Ranking the Coaches of the SEC

ATHENS - Dean Legge and Fletcher Page rank and break down the coaches of the SEC.

This group is stupid - loaded pretty much 10 or 11 deep. This list is alway fluid. Ranking is difficult - they should probably be grouped.

1. Nick Saban - His excellence since 2008 at Alabama is the new threshold in college football. Is he better than the Bear? Might be.

Fletcher Page: No question, he’s the King. Sustained excellence is excellent.

Dean Legge: Lord Saban.

2. Steve Spurrier - Two coaches in the history of Florida football have won an SEC Championship. Once coach in South Carolina has ever done anything of consequence. Spurrier is getting old, but he’s a hell of a coach.

Fletcher Page: Spurrier’s record against Georgia: 14-5.

Dean Legge: OK?

3. Mark Richt - Time to win it all - other than that he’s hard to argue against.

Fletcher Page: I appreciate Mark Richt’s dedication to his players as people, as well as his drive to win. Seems like everybody wants to give Jeremy Pruitt credit for everything positive going on at Georgia these days. But we know who hired Pruitt, right?

Dean Legge: Richt is the head coach. Period.

4. Les Miles - Won it all, but the natives are getting restless. Like Richt, who are you going to get that’s better?

Fletcher Page:Coach A: 14 seasons, 136-48, two SEC titles, zero nattys, one losing season.

Coach B: 10 seasons, 103-29, two SEC titles, one natty, no losing season.

You’ve gotta take Coach B. The one natty and no losing season make it clear, you’ve got Richt one spot too high, bud.

Dean Legge: 8-0, 6-2, 5-3, 4-4… Les is going backwards. Also, seems like you are giving Les the higher spot simply because of that natty in '07. You telling me that winning it all makes you better? That Gene Chizik is better than Mark Richt? Same principle here.

5. Gus Malzahn - Every season can’t end with miracles. Malzahn and company are well aware of that after getting blown out by Georgia, losing to Bama and getting upset by Wisconsin to end 2015. The pressure never ends with Bama looming.

Fletcher Page: Malzahn wrote the book on hurry up, no huddle offense. No really, he did. It’s called Hurry Up No Huddle — An Offensive Philosophy. The offense is much more creative than the book title. But I’ll spare you the time, the fullback dies at the end.

Dean Legge: Someone killed Brannan Southerland?

6. Gary Pinkel - Has won the East two of three years at Missouri. Been blown out twice in Atlanta, but has done a great job these last two years.

Fletcher Page: You’ve got him slotted about right, but Pinkel is vastly underrated in general. He’s like the James Woods or Jeff Goldblum of SEC coaches. Like, consistency without excellence, familiarity, no PR disasters — all of that can be boring and taken for granted. But not winning. Pinkel is a winner.

Dean Legge: He’s won a lot, but he’s gotten blown out a lot in big games here of late.

7. Dan Mullen - Had a great 2014. Other than that…?

Fletcher Page: Easy, Legge. State won seven games in a single season only once in the eight years before Mullen showed up. Since then, the Bulldogs have won seven or more in five of Mullen’s six years in charge. From 1982 to 2009, State won eight or more games four times. Mullen has done that on three occasions. Dean, use the facts and apply context before you get judgy. I get that winning seven games doesn’t mean much at, say, Georgia. Winning eight games doesn’t either. But for State, given the historical context, Mullen has been a major success. It’s called nuance, son. Get some.

Dean Legge: Nuance? Shoot, even that dirty cheater Jackie Sherrill won the West. Mullen has had more three-win conference seasons (2) than winning seasons (1). He’s fine. He’s not great. Deal with it.

8. Kevin Sumlin - A lot of potential. But in the ever-competitive West, A&M seemed to go backward last season.

Fletcher Page: Has gone from 11 to nine to eight wins in his first three seasons. That’s not an ideal trend… He’s taken advantage of a down run by Texas and recruited off the chart. That’s the trend that will change the other trend. Could see Sumlin making a move up this list in the next couple seasons.

Dean Legge: But you are good with Les going backwards… got it.

9. Hugh Freeze - The collapse of 2014 wasn’t a great look, but Freeze has done a great job of taking a mediocre program and getting young kids excited about it. But the path to Atlanta is nearly impossible.

Fletcher Page: In the West, the Highway Don’t Care. Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M - I’m sure Freeze would like Something Like That. He’s got to recruit and Live Like You Were Dying.

Yeah, yeah, Tim McGraw played the character based on Freeze in the Blind Side. Tim and Hugh are gonna win the same amount of SEC titles in their lifetimes.

Dean Legge: Nuance also not required for the Rebels I see.

10. Bret Bielema - Two years in, now folks want to see the Hogs maneuver their way into a legit bowl game and perhaps Atlanta. This isn’t an easy job.

Fletcher Page: It’s not an impossible job. Both Houston Nutt and Bobby Petrino won 10 games in a season at Arkansas. From 3-9 to 7-6, let’s see if Bielema can take another step.

Dean Legge: They are a poor man’s Alabama - a really poor man.

11. Butch Jones - Put up or shut up time has come. Has taken the train wreck that was Tennessee and gotten it on the tracks. But getting back to Atlanta is the only way to prove the Vols are what they once were.

Fletcher Page: Brick by brick by Butch. I dunno what that means, just wanted to say it. Other than looking like Kevin McCallister's older brother Buzz all grown up, I could care less about this guy. His recruiting has been on point, but I don’t trust any coaches in Knoxville, talking basketball or football.

Dean Legge: I dunno what half of the stuff you say means.

12. Mark Stoops - Probably looking to leave Lexington. I wonder if anyone could do a ton better than he has considering the schedule the Cats play each year.

Fletcher Page: They got the horses and the bourbon and the basketballs.

Dean Legge: I figured you could come up with something original. Nope, right to the basketball reference. -1.

13. Jim McElwain - Has never won and SEC football game. Expectations are high in Gainesville. Should move up this list soon, but with the Noles rolling it is going to be a challenge to get back to the glory days.

Fletcher Page: Speaking of Saban… How’s this for the tippy top of a coaching tree: Jimbo Fisher and Mark Dantonio… The last time the Gators went with a Saban disciple, though, it didn’t work out. We’ll see if McElwain is more boom for their buck than Will Muschamp.

Dean Legge: Speaking of Saban… Derrick Dooley.

14. Derek Mason - Has done nothing.

Fletcher Page: He was pretty good in the NFL. Lots of catches… Oh, wait. Not that Derrick Mason? Yeah, he’s done nothing. James Franklin is a beast!

Dean Legge: At least James Franklin tried to put Todd Grantham’s toe nails back on for him… and look at the thanks he got.

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