Dean's Blog: Who's The Better Coach? Riley Or Herman
We will soon begin a weekly blog answering some of the questions sent to us. We expect to answer 5-10 questions per blog. Here’s a long answer to a question sent in from a gent named Levi.
Dean, I was born in Texas but live in Oklahoma and respect both OU and Texas. I agreed with you when Tom Herman was hired that he’d bring Texas back and we’d get back to a decade of those bitter Red River battles. I want to know who you think is the best coach, Herman or Lincoln Riley?
Texas could finally exhale when it landed Tom Herman. The years of post-Mack Brown were ugly and nothing seemed to work. In walks a young, gifted brash fellow with Texas in his blood who quickly made it clear – he was going to be the program-changing head coach UT fans desperately desired. Texas would be back. And now, Herman and Texas are officially back. Herman became a star-on-the-rise after joining Ohio State to run Urban Meyer’s offense loaded with thoroughbreds. Notoriety from a national championship landed him in Texas.
Not Hill Country. But Houston.
A move that kept him on an upward track, beginning a remarkable run of beating ranked teams that were heavily favored. One of those was Bob Stoops & Baker Mayfield’s OU team that helped Herman deliver a major scalp on the wall. Despite a self-promotion style that is unbecoming to many, it was clear to me and Longhorn insiders that as soon as the deteriorating record allowed, Herman was on his way to taking over for a stumbling-but-good-guy Charlie Strong. His persona would soon be magnified – you gotta love a guy naming a son Maverick, fitting the persona of the hard-charging 43-year-old former all-conference receiver at Cal Lutheran.
Up I-35 and across the Red River, another young gifted coach was on a fast-track to stardom. Now 35, Lincoln Riley was schooled early on from Texas Tech Air-Raid Brainchild (with the help of Hal Mumme) Mike Leach. After lighting up scoreboards at East Carolina, future Hall-of-Famer Bob Stoops came calling. From there, the numbers speak for themselves. A blue-blood program would get bluer. Doesn’t matter if it’s on the field with back-to-back playoff appearances, guiding consecutive OU quarterbacks to Heisman seasons, a new-and-improved method and success with OU’s recruiting, the Jordan-brand Jumpman apparel, or upgrading OU’s recent pro day experience to an elite status … the ‘Life of Riley’ is humming along. His offenses have scored 48 and 34 points in back-to-back National Semifinal losses. Riley was as quick to make a change in coordinator on defense in his second as soon as reasonably possible. Now, Sooner Nation is banking on their ever-so-popular head man with an early history of two seasons of Sooner Magic to produce another home run – nothing less than a championship-caliber defense.
AS DIFFERENT AS BEVO & CIRCLING SHETLANDS
Riley began coaching receivers at his alma mater – 2007 at Texas Tech. Likewise, Herman began his career coaching receivers at his alma mater in 1998. While both would grade out straight A's, according to job descriptions, are as different as night and day in how they go about it.
You could say as different as Switzer and Royal. Leach and Rockne. Obama and Trump.
As different as Schnelly and OU’s tradition. As Stoops and Blake, Wishbone to Air-Raid. As a $500,000 bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet 1992 and $2 buck Ripple.
As different as the way they send their troops out for the opening kickoff: A smack-on-the-cheek. Versus a snappy pat-on-the rump.
As different as Crimson and Cream and Burnt Orange. And as different as Bevo and Shetland Ponies circling the field. As Meat on the Hoof and The Book of Virtues.
No question their personalities are radically different. But different strokes for different folks. Just win, baby! And book it, Dano. Each is elite with a whistle and can out-scheme anyone not named Belichick. And each is getting important signatures. Experts with the all-important schmoozing with mommas and daddies of 18-year-olds with the body fat of a tire iron, who can hurdle tall buildings and outrun coyotes.
Comparing some of the raw data helps in comparing these ‘Young Lions’ – as the late, great Tulsa World writer Bill Connors was wont to say about the young up-and-coming coaching stars on the rise -- Switzer, Osborne, Royal, McKay. Here’s some numbers -- Riley left, Herman right:
RILEY V HERMAN (some info from @BlinkinRiley)
Broyles Award 2015/Big 12 COY 2018 vs. Broyles Award 2014/American COY
2-Year Records: 24-4 vs. 17-10 wins & losses
2 Big 12 Championships vs. 0 Big 12 Championships
2 College Football Playoff Berths vs. 0 Playoff Berths
Recruiting rankings: Consecutive Top 10s vs. a Smidge better
2-0 Big 12 Championship game wins vs 2-0 bowl game results
4-1 vs. rivals 1-2 vs. rivals
7 All-Americans vs. 2 All-Americans
2 Heisman Trophy Winners vs. 0 Heisman Trophy Winners
4 Draft Picks vs. 4 Draft Picks (Riley has edged with projected 2019 picks)
1 1st-Round Draft Pick 0 1st-Round Draft Picks
7 Major Trophy Winners 1 Major Trophy Winners
Levi, if Herman were coaching my alma mater, I’d be all in. I’m sure that the winning would overcome the personal style I prefer. But Riley’s not only more my kinda guy, but being. He’s been convincing. One former OU head coach told me that’s Riley is the rarest of effective communicators with his players; “Unbelievable in the locker room – fantastic way that he makes the complicated stuff simple. That’s so important in this business.” I’ve had more college and NFL coaches, Hall-of-Famers, and more football people I trust, swear more to his excellence than maybe any coach ever. Several used similar or the same exact words in describing what separates him from others -- Genius, brilliant, incredible in locker room on game days, & best play design and play-caller in the business. More than once I heard that what separates Riley is that his offenses have answers for anything defenses do -- “You’re always in the right play.”
NFL Hall-of-Fame-bound Gil Brandt, the legendary former Dallas player personnel guru in the Landry era, approached me and said, “I know Lincoln Riley well and a lot about him … and he reminds me more of Tom Landry than any coach I’ve known.”
And a favorite mentor of mine – the wonderful, late great Donnie Duncan, knew Riley (and Ruffin McNeill) very well. Donnie was a sharp as a tack. Read people incredibly well. When Donnie spoke, I listened. As did many others. Including Riley, whose beloved mentor was also Donnie, would tell me characteristics and traits that led him to feel strongly that Riley was bound for greatness. In fact, Donnie played a role in Riley’s move to Oklahoma. His read on Riley was that he was an up-and-coming superstar.
So Levi, I’ll take Riley. But Herman’s got it going – which is no surprise to us who suggested he’d succeed even before he became Big Hoss of of Forty Acres. And in a strange-sounding way for a program that’s thoroughly dominated the Big 12, Riley’s Sooners best not take a ten-minute siesta if they intend to remain on their upward trend and to remain ahead of Herman’s Horns. Yes, Herman’s Horns are back. But Riley’s Sooners aren’t planning on status quo.