Bill Parcells and Tom Landry Couldn't Have Won With the Talent Jim Colletto Had, According to Jim Colletto
There's an expression about not being able to change a tiger's stripes, and so here we have another example of that in Jim Colletto never quite being as self-aware as one would hope. Jeff Pearlman (a guy far more thin-skinned than he should be in his line of work -- but that's another story for another time) interviewed Jim Colletto on his site back in January. Longtime reader Gregg Z recently came across it and tipped us off.
The interview touches on many subjects, but Jim's time in West Lafayette and his inability to ever be an over-.500 head coach do come up. A sampling:
J.P.: In 11 seasons as a college head coach you never went .500 or better ... Do you blame yourself? The talent you had? Were you simply a guy who was a better position coach than head coach? And do you think a Bill Parcells or Tom Landry or Chuck Noll could have won with the pieces you had? Is there a difference between the OK coach and the great one?
J.C.: This is an area that I am glad to talk about. Could Parcells, Landry, Noll … win with the pieces I had? The direct answer is—No! The sports media puts to much emphasis on just win and losses without knowing the environment you coach in, the talent level of the players you have, the morale in the program and the obstacles you have to overcome. There are a lot of excellent coaches out there and a large part of their success deals with talent level of the the players they coach.
Ah, so he didn't have talented players. Although he does talk quite a bit more about his time at Purdue in the subsequent paragraphs and somehow even makes it sound like he laid the groundwork for Joe Tiller's success:
When I went to Purdue they had eight losing seasons out of the last nine. The only winning season was 1984 and I was the offensive coordinator. We beat Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio St that year. Only one other team had managed to do that and that was Michigan State and they did it twice. Jim Everrett was our quarterback and he went on to a good NFL career. Kevin Sumlin, the coach at Texas A&M, was on that team. We ended up with a 7-5 record, losing to Virginia Tech in the Peach Bowl. The year before I went to Purdue, I was at Ohio State and we beat them, 42-2. Fred Akers had been the head coach (quite successful at Texas) and his last two seasons at Purdue were 3-8 and 2-9. Probably not a smart move on my part. Recruiting was poor and the reputation of the program around the Midwest was terrible.
Recruiting was poor and the reputation was terrible? Isn't part of a coach's job to change that and not use it as an excuse? You know who else was pretty bad back then and had reputations as losers? Wisconsin and Northwestern.
The first year we go 4-7, miss a chip shot field goal to beat a good Indiana team that played in a bowl … that would have put us at 5-6. The next year was 4-7 again with some narrow losses.
I know he's an old man, but is Jimbo holding up 4-7 (almost 5-6!) as marks to be proud of?
Then we hit the 1-10 year. We were just starting to make some progress in recruiting and a lot of young players had to play. One thing that hurts your record at Purdue is beating [assume he means "playing" and not "beating" here -- perhaps a typo by Pearlman? - BS] Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Notre Dame. I was 1-16 against those schools.
1-16. Wait, I think I see part of the problem here.
We had two close games with Notre Dame, one with Penn State, beat Michigan once. Since 1997 thru 2012, Purdue’s record against those teams is 13-36. You can see the problem. I was 20-27-3 against all the other teams. Split games with North Carolina State, California and Virginia. Played Wisconsin six times; we won two, lost three and tied one. We beat every team in the Big Ten (other than the ones mentioned) at least once.
We beat every team in the Big Ten except for 30% of them. Success!
We lost 10 games by four points or less. You margin for error is so small; those other teams have good coaches to who are trying to win and you are not going to out-recruit Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame or even Nebraska.
Jim Colletto was so forward-thinking, he knew he had to recruit against Nebraska 15+ years before they joined the Big Ten.
Did I make some mistakes? Yes. Where all the play calls great? No. But we made Purdue competitive again. I think we had 10 or 11 pro prospects when Joe Tiller took over. Matt Light, Roosevelt Colvin, Mike Alstott, Chike Okeafor are names you might know. Coach Tiller did a great job with the players he inherited but there were some good ones there. We just never could recruit the great defensive lineman to get us over the hump. As you can see the Purdue program tailed off and again they have hired a new coach. I wish him the best. It is an outstanding school.
Jim Colletto. He made Purdue competitive again. (Definition of "competitive" not disclosed.) You're welcome, Joe Tiller.