Top 20 Coach-Quarterback Combinations in College Football
So, I want you to think about all the things that make a great football team.
Go ahead, I'll give you a minute.
Now certainly defense matters, they win championships as the old adage goes.
You need to have play-makers to move the ball.
However, the one thing people always harp on is the play of the quarterback.
The quarterback is your leader, your general on the field. In college football, they do not need to be a prototypical passer to be a dynamic offensive force. They simply need to be someone that can make plays and be reliable down the stretch.
Of course, none of this matters if the guy calling the plays is a moron. The coach has to have a great game plan, he must be able to motivate his players, he must be able to recruit the talent necessary to be successful.
As much as we talk about coaches and quarterbacks, rarely do we try to combine the two entities in an attempt to evaluate teams and their chances for success in 2010.
Sure, a great coach and quarterback do not guarantee success by themselves, but it's a real fine place to start.
This article attempts to rank the best overall duo of a talented, proven quarterback and accomplished coach.
Let the debate begin!
20. Kirk Ferentz/Ricky Stanzi (Iowa)
Oh Ricky you're so wild, you're so wild you blow my mind.
Yes, the quarterback for the Iowa Hawkeyes had his moments of grandeur and disaster last season.
However, despite 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last season, Iowa still went 10-1 in games Stanzi played. The one loss famously being the game where he sustained that injury which cost him the rest of the regular season and perhaps a chance at perfection.
In fact, an 18-4 record as a starter speaks for itself.
Stanzi may give fans a heart attack, but it almost seems like he's trying to guarantee a Hollywood ending for him to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
It's a big "if" but if Stanzi can avoid the costly mistakes and play a little more consistently, Iowa will be champions of the Big Ten.
That will be the responsibility of Kirk Ferentz. Despite rumors of him leaving for an NFL popping up every now and again, the 55-year old is now entering his 12th season with the Hawkeyes.
Along the way he has claimed two Big Ten titles, five seasons of at least nine wins and a sporty four top-ten finishes in the final BCS rankings.
However, Ferentz and Iowa has still had trouble living up to the hype. The Hawkeyes have had their opportunities in the past, but a 49-39 record in the Big Ten explains the heartbreak experienced by Iowa fans.
The stars certainly seem aligned in 2009 with some of the crazy ways they were able to pull out victories. It leads many to wonder if they are destined for some misfortune this fall.
Will they recapture the magic and take another big step in 2010?
19. Steve Spurrier/Stephen Garcia (South Carolina)
There used to be a time when coach Spurrier was known as an offensive genius.
It seemed like the one-time Heisman winner could turn my pool guy into a first-team SEC quarterback.
Then he signed on with South Carolina.
While coach Spurrier's golf score keeps going down, the expectations at South Carolina can't seem to go up.
It's been five seasons for the Gamecocks under the Ole Ball Coach and their 35-28 record is not what anyone expected it to be like at this point. Especially after a 122-27-1 record at Florida.
South Carolina fans certainly did not expect their greatest post-season accomplishment to be a victory in the Liberty Bowl.
However, hope springs eternal and coach Spurrier may have finally caught lightning in a bottle with Stephen Garcia.
Garcia was absolutely ripped apart by his coach this off-season, questioning his work ethic and leadership. It appears to have worked as the junior comes to into camp slimmer and more vocal.
Garcia came is as a touted recruit and you can tell he has a good skill set. However, he also has too many sacks, some off-the-field issues and the pressure of finally living up to the expectations people have placed on Spurrier for so long.
There have been flashes of greatness, three consecutive 300-yard performances in the SEC is always impressive. A new attitude could really lead to good things in an SEC East experiencing a great deal of turnover at every other program.
Could the Gamecocks surprise? Only if Garcia and Spurrier make the magic we've all been waiting for.
18. Dabo Swinney/Kyle Parker (Clemson)
Dabo Swinney knew the expectations at Clemson.
The Tiger fans demand a great deal from their program and a trip to the ACC Championship game has only gotten them hungry for more.
