Athlon Sports (yes, the same Athlon that ranked Northwestern women's basketball as the 12th best team in the country in a preseason poll last year, 4 SPOTS AHEAD OF MARYLAND) came out with a very extensive power ranking of every single Division I football coach in America. It's a daring process to list out 128 coaches and try and say definitively who is better. Good luck to those who can draw a line between Mike Neu (Ball State, ranked 127) and Doug Martin (New Mexico State, ranked 124). It is very easy for me to sit on the sidelines and take potshots at such a column.
But that is what I am going to do.
Let's check out where Pat Fitzgerald falls on this list, shall we?
These are all valid points! Northwestern has become a legitimate, year-in-year-out bowl contender at a program that hasn't really had that kind of consistent success since ever. Pat Fitzgerald deserves an incredible amount of credit for the job he's done at Northwestern. He's probably the best coach to ever do it here (please don't blast me with Ara Parseghian or Gary Barnett takes in the comments). I think he's awesome. Let's take a look at the sad sack that finished right behind him though.
It is a PHENOMENALLY bold take to rank a coach who hasn't made a conference championship game, or even come close really, over someone who has literally won a national championship and consistently puts out one of the most intimidating defenses in the nation. There is no set of ranking criteria which makes this make any sense at all.
Let's look a little farther down the list here and OH GOD.
I whole-heartedly refuse to live in a world where James Franklin is considered to be in the top 25 percent of college coaches. I refuse to live in a world where he is ranked higher than Big Ten rival Paul Chryst (49th), Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin (37th) or even Paul Johnson down at Georgia Tech (39th). James Franklin is a bad coach who recruits good players and if you don't believe me look at how much worse Christian Hackenberg got after his freshman season.
There are some other coaches that you can perhaps consider putting above Fitzgerald. Mike Leach locked a kid with a concussion in a room but knows how to design passing offenses better than anyone in the country, and he's listed at 26th. Charlie Strong is hard to rate given the state of the Texas program, but 32 might be a half touch low. Ken Niumatalolo at 40th doesn't make any sense at all, especially given the criteria used to judge Fitzgerald. Kevin Trahan wrote a really good piece about just how hard it is to win at a service academy, and Niumatalolo is 68-37 at Navy. That's ridiculous.
Ranking coaches is an incredibly difficult an imprecise science. How much do you factor in the state of the program where someone's coaching? How much do you weigh recruiting chops versus X's and O's acumen? It's hard, and maybe Pat Fitzgerald is a top 25 coach in America. Or then again–
Maybe no one has any idea what they're doing.