Rick Stockstill who toils in relative obscurity at Middle Tennessee State. While his Blue Raiders are not a national power, they have posted a strong conference record in both the Sun Belt and Conference USA during his decade at the school. Based on the coaches who appear on this list, it makes sense that scoring and preventing non-offensive touchdowns could be a repeatable skill. Or at least emphasizing this tactic in scouting and stressing it in practice could lead to a positive margin over the long haul.
What about the other side of the coin? Here are the bottom-ten coaches in terms of net negative margin. Once again, their overall conference record is included as a reference point.
James Franklin led Vanderbilt to heights many never imagined possible while Howard Schnellenberger built the Florida Atlantic program from nothing. Pat Fitzgerald and Mike Riley have succeeded at notoriously tough locales. Tommy Tuberville had a great run at Auburn (although his greatest success occurred before the period examined here) and Ruffin McNeill had just one losing conference record at East Carolina. Ralph Friedgen is one of the better coaches in Maryland history (although his fantastic start from 2001-2003 is not included in this sample). However, there are a few duds on this list. Ron English, outside of one outlier season, was mostly bad at Eastern Michigan, Bob Toledo could not recreate his UCLA success at Tulane, and Mike London somehow managed to stick around for six seasons in Charlottesville despite winning just 14 conference games. And for the love of all that is holy, please hire a special teams coach Mike Leach! There is more to football than the forward pass (and locking kids in sheds).
So what conclusions can we draw from this? I don’t think it is a coincidence that every coach with a great net margin is highly regarded and considered among the best in their profession. Perhaps they have identified a market inefficiency and focus a disproportionate number of their resources (players, practice time, etc.) on scoring in unconventional ways. Perhaps they specifically recruit players they believe can score on defense or special teams. Or perhaps it is something else. Finally, I ran these numbers for all coaches since 2005, so here is a list of some miscellaneous coaches who failed to make either list. I included every coach since 2005 who either won a national title or coached in the BCS title game or CFP title game. Keep in mind Chip Kelly did not make the main list because he only coached Oregon for four seasons, narrowly missing the threshold for inclusion. I also included a few other coaches that I was curious about. If you have any specific requests, I will be more than happy to share them in the comments. Enjoy.