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Adam Gold

Ranking the best coaches in the ACC

Posted July 25, 2013
Updated July 26, 2013

As we approach the start of the college football season – I'll pause while the inevitable "hallelujahs" and "it's about freakin' times" dissipate – I thought it might be a good time to take a look at our beloved yet changing conference and take stock of certain things.

So, before Jadaveon Clowney decleats Romar Morris, or A.J. Blue or (please, no) Bryn Renner, let's start off the preseason with the first in a series of lists.

Today, we'll talk coaches with the understanding that there are several in the league that we really have no significant data upon which to base anything. So, with the full understanding that Dave Doeren at NC State, Pittsburgh's Paul Chryst, Scott Shafer of Syracuse or the Chestnut Hill dude-seeker Steve Addazzio really aren't rank-worthy at this point, I present the five best coaches in the ACC as I see it. I'll do the best I can to back this list with facts but I also reserve the right to completely make things up if it suits my argument.

So, without further adieu…..

1) Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech (86-55, 12th year)

Johnson doesn't like it when you refer to his offense as a "wishbone" or "triple option," as he prefers the much more media-friendly "spread" that so many schools employ in the highest level of pseudo-amateur football. But, facts are facts. And the facts are that Johnson's five Yellow Jackets teams have averaged 55 rushes against 13 passing attempts since he came to Atlanta for the 2008 season.

But therein lies the beauty of what Johnson has been able to accomplish in his five years at Tech – not to mention the previous six at the Naval Academy. Johnson just wins games. His teams have made it to 10 straight bowl games, he won the ACC in 2009 and he is the rare coach with a winning record away from home, having won 30 of 53 games on the road.

He also has a pair of 1-AA national titles to his credit, winning back-to-back championships at Georgia Southern in 1999 and 2000. The only real negative, other than the obvious allergy to throwing the football, is that he bears a frightening resemblance to author John Feinstein. In fact, I've never seen them in the same room at the same time.

2) David Cuttcliffe, Duke (65-69, 12th year) 

I know what you're saying: "How can you possibly put Cutcliffe – a man with a sub-.500 career record – ahead of, um wait, oh never mind." Now you get the picture.

It was rumored to have been said of legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant that he could take his'n and beat your'n and take your'n and beat his'n. The general idea, of course, was that the Bear was so good he could take your players – which were obviously inferior to his at Alabama – and win that game. Is Cutcliffe in that class? Probably not.

But Duke is no longer the laughing stock they've been for the last two decades. Plus, he's the best teller of stories in the league and I'd point out that Cut was over .500 in five years at Ole Miss, essentially the Boston College of the SEC.

Cutcliffe is also 4-2 in bowls, even with last year's gut wrenching loss to Cincinnati in Charlotte. And he has the key to the Manning family guest house in New Orleans. His only drawback is the occasional "too smart for the room" moment, like the fake punt up two scores in the 2nd half against Carolina that nearly cost the Blue Devils the Victory Bell.

3) Dabo Swinney, Clemson (40-21, 6th year) 

We don't make too many "Dabo Dabo Doo" Fred Flintstone jokes about Dabo anymore. Come to think of it, I'm not sure we ever did, as they're really not all that funny. But Swinney has brought the Tigers back to Danny Ford levels.

Well, almost all the way back, sort of like the current condition of Howard's Rock. There's just a small piece missing. Ford won a national championship in 1981 and had seven seasons of two or fewer losses in his tenure.

Swinney has just one such season, plus a conference title – which was unfortunately followed by allowing a million points to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. However, there's no doubt that Clemson has turned the corner and retaken their place among the national football powers.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that could be wishful thinking, but they have the two best returning players in the league in Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins and probably represent the best chance at national credibility for the ACC. The only real negative is that he'll never be able to top fellow Palmetto State head ball coach Steve Spurrier in a war of words.

Tweet that.

4) Jimbo Fisher, Florida State (31-10, 4th year) 

Pardon me for taking a Missouri attitude with Jimbo's status among the coaching elite, and I'm not trying to be overlay critical, but I have my doubts as to whether or not Fisher has a problem functioning on game day.

There is no denying that the program's talent and depth and attitude has returned to early 2000 levels, and in college football talent is about 75 percent of the battle.

But I can't unsee that Thursday night meltdown in Raleigh, and if I didn't know better, I'd swear he had Georgia Tech AND Northern Illinois plus the points in Charlotte and Miami, respectively. With that said, it's pretty obvious that the Seminoles are coming back from the mediocrity that beset the program in the latter, Del Boca Vista days of Bobby Bowden's tenure.

