Congratulations! A totally nondescript former college football powerhouse in the American Midwest — let’s call it, oh I don’t know, Penbraskigan State — has hired you to be its head coach. Throughout your tenure you will face a variety of challenging, arguably impossible decisions. To fend off the bloodthirsty legions of fans and boosters, choose the “correct” course of action and follow the prompt to the corresponding chapter. Make sense?
- Absolutely, let’s do this. Go to Chapter 1
- Huh? Too bad. Go to Chapter 1
Chapter 1: The Offseason
It’s late May. You’ve arrived on the hallowed campus of Penbraskigan State University, home of the mighty Corncats. There’s only so much time in one offseason, so this summer you will prioritize…
- The culture. We’re talking about perseverance. We’re talking about tenacity. We’re talking about click here for more synonyms. And did I mention assiduity? Go to Chapter 2A
- Installing your offense. You’ve got a blue chip true freshman quarterback who’s about to light up the Big Ten. Sure, he had to ask to use the restroom until a week ago and he still needs to get a C- on his precalculus final to graduate, but then Iowa and Wisconsin’s top-10 defenses had better watch out. Go to Chapter 2B
Chapter 2A: Quarterback Controversy
It’s Week 4 and the Corncat defense is looking mean. The offense is also looking mean, but like, in a statistical sense. It is excruciatingly average. Junior quarterback Jake Sortagood is fine, but his ceiling is so low that even his noodle arm could hit it with a reasonably heavy projectile. Meanwhile, fans are begging you to start four-star freshman quarterback Hunter Brantley. Next week, you will…
- Stick with experience. You can still win by playing Sortagood. You won’t land a lot of body blows, but death by a thousand screen passes can be equally lethal. Go to Chapter 3A
- Turn to the freshman. With Brantley, you can broaden the offense beyond the front side of a post-it note that is your current playbook. Hit the road, Sir Five-Yard Slants-a-lot. Go to Chapter 2B
Chapter 2B: False Start
Freshman quarterback Hunter Brantley has looked great when he isn’t throwing into triple coverage or getting pounded into the turf by defensive linemen. The offense might fare better under junior Jake Sortagood, but he won’t fix the ten penalties your squad has committed. After a particularly embarrassing loss to a Sun Belt team, reporters ask who you fault for the rocky start. You call out…
- The coaching staff. You humbly accept 100% of the blame. For trusting your offensive coordinator to do anything remotely competent, that is. Go ’Cats. Go to Chapter 3A
- Your players. They played like they never got off the bus today, so now you’re throwing them right back under it. Go ’Cats. Go to Chapter 3B
Chapter 3A: Uncoordinated
You scrape together a passable 6-6 season. However, your quarterback has grown like a sunflower in a damp closet. It might be best to move past long-time offensive coordinator Bob Chumsley. This offseason, you will…
- Stick with “your guy.” Loyalty can’t be bought — at least not until you win over a few more boosters. Chumsley isn’t perfect or even all that good, but there’s a reason you brought him to Penbraskigan State. Was that reason because nobody else wanted to come coach at this leaking garbage bag of a program? Quit asking questions and Go to Chapter 4A
- Fire one of your oldest friends. Do it, coward. You gaze wistfully at an old photo of you and Chumsley on staff at a DIII school. Look at his rosy cheeks, his bushy moustache, his eyes full of hope. Truly, you have never known a closer companion in your otherwise loveless existence. You’re a monster… a monster who’s about to have an air raid offense. Go to Chapter 4B
Chapter 3B: Under Fire
Well, we certainly veered into the “blaming the 20-year-olds” stage of your career pretty quickly, didn’t we? The college football media heard your remarks and didn’t take kindly to them. Amid this whirlpool of public opinion, you will…
- Issue a half-assed apology. You deeply regret criticizing your athletes. Almost as much as you regret trusting Brantley to throw into a halfway decent secondary. Midway through the press conference, you tell what you assume is an equipment manager to fetch you more water. Turns out he’s actually your punter. Go to Chapter 4C
- Double down and apologize for nothing. You came here to win football games, not hearts. If your athletes want to earn moral victories, they can go play at Indiana. Go to Chapter 4D
Chapter 4A: Crunch Time
It’s your third year at Penbraskigan State. After a double-digit-win season and a couple bowl games, you’ve far surpassed what any reasonable fan could expect. The operative word being “reasonable.” Your seat is beginning to heat up, and it will only get hotter if you can’t take care of business tonight at Ohio State. The Corncats are down 27-23 on the Buckeye 45. It’s fourth and short with under a minute remaining. You need this win, and you’re going to get it by…
- Letting — oh, god — Bob Chumsley call the play. That’s technically his job, right? He’s a professional. He knows what he’s doing. You briefly lock eyes and see the desperate face of a man who barely knows where he is. He just knows he won’t be on this staff come January. Go to Chapter 4B
- Call your own shot. It’s been a while since you called the plays, but how hard could it be? You scan your plays, but they’re a jXumObleXd mXesOs of X’s and O’s. You could swear one of them is just a child’s drawing of you as a stick figure getting torn apart by 100,00 ravenous fans. Come on, don’t make a sputid mitskae. Not now. Suddenly, a wave of inspiration hits you. You take a deep breath, center yourself… and tell your quarterback to run it up the middle against one of the best defensive lines in the nation. Go to Ending 4
