A Study of Coaches & Expectations for Petersen

A simple way to evaluate coaches is to compare their performance (win % or SRS) in their 3rd to 5th year against their performance in their 1st and 2nd years. For this study we use win percentage. This is only a very simple conclusion but we are looking for coaches who are +70% in years 3-5 and much improved over their first two years. If a coach inherits a very strong team then they should maintain that strength and still be above +70% in years 3-5. If a coach meets one of those criteria then he can be a championship coach.

The following chart shows current and past coaches who have not won a national championship. I included Jim Owens even though the Helms Foundation named his 1960 Huskies National Champions. I bolded current coaches still coaching in that tenure. The data is sorted by highest win percentage in years 3 to 5. The X- marks coaches who have only coached 4 years.


By this study, the top coaches who have coached at least 5+ years at their current school and have not won a NC include Dabo Swinney, David Shaw, Brian Kelly, Mark Dantonio, Gary Patterson, Bill Snyder, Kirk Ferentz and Mike Gundy. Hugh Freeze and Jim Mora figure to be added to the list after the 2016 season.

Questions about plenty of these guys remain. Will David Shaw trail off like Kirk Ferentz or Jeff Tedford who regressed to 59% from year 3 to end (forgot to put in the data point)? Bill Snyder seems to be trailing off. Hugh Freeze’s squad has gotten better every year (by wins) and he could join the top of this group with Swinney, Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly. Mike Gundy has been solid throughout his tenure but is not at the level of a Dantonio or Swinney.

Next let’s take a look at the numbers from national championship winning coaches as well as a few Super Bowl winning coaches. Bold shows the college coaches still coaching in that tenure. Again, the data is sorted by best winning percentage from years 3 to 5.


Pete Carroll comes out on top in both years 3-5 and years 3-7. If you adjust for SRS then Nick Saban may come out on top, I’m not sure.

Next let’s take a look at how these national championship winning coaches performed in years 4 to 8 along with the current best non-NC winning coaches who have coached 8 seasons at the same school. Note that in the previous studies year 3 for Phillip Fulmer and Dabo Swinney who both took over in mid-season marked the 4th year they were at the school. We did not count the half year. However, in the study below we counted that half year as the first year. The list down to Don James all won national championships (but not necessarily in year 4-8). So did Les Miles who is near the bottom.


Two other coaches who would be on the year 4 to 8 list, had they stayed at their first spot are Butch Davis and Jim Harbaugh. Both coaches were succeeded by internal hires. Lumping Davis and Larry Coker together as one would make them 53-9 and 38-4 in conference play from year 4 to 8. The Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw combination was 54-13 and 36-9. You could count that combo along with Swinney and Dantonio as the best well tenured coaches yet to win a national championship. We should also note that Bill McCartney did win a national championship during the year 6 to 11 period.

So what does all this mean for Chris Petersen who had a 55.6% win percentage in his first two seasons? Well he should at least win 70% of his games over his next three seasons or he is not who we think he is.

My realistic hope/expectation is that he can be as successful as Dabo Swinney and Mark Dantonio. Here is a look at the accomplishments of both:

Dabo Swinney, 7.5 seasons, 3 division titles, 2 conference titles, NC Game

Mark Dantonio, 9 seasons, 3 division titles, 3 conference titles, Playoff

As far as recruiting, we will exclude the 2016 class as it had no impact on the previous results and we will also exclude the first class for each coach which were a negative outlier for both. After doing that we find that Dabo’s classes ranged from #15 to #20 and had a median of #18. Dantonio’s classes ranged from #16 to #36 and had a median of #22.

Thus far Petersen’s classes have been #36, #26 and #17. If we exclude his first class as we did with the two above and assume he will come in with top 20 classes the next two years then he’d have a median of probably #17 to #19.

A few other points we should make. Dantonio’s 3 conference titles (one was before a title game) aside from the one last year came at a time when the Big 10 sucked. So his numbers are inflated. However, if Stanford regresses (and Oregon continues to regress) then Petersen could win the north 4 out of the next 7 years, which would equate to Dantonio’s performance.

From year 4 to 8, Dantonio won 80% of conference games and Swinney won 85%. Swinney is in a generally weak conference and Dantonio’s conference was weak during most of that period.

Don James is also a good comparison or expectation for Petersen. From year 4 to 8 Don James won 79% of conference games. From year 3 to 10 he won 78% of conference games. From year 4 to 8 James went to two Rose Bowls but from year 3 to 10 he went to 3 Rose Bowls and an Orange Bowl with what would have been a national championship if not for the most fucktarded vote of all time.

The conference win percentage of James, Swinney and Dantonio (ex the first few years) is hovering around 80%. A 7-2 conference record is a 78% win percentage. That is where we want to see Petersen over the next 5-6 seasons. A 70% conference win percentage would be good while near 80% would be great. Keep in mind we are looking at the strongest stretch and not the entire career.

Finally, the way Petersen is recruiting now is roughly on par with what Swinney did and better than what Dantonio did. We’ve noted that its top 15 classes that facilitated Stanford and Oregon becoming “national” programs. Don James had some very strong, top 15-like classes in the late 1980s that helped push UW to national prominence.

Last year’s class for UW was very strong as it finished tied for 17th in average stars. That is the best class we’ve had probably since 2001 or 2002. However, let’s say UW added 5* local recruit Jacob Eason to the class and a 4* WR instead of one of the 3* WR’s they got. That would have put the class at #13.

I believe Petersen can be as successful as Swinney and Dantonio. The difference between those two and Don James is DJ did it for nearly 20 years and he was fantastic in the big games (as Petersen was at Boise). Again, if not for a fucktarded vote, DJ would be a two-time national championship coach. Also under the current playoff system, he likely would have the national championship in 1990 and 1991. First, let’s see if Petersen can get to the level of a Swinney or Dantonio. The next step would be actually winning a national championship as Don James did.