In Defense of Joe Tiller
Following Tiller's recent "Managed Expectations" quotes regarding Coach Hazell's first season, I thought it might be an ideal time to give Purdue's winningest coach some props for what he did.
Now, does that mean that we consider the ex-Purdue coach a demi-god? Nope...we just thought his legacy was getting beaten up a bit for him giving his opinion earlier this week. Tiller is in a similar age group as my Dad. I can tell you that my Dad doesn't care too much about what anyone thinks when he talks...I'm positive that Tiller is in that same stage of life. Sure, Tiller has faults, but for Purdue fans to paint his tenure in a negative light doesn't make much sense.
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Perhaps you're too young to remember Tiller's early years at Purdue...or maybe you just allowed the last few years of his time in God's country taint your opinion of the man...but he was a good coach who had a plan that worked. His timing was fortunate in a few cases (i.e. his first schedule), but much of the luck his teams had was based on doing things well.
One of our commenters earlier this week called Joe Tiller's wins luck and the product of Drew Brees (pretty much)...so I thought I'd respond on a bigger stage...
Tiller wasn't just fortunate, his plan worked...and changed the course of the conference.
He installed an offense like the B1G had never seen...and the Purdue family embraced it nearly right away because of its rapid results. He motivated players that had been left on the scrap heap by Colletto's staff to believe they could win each game...and he rapidly changed a culture and psychology of losing into a culture of belief.
Next, he targeted many players in Texas that slipped through the cracks- Landon Johnson, Gil Gardner, Montrell Lowe , Ralph Turner, Akin Ayodele, Joey Harris, Jaquez Reeves and others...all received recognition from the BT or better after being mildly heralded by recruiting magazines (or not at all)...many of these guys later played football professionally. Next he got players like Stratton, Mitrione, Terrill, Standeford and Hardwick to exceed all expectations. Many of his most-impactful players were also-rans, according to recruiting mags...and some of those became AAs or pros as well.
That's not luck- that's supreme player evaluation. It didn't happen once or twice, it happened over and over- take a QB, make him an LB- All-BT. Take a QB, make him an RB or DB - All-BT.
By the way, Brees wasn't even close to being the only good QB Tiller had. Dicken went from a guy who didn't belong playing QB to an All-BT player thanks to Tiller, Chaney and Olson's coaching. Kyle Orton was a pretty damned good QB as well...In fact, he was a big time recruit who actually lived up to his billing. Sadly, Neither Kirch nor Hance ever lived up to their recruiting rankings, but Tiller was able to get them to sign and get to campus...But the rest of their careers at Purdue didn't work out as we all hoped it would.
That was really Tiller's only consistent failure- dealing with the larger egos that came with blue-chippers...but even these cases, you can find examples of 4-star players that left Purdue with accolades and went on to get paid to play football during Tiller's tenure.
You simply cannot judge his entire time at Purdue through the prism of his last 4 or 5 seasons.
It was tough to watch Tiller tarnish his own legacy as he could no longer lead his teams to beating ranked teams...and his detractors argue that Mollenkopf still deserves to be called Purdue's greatest coach since Fat Jack didn't play DI-AA opponents or MAC teams...plus, the seasons were shorter in the 60s. Those are all truths.
That said, Tiller deserves to be in the conversation of Purdue's greatest football coaches...and would absolutely be on a Mount Rushmore of Purdue football.