Over the decade I’ve spent writing things on the internet, I’ve come up with plenty of admittedly absurd premises for articles and there have been multiple occasions where I sit down and devote far too many words to one of those topics only to go back and read the final result before asking myself, “Why the hell did I think this was a good idea?” before throwing adding them to my virtual trash heap.
During a recent brainstorming session, some of my fellow writers and myself were trying to figure out some ways to commemorate this year’s Halloween season when someone floated the idea of putting together a piece comparing college football coaches to the various pieces of candy kids traditionally receive while traversing from house to house on October 31st.
Why? I don’t know, but I volunteered to do it, and while I’m not sure if it’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever written or one of the more brilliant (or perhaps a combination of the both), here’s to hoping you manage to derive at least a little bit of enjoyment out of it.
Jim Harbaugh: Payday
I’m starting with Jim Harbaugh because I didn’t have to think twice when it came to picking which candy to compare him to and it should be pretty obvious why I went with Payday: because he’s fucking nuts.
If it wasn’t for the next man on this list, Harbaugh would be the most entertaining coach in college football thanks to the treasure trove of stories that have come out over the years highlighting how batshit insane he is, including occasions where he:
- He wore cleats inside the house of a potential recruit who lost interest in Michigan because of it
- Climbed a tree in an attempt to impress another prospective player
- Got caught eating a booger on the sidelines before trying to deny it happened
- Said he refuses to eat chicken because it’s a “nervous bird”
The fact that a Payday is basically the same color as the khakis he’s become famously associated with also didn’t hurt, so as I said, this one was a no-brainer.
Ryan Day: Baby Ruth
This analogy would probably work a bit better if Urban Meyer was still the head coach at THE Ohio State University, because while he was nowhere close to being as unhinged as Harbaugh is, he still harnessed some interesting methods when it came to motivating his players.
Day only has one full season under his belt since taking over in Columbus after Meyer totally retired due to “health reasons” and definitely not because of his impressive mishandling of the Zach Smith situation. He may not be particularly notable compared to everyone else on this list, but I’m still including him—primarily because I’m in the mood to rustle the jimmies of Wolverines fans.
So why did I opt for Baby Ruth? Well, they’re basically a superior version of Paydays, and when you consider Harbaugh hasn’t managed to defeat the Buckeyes during the five times they’ve faced off during his tenure, the comparison feels fairly apt.
Mike Leach: Starburst
Opening fun-size Starburst after a night of trick-or-treating is basically the childhood version of taking a coin to a scratch-off ticket, as you never really know what lies within. The same can be said for Mike Leach, who is arguably college football’s biggest wild card and the source of some absolutely fantastic quotes over the years.
Interestingly enough, a lot of them have been Halloween-related, including the hilarious tangent about zombies he went on when asked about his holiday plans last season, his A+ quip about stripper costumes we were treated to in 2018, and the vicious takedown of candy corn he delivered the year before.
To my knowledge, Leach has never shared his thoughts on which Starburst flavor reigns supreme, but regardless of which variety you prefer, I think we can all agree that anyone who places yellow at the top of their power rankings should have their head examined. Much like you never know what you’re going to get when the Mississippi State coach opens his mouth, you never really know what awaits you when you unwrap a two-pack but there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get at least some enjoyment out of it.
However, every now and then, you’ll stumble across the dreaded double yellow, which is the equivalent of the noose-centered meme Leach tweeted at the beginning of April. It’s safe to say plenty of people—including some of his own players—were less than thrilled with the development. He quickly apologized for the misstep (which seemed like a genuinely honest mistake), and while Bulldogs fans aren’t exactly pleased with how the team has performed on the field this season, he’s has continued to provide us with entertainment off of it.
Mike Gundy: The Weed Gummies That No One Actually Gives Out But Paranoid Parents Still Check For Anyway
I’ll admit that I didn’t know that much about Mike Gundy prior to this year aside from the fact that he’s in possession of perhaps the most glorious mullet the college football world has to offer. However, that all changed over an offseason where we got a glimpse into a worldview that (as one of my colleagues noted over the summer) was pretty on-brand for a guy with a hairdo like that who’s spent basically his entire life in Oklahoma.
Back in April, Gundy treated us to one of the top candidates for the Hot Take of the Year Award when he said it was imperative that Oklahoma State players return to campus as soon as possible in order to maximize the revenue they help generate while pulling the soundly disproven “There’s no difference between COVID-19 and the flu card” to support his argument.
As much as I’d prefer not to wade into the political fray here, it’s kind of hard to avoid doing when you consider he pulled a Shia LaBeouf and dug an even deeper hole when he rocked a shirt emblazoned with the logo of One America News, an outlet that’s routinely peddled some very questionable stories—including some debunked claims about the pandemic that he parroted. However, it was OAN’s criticisms of the Black Lives Matter movement that led to one of his players calling him out on Twitter before the coach apologized, eventually saying he was “disgusted” with the network’s views after previously labeling the channel “refreshing.”
At the end of the day, Gundy (who was also accused of hurling a racial slur at an opponent while playing quarterback for the program he currently helms) is going to believe what he wants to believe. However, based on the evidence at hand, I wouldn’t be shocked if he bought into the “Check your children’s’ candy for weed gummies” stories that surface every single year even though it’s hard to fathom why anyone would purposely give away perfectly good edibles to kids.
