I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting that any coach in college football other than Colorado's Mike McIntyre should have even been considered for 2016 Coach of the Year - an award he won and deserved. Of course, the College Football Playoff coaches didn't arrive in the final four via some set of miracles. Nick Saban and Dabo Sweeney did what they did with picnic baskets bursting at the seems with talent. Urban Meyer took a young Ohio State roster to a one-loss regular season... and Chris Petersen has turned Washington around at turbo speed since taking over in Seattle. What I would like to do is point out a few guys who showed me how coaches can help their kids pick themselves up off the deck and be more than they initially thought they could be.
* Ken Niumatalolo at Navy: You want to learn a little something about overcoming obstacles? Join the Navy. Or better yet play football this season for the Midshipmen under Coach Niumatalolo. Navy lost its starting quarterback, then lost its backup. That, in addition to losing eight other key players for the season due to injury. But there's no "poor me" at the Academy. You just grit your teeth a little harder and wake up a little earlier than everyone else. Navy did both and somehow won nine games with a legitimate schedule.
* Clay Helton at USC: The Trojan's brand new man got off to a nightmare 1-3 start (which included the 52-6 stomping at the hands of Alabama) and an 0-2 start in Pac-12 play. But Helton looked in the mirror, realized he had picked the wrong guy as his starting quarterback and gave true freshman Sam Darnold the controls. The Trojans haven't lost since & Darnold looked like a quarterback of a generation in USC's epic Rose Bowl win over Penn State.
* James Franklin at Penn State: And speaking of the Nittany Lions... Once the Pasadena pain wears off, they'll be able to reflect on a comeback story of their own. A 2-2 start for Penn State didn't make for a very Happy Valley. But all Coach Franklin's crew needed was to get to October.. and that's when the pedal hit the floor.. on the way to nine wins in a row and a Big 10 Conference title.
* Mark Stoops at Kentucky: I know... you may be hesitant with this one.. but hear me out. UK football, which is a traditional SEC also ran that will never be what its basketball program is, started 0-2. The burner got turned WAY up on the Stoops hot seat. Somehow though, Stoops got the 'Cats to see more in themselves than what they thought was there. They won seven of their last 10 regular season games with a backup quarterback. That streak included a beating of Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and rival Louisville to finish 7-5, earning a trip to a New Year's Eve Bowl game.
For these coaches to hold together and turn around the hopes and dreams of 70 to 80 kids, who sweated through the summer only to see it all go south right out of the gates, is what makes real coaches worthy of seven figure salaries.