Well, it's over. The time has come and gone for Dennis Erickson at Arizona St. Sure, he'll still be around for ASU's bowl game, but besides that his chapter has been written in the ASU history books.
How will he be remembered? Erickson started off hot with a 10-3 overall record back in 2007 and a share of the Pac-10 conference title. Since that year, though, he has proceeded to go 21-27 in four seasons. As ASU's coaching search continues, the question must be asked: how does Erickson stack up against some of his Sun Devil head coach predecessors?
Let's start with his record. Erickson went 31-30 during his time at ASU, giving him a .508 winning percentage over five seasons. That places 14 out of ASU's 22 head coaches ahead of him: Dan Devine (.887), Frank Kush (.764), John Cooper (.722), Darryl Rogers (.670), Larry Siemering (.650), Frederick Irish (.600), Bruce Snyder (.563), Ed Doherty (.595), Dixie Howell (.595), Aaron McCreary (.587), Ted Shipkey (.542), Dirk Koetter (.541), Clyde Smith (.534) and Larry Marmie (.511) all rank ahead of Erickson.
Perhaps it's not fair to compare Erickson to coaches who spent less than five years at ASU, as Erickson did. If we throw out all of those who served as head coach for under five years, it still doesn't look good. Erickson comes in seventh out of eight (Kush, Rogers, Irish, Snyder, McCreary, Koetter still rank ahead of him).
Put simply, Erickson failed to string together wins like past ASU coaches have been able to. One positive, though, is that the issue with wins hasn't been talent during his time in Tempe. As I'm sure you'll all remember, the Sun Devils entered the 2011 season as favorites in the Pac-12 South and perhaps even a dark horse for the conference title against powerhouses Oregon and Stanford.
That didn't turn out quite as planned, but ASU had several exciting players on the field this year. Jamal Miles was the only player in the entire country to record a receiving touchdown, a kickoff return touchdown, a punt return touchdown, and a passing touchdown (which came on a trick play) this season. Cameron Marshall posted the seventh-best rushing touchdown total in the nation (18 TDs). Brock Osweiler passed for the eighth-most yards of all quarterbacks in the land (3,641 yards). Gerrell Robinson surprised everyone with a top-15 wideout year (1,156 total receiving yards, good for 14th-best in the land, and an 18.1 yards-per-catch average, good for 15th-best in the nation).
The Sun Devil defense that failed to hold teams out of the endzone down the stretch was devastated by injury and inexperience. The problem wasn't personnel: the defense had several playmakers, ranging from Vontaze Burfict to Omar Bolden to Brandon Magee. A sad series of events, ranging from injury to complacency, ultimately limited what the Devils defense was able to achieve in 2011.
No, Erickson's problem wasn't talent. It was discipline. Penalties terrorized the Sun Devils again and again, and ultimately this is what killed the Erickson era at ASU.
The good news? That issue can be fixed with a new, disciplined head coach. So who's it going to be? There's no definitive answer yet: Mike Leach is off the market, Mike Martz is rumored to have interest in the ASU job, and Houston's Kevin Sumlin looks like ASU's top target at the moment.
So who should be ASU's next head coach? It's simple: someone who can bring discipline to Tempe.