Sports are entertainment.
For some reason, there's this need among fans — especially college football fans — to make them more than that, to attach some personal value to the games on TV, to pretend that the outcomes of games and results from a season in some way have a tangible impact on our lives.
They do not.
A college football season is no different than a season of "Game of Thrones."
They're both meant to entertain you, to distract you from real life. And that's why this is a different kind of SEC coaches ranking, one that places appropriate value on coaches doing their real jobs — entertaining us.
Drama, comedy, conflict, unexpected twists and interesting characters — that's what keeps us coming back.
So, with that in mind, here's the setup: Wins are important in this system, but they're only one piece of a three-part score. The rest is divided equally between the on-field entertainment value of the coaches' teams and the media interaction/entertainment value of the coach himself. Highest single-category score is three points:
14. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: NR. Mason is in his first year at Vanderbilt and has never been a head coach.
13. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State: ½ point (Wins: ½; On-field: 0; Media: 0)
Mullen has been average in his time at Mississippi State, doing just enough to keep from getting run from a below-average SEC program. So, he gets a half point on wins. On the field, the Bulldogs aren't particularly exciting. The field is located in Starkville, Miss., so I'm being kind in not awarding negative points.
Ever heard anyone say, "Oh, you gotta hear this Mullen news conference?" I rest my case.
12. Mark Stoops, Kentucky: 1 point (Wins: 0, On field: ½; Media: ½)
Stoops hasn't exactly set the football world ablaze in his one season at Kentucky, which isn't unexpected. It's UK. You'd have an easier time setting snow ablaze. He won just twice in 2013, but some of the games were at least interesting to watch, and he's been able to sway some decent recruits with his media work.
11. Will Muschamp, Florida: 1½ points (Wins: 1; On Field: 0; Media: ½)
The Gators won 11 games in 2012 — has there ever been a more forgettable 11-2 team? —and that keeps Muschamp above Stoops. Never would've thought this guy would be here. As a coordinator, he was funny and engaging and open. He's been the opposite of that as a head coach in the spotlight. And his teams have been so dreadful to watch that ... well, let me put it this way: What do you remember more from the last three years?
10. Bret Bielema, Arkansas: 2½ points (Wins: 2; On Field: 0; Media: ½)
I probably shouldn't, but I gave Bielema credit for his Wisconsin success. Otherwise, the guy's making a strong case for bumping Mason out of the 14 hole. What an unmitigated disaster. He's whined constantly about everything since arriving in the league and generally behaved like a child whenever Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said anything.
9. Butch Jones, Tennessee: 3½ points (Wins: 1: On Field: 1½; Media: 1)
This is a tough one. I think Jones might ultimately turn out to be a pretty decent coach, but his first year at UT made it hard to tell. There were certainly signs of improvement, as the Vols came within an eyelash of knocking off Georgia and then did upset South Carolina, but there were quite a few duds, too.
8. Nick Saban, Alabama: 4½ points (Wins 3; On Field: 1; Media: ½)
Whine if you want, 'Bama fans, but you know it's true. Watching Alabama football games is slightly less boring than C-SPAN's coverage of a Congressional hearing on interest rates. I'd rather watch soccer. There's more scoring.
And then Saban strolls to the podium for interviews and acts as if he's working toward solving world hunger. Other than the occasional news conference tantrum and two watchable games per year, it's dreadful.
7. Mark Richt, Georgia: 5 points (Wins: 2; On Field: 2; Media: 1)
Richt is a strange guy to rank. First, his teams win fairly consistently, although he has his down years. The on-the-field entertainment value also isn't always there. Sometimes, like last year, they're a team that puts up points in bunches and is fun to watch. Other years, eh. In front of the media, Richt is respected and unbelievably nice. But he's so nice no one ever wants to ask, So, um, Coach, why's half the team in jail again?
6. Hugh Freeze, Mississippi: 5½ points (Wins: 1½; On Field: 3; Media: 1)
Freeze inherited a mess at Ole Miss two years ago and has done some amazing work getting two bowl trips out of the Rebels. He's not bad in front of the media, if a little boring. And his teams are fun to watch. Consider this: You've got a choice between an Ole Miss-vs.-podunk game and an Alabama-vs.-podunk game. Which are you watching? You know the answer. Plus, there's a chance Sandra Bullock will show up to give him advice.
5. Gary Pinkel, Missouri: 6 points (Wins: 2, On Field: 2; Media: 2)
Pinkel's first season in the SEC was a rough one, but the guy catches on quickly. His Tigers were in the SEC title game last year. Plus, he's always good for old Nick Saban stories at SEC Media Days, and his teams are fun to watch on the field. Mizzou is ruining it for Vandy. All this time, we thought it was enough that the Commodores were raising the league GPA. Turns out, you can be smart, entertaining and win. Thanks, Pinkel. Pick it up, Mason.
4. Les Miles, LSU: 6½ points (Wins 2½; On Field: 1; Media: 3)
The guy eats grass, wears a hat that's a minimum two sizes too small, makes funny videos of himself, once invited me to ride along to the airport with him so we could finish an impromptu interview and routinely says some of the craziest nonsense you've ever heard. He also wins. His teams can be a tad boring at times, even a bit 'Bama-ish. But Les ... oh, Les is never boring.
3. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: 7 points (Wins: 2, On Field: 3; Media: 2)
How much of Sumlin's success his first two years at A&M was attached to Johnny Football? Good question. We'll find out this year. But from all indications, the guy has put together a solid team and has coached the heck out of them. He wins, and he's good with the media. On top of that, his teams have been must-see TV. Again, a lot of that has been Manziel, but all of these other coaches have players out there, too.
2. Gus Malzahn, Auburn: 7½ points (Wins: 3; On Field: 3; Media: 1½)
Look, complain if you like, but as an assistant this guy overcame Gene Chizik to win a national title, and he would've done it a second time had Florida State been located in a town that had any other police force than the Tallahassee police department. His teams are well-coached, and Auburn games are fun to watch, with all the reverses and misdirection and points. If Malzahn would go back to his coordinator ways of dealing with the media, all would be golden.
As it is, give me more fastbreak football, and somebody gag Saban and Bielema.
1. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina: 8 points (Wins: 2½; On Field: 2½; Media: 3)
Spurrier is the master at entertainment, and he knows it. His teams are fun to watch and they win. But more importantly, Spurrier is fun to watch. As South Carolina has started to win consistently, the old Spurrier swagger, once thought lost in his post-Florida burnout, has returned. Now, barely a week goes by that he's not tweaking someone, usually 'Bama and Saban or Dabo and Clemson.