Whew, it has been a wild ride these last few weeks for us Boiler fans. From winning the West, to losing to Michigan in the Big Ten Championship game, to landing our spot in the Citrus Bowl, to finding out Jeff Brohm was leaving Purdue to return to his Alma Mater. We went from excited about landing a legit bowl in a warm climate and the future of Purdue Football to our coach leaving and our program in disarray. It’s safe to say Boiler nation was in a bit of panic mode.
You couldn’t log onto Twitter without someone telling you about their cousins, brothers, best friend, who worked security at Ross Ade who had inside sources leaking the new hire. People were tracking flights into Purdue and searching every fan board trying to find out any information on who was in the running. If one things for certain, everyone had an opinion on who the next coach should be. And while it had only been six days since Brohm announced his resignation, the fan base was getting impatient.
Yesterday, Mike Bobinski finally announced they had hired Ryan Walters, former Illinois Defensive Coordinator as head football coach. And of course, people had their thoughts. Everyone jumped to Twitter to express their opinions on our new coach.
“He has no head coach experience.”
“He’s not offensive minded.”
“His name isn’t big enough.”
There was some also some optimism and of course displeasure because as any AD knows, or any coach knows, you can’t please everyone.
I understand voicing your grievances when your expectations aren’t met. But for a new, young coach coming in excited to take on a program? I say, let’s give this man a chance before we discount him. Some of the greatest hires were met with people doubting them. And you can’t prove how great you can really be without a chance. Purdue is giving him this chance. Let’s take a look at some under the radar hires that went on to have successful careers and some big names that crashed and burned.
Under the Radar hires
Dabo Swinney – Clemson
Dabo is probably the most underrated hire and overachieving head coach of modern times. Starting as a position coach at Alabama in 2001, then going to Clemson as a wide receivers coach under Tommy Bowden in 2002, then being named interim head coach in 2008 after Bowden resigned six games into the season, to being named head coach in 2009. There were plenty of Clemson fans that felt naming Dabo as the head coach was an extreme disappointment. But since then, Dabo has led Clemson to a 99-10 record, nine New Year’s Six bowls, four CFP berths and two national championship titles. I’d say this underwhelming hire worked out just fine for Clemson.
David Shaw – Stanford
Shaw was Jim Harbaugh’s offensive coordinator at Stanford during their rise from 2007 to 2010. When Harbaugh left for the 49ers, Shaw was far from the obvious choice as a replacement. Many Cardinal fans were disappointed that Stanford did not do more to find the big name hiring splash. However, Shaw went on to lead Stanford to its most successful decade ever. Playing in three Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl and producing three Heisman runners-up in his first five years.
Luke Fickell - Cincinnati
Fickell was an assistant and then interim coach to an Ohio State team that posted its only losing season since 1989. So when UC needed a new coach to replace Tommy Tubervile, not all of Bearcat nation was thrilled with Fickell. Until Wisconsin came calling a few weeks ago, Fickell was loyal to Cincinnati and led them to their first CFP berth. The Bearcats went 4-8 in his first season but went 53-10 since then. Even though Fickell left for Wisconsin, Cincinnati knocked it out of the park with this underrated hire and five incredible seasons from him.
Big name hires that crashed and burned
Scott Frost – Nebraska
After running Bo Pelini out of Lincoln for too many nine-win seasons, Nebraska turned to Mike Riley to lead them to a .500 record in three years. So when they canned Riley and hired Scott Frost, Nebraska’s prodigal son who led UCF to their self-proclaimed national title, fans were elated. Like another sports program that Boilermakers are very familiar with, Nebraska had already claimed themselves national champions of the off-season. Frost went on to lead Nebraska to a 16-31 record over three seasons and was fired in the middle of the 2022 season.
Les Miles – Kansas
Purdue fans remember well when Les Miles was hired at Kansas. Miles’ name had been thrown around in the rumor mill for the Purdue job when Hazell was let go and Purdue ended up hiring Jeff Brohm. Like Purdue fans, Jayhawk faithful were extremely excited about the prospect of a big name hire with a coach that led a powerhouse SEC team, LSU to a 114-34 record, three New Year’s Six bowls, two national championship games and a national title elevon seasons. Miles went on to Kansas to put up a 3-18 record in two seasons and 0-9 in 2020 before being fired.
Rich Rodriguez – Michigan
In seven season at WVU, Rodriguez took a program that hadn’t done much in decades to back to back to back 10+ win seasons and three top-10 finishes. Rich-Rod was considered a home-run hire when Michigan signed him in 2010. He went on to lead Michigan to an 15-22 record and their first back-to-back losing seasons sine 1963 and was ran out of Ann Arbor faster than Mike Davis was ran out of Bloomington.
Time will tell as we see Walters adjust to his new team, but maybe a fresh start and a different style of play may just what these Boilers need. I, for one am excited about his potential and hey, sometimes the best things come from the most unexpected places.