Happy Friday. Welcome to the mailbag.
To the questions!
Uchenna "Biggeazy" writes: Recently ESPN had a panel rank all the college coaching football jobs. I was curious as to how you would rank the Pac-12 jobs since you have more intimate knowledge of the conference. (Obviously USC is number 1).
Ted Miller: To me this is a complicated question with more than one potential answer/ranking.
Are we ranking "best" in terms of "most likely to win a national title"? Or is best just about getting paid? Or is best more holistic?
For example, if you asked me where I'd most like to be the head football coach, I'd say Colorado without reservation.
Why? Well, have you been to Boulder? It's not only the best college town in the country, it might be the best place in the country. I'd imagine making Power 5 football coach money in Boulder could lead to a pretty nice quality of life for you and your family.
And the place I'd least like to coach would be USC. For one, as much as I enjoy Southern California when I visit, I wouldn't want to live there.
Further, Colorado would top my personal list and USC would rank at the bottom because of the sorts of challenges I'd enjoy more. I'd rather rebuild a program for an appreciative fan base than jump into the "Wait. You haven't won a national title yet and you've been here six months!" mania at USC.
But my guess is you weren't asking that question.
Ranking Pac-12 jobs: 1. USC 2. Oregon 3. Stanford 4. Washington 5. UCLA 6. Arizona State 7. Arizona 8. Utah 9. California 10. Colorado 11. Washington State 12. Oregon State.
Factors I considered: potential salary (with consideration for cost-of-living issues), stadium, recruiting base, fan/booster support, facilities, tradition, present leadership, basketball school?, airport, recent and past success, present buzz, long-term potential.
Of course, this is absurdly subjective. Just take the last three. Colorado owns a national title, which over half the conference can't claim. Washington State has played in two Rose Bowls since 1997, and Oregon State has finished ranked in the final AP poll six times since 2000. Ten years ago, the idea of ranking Stanford No. 3 would have seemed ridiculous.
And, if you asked me the same thing after the 2016 season, the list probably wouldn't be the same.
Tom writes: What happened to [USC QB Cody] Kessler that his stock dropped so far in the NFL draft? Why have USC QBs done so poorly in the NFL for the last 10-15 years?
Ted Miller: There are two things with QBs that stand out to NFL scouts: 1. Measurables 2. Winning big games. Kessler falls short with both.
Kessler doesn't have the size, big arm or athletic ability to blow scouts away in terms of projecting potential. And, considering the strong supporting cast he had a USC, NFL scouts will raise a skeptical eyebrow over his impressive statistics. Further, his resume isn't overflowing with fourth-quarter comebacks and clutch plays that overcome measurables deficiencies.
You could easily defend Kessler by noting the turmoil that roiled the program -- four head coaches! -- while he was the starter, but that won't notably change Kessler's draft status.
As for USC QBs in general not being successful in the NFL, well, Carson Palmer has done OK for himself, but your point is valid. USC QBs have a lot of success in college and tend to get drafted early but, other than Palmer, none has become a star. A lot of that is they are simply good college QBs surrounded by outstanding talent, particularly at the skill positions. When they get to the NFL, there's not as big a pure talent gap between their team and the opposing defense.
I think both Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez were, to varying extents, victims of circumstances, ending up in bad situations. In both cases, it seemed, off-field distractions -- hey, let's date Paris Hilton! -- perhaps watered down their commitments to becoming great. I admit to being surprised that neither became an above-average NFL starter, particularly Sanchez, who has the smarts and physical tools to be an All-Pro.
Robert writes: How much should I be concerned about the diminishing financial clout of the Pac-12 relative to the Big Ten and SEC? I think lots of people get caught in the facility arms race, but I am more concerned about assistant coaching salaries.
Ted Miller: For a good overview of this issue, read Jon Wilner here.
Yes, in terms of competing with the SEC and Big Ten, it's a problem, potentially a significant one. But I'm not sure there's a solution, other than a Deus ex Machina idea for better monetizing the Pac-12 Network. It would appear that the Big Ten and SEC are just more valuable TV assets, which is why they are creating more revenue.
If SEC and Big Ten teams are spending a lot more money building their programs -- head and assistant coaches salaries, support staff, facilities, etc. -- then that will give them an advantage. That won't always translate on the field -- the Pac-12 has done well versus both conferences on the field for the past two decades -- but it certainly will make things more difficult on the West Coast.
Know that lots of Pac-12 folks -- in the Pac-12 offices and within the 12 institutions -- are thinking a lot about this. Perhaps someone comes up with a big idea.
Sawyer from Scottsdale, Ariz., writes: In light of ASU basketball's "Curtain of Distraction," I got to thinking. Why don't home teams employ a similar distraction for opposing kickers? Since most college stadiums have seating behind the end zone, teams could easily put yellow signs in every seat. When a kicker lines up for a kick, signs go up. Instant camouflage for the goal post. Or is there a rule preventing that?
Ted Miller: That would be pretty funny. As far as I can tell, no rule would prevent it -- each program makes its own stadium rules (You can view the rules for Sun Devil Stadium here).
Only problem is I don't think it would have much effect. Kickers pretty much look at the ball -- not the goal post -- when kicking. It's not the same as shooting a free throw.