Offense-minded coaches have won more national titles in the BCS era (1998 to present) than their defensive counterparts. The count: 7-4.
Knowing that, it's no wonder 65 percent (42 of 66) of the "Big Six" coaches have a background on offense.
The conferences that are tilted most heavily toward coaches with offensive bents are the Big 12 and Pac-10. The Big 12 features nine coaches with an offensive background (75 percent); the Pac-10 has eight (80 percent). In fact, five of the six "Big Six" conferences have more head coaches with offensive backgrounds than defensive backgrounds.
"I don't think just because a guy has an offensive background that he is any more prepared to be a head coach," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden says. "But I think a lot of the money people, who may or may not have an influence over an athletic director's decision (in hiring a coach), like the excitement that a head coach who has a background on offense brings."
The only league that features more coaches with defensive backgrounds than offensive backgrounds is the Big East, 5-3 (63 percent).
So, why the preference for offense when it comes to coaches? Several coaches I talked to noted that defense-minded coaches tend to be more businesslike, serious and intense. There just isn't as much "sizzle" to them. That doesn't help image-conscious athletic directors who are trying to "win" a news conference, sell tickets and generate excitement around their program.
"Some of it is a trend," Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton says. "Scoring points is sexy. The media is responsible for some of it, talking about points being scored and how it happened instead of talking about the defensive side of the ball and critical stops."
Like it or not, perception matters more than reality. And the perception is defense-minded coaches are glum guys who want to play conservative on offense and win with defense and field position. Yawn.
How is an A.D. supposed to sell that? Conversely, if an A.D. can introduce a new coach who has a glitzy resume that includes offensive pyrotechnics, the fan base will be energized and the media generally will rubber-stamp the hire as a "success." Bottom line: It's easier to sell winning with a high-powered offense than it is with a stingy defense.
"I just think it's a case where people want to score points," says UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, one of the nation's hottest coaching commodities. "That's what puts people in the seats."
A quick look at coach hirings at "Big Six" schools in recent seasons favors offense-minded coaches. Among the 11 "Big Six" schools that changed coaches this offseason, only one school tabbed a defense-minded coach: Nebraska with Bo Pelini.
It was a banner year for defensive coaches to get coaching jobs after the 2006 season, when five of the 12 openings went to defense-minded guys: Saban (Alabama), Butch Davis (North Carolina), Mark Dantonio (Michigan State), Chizik (Iowa State) and Shannon (Miami).
Only three "Big Six" jobs opened after the 2005 season, with one going to a defense-minded coach: Wisconsin's Bret Bielema.
Even though offense-minded coaches are the norm, don't forget that some of this era's most iconic coaches are defensive guys: Saban, Carroll and Bob Stoops. And there are many quality defensive coordinators who are primed to one day be coaches.
"No doubt, a lot of the best coaches out there are defensive guys," Hamilton says. "But you have to win no matter what background you come from."
BY THE NUMBERS
Here is a "Big Six" conference breakdown of coaches with offensive and defensive backgrounds:
Despite the head coaching profession being dominated by offensive minds, there are many defensive coordinators who are ready to make the move to head coach. And don't be shocked if former head coaches such as Ted Roof (Minnesota defensive coordinator), Dan McCarney (Florida assistant head coach/defense) and Nick Holt (USC defensive coordinator) get another shot to be head coaches. Here are some defensive coordinators primed to be coaches: