The UB Football Coaching Experiment

I’m as excited as anyone to see what the Rex Ryan era brings to the Bills and how the Sabres fare with new coach Dan Bylsma.  However, as fall rolls ever closer, the Buffalo coaching change I’m most interested to see play out is actually over at UB football, where Lance Leipold takes over from Jeff Quinn.  The reason I’m interested is that this seems to me to be one of the truest tests of just how much of an effect a coach has on a team.

Trying to figure out how effective it is to change any one piece of a football team is nearly impossible.  Football has more players on the roster than any other sport and multiple levels of coaches, trainers, and staff.  If Rex Ryan has a bad season this year, there will be dozens of places to place blame, from the ongoing quarterback difficulties to a tough schedule to team chemistry, etc.  Leipold comes in with most else remaining equal.  Sure, he’s brought some of his own staff and the defense in particular has graduated some pieces, but its as close as one could reasonably hope for if we were trying to set up a coaching experiment.  Jeff Quinn’s best season, when he had the benefit of Branden Oliver and Khalil Mack, was 8-4.  UB was 5-6 last year and this year’s team will feature almost all the same players.  And so, while the team is held constant, the coach changes as dramatically as possible.

As mentioned, Quinn’s best record here was 8-4.  At his previous post, Leipold’s worst record was 7-3.  He had five 15-0 seasons and six NCAA D-III national championships.  Is D-III very different from D-I?  Of course.  That said, this is clearly a guy who is used to winning and who knows what he’s doing.  I can’t wait to see what happens because we have a situation in which (at least on paper) a vastly improved coaching staff is taking over, as is, a middle of the road team and we get to see what happens.  In a few years, of course, Leipold will have brought in his own recruits and shaped things significantly, as it should be.  But this year, I get to see how much of an effect one change can really have of the lumbering boat that is any big football program.  Is it possible for good coaching to really change players and outcomes at this level?  We’re going to find out, and I’m on the edge of my seat.