I was sad to hear the news of Jerry Kill's retirement today. I've long considered him the best developer of talent in all of college football as well as one of the best X's and O's guys in the game.
Kill did what many of us should strive to do every day: improve everything you touch. Throughout his coaching career, every college football program lucky enough to have Kill be a part of it was in better shape when he left than when he arrived. He knew how to recruit the right players — not just the best ones. He valued continuity. He valued coaching the individual. He won games.
In a world where we dedicate so much time covering recruiting and focusing on its impact, Kill made a living coaching up the players he could get and getting the most out of them. Despite a down season this year, Kill resurrected the Minnesota football program and made it matter again. He established a culture of winning the old-fashioned way: run the ball well and play stingy defense.
All too often in college football, we see coaches using their current job as a stepping stone to get their next gig. It's not the fact that they do it that bothers me, but the fact that they are often so obvious about it. You never felt that way with Kill. I always saw him as totally invested in the player and program wherever he was.
His name came up for a lot of jobs over the past couple of seasons, but I always felt like Minnesota was going to be his last stop. Coaching at Minnesota is an underrated job. It's the only FBS school in the state and calls a sizeable metro "home." You can win there, and Kill did just that. Unfortunately for those who follow in his footsteps, he proved that it's possible to build a winning football program in Minnesota — or anywhere else for that matter — without any excuses.
Kill may very well have been college football's last pure coach. He didn't recruit like a car salesman. He and his staff weren't flashy. He focused on teaching and player development. If we had more people doing what Kill did, I truly believe you'd see a cleaner college football landscape when it came to recruiting, oversigning and transfers. He was good for Minnesota, the Big Ten and all of college football.
He leaves his Minnesota Golden Gophers in capable hands, complete with a new stadium and newfound fan support. Like every other stop along the way, Minnesota is now better for having had Jerry Kill be part of its program. He will be missed.