Originally posted on The Sports Rocker  |  Last updated 11/28/11
Kids today have no idea that Dennis Erickson used to be one of the hottest names on the coaching trail, whether it was the college ranks or the pros. It didn't matter. If there was an opening, Erickson's name was on the list. In what is one of the great mysteries of our time, he somehow kept getting hired. His latest, and probably last gig, is at Arizona State. Reports are now surfacing that Erickson will be released after the Sun Devils bowl game. In all things of this nature, Erickson's departure will probably look more like a retirement, than a firing.

Let's review the life and times of Dennis Erickson and his coaching non-glory.

Erickson's first big coaching job was at The U. He followed Miami legend Jimmy Johnson. In his first year at Miami, 1989, Erickson won a national championship. You've heard this before: winning with the other guy's players. He followed that national title up with another title in 1991. Unfortunately for Erickson, they had lost three bowl games in a row following the 1991 championship, and the program was found to be in violation of financial aid rules for athletes. Thankfully for Erickson, the Seattle Seahawks swooped in and saved him from being fired. His final season was the first time since 1985 the Hurricanes did not win 10 games. Trend setting begins here.

Now we're in the pros. The big boy club. Since Erickson grew up in the Seattle area, it wasn't much of a surprise to see them call his number. Erickson coached four years in Seattle, 1995-1998. His best record was 8-8, which he did three times. His 1996 record was 7-9. He never made the playoffs. Thankfully, that opened his schedule up to take a job at Oregon State in January, 1999. January is when the playoffs start in the NFL. Schedule? Opening? January? OK. Moving on.

Erickson did have some success at Oregon State. In his first season, he lead the Beavers to a 7-5 record. In Corvallis, that was akin to walking on water.  The Beavers were so bad, that previous head coach Mike Riley lead them to a 5-6 record in 1998, and was hired as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. Granted, he stunk it up in the Diego, but I'm just using this to make a point. The Beavers stunk, and were traditional bottom-feeders for the PAC-10. In his second year, Erickson lead them to a 11-1 record and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame. The Beavers finished fourth in the AP poll. Have we covered the "winning with the other guy's players yet? We have? Good. In his third season, the Beavers went 5-6. Did someone say recruiting drop off? In his final campaign, he lead Oregon State to an 8-5 record and tied for fourth in the conference. Why his final campaign? Because the San Francisco 49ers were smitten.

To say Erickson didn't work out in San Francisco is an understatement. He was signed to a five year deal. He was fired after two. He took down General Manager Terry Donahue with him. He left the 49ers with a 9-23 record. With that, Erickson returned to his roots. Idaho.

He stayed 10 months at division II Idaho. He was rescued from coaching purgatory by Arizona State. Immediately, he lead the Sun Devils to a 10-3 record and a share of the PAC-10 title. I know. broken record. He followed his traditional "Winning With The Other Guy's" Campaign with 5-7 and 4-8 records respectively. Then 6-6, and this years disappointing 6-6 record. Why disappointing? Because you let UCLA and perpetual-coach-on-the-hot-seat Rick Neuheisel win your division. And you finished off the season on a 4-game skid that included losses to Arizona and Washington State, two of the worst teams in the PAC-12 this season.

Erickson will finish his Arizona State tenure with a 31-30 record, but had only one season in which he finished above .500 and didn't go to a bowl game after his first season. That is going backwards in the whole "building a program" thing coaches like to talk about. In his defense, it really looked like he was about to turn things around at Oregon State. The Beavers had gone 8-5 in his final year, and went 8-5 and 7-5 in the years following with Mike Riley back at the helm. Probably the worst decision he made was to accept the 49ers job. They had serious salary cap issues, and Terrell Owens was worming his way out long before Erickson arrived. The situation was doomed from the outset.

There is a trend in coaching that I disdain. A hotshot coordinator will be hired as a head coach somewhere. They'll stink up the joint, get fired, and eventually return to some coordinator job. And we generally see the same hotshot coordinator end up as a head coach after successfully being a coordinator, again. They they're terrible as head coaches again. Sometimes, great coordinators are just that: great coordinators. It takes a special person to be a head coach. Not everyone is cut out to be the head cheese. I think Erickson fell into this category. He was a good offensive coach, even great sometimes. But when it came to actually running a program, especially with recruiting, you can see the results just weren't there on a consistent basis. Just look at the drop-off after his first and second years. Even in the NFL, the results never lived up to the hype.

Erickson may or may not return to coaching. He's 64 years old, and may just plod into the sunset. But then again, someone will remember there is a coach out there, somewhere, that once lead Miami to glory, and try to get his phone number.
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