Grading First-Year Mountain West Head Coaches
Who passed and who failed?
Six coaches made their debut
The Mountain West football season past season had an unprecedented six coaches taking over for a program from the year prior.
Some of the names are familiar like Brady Hoke who was on staff with San Diego State and from 2009-10 was the Aztecs head coach.
Fresno State’s new coach for 2020 was Kalen DeBoer who was a familiar face as he was the offensive coordinator during the two Mountain West title game appearances for the Bulldogs in 2017 and 2018.
The rest were brand new and not associated with their current school as a recent coach. New Mexico’s Danny Gonzales was a player with the Lobos and an assistant coach over a decade ago.
Our staff decided to grade these six new coaches based upon their first season as “the guy” running a program. Now, coaching during COVID-19 was clearly a struggle even for the most experienced coaches across the country.
A lot of these guys who had poor years will sort of earn a pass due to the circumstances but that does not mean their grade will be held on a curve for playing during a pandemic.
Brady Hoke, San Diego State
Ted McGovern on Hoke back as coach:
By nearly all measures, Hoke performed worse than Aztecs fans expected. Rocky Long set the bar high: Hoke inherited a 10-win team, that had completed its 10th straight Bowl appearance. Aztecs fans became accustomed to elite G5 play; elite defense, and having our way with PAC-12 programs.
Hoke’s indecisiveness toward quarterback selection was notably concerning, and the Aztecs paid dearly when poor judgment led to many critical turnovers on downs. Special teams, which is normally one of SDSU’s secret weapons was a step behind pace, despite flickers of greatness; defense did not hold the line as well as expected. The offense was a hot mess with a rotation of mediocre quarterbacks.
By other programs’ standards, Hoke did a satisfactory job, going 4-2 in the conference and 4-4 overall. Compared to the general population, he receives a C grade.
In the Aztec Nation, however, he receives a D+ grade due to less-than-satisfactory performance with a red-ink comment stating “tighten the screws on offense; find a strong play-caller, and stop turning the ball over on downs when in field goal range.”
Steve Addazio, Colorado State
The Rams only played four of its eight games this year and they did not play very well in any of those. Addazio decided to play it cute at quarterback and insert Temple transfer Todd Centeio as the starter in the first game and then rotate him in with the superior Patrick O’Brien.
There were some preseason issues with wide receiver Warren Jackson opting out to prepare for the NFL Draft and not having a full set of receivers in the first game of the year.
Also, there were concerns with the school allegedly not following COVID-19 protocol in the preseason and also alleged racial allegations. There were some dark clouds heading over this season, but the games themselves were also not great.
How they beat Wyoming is still somewhat puzzling. The Rams were blown out vs. Boise State due to very bad special teams play, the Fresno State game saw the quarterback swap and it backfired, and their final loss was its closest defeat in a 12-point loss to San Diego State.
Kalen DeBoer, Fresno State
Outside of the New Mexico loss which was quite odd, even with a few key players out the loss was unexpected. DeBoer showed why he was a great offensive coordinator just a few years before. He made Jake Haener one of the best quarterbacks in the Mountain West in all of the major categories.
DeBoer also utilized running back Ronnie Rivers in the passing game as well as on the ground in making him arguably the most versatile back in the league. Had they defeated New Mexico, the Bulldogs first-year coach likely would have earned an A.