Joe Moorhead's departure after just two seasons at Mississippi State underscores why the fit factor shouldn't be underestimated in coaching hires.
Although there are cases of outsider coaches succeeding in unfamiliar territory -- Baylor's Matt Rhule is a perfect example -- local knowledge matters more often than not. Moorhead didn't suddenly become a bad coach, but after a college career spent in the Northeast, he struggled to adjust to life in the SEC at one of the league's tougher jobs. He also followed Dan Mullen, who had Mississippi State consistently punching above its weight class.
Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen looked outside the area for Mullen's successor, considering several offensive-minded coaches from the Midwest/Mid-Atlantic like Ohio State offensive coordinator Ryan Day, Toledo coach Jason Candle, and Moorhead, who had transformed Penn State's offense during two years as the playcaller. Moorhead won eight games in 2018, but it felt a bit hollow given the Bulldogs' historically elite defense (three-first-round draft picks). After a 3-1 start to Year 2, Mississippi State lost four of five, all by double-digits. He finished with a 14-12 record in two seasons.
Moorhead was mentioned as a candidate for Rutgers, a clearly inferior job but one in more familiar surroundings. As the season wore on, the feeling around Moorhead and the program became more dire. After an ugly bowl loss and a tumultuous team environment leading up to the game, Moorhead is out in Starkville.
Schools should never fire coaches in January, but if they do, they had better be prepared to act quickly with a replacement. As Mississippi State re-enters the market for a coach, it's likely Cohen targets candidates with better familiarity with the state, the SEC and the challenges of the job. Previous FBS head-coaching experience also should be a priority, as Moorhead had led Fordham but not a program at college football's highest level.
You won't find many "outsiders" on this list, which examines the coaches who could be next in line.