Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bobby Johnson Has Yelled His Final Dagnabbit

The man receiving collective praise from all things Southeastern Conference this morning is not just walking away from Vanderbilt, but coaching.  Citing the always popular "personal reasons," which, when translated in this instance, means "another year would cause my heart to form a perfect stone and my innards to liquefy," Johnson chose to leave Vanderbilt at a very interesting time.  With fall practice starting in about a month, replacing him with an outside hire would be nearly impossible.  The only option available for those in charge at Vanderbilt was to give one of his assistants the interim head coach title.  It was a calculated move by Johnson who essentially assured that his staff, to which he is extremely loyal, would be given one season to prove themselves worthy of remaining in Nashville.  If he makes this decision in December or January, they're all gone.

Was it sort of a middle finger slight head nod with narrowed eyes at the Vanderbilt administration as he walked out the door?  Maybe, but from everything I've read about Johnson, this was all about keeping his friends employed.  If the side effect was putting the administration in a bind, then so be it.  As a small aside in the middle of the paragraph that will actually end up changing the direction of the paragraph, my team went through the interim coach business before and, in short, NOTHING COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE.  After Billy Brewer was finally shown the door at Ole Miss upon collecting his second major recruiting violation, the powers that be decided that Joe Lee Dunn was the man best fit to run the football program on an interim basis.  Yes, the Joe Lee Dunn before he became famous for no headset, no socks and no down linemen in some defensive formations.  As you might have surmised, it did not go well.  Not only was the team horrible, it obliterated recruiting efforts until Tommy Tuberville arrived after Dunn's 4-7 season.  And if you suck in recruiting for just one year, it absolutely kills you within the next two to three years.  Not that Vandy would have been smashing into big prospect's homes like Ed Orgeron, but now any chance to win battles against schools like Duke, Virginia, Stanford and some upper level CUSA and MAC teams takes a severe blow.

So what was Bobby Johnson's legacy at Vanderbilt?  So far, every coach and media type has hailed him as a great coach and even better guy.  But how does his record stand against his predecessors in the modern SEC era?  I'm so glad I asked that question, here's what the numbers say:

Bobby Johnson
Eight Seasons
Overall:  29-66 (.305)
SEC:  12-52 (.188), including two Ed Orgeron 0-8 seasons

Woody Widenhofer
Five Seasons
Overall:  15-40 (.273)
SEC:  4-36 (.100), including two Ed Orgeron 0-8 seasons

The Immortal Ron Dowhower
Two Seasons
Overall:  4-18 (.182)
SEC:  1-15 (.063), including one Ed Orgeron 0-8 season

Gerry DiNardo
Four Seasons
Overall:  19-25 (.432)
SEC:  9-22 (.290)

Hmmmm.  Not exactly rewriting the Vanderbilt coaching history book there.  Minus Ron Dowhower, who was Ed Orgeron before Ed Orgeron, he didn't do much to separate himself from Widenhofer era or even match the DiNardo era.  BUT HE GOT VANDERBILT PLAYING COMPETITIVE FOOTBALL.  Oh really.  Take a look at this:

66 loses
26 by seven points or less
39.4% of losses

40 losses
10 by seven points or less
25% of losses

18 losses
4 by seven points or less
22% of losses

25 losses
8 by seven points or less
32% of losses

So yes, he did get the Commodores to play a more competitive brand of football, but not all that much more than years past.  Essentially, Johnson averaged one more competitive game a year than those who lost in great numbers before him.  While that's an accomplishment, I don't think we can claim that Johnson was this fantastic coach trapped in an impossible situation.  He was a solid coach trapped in an impossible situation.  Was he better than Widenhofer?  Yes.  Dowhower?  A resounding yes.  A koala bear with an electronic Spell n' Check game could have run that program just as well.  But better than DiNardo?  At best, I'd put him on DiNardo's level.  The case for Johnson is that DiNardo didn't compete in the SEC as we know it today, where everyone has million dollar facilities and openly sacrifices virgins for winning (As opposed to DiNardo's time when winning was done with purely state-funded stadiums and the sacrificing of cattle).  But, as Johnson's record at Vandy indicates, he didn't really establish a new era of Vanderbilt football.  If anything, he brought back (although not all the way) the DiNardo era to Nashville, which certainly isn't a bad thing for that school.  But, bad teams will always find ways to lose close games, and it's a trend at Vanderbilt he continued.  So forgive me if I'm not remembering Bobby Johnson as one of the SEC's better coaches.  Good guy?  Sure.  A Gerry DiNardo?  Yes.


  1. Gerry dinardo knocked me over on a muggy thursday afternoon outside tiger stadium. I was walking around the stadium to get to my car and dinardo clumsily burst through a door and plowed right into me. He knocked me down and stood over me for a second kindof like I was his prey. It was a tense moment. Then he helped me up and apologized a went on his way. He went on to bring lsu football back to ithe glory days of the 80's only to guide the ship back to curly hallman era. Oh well, we got nick saban out of the deal and the rest is history.

  2. I can only hope a Vanderbilt student had a similar incident with Bobby Johnson, thus further adding weight to my argument that they are the same coach.