When Coaches Go Pro // It’s A Player’s World

One thing that I am starting to see more and more as each offseason comes and goes is the number of college coaches getting interviewed for the NFL. There seems to be no viable coaching candidates currently coordinating at the professional level. Of course, that cannot actually be true, but there is a lot more buzz about coaches from the collegiate ranks than any NFL coordinators. Why is that though? Typically, college coaches seem to have a far worse success rate than already-in-the-pros coaches. That stereotype is entirely understandable, too, as it is an entirely different game. Just this offseason, Chip Kelly, Brian Kelly, Jim Mora (an ex-NFLer), and Bill O’Brien (ex-NFLer) have been interviewed or at least approached for various NFL jobs. Last year, Greg Schiano made the move from Rutgers to Tampa Bay (which had an anonymous Bucs player upset by the end of the year).

The push for college coaches is definitely spurned on by the immediate success of Jim Harbaugh and the recent success of Pete Carroll. Without a doubt these two men are some of the most interesting coaches in all of football, professional or otherwise.  But these successes are far from common. Historically, the famous college coach blunders far outnumber the college coach successes.


Steve Spurrier (WAS)

Mike Riley (SD)

Lou Holtz (NYJ)

Nick Saban (MIA)

Pete Carrol (NE/NYJ)

Butch Davis (CLE)

Bobby Petrino (ATL)

Dennis Erickson (SEA/SF)

Rich Brooks (StL)


Jimmie Johnson (DAL)

Barry Switzer (DAL)

Tom Coughlin (JAX/NYG)

Marv Levy (BUF)

This trend of the NFL raiding the NCAA ranks is signaling of another trend: It’s a player’s league right now. Let me explain just what I mean by that. Aside from guys like Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, Jim Harbaugh, and Sean Payton, how many coaches define their teams? By that, I mean how many teams, if you were to take away their coach, would likely fall apart and stop being a team that gets circled on a calendar? I could throw in Pete Carroll and Mike Shanahan because they both serve as their teams’ general manager, but I hesitate to because they have only recently become successful.

Bill Belichick has Tom Brady, sure, but he also had a successful season when Cassell was the starter, and we all know how that has played out for Kansas City. The Steelers did not make the playoffs this year, but before this year they have been incredibly successful repeatedly making the playoffs and winning a Super Bowl during Tomlin’s tenure. Jim Harbaugh seems to be the sole reason the 49ers went from 6-10 in 2010 to 13-3 in 2011 and making the NFC Championship. His success is further cemented by this year’s quarterback change midseason having little to no effect on the success of the team. And the effect of Sean Payton’s absence isn’t hypothetical as the Saints had a dismal season considering New Orleans’ successes in years prior.

Besides those men, few teams seem to hinge on the respective head coaches’ presences. Success in the NFL is more related to the stars on the team, mostly the quarterbacks. The prime examples are the Colts, Broncos, Redskins and Seahawks. Their quarterback changes over the last offseason have proven to be substantial. Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson have all brought consistency and dominance to the quarterback position of their teams. It has become increasingly difficult for teams without solid quarterbacks to win in this day and age. Game managing quarterbacks are no longer acceptable options like they were in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This season, Chicago, San Diego and Detroit were all in the top ten for scoring allowed by a defense, yet they didn’t make the playoffs due to shoddy quarterbacking. Cutler, Rivers and Stafford had ratings of 81.3, 88.6, and 79.8 respectively which ranked them 20th in the league or lower. Long story short, there are no more teams that can win the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfers under center.

Another small reason that there is so much turnover in the NFL is that the good coaches retire fairly early. Tony Dungy, Brian Billick, Bill Cowher, John Gruden, and a few others have gone into the media. Big sports networks hire these men because they are the best at what they do: Analysis. Some may say it is only a matter of time before these men get back into a coaching job, but I will reject that argument with two points: Money and Ease.

Do you know how much John Gruden makes from ESPN by making his weekly appearance on Monday Night Football and doing his Quarterback Camp before the draft hits? As per the Bleacher Report article on Cowher and Gruden’s salary, he is rumored to make over four million dollars. [1] Coaching at the pro level is a 24/7/365 job breaking down film of your opponents and the collegiate prospects on wishlists. Working for a network is a cushy job that requires fewer than forty hours a week while making similar salary, if not more, than a head coaching gig. Why would these men leave a job that allows them to see their families consistently and live the life of luxury? They wouldn’t, and that is why they aren’t.

It’s a player’s world out there.

[1] – http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1435078-jon-gruden-and-bill-cowher-would-be-crazy-to-come-back-to-coaching

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