Recently, there has been a ton of debate about the relative merits of the Friedgen era. Some posters have mentioned that, in the 10 seasons under Friedgen, Maryland's record was very similar to Georgia Tech and Clemson--football programs that are generally perceived as "successful" by most Maryland fans.
In an absolute sense, this is true:
Maryland was 74-50
Clemson was 76-50
Georgia Tech was 78-51
But I think if you look closer, the numbers aren't as similar as they first appear. I don't know if my hypothesis holds water, but I think it is interesting. And at the very least, it isn't the same thing that has been thrown out time and time again.
Let's look at it:
Taking Maryland's record, divided by the 10 years, you'd find that the "average" season would be 7.4 wins, and 5.0 losses.
However, I wanted to see if this was truly an "average" season for Maryland, in the common meaning of the word. In other words, knowing nothing about an individual team, could people reasonably expect that Maryland would be somewhere around 7.4 wins for the year?
To determine this:
I looked at Maryland's record for each of the 10 years. I then looked at how far away the actual "win" total for each year was from 7.4.
For example, in 2003, Maryland went 10-3. The difference between those 10 wins, and the "expected" 7.4 wins, is 2.6. In 2005, Maryland went 5-6. The difference between those 5 wins, and the "expected" 7.4 wins, is 2.4 (there are no negative numbers, I'm looking at the deviation).
I also did this for losses. In 2003, Maryland's 3 losses were 2.0 away from the "expected" 5.0 losses. In 2005, the 6 losses were 1.0 away from the expected 5.0 losses.
I calculated this for every season. I then did the same for Georgia Tech and Clemson.
Win deviation per year: 2.32
Loss deviation per year: 1.80
Win deviation per year: 1.00
Loss deviation per year: .70
Win deviation per year: 1.16
Loss deviation per year: .72
What It Means (Part I):
Maryland averaged 7.4 wins a year. The deviation was 2.32/year. That means that, for the 10-year Friedgen era, the "typical" season was anywhere from 5.08 wins to 9.72 wins.
Maryland averaged 5.0 losses a year. The deviation was 1.80/year. The "typical" season was anywhere from 3.20 losses to 6.8 losses.
Clemson averaged 7.6 wins a year. The deviation was 1.00/year. Their "typical" season was anywhere from 6.6 wins to 8.6 wins.
Clemson averaged 5.0 losses a year. Deviation of .70/year. That means a typical season of 4.3 losses to 5.7 losses.
Georgia Tech averaged 7.8 wins/year. Deviation of 1.16/year. Typical season of 6.64 to 8.9 wins.
Georgia Tech averaged 5.1 losses/year. Deviation of .72/year. Typical season of 4.38 to 5.82 losses.
What It Means (Part II):
Maryland was much more inconsistent than both Clemson and Georgia Tech. Maryland's expected win total was between 5.08 and 9.72--a difference of 4.64. Clemson and Georgia Tech totaled 2.0 and 2.26, respectively.
Maryland's expected loss total was between 3.20 and 6.80 losses--a difference of 3.60. Clemson and Georgia Tech totaled 1.4 and 1.44, respectively.
Basically, going into a year, Maryland fans had know idea what a "typical year" was. Some were really good. Some were really bad. Clemson and Georgia Tech fans could be reasonably certain what they were going to get--bowl eligibility at a minimum, and a year-in/year-out chance to be relevant in the ACC title discussion.
The Big Picture:
I think this number could be VERY important for one main reason. Many people point to the "risk" of hiring Mike Leach, because he is an "unknown." I would suggest that these calculations show that keeping Friedgen was not without substantial risk as well.
We are not an "8-win team" like Clemson and Georgia Tech are, year-in and year-out. If we were, I think the argument that we should have extended Fridge for a few more years would be much stronger--what would be the worst that could happen? A few more 7 or 8 win seasons, then we make a change at that point.
But the reality is that we were too inconsistent under Friedgen to "expect" 7 or 8 wins a year. There is a very good chance that we would have slipped back to a 5-win team, just look at the "typical year" range above.
Kevin Anderson was faced with two options: Both with pros and cons. The common viewpoint is that he took the "high-risk/high-reward" option. I question whether this option was much riskier than the alternative, based on the analysis above.