Running back C.J. Spiller was the face of the program last year but now that responsibility falls upon quarterback Kyle Parker to pick up the slack.
The Tiger quarterback and touted baseball prospect has a great deal on his plate, but he also has plenty of talent to boot. Throwing for over 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns in an offense where Spiller ran for over 1,200 yards shows a great future for the rising sophomore.
Sure, Parker has to cut down on his 12 interceptions.
It will also be a transition having to be the center piece of the offense. It will be even harder with his spring being spent on the diamond and not the gridiron.
However, Parker has a grit about him. He also has a coach with experience coaching up receivers that can help make his signal-caller look good.
Swinney has done a good job up to this point lighting a fire under the talent and creating a positive culture at Clemson.
Can he keep the progress going with another strong season in 2010? That will depend on Parker.
17. Butch Jones/Zach Collaros (Cincinnati)
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So remember that Cincinnati team?
A team just a few minutes removed from a shot at the BCS National Championship.
A team that some people left for dead after coach Brian Kelly and quarterback Tony Pike left town.
Well turns out that tales of the Bearcats demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Zach Collaros proved his worth as a back-up to Tony Pike, coming in under the greatest of scrutiny and leading the Bearcats to a Big East title.
Completing 93-of-124 passes with 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions, Collaros is likely the best quarterback in the Big East entering the 2010 season. He, alongside his fellow teammates, will be ready to silence the media who choose to focus on Pittsburgh and Connecticut entering the season.
Joining Collaros is Butch Jones, the former Central Michigan head coach who made waves with an 11-win season in 2009 with the Chippewas.
Jones may be relatively young but he appears to be a rising star. In three seasons, he dominated the MAC going 22-3 and winning two titles while keeping GPA up.
Jones has been an offensive coordinator/assistant at three different schools and helped build the successful spread option attack at West Virginia in 2005-06 when the Mountaineers became Big East Champions and stunned Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
With 13 returning starters, Cincinnati is a very dangerous team in the Big East.
This quarterback/coach duo may be relatively new and untested, but they could be also be conference champions.
16. Chip Kelly/Nate Costa (Oregon)
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Not too long ago, Oregon appeared to be a lock as PAC-10 champion in 2010.
Then the drama with Jeremiah Masoli made the conference picture much more blurry.
However, we all know that Oregon is pretty used to handling drama. Coach Chip Kelly has really impressed in his short tenure with the Ducks and he will need to develop his new quarterback quickly if he wants to repeat as conference champions.
Nate Costa, a senior who has dealt with his fair share of injuries, appears to be the favorite.
While his career numbers are pretty weak, Costa did turn some heads with strong performances against Washington State and UCLA when Masoli went down.
When healthy, Costa has shown a great deal of poise and precision. Two things that will be well-served to complement the strong running game of LaMichael James. No one is asking Costa to be a hero, simply make the key passes when needed.
25-of-38 is a rather small sample size, but it bodes well for Oregon fans.
Darron Thomas is a wild card, a versatile quarterback who may sneak in the starting spot, or just be a player on special packages.
Regardless, coach Kelly has proven well at focusing his Ducks whenever adversity strikes. This is simply another opportunity and with the PAC-10 completely wide open, expect Oregon to take advantage.
15. Tommy Tuberville/Taylor Potts (Texas Tech)
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So maybe Tommy Tuberville is not the offensive genius/pirate that Mike Leach was but the Red Raiders still have a potent coach/quarterback combination for the 2010 season.
Tuberville returns to the NCAA after a short hiatus but brings to Lubbock 5 SEC West Titles, a Sugar Bowl victory and a desire to prove the nay-sayers wrong after an unceremonious booting from Auburn.
Now Tuberville may be a defensive guy, but that may work in his favor. After all, offense was never a problem with the Red Raiders. A porous defense was though, if Tuberville's teams have finished top ten in total defense three times.
If he could do that in the Big XII, he could really make them a contender for the crown down the road.