It is worth noting that Gundy caught a bit of heat back in 2013 after it was reported he turned a blind eye to some of his more talented players smoking and selling weed while disciplining those who didn’t contribute as much to the Cowboys. However, I discovered this after I already typed the rest of this entry, so while it may undermine the comparison a bit, I’m sticking with it anyway.
Les Miles: Mr. Goodbar
Hershey’s debuted Mr. Goodbar in 1977, which is three years before Miles kicked off his coaching career when he was hired as an assistant at Michigan. In the following decades, he’d bounce around from college to college while gradually working his way up the ranks before landing his first head coaching gig at Oklahoma State in 2001.
Four years later, he found himself at the helm at Louisiana State, where he and the Tigers gained a reputation as a force to be reckoned with. He led LSU to a national championship after just three seasons, and though they hit a bit of a rough patch over the next couple of years, they rose to prominence yet again when the 2010s rolled around. However, he found himself without a job after being dismissed four games into the 2016 season following a 2-2 start.
Miles took his talents to the University of Kansas in the middle of the 2018 season and, well, it hasn’t exactly gone well. As of this writing, the team has posted a 3-13 record since he took the reigns, and while the Jayhawks have gotten off to a 0-5 start this season, the school’s athletic director recently said he has “confidence” in his coach for reasons I can’t exactly fathom.
As a result, I’m comparing Miles to Mr. Goodbar because both of them would like people to believe they’re good despite the fact that is currently decidedly not the case. Sure, they might have been in a higher tier at some point but they’ve both reached a point where they can no longer hang with the newer kids on the block but are somehow still hanging on despite the disappointment they induce.
Brian Kelly: Milky Way
Brian Kelly took over head coaching duties at Notre Dame in 2010, and while the Fighting Irish posted a 12-0 record during the regular season in 2015 before losing to Alabama in the national championship, that year was sandwiched by two less than stellar ones on either side. The team bounced back in 2017 and has been one of the better squads in the nation since but haven’t been able to match the absurdly high expectations of fans who’ve maintained this will be the year they take home the school’s first title since 1988 because they’re still clinging to the program’s glory days.
Much like Kelly, Milky Ways aren’t necessarily bad, and while they look pretty good on the outside, I find myself consistently underwhelmed by what lies beneath the shell. I want them to be good, but at the end of the day, they always leave me wanting a bit more and simply can’t compete with the better candies they fail to measure up to despite their best efforts.
The Irish are currently undefeated and will face off against a Clemson team that could potentially be without Trevor Lawrence following his positive test earlier this week, so while there’s a chance Kelly could get upgraded to a Snickers depending on how things play out when everything is said and done, he’ll have to settle for a Milky Way for now.
James Franklin: Three Musketeers
Ignoring the people who will inevitably bitch and moan about the Gundy comparison, this will probably be the most divisive entry on the list, as it took Franklin a couple of years to get his bearings in Happy Valley when he replaced Bill O’Brien, who spent two years coaching the Nittany Lions after Joe Paterno ran into a bit of trouble that brought his illustrious career to a not-so-illustrious end.
In 2018, CBS conducted a coaches poll that saw Franklin named the second-most overrated coach in college football behind Willie Taggart, who lived up to that dubious distinction when Florida State went 5-7 before being dismissed last year after the Seminoles got off to a 4-5 start.
Franklin, on the other hand, coached Penn State to a 9-4 record and improved to 11-2 last year, so while there’s a chance he might not earn the silver medal if that poll was conducted right now, I’m still going with the Three Musketeers comparison here, because like Kelly, Penn State shows promise from the outside but lacks even more substance than Notre Dame on the interior.
Again, feel free to disagree with this assessment, but this is my article, not yours.
Dabo Swinney: Twix
While the majority of Halloween candy comes in the form of the deceptively-named “fun size” variety, what Swinney has accomplished since taking over at Clemson has made the program the equivalent of the house that hands out the full-sized version.
While Twix may not be able to measure up to the candy I’ll be using in the next (and final) analogy on this list, they’re still in the conversation for one of the best treats you can score while trick-or-treating. During his time with the Tigers, Swinney has turned a historically mediocre team into an absolute powerhouse thanks in no small part to the well-roundedness that makes Twix as delightful as they are.
Sure, the “Left vs. Right” debate might just be a dumb marketing ploy but I think it’s a great way to sum up Swinney’s impressive ability to recruit players on both offense and defense that have turned the squad into top contenders for a national championship since securing their first title since 1981 a year after they came up short against Alabama in 2016.
Hey, speaking of Alabama…
Nick Saban: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Earlier this month, FiveThirtyEight released the results of a self-admittedly unscientific poll it conducted in order to determine which Halloween candy was the G.O.A.T. and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups ultimately came out on top, which I’d argue is pretty hard to argue with.
Nick Saban is currently tied with Bear Bryant as the college football coach with the most national championships of all time—five of which he secured over the course of 10 years after transforming Alabama into the most formidable force in college football after being named the head coach of the Crimson Tide in 2007.
There’s no telling how many titles he’ll have secured when he ultimately decides to hang up his headset but he’s already cemented himself as one of the best—if not the best—football coaches in NCAA history, and pending some sort of disaster that results in him tarnishing his legacy to a point where he becomes the terrible thin version of these beloved treats, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be unseated from the throne he currently resides on at any point in the near future.