‘I’m the best coach today that I’ve ever been:’ Ash looks to reestablish himself as elite defensive coordinator

Stephen Wagner

If you search “Chris Ash Media” on YouTube, one of the first suggestions to pop up is a nearly five-minute-long video titled “In Memoriam: Rutgers Football Coach Chris Ash 2016-2019.” 

The satirical video includes a handful of highlights from his eight wins in three and a half seasons as Rutgers’ head football coach, but is mostly a blooper reel set to the song “I Will Remember You.” If you scroll down further, you’ll find more videos of the same genre. 

But on the surface, criticisms of Texas’ defensive coordinator’s three and a half years as Rutgers head coach don’t seem to bother him. Ash doesn’t see his .200 win percentage at Rutgers as a failure or a shortcoming and thinks he’s a better coach because of it. 

“People can say that, ‘Oh, you didn't do a good job at Rutgers,’” Ash said in an Aug. 26 teleconference. “I feel like I left in a better situation than I took it over. If you can say that at the end of the day, then I'm pleased. I can tell you right now, after going through the three and a half years of being a head football coach, I'm the best coach today that I've ever been.”

Texas head coach Tom Herman, who previously coached with Ash at Iowa State and Ohio State, said there isn’t a correlation between success as a playcaller and success as a head coach and previously called Ash the “(voice) for the defense.” 

“Being a head coach is such a different animal,” Herman said. “We’ve seen tons of guys in our profession that have become head coaches that weren’t coordinators that were phenomenal at it. I don’t think you can ever judge a guy as a coordinator by what he did as a head coach and vise versa.”


Ash feels that his time at Rutgers as a head coach helps him better complement Herman as a coordinator and allows him to offer insight and advice regarding weekly operations and game plans. 

“I think, as a head coach, if you have some people that have sat in your chair and you understand, you know what the head coach is going through and can offer some insight advice every now and then,” Ash said. “I think it's comforting.”

On the field, both players and coaches have been pleased with the new defensive scheme and coaching style Ash has brought to Texas. His physical and aggressive 4-2-5 defense allows the defensive line more freedom than they previously had in former defensive coordinator Todd Orlando’s 3-3-5 system. Along with a different scheme, the new coaching dynamic excites senior defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham. 

“I feel like (Ash and the defensive staff) bring the energy or the juice or whatever you want to call it every single day,” Graham said in an Aug. 20 teleconference. “As players, we feed off that (energy).”

Ash doesn’t deny the obvious — his tenure at Rutgers was less than superb, and he was fired because of his lack of wins. However, he still considers himself to be a good coach. Herman agrees, saying Ash doesn’t need to prove himself as a defensive coach.

“I know what kind of defensive coordinator he is, not only from having him on the same staff but having to be an offensive coordinator opposing his defenses,” Herman said. “Chris has plenty of pelts on his wall as a defensive coordinator (and) he’s got nothing left to prove to me.”