A new scheme and a new staff may seem like a dramatic departure but Tuberville found a rising star in Neal Brown at offensive coordinator. Despite his youth, he lead the third best offensive unit in the country at Troy, including the fourth most prolific passing game.
Combine that with the talent remaining at Texas Tech and the system will not be abandoned, simply tweaked. With a no huddle offense built on the passing game but not solely reliant on it, the Red Raiders will continue to be a factor in 2010.
Fortunately for Tuberville, veteran Taylor Potts can accept whatever role in store for him. With a good arm, Potts led the nation in passing until an injury sidelined him for a while.
Still 3,440 yards and 22 touchdowns show promise that Potts can be the next big-time passer in black and red.
Texas Tech has a lot to prove and a chip on their shoulder after the ugliness of Leach's departure. Players are ready to make the headlines about on-the-field success. With Tuberville and Potts, that could come sooner than later.
14. Paul Johnson/Josh Nesbitt (Georgia Tech)
When is it too soon to say the "l" word?
That's what Georgia Tech fans are thinking. A fan base that has had to endure some poor coaching over the years have a serious man crush on Paul Johnson.
Most people thought it would take the former Navy coach some time to turn things around with the Yellow Jackets. Instead, the new coach has exorcised some demons with big rivalry victories and an ACC title to boot.
In just two seasons, it must be love.
Sure, it's a quirky offense but Josh Nesbitt runs it well. The senior quarterback may have one of the ugliest throwing motions you'll ever see but he can lead a team and put points on the board.
Nesbitt amassed over 2,700 total yards last season, along with 19 touchdowns. With Jonathan Dwyer now in the NFL, those numbers will go up as he becomes the centerpiece of the offense.
Nesbitt is a tough guy who takes punishment and endears himself to his teammates. While he may not be a prototypical quarterback, he was a first-team All-ACC performer.
Not to mention that the guy wins. He may have had some bumps along the way but he has fit into Johnson's system perfectly and the two have resurrected a dormant program.
With new defensive coordinator Al Groh on board, Georgia Tech could sting the ACC all over again in 2010.
13. Lane Kiffin/Matt Barkley (Southern Cal)
Yep, Lane Kiffin is a jerk.
He may keep falling up, but he can make a team better.
Kiffin knows a thing or two about offense, particularly when it comes to the Trojans of Southern California.
During his time there, Kiffin worked with some of the best wide receivers we've seen in the college game this millennium. He made Mike Williams a superstar, he allowed Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett to shine.
As offensive coordinator, he led the Trojans to a scoring average of nearly 50 points and obliterated records along the way.
Yes, I know he was not the only member on staff. I also know that you or I could coach quarterback Matt Leinart, and running backs Reggie Bush and Lendale White to a winning season.
Still, even with all that talent gone the next season he was able to guide the team to 39.1 points per game and 11 wins overall.
When given talent around him, Kiffin has been able to produce. Plain and simple.
Fortunately for Kiffin, he already has a talented quarterback to mold in Matt Barkley.
Obviously 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions is pretty bad, but people need to cut the kid a break.
Freshmen struggle out of the gate, particularly when it comes to decision making. No one can deny that the talent is there for another premiere Trojan quarterback.
Barkley showed his mettle, returning from an injury sooner than expected to help the team and provide some big plays when needed.
Kiffin can iron out these flaws and he certainly can put players around him to make Barkley a superb signal-caller.
Kiffin may not know decorum, loyalty or NCAA rules, but he does know offense. Given the pieces, he will be successful.
Whether we like it or not.
12. Kevin Sumlin/Case Keenum (Houston)
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Gimmicky offense, non-BCS team, yada yada yada.
We all know what people are going to say about the Houston Cougars on this list.
Well, turns out that two-year head coach Kevin Sumlin is 3-0 against ranked teams as coach of the Cougars. Including a stunner against the No. 5 ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys to crush their dreams before they ever got started last season.
Sumlin was offensive coordinator under Bob Stoops and helped lead some of the most prolific offenses in college football history.
