Willie Taggart and Chad Morris prove you can’t always evaluate a coaching candidate by win-loss record

Take the extra minute and look up more than just the overall totals.

Tuesday, Florida State’s coaching search wrapped up quickly by pulling Willie Taggart from Oregon as Arkansas was closely connected to SMU’s Chad Morris. There were two main reactions to these news items.

1. Great hire.

He knows the area well, has a high-scoring system that’ll become competitive in this league, has been a rising prospect for years now, should assemble a strong staff, and can recruit well.

2. LOL, look at that overall win-loss record!

Taggart’s is 47-50, something that’s given comfort to some fans of FSU’s rivals.

Morris sits at 14-22, leading some Arkansas fans to complain about settling for a lesser coach.

But hang on there.

  • After three years under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, Taggart took over his alma mater, Western Kentucky, which had gone 2-22 over the previous two years. Do you think Harbaugh himself could’ve had WKU much better than 7-5 in Year 2? In Year 3, they reached the first bowl in school history.
  • He headed home to Tampa to take over USF, whose record had declined in two straight years to 3-9. Under Taggart, the Bulls started slow, then improved by exactly two wins each year. He left after 10 wins in an 11-2 2016.
  • His jump to the Power 5 meant taking over an Oregon that’d fallen to 4-8. Would Chip Kelly himself have been expected to go 10-2 with this team? Especially once starting QB Justin Herbert was lost for five games? Taggart reached 7-5 in Year 1, with a bowl still to go.
  • Now he’s once again taking over a slumper. The Noles collapsed to 6-6 in 2017. But thanks to nearly a decade of information, we have all the evidence we need that he can right this ship. So his overall record isn’t a hindrance at all. In fact, it’s an argument in his favor.

Morris is a little different. He’s only had one head coaching job, having spent the last three years at SMU. But likewise, the Mustangs have improved for four straight years, from the pre-Morris 1-11 in 2014 to this year’s 7-5 with a bowl still to go. Before SMU, he was the offense version of Brent Venables — you know, the Clemson assistant who’s constantly talked about as the next big thing in head coaching.

If an SEC team had hired him straight out of Clemson, few would’ve complained, but now we also have documentation of him succeeding as a head coach, turning a completely dead program into a contender in the Group of 5’s toughest conference. His resume has only improved due to his SMU tenure.

Most coaches are capable of inheriting conference champs and not immediately driving them off cliffs. It takes a different kind of coach to build a winner out of nothing.

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