The Anatomy of a Coaching Hire

How well do the first two years predict how a head coach will fare? Insights into the predictive ingredients for a successful hire.

[Mark Umansky]

A new head football coach is the ultimate test of a fan's patience.

They check the box at the introductory press conference and talk about "building culture!" and "establishing our identity" to get ahead of any pains of a rebuild. However, many coaches are successful early on, which raises questions as to how much time a coach actually needs to start winning games.

But what do the numbers say? Is early success — or failure — an accurate predictor of how a coaching hire will turn out? Furthermore, what even makes a good hire?

Over the past few months, I spent time analyzing every Power Five head coaching hire over the past decade or so. While I began this project as a way of finding comparisons for Virginia Tech head coach Brent Pry, I ended up gaining much more valuable insights into the nuts and bolts of coaching hires.

As Pry finishes up year two with the Hokies, his 9-14 overall record seems rather ignominious. But in the context of how much Tech improved from year one, the Hokies head whistle actually finds himself in quite good company.

Measuring Success

How much do years one and two actually matter for the survivability of a head coach? To answer that question, I first had to establish some parameters.

When assessing coaches early in their tenure, I decided to evaluate performance by metrics instead of win-loss record. While wins certainly matter, metrics provide a much more wholesale view of how a team is playing and serve as a very good barometer for progress. If you're playing good football, the metrics will reward you, even if the wins don't immediately follow.

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