Now he is recapturing the magic of the old run-n-shoot due in large part to his pupil Case Keenum.
Keenum obviously can rack up yards, his 5,671 yards and 44 touchdowns are jaw-droppers.
When you consider that nearly the entire offense returns for one more go, those numbers may actually improve.
Combine an exciting offense with actual winning, 18 in just two seasons to be exact, Houston might just become a new BCS buster in their own right one day.
For now they can settle for a spot on this list.
11. Bret Bielema/Scott Tolzien (Wisconsin)
Between "The Vest", Joe Pa and the trendy Iowa Hawkeyes, it's easy to forget about the Wisconsin Badgers and Bret Bielema.
Despite the No. 12 ranking in the Coaches Poll to start the 2010 season, the mainstream media seems to be ignoring a Badgers team that went 10-3 last season and returns quarterback Scott Tolzien.
Fortunately for Badger fans, Tolzien can force the issue with his continued stellar play.
His 2,705 passing yards last season is second best among returning quarterbacks. Perhaps more impressive, he was only 200 yards behind first place despite throwing 100 fewer attempts.
Tolzien has a high completion percentage, completing at least 60 percent of his passes in 11 games last season, but he must also avoid the 11 interceptions.
His mistakes cost the Badgers a chance at victory against the Iowa Hawkeyes and was constantly pressured against Ohio State.
Wisconsin is on the verge, Tolzien might push them over.
It doesn't hurt to have coach Bielema around to motivate him. A tough guy who won 17 of his first 18 games as a head coach, Bielema may be a defensive guy but he has been able to bring in enough play-makers to make Wisconsin the top offense in the Big Ten with over 31 points per game.
At just age 40, he has shown everyone that he is a force to be reckoned with for now and the future.
10. Houston Nutt/Jeremiah Masoli (Ole Miss)
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Christmas came early for the Ole Miss Rebels.
With the departure of Jevan Snead, expectations for Houston Nutt's team were pretty much rock bottom.
Then came the news that Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was transferring to the Rebels.
Goodbye apathy, hello intrigue.
Yes Masoli has baggage, yes he has to learn in an entire offense in a month, and yeah the Rebels have some major losses around him on offense.
However, can you imagine just what is possible for a dual-threat like Masoli in Nutt's wild offense?
Pardon me, I think I drooled a bit on the keyboard.
Masoli is a big-time player whose 2,700 total yards helped propel the Ducks to a Rose Bowl.
Nutt's teams have averaged over 400 yards per game the last three seasons at two different schools.
It may not mean an SEC West title, but it's a marriage made in heaven.
9. Frank Beamer/Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech)
Now, Tyrod Taylor may not be the consummate passer.
He certainly is not an NFL caliber signal-caller, but his dynamic feet and competent arm makes him a collegiate sensation.
Indeed, Taylor may finish his senior season in discussion as the greatest quarterback in Virginia Tech history.
Last season, Taylor racked up over 2,300 yards in the air, 400 yards more than his first two seasons combined. He proved to be more a dual-threat, embarrassing the Nebraska defense late with a long bomb that snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Taylor simply wins, as a starter he is 28-8 in every game he played. It may not always be pretty, his numbers may have glaring holes, but his relationship with Frank Beamer cannot be denied.
Indeed, Beamer was a coach that looked dead in the water after five seasons at Virginia Tech only to become beloved by his fans and stand as one of the most successful coaches in the country.
Beamer has eleven 10-win seasons and is second behind Joe Paterno for most all-time wins for active coaches.
Sure, he has yet to win the big one but he has a Heisman trophy finalist and No. 1 NFL Draft pick in Michael Vick and other good quarterbacks to his credit.
Beamer has used different styles and different schemes for tons of different quarterbacks, but he has found success.
8. Bobby Petrino/Ryan Mallett (Arkansas)
Say what you want about Bobby Petrino, but the man knows how to coach an offense.
Whenever Petrino is in charge, you can expect the quarterback to rack up incredible numbers.
