Grading Mountain West Football Coaching Hires
What team made the best and what made the worst?
New beginnings for four teams
Now that it has been a little while and the head coaches have settled into their new chair, now is a good time to take a look and give an off-the-cuff and knee-jerk reaction for these coaches.
Danny Gonzales, New Mexico, A+: For how bad New Mexico had been during the Bob Davie era, getting a guy like Gonzales who is a proven coach as a defensive coordinator and one who wants to be a Lobo is huge. Getting a coach of equal caliber with no ties to the area would be a tough sell.
This will be a Year 0 situation for sure but there will be fan excitement with a former player and coach on the staff. Gonzales is very familiar with the area as his coaching career even outside of New Mexico has kept him nearby running good defenses at San Diego State and Arizona State.
Kalen DeBoer, Fresno State, B+: This situation was a bit different due to Jeff Tedford stepping down for health issues. Of the coaches they could have landed, DeBoer makes the most sense and a near-seamless transition. He was running the offense at Fresno State for two years in 2017 and 2018 the offense was above average and elite in ’18.
His one year at Indiana went extremely well as the offense went from 10th to 5th in yards per play and the team went from scoring 26 to 32 points per game under his watch.
Marcus Arroyo, UNLV, B-: With the other big names being mentioned as legitimate options like LSU DC Dave Aranda, it seems that UNLV might have settled for Arroyo. However, settling for a guy who is coming off a Pac-12 title, Rose Bowl win and likely a top-10 quarterback he coached in Justin Herbert then the Rebels did just fine.
Who knows if the Rebels higher ups would have paid Aranda even $2 million annually — a pay cut for him — to come to Las Vegas. There are pieces for Arroyo to work with to make this UNLV offense good from Day 1.
Steve Addazio, Colorado State, D+: An “F” grade is too harsh since Addazio has not been terrible as a head coach at Boston College. He led the Eagles to six bowl games in seven years and had a 44-44 record at Boston College. He does run the ball well and wants to play a physical style of offense.
The big issues are that Rams athletics director Joe Parker allowed Urban Meyer to be a critical part of this search. It should be noted that Meyer was involved as he was a former wide receivers coach for Colorado State. This hire just lacks any sort of inspiration. Maybe Addazio will be the gut to get the Rams to a bowl game and more but he has not coached in this part of the country ever and that could be tough for recruiting.
Also concerning is that former players do not like Addazio and were glad when he was fired as he did not treat them well, including former linebacker Josh Keyes saying he was banned and that Addazio tried to get him cut from the Atlanta Falcons.
Now we go to national outlets that rank and grade the new Mountain West coaches, plus a blurb from each outlet.
Danny Gonzales, New Mexico, A-: New Mexico doesn’t deserve Danny Gonzales. The program hasn’t mattered in years. The university kept Bob Davie way beyond his sell-by date. Gonzales, 43, is a former New Mexico walk-on who coached under Rocky Long with the Lobos and San Diego State. Let’s hope New Mexico provides Gonzales with the resources he needs to assemble a staff and recruit.
Marcus Arroyo, UNLV, C+: The Rebels get an upgrade if only because Arroyo has college experience. Tony Sanchez was elevated straight from local Bishop Gorman High School and flopped, going 20-40 in five seasons. In his second season, Arroyo was OC for the Pac-12 champions. UNLV has been a long-suffering program.
Kalen DeBoer, Fresno State, C: DeBoer, 46, is seen as continuity after the retirement of Jeff Tedford. During his two seasons as offensive coordinator at Fresno (2017-18), the Bulldogs were eighth and third in Mountain West scoring offense. In the two previous seasons, Fresno State was 10th and last. DeBoer is leaving Indiana where he helped the Hoosiers to eight wins for the first time since 1993.
Steve Addazio, Colorado State, D: This job went to Addazio after Urban Meyer reportedly intervened. Meyer’s second job as a college coach was as a receivers coach at Colorado State. Addazio, a former Meyer assistant, is 60 and a .500 coach in his career (57-55) with a reputation for sluggish ground-based offenses. Addazio’s BC offenses finished above 68th nationally once in seven years.
Kalen DeBoer, Fresno State, A: A choice so sensible you have to wonder what took so long to make it happen. DeBoer spent two seasons as Tedford’s offensive coordinator in 2017-18, overseeing an offense that helped the Bulldogs go 22-6. As Indiana’s offensive coordinator, the Hoosiers scored six more points per game than last year and finished second in offensive yards per game in the Big Ten.
Danny Gonzales, New Mexico, B: Gonzales orchestrated some great defenses at San Diego State before working under Herm Edwards at Arizona State. The 43-year-old played at New Mexico and spent the first nine years of his coaching career there. So he’s familiar with the school and knows what it will take to be successful.
Marcus Arroyo, UNLV, B: This was a job that was more attractive to candidates than many might have realized. At one point LSU DC Dave Aranda was a candidate, and he’s making $2.5 million in Baton Rouge. Instead, the Rebels land Arroyo from Oregon, where he spent the last three seasons running the offense and grooming Justin Herbert.
Steve Addazio, Colorado State, D: Addazio is 57-55 in nine seasons as a coach and was 44-44 at Boston College. This grade isn’t about that, though, it’s about my preference to see schools like Colorado State go after coaches with higher ceilings. To this point, however, Addazio hasn’t shown a track record of great success.
Kalen DeBoer, Fresno State, A: After serving as Fresno State’s offensive coordinator in 2017 and 2018, he was the obvious choice to replace Jeff Tedford. DeBoer significantly improved Indiana’s offense this fall and won three NAIA national titles as head coach at the University of Sioux Falls.
Danny Gonzales, New Mexico, A-: New Mexico faces financial and other challenges but did a nice job landing a talented coach who knows the program. Gonzales, who played for the Lobos and began his coaching career there, is an ideal fit to restore respectability and success at UNM.
Marcus Arroyo, UNLV, B: The Sacramento native has spent time at San Jose State, Cal, Oregon, plus stints with Southern Miss, Oklahoma State and the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s a sharp, experienced play-caller who has developed different quarterbacks in his career, most recently Oregon’s Justin Herbert.
Steve Addazio, Colorado State, C-: This isn’t so much about Addazio, who did a good job making six bowl games in seven seasons at Boston College. Colorado State’s search process had some issues. Urban Meyer’s involvement in the search — Meyer and Addazio are extremely close friends — also concerned many throughout the industry.
Marcus Arroyo, UNLV, A-: Arroyo’s hire is a huge home run for a struggling program like UNLV that some suggested should’ve considered moving on from football. Arroyo has coached on staffs under Jeff Tedford, Todd Monken, Lovie Smith – with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -, Mike Gundy and Mario Cristobal. That’s a solid group of guys to learn from and have them trust in his abilities.
Steve Addazio, Colorado State, Huh?!?!: For a few days, Tony Alford was the name being floated around, and it made sense for a coach with extensive experience and an alumnus to help Colorado State open a new stadium.
Addazio was a good fit for Boston College as a tough northeast guy, who liked tough football, and Boston College was always a program known for tough, physical players. Colorado State is a much different culture. This is a strange hire and one that it might take a while for the locals to get behind.