PJ Fleck is Not Getting Fired

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Purdue
Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the Minnesota Gophers lost their 2nd-straight game to a below-.500 team, this time, at the hands of the 2-7 (now 3-7) Purdue Boilermakers. The contest was still somewhat tight (28-20), coming out of halftime, but that didn’t last long.

Minnesota Gophers defense fails them in West Lafayette

In the end, Minnesota’s defense didn’t make the trip to West Lafayette, thus the Gophers fell by a final 49-30. Purdue’s 49 points is tied for the 2nd most ever allowed by a Minnesota team employing Joe Rossi as defensive coordinator. They were absolutely gashed on the ground.

The most points a Rossi coached defense has ever given up was earlier this season vs Michigan (52). The other 49-point opponent performance was also Michigan, in game 1 of the 2020 pandemic-shortened season.

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Remember, Joe Rossi was first named interim defensive coordinator back in 2018, when his predecessor Robb Smith was fired mid-season, after Illinois put up 55 points against the Gophers in week 10. Granted, those kinds of point totals were a much more regular thing back then.

Since Rossi took over, Minnesota’s defense has consistently ranked near the top of the Big Ten and, oftentimes, near the top of the nation. Which is why I do not expect drastic changes at defensive coordinator.

PJ Fleck is not getting fired, no matter how season ends

And that should also give away how I feel about all of the “is it time to fire PJ Fleck” conversations being had around the internet and in text message chains across the fanbase.

I received the same type of text from my father, but he wasn’t the only one. Sometimes, I think my friends and family members are trying to troll me into writing blogs like this, so they can pin me as a PJ Fleck apologist.

But my own feelings for the U of M head coach have nothing to do with the clarity in which I see his future employment status at the U of M.

At the end of the day, all I care about is the Gophers winning as many football games as possible. If I thought there was a coach out there who could pile up W’s faster than PJ, I’d be trying to row him out of town myself.

Fleck will get, and deserves, at least one more year

In reality, however, there is no logical evidence pointing to that likelihood. Because, PJ Fleck is factually the best head coach to lead the Minnesota Gophers since Glen Mason left in 2006. He also holds the best winning percentage (.605) of any Gopher head coach since Bernie Bierman (.716).

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That’s right, not Lou Holtz, not Glen Mason, not even the Rose Bowl winning Murray Warmath won a higher percentage of his games than current head coach, PJ Fleck.

Despite the frustration Fleck often brings us, he’s undefeated (4-0) in bowl games and even beats Wisconsin on the regular. Those are two things that Minnesota hasn’t done since Mason was fired.

CoachFromToYrsGWLTWin %Wisc WinsIowa WinsBowlsBowl W’sBowl L’sBowl %
P.J. Fleck2017202378049320.605314401.000
Tracy Claeys201520162191180.579002201.000
Jerry Kill2011201555829290.50002303.000
Tim Brewster2007201044515300.33300202.000
Glen Mason199720061012164570.52924734.429
Jim Wacker1992199655516390.29121000
John Gutekunst1985199176829372.441211.500
Lou Holtz1984198522210120.455000
Joe Salem1979198355519351.355000
Cal Stoll1972197877839390.500101.000
Murray Warmath195419711817287787.526211.500
Wesley Fesler1951195332710134.444000
Bernie Bierman193219501613493356.716000
George Hauser1942194432715111.574000
Fritz Crisler193019312181071.583000

Now, PJ Fleck and his 2023 Minnesota Gophers have brought on these conversations, themselves. At 5-5, with only Ohio State and Wisconsin left on the schedule, it is a very real possibility the Gophers are not bowl eligible, when the dust settles on this season, and that would be an embarrassing failure.

Even if that were to happen, I do not see a change at head coach or defensive coordinator. It’s possible Fleck brings in legitimate QB competition for Athan Kaliakmanis, but even that feels a bit far-fetched.

Of course, Fleck is far from untouchable. Failing to become bowl eligible would definitely put him on the hot seat next season. Another losing season in 2024 could certainly cost him his job. But until then, Fleck is safe.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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