The only negative for me is that I can't understand just about anything Fisher says in interviews. Slow down, Jimbo.

5) Larry Fedora, North Carolina (42-23, 6th year) 

Throw away the initial attitude that made it seem as though he was in the process of reinventing the sport of football and throw away the constant can of Red Bull that was tethered to his right hand at the ACC Football Kickoff media event and you still have a very good football coach who guided his team through a very difficult season and still managed to win eight exhibition games.

Make no mistake about it, last year was always going to be a challenge for Fedora in terms of maintaining his team's focus on each individual opponent. But, in spite of a couple of early road losses and a dramatic, hard-to-swallow loss at Duke, Fedora managed to lead UNC to their first Coastal Division title.

I've seen the rings, folks. They're real.

Others receiving votes

None, remember this was my list and if you received any votes for the top five you were in the top five. If you didn't you weren't.

69 Comments

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  • Boogalooboy Jul 29, 1:50 p.m.

    Always wondered what Roof would have done with the same support as Cut has... The University wasn't interested in football....I would bet that Cut's assistants make as much as Ted did when he was head coach... just wondering..

  • DUKE4EVER Jul 28, 7:26 a.m.

    ...and I don't see Cut in the top 5. This has nothing to do with being a nice guy.

    — Posted by Ramageddon

    That's where you are wrong. Coaches are supposed to be nice guys. Nice guys can be coaches.

    That's why Cut is in the Top 5 as a coach and nice guy.....ahead of Beamer.

  • DUKE4EVER Jul 28, 7:24 a.m.

    2003-04 Ted Roof(2-3) - Carl Franks(2-5) 4-8 .333 Roof interim coach final five games --... View More

    — Posted by tBeast

    Read the article, nothing to do with Carl Franks.

    Thanks for playing and giving your best effort.

  • Ramageddon Jul 28, 2:51 a.m.

    A different way to look at this would be to consider what would happen if all ACC schools were... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    Duke would pick Cut over all the others. But that's because Duke is in the unique position of... View More

    — Posted by 903 PJ suspended til NCAA clears

    Thats why you have had two players dismissed for Cocaine traffiking, and some others for FELONY gun charges. Please 903, quit continuing to prove you are a total jackace. Cut is a great guy, but to say he wants to produce "true student-athletes" moreso than any other coach such as Groebe, Johnson, Beamer, Fedora, etc. is pathetic. All of them are trying to walk that line of balance. At the end of the day, 70% of college football is recruiting, and if you could get FSU/Clemson level of talent at Duke, yeah the ones that probably are not as interested in academics, you would be all over them like homeless people on a plate of sandwiches.

  • Ramageddon Jul 28, 2:44 a.m.

    I am pretty convinced now that Adam Gold drinks on the job.

    — Posted by Dubble EE

    #SingleMaltScotch

  • Hokies94 Jul 27, 9:00 p.m.

    The only hit on Frank Beamer is that he was too loyal to some of his coaches, and it turned into too many loses. I'm one that stated this many times over the past few years on here. We did play FSU in the Finals in 99. Beamer has won 4 ACC Championships since 04. He won the Big East 3 times. VT needs to recruit like they used to do. Has any team in the ACC won more ACC Championships? Logan Thomas is the key for Beamer and our school this year.

  • GunnyGoesArrrgh Jul 27, 5:37 p.m.

    A different way to look at this would be to consider what would happen if all ACC schools were... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    Interesting perspective, Ken, and a good question. I wonder which coach would be the "hot commodity": Dabo, Jimbo, or Grobe? Good food for thought.

  • Hokies94 Jul 27, 4:23 p.m.

    A different way to look at this would be to consider what would happen if all ACC schools were... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    I think you're dead on with this one. Coach Cut is one of my favorites, and he has done wonders at Duke, but I don't see he nor Johnson in many other places right now. Cut had an offer from Tenn a few years ago, but Tenn wanted to retain some coaches already on board.

  • 903 PJ suspended til NCAA clears Jul 27, 4:23 p.m.

    A different way to look at this would be to consider what would happen if all ACC schools were... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    Duke would pick Cut over all the others. But that's because Duke is in the unique position of wanting to be good at football and also being good at producing true student-athletes.

  • Ken D. Jul 27, 4:13 p.m.

    A different way to look at this would be to consider what would happen if all ACC schools were looking for a new coach, and the only candidates available were the current ACC coaches. How many of them would pick Johnson as their first choice? How many would pick Cutcliffe? My guess is, not many.

More...

