Is Brian Kelly College Football's Best Coach? Absolutely Not

By Brandon Cavanaugh
Matt Cashore – USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly is the consensus best head coach in college football for 2012.

With all due respect to my fellow FWAA members, I’m not buying it. Yes, Kelly has been instrumental in giving the Irish their first national championship opportunity since the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl, but that reasoning reeks of Heismanism.

If I was supposed to vote for the best coach on the best team, I’d have penciled in Nick Saban‘s name without thinking. However, my choice was the Kansas State WildcatsBill Snyder. Long have I argued the merit of a “best coach of all-time” label for Snyder, but let’s consider what he’s done recently.

After Ron Prince came in following Snyder’s retirement and ran the program into a ditch, the Wildcat legend couldn’t bear sitting on the sideline and watching everything he’d built come falling down thanks to this rube.

Give Prince credit though. He did put an eventual starting quarterback into the NFL whose coaching at Kansas State was apparently being told “Go get ‘em, kid” following by a smack on the rear.

Once Snyder returned, he did what he does best: amaze the college football world with his coaching prowess. Sure, he’s had a Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback before, but Michael Bishop wasn’t a converted wide receiver. At the same time, Snyder’s team sat atop the BCS standings for the first time in the program’s history.

Yes, only for a week, but the Wildcats were a legitimate national championship contender for a good chunk of this season. If you uttered those words in the 1990s, you’d be put in a room with padded walls.

It took him almost nine years into his original tenure to notch 11 wins in a season. He accomplished the same feat in half the time in his second go at the job. This isn’t to say that Prince nuked the program back to the Stone Age, but lords and ladies were commonplace.

His team’s been bowl-bound three of the four years since his return, and the venue’s improved yearly from Pinstripe to Cotton to this year’s Fiesta Bowl.

Notre Dame beat the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman, but so did the Wildcats. The Irish’s margin of victory was larger, but so what? They have far superior athletes across the board. If they couldn’t score more on the underachieving Sooners, Kelly’s awards would be even more fraudulent.

Kansas State’s eventual torching at the hands of the Baylor Bears killed both Collin Klein‘s Heisman bid and eventually the team’s national championship aspirations, but the mountain it had to climb to be in position for both to be possible was far larger than Notre Dame’s.

Did Kelly do a fantastic job of coaching this year? Absolutely. He earned every cent of his paycheck. Did he do the best job overall? Absolutely not.

Brandon Cavanaugh is a college football columnist for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter: @eightlaces

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