Michigan State Football Head Coach Mark Dantonio the Clear MVP for 2011

Mark Dantonio’s 2011 Coaching Job Among the Best Ever

The title of this article makes a bold statement. A statement that however bold is true. Mark Dantonio did a masterful job of handling and steering this football team, but don’t take my word for it.

Michigan State offensive coordinator Dan Roushar said it like this recently, “I don't know that he gets enough credit, but Mark Dantonio, last year, Big Ten Coach of the Year, a lot of honors, a lot of recognition, and since I've been with him, and I just say this from my personal standpoint, I thought it was his best job of coaching that I've ever been around.

I don't think there were things that you saw on the outside but things that he did inside, from a motivation standpoint, from keeping us together, staying focused, staying positive and understanding that improvement was needed, and I thought our kids did that.

I think it's always been a trademark of Coach Dantonio's teams we get better. We get better as we go through the year, and I think that's reflective, and when you look at our record in November and the way we do things…”

That is high praise from Roushar. He is a man who shares Dantonio’s approach to only saying what he knows and feels and staying clear of hyperbole and exaggeration.

With that praise I had to ask Dantonio what he did that Roushar alluded to. He said, “I think what we've done is we've changed the culture as a group. I don't think it's one person. As we saw last year, this program can move forward and be successful without myself present at times, so I'm not at all surprised about that.

But I do think what we've been able to do is we've come together as a group and fought through some adverse times here, like Georgia. After the Notre Dame game, it was a tough loss everybody took it very hard. But we got back moving in the right direction and were very successful. Nebraska had the same feeling on this football team. Again, we responded. We responded I think with five straight victories.

So our football team knows how to handle adversity. That's from a leadership standpoint. Maybe it starts from the top down, but it certainly runs throughout our football program and team.

We talked yesterday about having a legacy here and passing things on to others. I think that's what our players are going to do our seniors will do that. It's important we take this next step in the bowl game, that we come out energized. That's my job, our coaches' jobs; it's all of our jobs to get excited to play. We've done that every single game, so that will be present.”

There is no doubt that the 2011 Spartans had chances to crater. Chances to implode and frankly chances to quit were readily available. They didn’t. Under the leadership of Dantonio the Spartans have taken to a blue collar, lunch box carrying steady Eddie mentality that has served them well.

Dantonio’s players are not given the high accolades in recruiting that Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame players get, but all three of those groups have tasted defeat to Dantonio.

The back-to-back double digit winning seasons, the senior class accolades are all great. No doubt they are terrific and wonderful accomplishments. What doesn’t get the praise is the leadership of the coach who brought this group together. Who recruited them and who knows them and most of all believed in them.

Mark Dantonio isn’t one to beat his chest or ask people to look at me. He doesn’t hide his staff from the media fearful that someone other than him get the praise like Nick Saban. What he is, happens to be a steady hand and cool-headed leader whose highs and lows are controlled and don’t cloud his judgment.

After the Notre Dame loss the Spartans were teetering. His ability to manage his staff and players was amazing. His handling of his team when many coaches would have attacked for so many mistakes was to coach, correct and laugh. His ability both by example and in principle after Notre Dame was stunning to me. For the 72 hours after the loss to the Irish he could have easily lost his team and because of him he didn’t.

What many miss is his sense of humor. A strong disciplinarian, most people fail to recognize his sense of humor and his ability to use that humor when his team is tense. It is that ability to know when to crack the whip and when to crack a smile that has helped him so well with this team.

Roushar is right, there were so many opportunities and pit falls for failure in 2011 and Dantonio was by far the coach of the year. It was his best job at MSU as the head man and win or lose at the Outback Bowl wouldn’t change that fact. Sometimes the best coaching jobs aren’t seen on the field. Dantonio was the Spartans MVP in 2011.