 

 

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
NCCU 65
EILL 40
 
2nd
NCSU 43
BSU 29
 
2nd
PIT 1
CAR 2
 
Half
CHA 55
GSW 49
 
1st
UF 0
UNC 7
 
8:30pm Tonight
TULSA
ECU
Final
BOS 102
CHI 109
Half
CHA 55
GSW 49
 
2nd
TOR 21
DAL 30
 
2nd
DET 33
MIL 34
 
2nd
ATL 31
NOP 24
 
1st
HOU 6
LAC 3
 
1st
OKC 9
NYK 5
 
1st
IND 7
ORL 3
 
8:30pm Tonight
SAN
SAC
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
PHO
10:00pm Tonight
POR
MEM
10:30pm Tonight
LAL
MIN
Final
WMICH 21
NILL 31
Final
SMU 9
HOU 35
Final
IOWA 34
NEB 37
Final
SFLA 0
UCF 16
Final
MARS 66
WKENT 67
Final
KSU 27
AKR 24
Final
BGU 24
BST 41
Final
UMASS 21
BUF 41
Final
EMICH 16
TOL 52
Final
MIZZ 21
ARK 14
Final
SALABAMA 40
NAVY 42
 
Final
ARZ 42
ARST 35
Final
AFA 27
COLST 24
Final
UCLA 10
STAN 31
1st
VT 0
UVA 0
 
8:30pm Tonight
TULSA
ECU
Final
NCCU 65
EILL 40
 
Final
KU 82
TENN 67
Final
TEXAM 87
NO 65
 
Final
NCAT 57
RAD 65
 
Final
GEOR 58
BUT 64
Final
BRO 81
PVU 71
Final
RIU 66
SCU 44
Final
NARZ 70
SOUTH 63
Final
DART 68
MAST 67
Final
WRST 59
FIU 61
Final
XAV 73
UTEP 77
Final
OSU 73
JMU 56
Final
TXSOU 71
LAM 59
 
Final
TAMCC 75
MVSU 66
 
Final
AKAN 51
MIZST 55
Final
BUCK 80
PSU 88
 
Final
PROV 72
YALE 66
Final
UGA 62
MINN 66
Final
WISC 69
OKLA 56
Final
Terriers 70
NORST 72
 
Final
PEAY 62
STEPH 83
 
Final
FSU 58
CSOU 47
 
Final
VALPO 66
DRAK 46
 
Final
CIN 69
MTST 51
 
Final
SDU 75
PRIN 65
 
2nd
WASU 76
RICE 72
 
2nd
CSFU 58
USCU 72
 
2nd
GT 47
RIDE 41
 
2nd
TXPA 52
ALAST 63
 
2nd
NCSU 43
BSU 29
 
Half
TCU 31
BRAD 24
 
2nd
WAKE 42
DELST 46
 
2nd
HART 53
EMERSON 33
 
2nd
STJ 29
GONZ 37
 
2nd
CLEM 31
HIGH 26
 
2nd
SYR 43
HC 24
 
2nd
MD 38
MON 31
 
2nd
JVST 46
SAV 35
 
2nd
MIAMI 57
SALA 42
 
2nd
RUTG 33
VANDY 35
 
1st
PETE 37
TENST 20
 
1st
MARS 4
CLST 5
 
1st
JST 5
HOF 10
 
1st
INDST 14
MEM 10
 
1st
UF 0
UNC 7
 
1st
LATU 4
SAMF 4
 
1st
TULA 18
SELA 17
 
1st
NEB 17
TENNM 13
 
8:30pm Tonight
MISS
CREI
8:30pm Tonight
PORT
MURST
9:00pm Tonight
MARQ
MSU
9:00pm Tonight
ARK
UNT
9:00pm Tonight
NCOL
STET
 
9:00pm Tonight
IND
UNCG
9:00pm Tonight
SJST
WMICH
9:05pm Tonight
MNTST
TXARL
9:30pm Tonight
UVA
LAS
9:30pm Tonight
STLU
MSST
9:30pm Tonight
COLST
PAC
10:00pm Tonight
UTAH
NDAK
10:30pm Tonight
ILL
BAY
10:30pm Tonight
UAB
UCLA
11:30pm Tonight
WASH
LBSU
11:59pm Tonight
UCSB
MERC
Final
PHI 0
NYR 3
Final
ANA 1
CHI 4
Final
WAS 5
NYI 2
2nd
PIT 1
CAR 2
 
2nd
NJD 4
DET 2
 
2nd
BUF 1
MON 0
 
2nd
CLB 0
VAN 0
 
2nd
BOS 0
WIN 1
 
1st Intermission
FLA 1
OTT 1
 
1st
STL 0
EDM 0
 
8:30pm Tonight
DAL
MIN