Mike Leach, Lincoln Riley, Gus Malzahn Weigh In on Combining Coaching With Playcalling

There's an age-old debate about whether head coaches in the NFL and Power Five can handle all the responsibilities that come with the top job and the pressure of calling plays on offense. In addition to managing their teams, college coaches have to deal with recruits, administrators, boosters, and the media.

John Hoover, who covers Oklahoma for Sports Illustrated, wonders aloud if OU's Lincoln Riley has too much on his plate with head coaching and play-calling. He spoke with Riley, Mike Leach of Mississippi State, and Gus Malzahn of Auburn about managing dual responsibilities.

Mike Leach:

“If you’re coordinating and calling plays and you’re the head coach, it’s too big of a job.”

"You delegate when you can, but it’s never quite enough.”

“I mean, it’s too big of a job. OK, but then if you withdraw yourself from it and you’re not coordinating or coaching your position, then I don’t feel involved enough. And then it's too little of a job. I think we’d all like to hit that middle … that neutral place where it’s perfect and kind of your thing. It’s either harder than you’d like or not as involved as you’d like. And so I never have been able to achieve that perfect spot.”

Lincoln Riley, on if he has too much on his plate, if managing the offense and the whole team hurt one another

“I don’t think so. Maybe in my earlier years, as I was trying to — not that I have it all figured it out — but I don’t feel like I’m giving in that area. I don’t.”

Gus Malzahn, on the difficulty of doing both

“Just the time-consuming (element) that it takes to prepare a game plan and all the ins and outs with the staff, and then trying to balance that with taking care of your team and spending enough time with your players and the relationship with your overall team, and the dynamic from offense, defense — it’s really all of the above.”


The SI story talks about games when Oklahoma has blown big leads as the offense stagnates too late to recover. It posits that perhaps Riley has taken on too much. It's worth reading the whole story.

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Ryan Glasspiegel grew up in Connecticut, graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and lives in Chicago. Before OutKick, he wrote for Sports Illustrated and The Big Lead. He enjoys expensive bourbon and cheap beer.