3 most overrated Big Ten football coaches ahead of 2024 (3. PJ Fleck, Minnesota)

BleedGopher

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Per Connor:

3. PJ Fleck, Minnesota​

PJ Fleck always seems to be mentioned among the coaching candidates who could make the jump to a bigger Power Four job every offseason, but I think he may just have a brilliant agent who likes to conjure up these rumors for bigger contracts at Minnesota.

Either way, I think he still has a lot to prove.

Fleck came to Minnesota after leading Western Michigan to a 13-1 season in 2016 with a berth in the Cotton Bowl. He was expected to turn the Gophers into immediate winners and it only took him three seasons to get them to 11 wins. However, since that season in 2019, Fleck has gone just 27-19 and yet he still gets mentioned among the top coaches in the conference?

Is Fleck a solid coach? Yes, but finishing with a losing record in year seven isn't exactly what Minnesota fans envisioned when he was hired. He has a lot to prove in 2024 to show that 2023 was just an outlier. But he seems like a "nine wins max" kind of coach now.


Go Gophers!!
 




I do think at this point he is what he is. He did not build enough on the 2019 season in my opinion. He had two fairly good years (each with a bad loss) in 2021 and 2022, and was not very good last year. I like him and think he runs a pretty good program and think he's been better than the last 4-5 coaches we've had for sure, but he is not a savior. But we've seen with basketball how bad a MN team can be with the wrong coach, and maybe this is the top for MN with a good coach. I'd put him middle of the pack in the B10 (between 6-12), and hope he's around for a few more years.
 


Not that it's related to Fleck but I don't quite think James Franklin is that overrated. He's had Penn State kind of where it's been since the late 90s, a really good team that's usually just a step behind Ohio State or Michigan.

If you compare Franklin's 10 years to the last 10 years of Paterno's tenure, it's fairly similar, if not a little better.
 

Not that it's related to Fleck but I don't quite think James Franklin is that overrated. He's had Penn State kind of where it's been since the late 90s, a really good team that's usually just a step behind Ohio State or Michigan.

If you compare Franklin's 10 years to the last 10 years of Paterno's tenure, it's fairly similar, if not a little better.
Franklin took over a little bit of a mess. And won the Big Ten in year 3. That should count for plenty. He's gotten PSU to 5 NYD 6 Bowls in 10 years. He's an excellent coach.
 


Franklin took over a little bit of a mess. And won the Big Ten in year 3. That should count for plenty. He's gotten PSU to 5 NYD 6 Bowls in 10 years. He's an excellent coach.
I don’t think it was much of a mess by the time he took over. O’Brien did a great job plus the sanctions were lifted. Franklin should get credit for the great job he did at Vandy though.
 



Is Fleck a bad coach that is a 9-win guy or is Minnesota a program that is hard to get 9 wins? Fleck has done a amazing job getting our program to a place that I would say is a step below Iowa, WI and Nebraska (all for different reasons). I think our program is close to be on par with them and could be the gem of the upper Midwest as quickly as a few years.
 


Not that it's related to Fleck but I don't quite think James Franklin is that overrated. He's had Penn State kind of where it's been since the late 90s, a really good team that's usually just a step behind Ohio State or Michigan.

If you compare Franklin's 10 years to the last 10 years of Paterno's tenure, it's fairly similar, if not a little better.
If you win a conference title and you don’t coach Michigan or Ohio state, you’re probably pretty good
 





Is Fleck a bad coach that is a 9-win guy or is Minnesota a program that is hard to get 9 wins? Fleck has done a amazing job getting our program to a place that I would say is a step below Iowa, WI and Nebraska (all for different reasons). I think our program is close to be on par with them and could be the gem of the upper Midwest as quickly as a few years.
I don't think the article is calling him bad at all. I think MN is a tough place to get to 9 wins, and Fleck has done it three times.
 

I'm not saying Ryan Day shouldn't be on the hot seat, but the guy is 39-3 in the Big 10 with 3 Big 10 titles and in his 5 seasons as an Ohio State coach he has 4 top 5 finishes (nationally) and 1 top 10 finish.

For a person to have that kind of resume AND be on the hot seat, it's pretty hard to call them overrated.
 


Is Fleck a bad coach that is a 9-win guy or is Minnesota a program that is hard to get 9 wins? Fleck has done a amazing job getting our program to a place that I would say is a step below Iowa, WI and Nebraska (all for different reasons). I think our program is close to be on par with them and could be the gem of the upper Midwest as quickly as a few years.
This is the goal. Anyone who has watched the gophers for a long time can see that, under fleck, we started to matchup athletically and physically against Wisconsin and Iowa in ways we simply didn't in the past. Say what you want about Fleck but he filled out our roster correctly. Now, our secondary and LB corps looked like the JV squad last year, but depth, transfers and injuries wrecked havoc on those rooms.
 

Maryland, IMO, is a scary program too. There is just so much talent in that region that if they got the right guy, I think they'd be pretty good.
Locksley has exceeded my expectations
You could find posts of mine two years ago calling him the worst in the conference.
As it turns out he is okay.

There are a lot of coaches who are top 50 coaches. Ones I am unsure of:
Fisch - one good year, I don’t trust him yet
Indiana guy- I think he is good, will it translate to Indiana?
Purdue guy - too early to tell
Northwestern guy - rallied the troops last year, is it sustainable
UCLA guy - no idea

Everyone else I am extremely confident they are at least decent.
 

Maryland, IMO, is a scary program too. There is just so much talent in that region that if they got the right guy, I think they'd be pretty good.
Maryland has won 10 games 7 times ever (and 4 times since 1960). At some point you're just a mediocre football school comparatively. awful lot of colleges grabbing players from there. would probably say that's more indicative of the administration to be that long-standingly bad
 

Fleck is a solid coach.