In his last year at Louisville, Petrino's charge Brian Brohm threw for over 4,000 yards en route to a 12-1 record and an Orange Bowl victory.
A new school but a similar offensive bonanza for Petrino with his latest student Ryan Mallett.
Even though the wins and losses have not quite been there for Arkansas, people know better than to blame Mallett who threw for over 3,600 yards and 30 touchdowns.
He threw for over 225 yards in 11 of the 12 regular season games and helped Arkansas lead the mighty SEC in offense with 36 points per game.
With another wild SEC season in store, expect the Razorbacks to be a team no one wants to play.
Could this be the year that Arkansas creates some chaos and puts themselves in the national spotlight once again?
If so, we know who will be leading them.
7. Chris Petersen/Kellen Moore (Boise State)
Finding success with a football team is one thing.
It's quite another to sustain it.
The Boise State Broncos have become the hunted. After their Fiesta Bowl theatrics, no one takes the boys from the Blue Turf for granted. Yet coach Petersen keeps finding ways to win.
Players come and players go, but the Broncos continue to put up big offensive numbers and knock out quality opponents from the BCS conferences.
With a realistic shot at a BCS title game this season, coach Petersen will need to rely on Kellen Moore to run the offense and avoid a trap game that could cost them their shot at perfection.
Last season, Moore threw for over 3,500 yards and notched an incredible 39 touchdowns to only three interceptions. Now before you discount that entirely because of the conference they play in, Moore has played big in the tough games as well.
Four touchdowns and only one interception in two games against the Oregon Ducks shows that he can produce against the big boys too.
He is accurate, he has weapons in the receiving corps and he has a coach that's not afraid to open up the playbook.
Coach Petersen is an astounding 49-4 as head coach and a two time national coach of the year.
They may be Cinderella, but don't take the Broncos lightly. This combination is enough to scare any team in the country.
6. Gary Patterson/Andy Dalton (TCU)
When one wants to understand the rise in TCU football, no need to look any further than coach Patterson and his veteran signal-caller.
The former Horned Frog defensive coordinator is now 85-28 in eight seasons, including five 10-win seasons since joining the Mountain West.
Even more impressive for a non-BCS team, they have finished in the top 25 six times in those eight years.
Patterson was the 2009 AP Coach of the Year and looks for another strong season in 2010.
Helping him out is senior quarterback Andy Dalton. Breaking out with 23 touchdowns to only eight interceptions last season, Dalton has nearly 7,500 passing yards for his career.
He also has consistency, throwing at least ten completions in every game last season.
When asked, he has stepped up to win big games for the Horned Frogs.
As a result, no current NCAA starting quarterback has as many wins (29) as Dalton.
That number ties him with legend Sammy Baugh, elite company to say the least.
Dalton and Patterson seem like a dynamic duo.
5. Bob Stoops/Landry Jones (Oklahoma)
Bob Stoops knows a thing about grooming quarterbacks.
With two Hesiman winning quarterbacks, seven BCS appearances and a national title, no one can deny that coach Stoops can put together a great program.
People would have thought Oklahoma was dead in the water when Sam Bradford went down early in the 2009 season. However, Landry Jones stepped up as a freshman and helped provide enough offensive firepower for the Sooners to go 8-5.
Now Jones certainly has things to work on 2010. 14 interceptions will not cut it, no matter how much you throw the ball.
However, with more experience and confidence under his belt, Jones should become more consistent and be one of the main reasons that Oklahoma can compete for a Big XII title.
As long as Jones can hook up with wide receiver Ryan Broyles, coach Stoops is going to look like a genius.
4. Mack Brown/Garrrett Gilbert (Texas)
Mack Brown knows that the expectations in Texas are as big as the state.
So he rarely disappoints, nine straight 10-win seasons, four BCS appearances, a Heisman winner in Ricky Williams alongside two quarterbacks who could/should have recieved the prize to go along with a national championship.
Indeed, between the dynamic Vince Young and the prolific Colt McCoy, coach Brown has groomed some great signal-callers in recent years.
