books and, as is the norm for most first year coaches, it was a roller coaster ride. If we’ve learned anything about first years, as Vannie pointed out in Patience and Measuring Success, they’re more about changing the team system and mindset than just pure winning.
“The barometer for this year’s team, if I may steal a cliché, will not be whether it wins or loses but how it plays the game. That’s admittedly an unacceptable concept to Notre Dame and Kelly would never publicly settle for fewer than 12 wins, but it’s more important that this group of players shows steady progress throughout the season and does not fall victim to the mindset that has crept into the program during the last three years: losing is no big deal. Watching the team sway to the alma mater after being punked by the likes of Navy, Connecticut and Syracuse is not my idea of must-see TV.
Installing new offensive and defensive schemes is a chore for any football coach, but perhaps the biggest challenge facing Kelly is to motivate the players he inherited. Many will welcome new leadership and attempt to seize an opportunity to climb the depth chart, but there is no guarantee that players who previously cut corners on the field and in the weight room will embrace a more demanding culture. Each will judge whether if Kelly treats them equally and learn if there are real consequences for poor play and mental errors before deciding whether or not to buy in. Kelly’s candid remarks early in his regime regarding the “sense of entitlement” among the players tell me that some of them have to do a bit of soul-searching.”
Weis and Willingham both had impressive first years and later bombed. The top recent coaches, save Meyer, all experienced odd years, but each coach also won a surprise game that showed promise. Carroll and Saban both hit 4 game losing skids at completely different times in the year. Tressell never won more than two games in a row. Stoops started off with 3 straight wins and then went 4-5. Meyer, except for a debacle against Alabama, turned in a strong first year.
There has been an ongoing debate on Rocks House about how Kelly’s first year compares to the “home run” coaches in the game. Specifically posters looked at win improvement and scoring margin. In trying to get an objective view, I used Sagarin ratings to see how Kelly measures up to the best coaches in the game. Sagarin has a long enough history to benchmark coaches, has rankings, wins against top teams and also looks at strength of schedule. Sagarin may not be perfect, but it is consistent. Before I begin, a caveat: there’s nothing meant to be conclusive here. i.e. just because a coach is better in one area or another means little, I see it more as a rough check on weather Kelly outside the norm. None of this means Kelly will perform at the level of these coaches, it just means his performance is in line with the standard-setters (these, of course, will all get adjusted for the bowl game.)
Here we go and the goal here is to see if Kelly missed the target group by a meaningful amount. The second and third years will be far more telling.
When it came to overall performance, Meyer led the way in the rankings followed by Stoops and Kelly. Kelly looks better when taking into account SOS.
- Meyer: 19 Florida A = 83.95 ( 40)
- Stoops: 27 Oklahoma A = 81.35 ( 63)
- Kelly: 28 Notre Dame A = 79.22 ( 24)
- Saban: 31 Alabama A = 79.26 ( 30)
- Tressell: 35 Ohio St. A = 78.96 ( 37)
- Carroll: 37 Southern C al A = 78.47 ( 24)
Meyer also led the way in win improvement with a two game advantage over 2004 (using the baseball method here) followed by Stoops. Kelly, Saban and Carroll all finished one game above the previous year’s finish.
- Meyer +2
- Stoops +1.5
- Kelly +1
- Saban +1
- Carroll +1
- Tressell -1
Win Improvement Over Top 30 Teams
No coach notched a win over a top 10 team. The next category Sagarin looks at is wins over top 30 teams. Here, Meyer and Kelly both improved by two games. Notre Dame was 0-4 in 2009 and went 2-2 in 2010.
- Meyer +2
- Kelly +2
- Saban +1
- Stoops +1
- Carroll +1
- Tressell 0
Rank Improvement over Previous Season (SOS change)
It starts to get more interesting when you look at who improved his team’s rankings the most from the previous season. It’s here that Saban stands out moving Alabama up 24 places over 2006. Kelly and Stoops were next with 20 place improvements. Kelly improved against a harder schedule (13 places harder).
- Saban + 24 (0)
- Kelly + 20 (+13)
- Stoops + 20 (-43)
- Carroll + 14 (-14)
- Meyer + 11 (+17)
- Tressel - 14 (-4)
What does it all mean?
Not much more than Kelly hasn’t performed, to this point, outside of the pack against the standard setters of recent memory and did so with mostly a second string offensive backfield against 11 bowl eligible teams. Even given all of that and a win over USC, it doesn’t erase the debacle to Navy.