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Why are we so sure new coordinators will fix Auburn and Texas A&M right away?

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Did your team struggle on one side of the ball last year? Bring in a new coordinator and all will be right with the world! Or not.

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Auburn is coming off of an 8-5 season, allowing 30-plus points in its last seven games against FBS opponents, and returns an unremarkable 12 starters. Still, SEC media tabbed the Tigers as the conference favorite.

The Auburn optimism led to something of a backlash, with many arguing that Texas A&M deserved as much hype, especially considering the Aggies had the same record and won at Jordan-Hare in November.

In both instances, the favorable predictions are based on new coordinators. Auburn and Texas A&M are both coached by offensive gurus who've produced Heisman-winning quarterbacks in the conference. Both teams struggled on defense last year, with Auburn finishing 29th in S&P and A&M finishing 72nd. By the more conventional yards per play metric, they were 11th and 13th in the SEC.

Both fired their defensive coordinators and replaced them with figures who have top track records, Will Muschamp at Auburn and John Chavis at A&M. The assumption is that the combination of quality recruiting plus new coordinators will lead to a chance at winning the toughest division in college football.

There is precedent for that hope. The most prominent in the SEC is Steve Spurrier replacing Bob Pruett with Bob Stoops after Florida was humiliated by Nebraska in the 1995 Fiesta Bowl. Florida jumped from 31st in scoring defense to 14th and won the school's first national title. Stoops kept Florida among the elite during the post-Danny Wuerffel offensive regression (the Gators were 13th and sixth in scoring defense in 1997 and 1998) before decamping for Oklahoma.

A second is Mike Bellotti hiring Chip Kelly before 2007. Oregon's offense leaped from 35th in Offensive S&P to fourth, despite losing star quarterback Dennis Dixon during the season. Bellotti went out on a high -- his last two teams finished ranked in the Top 25 -- as a direct result of hiring Kelly.

A brief history of false saviors

For every Stoops or Kelly, there are instances in which a new coordinator has failed to have a substantial influence.

Doug Nussmeier: After an offensive Gotterdammerung in 2013, Brady Hoke replaced Al Borges with Doug Nussmeier, a national title-winning coordinator from Alabama. Michigan's offense regressed, dropping from 44th in Offensive S&P to 82nd. Nussmeier is now the coordinator at Florida.

Boise State emigres: Florida and Texas tried to solve their recent offensive woes by hiring from Chris Petersen's staff at Boise State. Mack Brown hired Bryan Harsin after Texas finished 88th in Offensive S&P in 2010. In the first year, Texas finished 84th. The Longhorns did improve to 24th in 2012, after which Harsin took the head coaching position at Arkansas State. Muschamp made a similar decision, hiring Brent Pease. Pease made marginal improvement in 2012, going from 33rd in Offensive S&P to 28th, before imploding in 2013 with an offense that finished 100th.

Manny Diaz: Harsin wasn't the only coordinator to attempt to save the Sick Man of the Big 12 stage of Mack Brown's tenure. Brown hired Diaz away from Mississippi State in 2012. The Texas defense dropped from ninth in Defensive S&P to 33rd, and then Diaz was fired after the Longhorns were humiliated by BYU early in 2013.

Tony Franklin: In an effort to spice up his offense, Tommy Tuberville hired the air raid-minded Franklin to replace Borges. Franklin feuded with Tuberville's position coaches and the end result was a Franken-offense that plummeted from 33rd in Offensive S&P to 94th.

Dave Clawson: While Franklin's offense was dooming Tuberville at Auburn, the Clawfense was doing the same for Phil Fulmer at Tennessee. The Vols' offense plummeted from 18th to 80th in Offensive S&P, prompting Mike Hamilton to hire a certain father-and-son team ...

Monte Kiffin: USC fans were justifiably leery of hiring Lane Kiffin in 2010 after one mediocre year at Tennessee, but Lane was bringing his father, the Super Bowl-winning defensive coordinator! One of the inventors of the Tampa 2! USC's defense was 25th in Defensive S&P in Pete Carroll's disappointing final season. Kiffin never equaled that mark, as his three Trojan defenses ranked 45th, 28th and 30th.

Georgia defensive coordinators:

  • In 1993, Ray Goff was coming off of a two-year stretch in which his program went 19-5. He brought in Marion Campbell. The "Swamp Fox" had a sterling strategic reputation from his time in the NFL, but his one year in Athens was a disaster, as the Dawgs went from third nationally in scoring defense to 66th.

  • In 1999, Jim Donnan -- tired of losing every year to Tennessee -- decided to raid Fulmer's staff by bringing defensive backs coach Kevin Ramsey from Knoxville. Ramsey was such a disaster that (according to legend) he was fired at halftime of a blowout home loss to 4-5 Auburn after making Ben Leard look like Pat Sullivan.

  • In 2010, Mark Richt replaced Willie Martinez with Todd Grantham, who achieved marginal improvement in his first year, substantial improvement in years two and three, and then regressed back to Martinez levels in the fourth year. Grantham was replaced by Jeremy Pruitt, the latest savior to occupy the position in Athens.


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What's going on here?

In Study Hall: College Football, Its Stats and Stories, Bill Connelly cites Chris Brown's hierarchy of the four most important factors in building a program. Those factors, in order, are:

  1. Talent
  2. Development
  3. Scheme
  4. In-game decisions

If we accept this as an accurate set of priorities, it goes a long way to explaining why many new coordinators fail to improve their sides of the ball and, in fact, are often harbingers for the demise of their head coaches.

A new coordinator has little to do with the current talent but still is expected to have an immediate effect on the team. And a coordinator is typically not going to be integral to player development, as this falls more on the position coaches.

As fans, we expect coordinators to bring in new schemes that make immediate impacts, and we expect them to be upgrades in terms of play-calling. However, if Brown is right, these potential areas of improvement are of secondary importance to talent and development.

The upshot for Auburn and A&M

There is no doubt that Muschamp and Chavis have excellent SEC track records. Moreover, there is an assumption that they will have plenty of talent at their disposal in their new positions because of Auburn's and Texas A&M's recruiting.

However, all that talent wasn't enough for Mark Snyder -- a defensive coordinator with a very good resume himself -- to stop the run. And Auburn's talent wasn't enough for Ellis Johnson, another coach with a good resume, to prevent big pass plays.

Unless their performances last year were flukes, the underlying reasons for those issues might not be resolved in one year. Maybe one year isn't enough to turn young talent into experienced talent. Maybe that talent isn't as good as the recruiting rankings would suggest. Maybe the teams' head coaches are offensive guys who don't put enough emphasis on defense. Maybe the position coaches were not good at developing players.

There are clear reasons for high long-term expectations. Muschamp has already showed signs of adjustment, and Chavis can get the same kind of athletes at A&M he had at LSU. But there's also plenty of history that shows why betting on a first-year turnaround by a new coordinator is risky at best.