In fact, he has coached the only 3,000 yard passer in school history.
His latest project, sophomore Garrett Gilbert had perhaps one of the most difficult debuts in NCAA history.
Okay kid, our star quarterback is out in the first drive of the national championship game. Go win us the game against the undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide under the brightest lights and a staunch defense.
Yep, Gilbert's 15-of-40, two touchdown, four interception and one fumble performance looks pretty bad on paper.
However, his ability to bounce back and actually keep the Longhorns within striking distance showed a tenacity that few people expected.
The former Gatorade Player of the Year may have been rushed to the forefront of Texas football, but with an entire off-season to learn, Gilbert could propel Texas back to the Big XII Championship.
3. Jim Tressel/Terrell Pryor (Ohio State)
When it comes to winning, it's hard to beat the vested one.
Jim Tressel is one of the best coaches in college football period.
With seven 10-win seasons in nine years at the Ohio State University, six conference crowns, a BCS title and two more appearances to boot, Tressel has the credentials.
Not to mention a team many think will be in another BCS title game this season.
Now maybe Ohio State is not known for a prolific passing game, but Tressel has helped produce a Heisman trophy for quarterback Troy Smith, clutch plays by Craig Krenzel and of course the new poster boy for Buckeye nation in Terrelle Pryor.
Pryor certainly has taken his lumps as quarterback at Ohio State. We remember his rough debut, but the rising junior continues to grow in experience and confidence.
Last season, Pryor amassed over 2,800 yards and 25 touchdowns. His Rose Bowl performance helped the Buckeyes pull off the big upset over Oregon and soldifiy Pryor as a winner.
While he may never be your standard drop back passer, he is a play-maker and a leader that other defenses never want to face.
With a coach like Tressel to understand his quarterbacks strengths and weaknesses, Ohio State will be hard to beat. He never asks too much of a quarterback and always provides a stout defense.
Sounds like a winning combination.
2. Urban Meyer/John Brantley (Florida)
Does it really need to be argued that Urban Meyer is a great coach?
Two national championships, four BCS appearances at two schools and 57-10 record makes him a God in Gainesville.
Obviously he knows a thing or two about grooming quarterbacks as well. Meyer taught Alex Smith at Utah, the No. 1 overall pick of the NFL Draft in 2005.
Then he helped solidify Chris Leak into a champion with the Gators and we all know the success he had with the "Golden Boy" Tim Tebow.
Regardless of whether he finds them or he grooms them, Meyer has a Midas touch when it comes to his quarterbacks.
That is why people have so much faith in John Brantley, a pure passer that very well might help everyone forget about that Tebow guy.
Brantley has strong reviews from just about everyone but he also has little experience under his belt.
The 2006 Gatorade Player of the Year has 645 career passing yards in two seasons, mostly in clean up duties.
His only real pressure came when Tebow's concussion knocked him out of the Kentucky game. Even then it was six passes in a game that was already 31-0.
How will he fare in games when teams are not already down by 20-30 points? How will he handle being a leader?
Well given Meyer's background, I'd say just fine.
1. Nick Saban/Greg McElroy (Alabama)
Once again, we have a proven winner in Nick Saban.
If two national championships were not enough, how about a 124-50 record at three schools and three SEC titles?
Saban is not a cuddly guy, but he is a winner and a proven commodity in the volatile SEC.
Repeating a national championship is darn near impossible in college football, and although the hype may surround Mark Ingram and the running game, a BCS title will depend on the quarterback play of Greg McElroy.
Now McElroy may never be the centerpiece of the offense, but when push comes to shove, he will need to step up in big games. While McElroy had his struggles early on in 2009, he made some huge plays against LSU and Auburn to turn the tide and help propel Alabama to the conference championship.
Although he was not perfect, McElroy developed into a guy coach Saban can rely on in the clutch. With a master like that pulling the strings, Alabama will a tough team once again and an SEC favorite once more thanks in part to this dynamic duo.