Chapter 4B: When Opportunity Knocks
It’s been years since you fired Chumsley. He just wasn’t the answer, especially not in big games. But also not really in medium or small games either, if you’re being honest. You’ve put together a perfectly respectable tenure at Penbraskigan State, which naturally means hordes of fans are calling for your immediate firing. Fortunately, athletic directors at other schools remember a time when the Corncats were the laughing stock of the Big Ten. You even have some interest from NFL teams. With this knowledge, you…
- Don’t pursue any other openings. This place has kind of grown on you. The friendly people. The beautiful campus. The multimillion dollar contract. The bustling downtown. The multimillion dollar contract. Cannot stress that enough. Go to Ending 1
- Pursue a job at a bigger school. USC, you say? LS-who now? Obviously, your complete focus is on next week’s matchup against Winnesota or Minsconsin or whatever, but it couldn’t hurt to put out a few feelers. Go to Ending 2
- Pursue a job in the NFL. Now that you think about it, you’ve had your fill of coaching naturally hormonal, highly temperamental young men. It’s time to coach synthetically hormonal, highly temperamental grown men. Go to Ending 3
Chapter 4C: Freedom of the Pressure
Unfortunately, the press didn’t exactly buy your apology or any of the halfhearted displays of remorse you’ve offered since. After three seasons of showing more fight against the Corncat Daily News than your team does in most of its games, Penbraskigan State’s athletic department has every reason to fire you. Before you see your name at the top of an exposé in The Athletic, you…
- Go where the media won’t follow you. Go to Ending 5
- Say screw this and screw the media. Go to Ending 6
Chapter 4D: From Public Scrutiny to Player Mutiny
On the bright side, your relentless pursuit of victory propelled you to a pair of 10-win seasons over the last five years. Alas, it turns out verbally berating your athletes isn’t conducive to roster stability. People are starting to call your program the doormat in front of the transfer portal. The athletic department was willing to tolerate your abrasive behavior when you were a threat to make the Playoff, but now you’re just a threat to those in your immediate vicinity. Luckily, there are plenty of old rich guys in the NFL who either don’t think you’re a complete sociopath or don’t particularly care. As the sun sets on your time in the Big Ten, you realize….
- You don’t want to coach kids anymore. Go to Ending 3
- You don’t want to coach kids anymore… buuut, you’d really miss having a room full of young people to scream at. Go to Ending 5
You choose to stay at Penbraskigan State. Doubts about your job security follow you in perpetuity. And? Who cares if you’re on the hot seat? So is everyone else in this conference. Frost is on the hot seat. Harbaugh’s on the hot seat. He’s a first-year coach, but you’re sure whatever chair Bret Bielema is sitting in right now is also a very warm seat. You relax in your cushy office and count your towering stacks of money.
You did it. You finally did it. Opportunity knocked, and you answered — Pac-12, here we come. Even if you don’t immediately succeed at USC, expectations and the athletic director’s refusal to admit he made a mistake should carry you for a couple seasons. On one hand, you’re still not totally sure you’re a great fit for the SoCal culture. On the other, you’re completely certain that you’re a great fit for these towering stacks of money.
When Kliff Kingsbury went 5-7 at Texas Tech, he had no idea he was blazing a trail for countless mediocre college football coaches with dreams of coaching in the NFL. You can’t wait to get started. You’re the rare hybrid between a former player and an analytical mastermind. A Mike Ditka in the streets; a Bill Belichick in the (spread)sheets. Best of all, you can use that time you would have spent recruiting high schoolers to instead count your towering stacks of money.
Well, that could have gone better. The official statement is you and the university mutually agreed to part ways. Right. Just like when you mutually break up with a girlfriend and you mutually delete your number from her phone and you mutually agree to drunk dial her late at night. Gotcha. Fortunately, Nick Saban has graciously offered you a position as one of his sorta-trusted analysts at Alabama. The salary isn’t amazing, but did I mention the $4 million buyout Penbraskigan State paid you when it absolutely fired you? Consider drying your tears with a bill from your many towering stacks of money.
Ah, the ol’ familiar Group of Five. For the next three years, you’ll dominate Conference USA on the arm of star transfer quarterback Jake Sortagood. Also, it turns out this school you’d never heard of actually has some seriously loaded alumni who figured seeing their alma mater go to the New Mexico Bowl was more important than fixing the water crisis a few towns over. This job isn’t necessarily a source of pride or personal fulfillment, but it is without question a great source of towering stacks of money.
When you said “screw the media,” what you meant to say was “screw the media that doesn’t say nice things about me.” This fall, you’ll headline FOX’s other, other flagship college football show alongside American sweethearts Clay Travis, Dan Dakich, and a robust panel of fellow disgraced former coaches. You quickly become one of the most reviled figures in sports media, a shame so great that it nearly distracts you from your towering stacks of money.
Not satisfied with where you ended up? Spoken like James Franklin himself. This game offers 25 unique paths to disappointment, so give it another go and see what happens!