The Athletic Did a CFB Coaches Draft… and I’m Now Convinced They Know Nothing About College Football

Photo: Troy Wayrynen - USA Today Sports

The Athletic has completely changed the journalism game around the country, since hitting the scene a few years ago. While other sites like Barstool Sports broke through with no-namers and small budgets, writing laid back comedic blogs with curse words; The Athletic did the opposite… and they did it faster.

They got deep-pocket investors, before they even got started, and devised a plan that would lure all of the best writers around the country, to this new shiny app-based sports media outlet. They charge a very small monthly amount ($4-$9/mo) and NO ADS. It’s the cleanest way to read about sports in the world.

It was a genius move. What writer (many of them coming from newspapers) wouldn’t want more freedom, more money, less deadlines, and an unlimited amount of space in which to write? Just in the Minnesota market alone, they’ve gobbled up many of our favorite writers, securing Michael Russo, Jon Krawczynski and Aaron Gleeman.

If you like long-form articles, there’s no better place to read about sports, than The Athletic. So, I expected nothing less when I saw this article and hastily clicked into it…

Obviously, I was excited to see where they drafted PJ Fleck. Would he make the 1st round? I didn’t want to get my hopes up… but in a 7-pick/round draft, he can’t go past the 2nd round, right? I mean, we are talking about coaches you get for the next 10 years. There aren’t 14 coaches you’d take ahead of PJ Fleck if planning for the next 10 years…..RIGHT?

I won’t list all of the coaches but, by pick #2, I have questions.

  1. Dabo Swinney – Clemson
  2. Ryan Day – Ohio State
  3. Luke Fickell – Cincinnati

Ryan Day has coached one year at Ohio State, where he took over a team that was built into a top-5 powerhouse by Urban Meyer. I know, I know… he’s an offensive “genius”. It helps when you inherit all of the best offensive players in the country. This isn’t a shot at Ryan Day. I’m sure he’s a great coach… but picking him #2 overall to coach a team that isn’t Ohio State… is comical…

Luke Fickell? Are we talking about the guy who has led Cincinnati to a couple of 11-win seasons? Is that the same Cincinnati that plays in the American Athletic Conference (AAC), with the University of South Florida, East Carolina, Tulane, and Tulsa…? Ok, just checking.

Let’s skip ahead on this list a little bit. Oh yeah, still no PJ Fleck yet…. 2 rounds in.

  • 12. Scott Satterfield – Louisville
  • 13. Matt Campbell – Iowa State
  • 14. Bryan Harsin – Boise State
  • 15. Kyle Whittingham – Utah (3rd Round | #1 Pick)
  • 16. PJ Fleck – Minnesota

All of the coaches from #12-#14 should be disqualified for the conferences they are playing in. Why would you trust any coach at Louisville, Iowa State, or Boise State before you trust PJ Fleck? He is already beyond repairing a low or mid level program to success, with Western Michigan.

He is turning around the un-turnable at Minnesota. He led us to to our first 11-win season since 1904, when college teams were playing local high schools to fill schedules. He did it in the Big Ten…

Here is what they said about the PJ Fleck pick at #16:

Round 3, Pick 2 (No. 16 overall): P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

How was this guy still available 16 picks in? By now it should be abundantly clear he’s the real deal. As if leading Western Michigan from 1-11 to 13-1 wasn’t miraculous enough, he goes to Minnesota and, three years in, leads the Gophers to their best season since the 1960s. He’s unusual. He gets under rivals’ skin, and it works. We also know that Fleck, 39, is a climber. He, too, will be at a blue blood soon enough (again … USC?), and I’m sure he’ll do the same thing there. Row the Boat! — Mandel

The Athletic – Stewart Mandel

Well, at least the first couple sentences of Mandel’s writing were correct… when he lays out all of the facts. But then, he starts thinking his own thoughts, and that’s when you start getting dumber, the more you read.

“We also know that Fleck, 39, is a climber. He, too, will be at a blue blood soon enough (again … USC?)…”

No Stewart, you don’t know what PJ Fleck is…. clearly. Those who don’t know Fleck very well; those who haven’t watched and/or sat in all of his press conferences since he arrived in Minnesota, seem to think PJ is the type of guy who wants to claw his way to the top of USC or Notre Dame or [insert your favorite helmet school here].

The more you get to know PJ Fleck, however, the more you realize he might not be the next up-and-coming coach to eventually land on one of the same teams, where so many great coaches before him have already coached. PJ Fleck is a climber but not a “traditional” climber. PJ wants to be different.

I’ve written about it before but maybe someone will hear me this time. Fleck wants to be bigger than what other great coaches already are or what others before him, have already been. Fleck wants to be a legend.

Coaching the University of Minnesota for the next 10 years and building it up to a perennial power, winning National Titles and Rose Bowls in the process, is what makes a legend.

Some people will laugh at that last paragraph… but their laughing proves my point. Nobody thought he’d turn that same program around and win 11 games in just 3 seasons and nobody thought he’d make a Cotton Bowl at Western Michigan.

Last time I checked, the University of Minnesota is still in the Big Ten and still has a chance to play for the FBS Playoff, if they win the Big Ten Championship. The path is there and impossibility of doing it, is what would make it so legendary.

As long as the University is willing to pay him like a top coach, as time goes on and wins pile up… I think PJ stays and becomes the Coach K of college football.

That’s the type of legend I see.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan