I feel bad for you if you spent your Monday watching the regular broadcasts of the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. Sure, Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Joe Tessitore and Todd Blackledge are all solid broadcasters who call a good game. But over on ESPNews was where the real party was going on on Monday night. That’s where the ESPN Film Room was happening, which included TCU head coach Gary Patterson, who became the real star of the College Football Playoff.
Patterson was one of six coaches who watched both games while analyzing and giving their thoughts in a free-flowing conversation that was loosely moderated. Other coaches included West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen, North Carolina’s Larry Fedora, Syracuse’s Dino Babers, Houston’s Major Applewhite and former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema.
Patterson was the alpha male in the room who directed the conversation and gave the most insight and in-depth analysis, while also showing his personality and even sharing some laughs. Patterson was able to quickly identify coverages and even correctly predicted several plays throughout the night in both the Rose Bowl between Oklahoma and Georgia and the Sugar Bowl between Clemson and Alabama. Patterson had played the Sooners twice this season, in early November and then again in the Big 12 championship game, so he knew Lincoln Riley’s group as well as anyone outside of Norman.
So while he was a perfect candidate to be in this ESPN Film Room session, Patterson also was able to shine in a way that he doesn’t usually get noticed for on a national scale. For those of us that closely follow and cover the Big 12 conference, we know that coach Patterson can be intense, smart, funny and analytical all in one conversation or press conference. But since he’s at TCU, which is a great football program, but is not a blue blood, he has never gotten that national recognition that he would have had he been the coach at Texas, Florida or Ohio State.
Now, Coach Patterson doesn’t seem like the type that ever searches for that gratification. If he did, he would’ve left TCU a long time ago. Instead, he saw this program through Conference-USA, the Mountain West and finally the Big 12 conference. He’s had opportunities, but he’s always passed. Now, he’s one of the top-10 highest-paid coaches in the country and has a program that is recruiting at a Power 5 level and has won at least 11 games in three of the past four seasons. Following the collapse of the Southwest Conference, TCU is producing the way many people expected they would be able to had they ever had the chance to get back into a Power 5 conference. Heck, this is what many in the Big 12 were afraid of TCU becoming if they ever got the opportunity again to play with the big boys. Much of that is thanks to coach Patterson.
These Film Room shows aren’t just a chance for a coach to show off their stuff, but it humanizes them to fans and to, let’s be honest, recruits and their parents. All of the sudden, instead of seeing coach Patterson screaming on the sidelines and losing his voice, you see a guy kicking back, watching the game, eating a slice of pizza and giving you enough information to earn your PhD in football.
The icing on the cake was knowing and being able to tell that Gary Patterson was genuinely pulling for the Sooners. He knew an OU win would be great for the credibility of his own conference. He was being a team player by pulling for Oklahoma and he did seem upset when Georgia came storming back in the second half to win in double overtime. He didn’t wave any pom poms, but there was clearly a little extra pep in Patterson’s step when OU was having success.
The more national facetime and press Gary Patterson gets, the better it is for TCU and the Big 12 conference. He’s sharp, can crack a joke, gives you great perspective and seems like a damn good guy. The kind of guy you want to post up on the barstool with, throw down a $20 bill, grab a beer and talk football.
Sign me up, please.