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Winners and losers on college football’s coaching carousel

By Tom Jones | Times Columnist
Published: December 7, 2017 Updated: December 8, 2017 at 08:08 AM
Willie Taggart speaks as he is introduced as Florida State's new football coach during an NCAA college football news conference in Tallahassee, Fla., Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser) FLMW109

The music has just about stopped. Just about every college football program in the country has a coach now.

But it was the craziest coaching musical chairs ever. Think of all the major programs that will have new coaches next season, including Florida, FSU, Oregon, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Tennessee and UCLA.

So since weíre just about done with all the changes, hereís a quick look at the winners and losers of the coaching offseason.

Winner: Florida. Would the Gators have been better off with Chip Kelly? I think so. But Dan Mullen is going to do just fine. He was a safe pick, but a smart one. He has way more experience coming in than the last two hires (Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain) and knows Gainesville, the University of Florida, the state of Florida and the SEC.

Loser: Florida State. Whether you think Willie Taggart is a good choice or not (and I happen to think not), thereís no question that they have taken a step back coaching-wise. Maybe Jimbo Fisher and FSU couldnít coexist anymore, but the guy is a heck of a college coach and any program is better with him than without him.

(RELATED: What kind of FSU offense to expect.)

Winner: Willie Taggart. He was this close to getting fired two years ago at USF and now he has his dream job at an elite program. Itís not like he won the lottery. Itís like he has won it three times now.

Winner: USF. The Bulls are a winner so far because they havenít lost coach Charlie Strong. Yet. It felt like Charlie could be a one-and-done at USF, but now that it appears USF will survive the musical chairs, it can relax knowing it has a solid coach who lends stability and consistency to a program that still can be relevant.

Winner: Charlie Strong. He might think this round of hires passed him by and that makes this offseason a losing one, but heís still in a decent spot and will be in the mix for all the openings next season.

Loser: Auburn. Stay with me on this. Gus Malzahn was nearly fired a year ago. That guy nearly fired is now on his way to making $7-million a year, mostly because Arkansas winked at him. And at the end of the day, Gus Malzahn is still your coach.

Winner: Mississippi State. Donít be shocked if the hiring of Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead turns out to be the best coaching hire of this offseason. He took over a Nittany Lions offense that is traditionally blah and turned it into one of the most exciting scoring machines in the country.

(RELATED: Why Willie Taggart came home to FSU.)

Loser: Arizona State. The world is your oyster and you pick ... Herm Edwards?

Winner: Nebraska. You get the sense that Nebraska, once as good as any program around, might be slipping permanently into mediocrity. But the Cornhuskers might have ended up with the biggest home-run hire in Scott Frost.

Loser: Scott Frost. It feels like he had take this job, but going home isnít all itís cracked up to be, especially at place where it is becoming more increasingly difficult to win. If you factor in winning, is Nebraska really a better job than UCF? Let me get back to you on that one.

Loser: Every player who signed to play for a coach only to see that coach walk out the door for better money somewhere else. And while those players helped get their coaches millions of dollars, they arenít paid a dime.

Winner: Greg Schiano. Winner, you ask? Darn right. Heís lucky that Tennessee didnít hire him. You want to work at place that allows its irrational fan base led by a wing-nut radio host who is a professional troll to bully the university by dragging up unfounded rumors and innuendos? Schiano should go back to Rutgers someday. At least heíll be appreciated there.

Loser: Tennessee. A once-proud program was reduced to a clown show by bungling this coaching search from day one. You know itís a mess when your fans were begging for Lane Kiffin, who was once the most hated man in Knoxville. Rocky Top needs to get off its high horse, realize that Tennessee isnít a great job and stop dreaming of getting guys who were never coming there, such as Jon Gruden. They ended up with Bama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Meh.

Loser: Jeremy Pruitt. Congratulations, you were Tennesseeís 94th choice. And your fans are nuts.

Loser: Jimbo Fisher. You might be inviting more people to "bring your (rear end) down here and say it to my face.íí But you just signed up with one of college footballís most irrational fan bases. Texas A&M makes FSU look like a church social. Then again, $75 million of guaranteed money probably softens the blow.

Loser: Us. Why? Mike Leach didnít leave Washington State and now we have to stay up past midnight on Saturdays to see one of the most interesting coaches of all-time. Too bad he didnít go to Tennessee. Or Florida or FSU for that matter.

Winner: UCLA. The Bruins landed the best coach of the carousel in Chip Kelly.

Loser: Chip Kelly. He got a job that no one cares about ó even those in Los Angeles. If he had waited a couple of weeks, he couldíve ended up back in Oregon.

Loser: SEC fans. Do you realize how close you came to having Mike Leach and Chip Kelly in your conference? And playing each other every season whenever Tennesee played Florida?

Winner: All of us. Know whatís better than coaching changes? Uh, nothing.

Contact Tom Jones at [email protected] Follow @tomwjones.