Getting Minnesota to a consistent 7-9 game winning season hasn’t been done here for a long time.

Fleck is not overrated.
Hasn’t been done here in a long time?! What? You mean just like the previous staff? Kill/Tracy and co won 7-9 games in 3 of their 6 years here after taking over a 3 win team. They won 7-9 games 50% of their tenure. PJ has won 7-9 games in 4 seasons out of 7 after taking over a 9 win team. 57% of his tenure he has won 7-9 games.

If he is such a solid coach then why hasn’t he produced better results considering he has so much more to work with than the previous regime?
 

Hasn’t been done here in a long time?! What? You mean just like the previous staff? Kill/Tracy and co won 7-9 games in 3 of their 6 years here after taking over a 3 win team. They won 7-9 games 50% of their tenure. PJ has won 7-9 games in 4 seasons out of 7 after taking over a 9 win team. 57% of his tenure he has won 7-9 games.

If he is such a solid coach then why hasn’t he produced better results considering he has so much more to work with than the previous regime?
Please don't make this another PJ vs Kill/TC debate but you can't include the covid year, they only played 7 games. They'd have to go undefeated to hit this arbitrary 7 win benchmark lmao

So it's 4 out of 6 for PJ.
 

Hasn’t been done here in a long time?! What? You mean just like the previous staff? Kill/Tracy and co won 7-9 games in 3 of their 6 years here after taking over a 3 win team. They won 7-9 games 50% of their tenure. PJ has won 7-9 games in 4 seasons out of 7 after taking over a 9 win team. 57% of his tenure he has won 7-9 games.

If he is such a solid coach then why hasn’t he produced better results considering he has so much more to work with than the previous regime?
All true. You can have more to work with and so does the competition.

50% to 57% is one thing, but 3, 9+ win seasons to 1 is significant IMO.

Gophers sit at 9th of 18 for wins in the B1G during the 10 year playoff era. That is Kill/Claeys/Fleck. Fleck has brought a stability to the program is probably the best narrative. 2024 is a big year for the direction of the program. Expectations nationally are low, but meeting those expectations would be a huge let down.
 

All true. You can have more to work with and so does the competition.

50% to 57% is one thing, but 3, 9+ win seasons to 1 is significant IMO.

Gophers sit at 9th of 18 for wins in the B1G during the 10 year playoff era. That is Kill/Claeys/Fleck. Fleck has brought a stability to the program is probably the best narrative. 2024 is a big year for the direction of the program. Expectations nationally are low, but meeting those expectations would be a huge let down.
agreed. either this team can fall back into the doldrums of mediocrity with regular 6-6 years or they can show they are going to be a perennial 8-10 win team with contention for more and show last year was the one off, rather the national belief that the (COVID year excluded) run of 9-11 win years was an aberration.

It will be tough on Fleck this year with a new QB and UNC in the non con (rather than another cupcake to pad the stats), but there are some very favorable matchups at home (Iowa, USC as it's possible they roll into TCF at 1-3 and the season is tilting off the rails, rebuilding MD) as well as some road matchups they have to like in UCLA, Ill, Rutgers and WI. Take care of business in the non con and 9 wins is still certainly there to be taken just by taking care of business when they should be favored (Iowa, MD, @Ill, @Rut) and splitting the rest (@Mich, USC, PSU, @WI). Potential for Fleck to prove he's different this year than past coaches.
 

taking the long view (been watching the Gophers since the late 1960's)

starting in the 50's, Warmath had 7 teams that finished top-20 in the coaches poll. Tied for 2 B1G titles. 1 Rose Bowl win, 1 Rose Bowl loss.

from '69 to '98, Gophers never finished in the final top 20 under Stoll, Salem, Holtz, Gutekunst or Wacker. Stoll won 7 games twice (0-1 in bowls); Holtz won 7 games once. (technically, Holtz won 6 games-he left before the bowl game, which was coached by Gutey). Gutey was 1-1 in bowls.

under Mason, Gophers had two teams finish top-20 including a 10-win season and two 8-win seasons. (3-4 in bowls)

then came Brewster.........(0-2 in bowls)

Kill/Claeys in six years had two 8-win seasons and one 9-win season. (but no top-20 finishes) 2-3 record in Bowl games.

Fleck in 7 years (one shortened by Covid) has 1 top-20 finish with one 11-win season and two 9-win seasons. one team tied for the Division title (but did not advance to the Conference Championship game). 5-0 in bowls.

Fleck's best years have been better than the best years for Mason, Kill and Claeys. bonus points for winning all his bowl games. But, I would argue that Fleck - while better than Mason, Kill and Claeys, is not head and shoulders better. it's a matter of degree. moving one rung higher on the ladder is good. but that does not mean you are at the top of the ladder.
 


Fleck is a solid coach.

Getting Minnesota to a consistent 7-9 game winning season hasn’t been done here for a long time.

Fleck is not overrated.
Consistent 7 is not going to cut it with his salary. Needs to be 8 minimum every year with a 9 or 10 here and there.
 



Yeah but I still to this day think Pelini's antics and rants gave the Huskers a bit of an excuse to show him the door, too.
Agreed but I was more getting at the fact that fans thinking 8 wins is the minimum moving forward is receipe for potential disaster.

Curious of Nebby regrets that decision in hindsight?

I get not settling for mediocre but I'm on the belief that we haven't yet sunk into mediocre and hit our plateau. Another season or two of 5-6 wins and I'll revisit.
 




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