In Retrospect: How Bold Were Maryland's Coaching Decisions?

The firing of Ralph Friedgen was not a particularly bold move.

There, I said it. It's old stuff that I've said before, sure, but the firing of Frieden was kind of an obvious decision, relatively speaking. In fact, that's my limit of respecting people's opinion on the situation: when they play up the decision to let him go as a huge gamble, I usually stop listening.

But more on that later. You might be wondering why I'm rehashing this topic six months later, after it's been said and re-said time after time. For that, we can thank our good friends Nestea, the good folks who have been advertising around the network the past few days about just how bold they are. In honor of their boldness and flavor, I thought it would be fitting if we examined just how bold Maryland's three revenue-sport coaching moves - the firing of Friedgen and the hirings of Randy Edsall and Mark Turgeon - really were. (And, well, they're paying us to do it.)

Really, it's bland, bland, and bland again in regards to the three moves, which you probably already know. But let's play along, starting in chronological order:

The Firing of Friedgen

It sounds like a bad novel title, and it was about as bold as one would expect said bad novel to be. A lot of national pundits rarely seem to understand this: firing an alumnus, who returned the school to power (relatively speaking), and had just led the team to a 9 win season the year before? Absolute madness!

Well, not really, when you consider the alternatives were A) rewarding a 64-year-old coach who had four losing seasons over the past eight years, a period in which he was approximately a .500 coach, or B) sending said 64-year-old coach into a final year with no offensive coordinator and a one-year contract, effectively making him a lame duck with minimal recruiting firepower.

Option A would perhaps be the least bold move, and likely result in continuing stagnation of the program - Friedgen had the program on the doorstep of becoming an elite, much closer than it is right now, and he responded with two 5-win years. But Option B would be sacrificing a year entirely. Attracting a legitimate offensive coordinator with no guarantee his job would be there in a year? How about trying to tell Eddie Goldman or Stefon Diggs or Cyrus Jones to come to Maryland despite having no idea who their coach will be? Tough sells.

Kevin Anderson was stuck with three sucky options, and he picked what could be considered a middle road of sorts: bolder than sticking with the status quo for good, but not so bold as to just let the year ride out and see what happens. And while it was bolder than Option A, it wasn't bolder by much, especially in comparison to letting Friedgen ride out his contract.

In fact, it was probably what you'd expect out of a new AD. It wasn't a timid move, but it wasn't a Greivis Vasquez-runner-against-Duke deal, either.

The Hiring of Randy Edsall

In a weird, round-about way, the hiring of Edsall - the prototypical not-bold guy, the coach who's biggest selling point might be his general lack of excitement - might have actually been bold, in a way. Don't get me wrong - it certainly wasn't in a vacuum. But imagine if Anderson actually had to sit down and decide between Edsall and Leach.

In one corner was Leach, a lovable, pirate-y, dating advice guru with a J.D., a tendency to call out his players' overweight partners, and a ground-breaking, unbelievably exciting offensive scheme. People loved him. He hadn't even been hired - though most incorrectly presumed it was only a matter of time - and he was already a fan favorite. Opposing him would be Edsall, admittedly coming off a BCS appearance, a crew-cut fella from the Tom Coughlin School of Hardassery® who became notable for not liking hats. (Does he hate lemonade, music, and Oreos, too?)

Anderson had to know how much the fans loved Leach, how they were salivating over season tickets at the thought of the Air Raid being unleashed in Byrd Stadium. Despite it, he picked Edsall, his guy, boring and all, knowing the fans would at least initially loathe at least the both of them.

Unsurprisingly, fans freaked out when Edsall was hired, and the unease still hasn't settled. Until (or unless) Edsall wins, it won't. But at least give Anderson some credit in the boldness category for bagging his guy, fans be damned.

Now, that would be assuming that Anderson really did make that choice, and I'm not convinced he did. Edsall's hiring simply moved too fast, coming out of the blue while Leach was being touted as the guy for sure all along. It perhaps gives some credence to the rumors that Leach struck out in the interview process, making Edsall the only viable candidate at that point.

And if that's the case, then Edsall wasn't a bold move in the least. Hiring a straightforward guy who just led UConn to a BCS appearance and who has a notoriously low floor? Well, that's a good idea, I guess. Not an exciting idea, mind you, but a pretty solid idea nonetheless. Certainly not a bold idea, except when compared to the idea of a Leach hiring.

Unfortunately, we'll never really know which of the two it is. I'll just go ahead and it to Anderson here - he could use a victory.

The Hiring of Mark Turgeon

Out of the three moves, I can't help but feel this is the most straightforward. Anderson definitely went for the bold move here, going hard after Sean Miller and nearly bagging him if it wasn't for some supposed lack of chemistry between the two. Alas, he returned to College Park empty-handed.

After that high-profile of a swing-and-miss, particularly that late in the game, Anderson had few options. Many of his potential choices - Buzz Williams, Shaka Smart, Chris Mooney - had just signed sizable extensions with huge buyouts. Others - Lon Kruger, for instance - had been hired elsewhere. And still others who were purportedly interested early on - Jay Wright, Brad Stevens - slinked away from interest.

Anderson really had few choices. Looking at the few that he had, Turgeon made plenty of sense. A hardnosed guy who did nothing but win at A&M, a notoriously thankless job, he was like Edsall with oodles more personality and arguably a better pedigree to boot.

Despite that, he wasn't bold like Miller, and in fact the actual decision to make him the coach may not have been bold at all. Mike Brey, of all people, had publicly rebuffed Anderson at that point, even though I feel he would've changed his tune if the interest had been legitimate. Turgeon was good and, unlike so many others, he was available.

Let's be honest: Mark Few wasn't walking through that door. It had gotten to the point where John Lucas had thrown his hat in the ring and fans were mounting a Twitter campaign to make Rob Ehsan, a green assistant, the head man. Options were not bountiful, and certainly none were nearly as attractive as Turgeon. That was as close to a no-brainer as you get, looking back on it.

So there you have it. Which do you think was the boldest move? Does Maryland have the most boring dept. ever? How badly are you craving a Nestea right now?

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