Barry Tramel in The Oklahoman notes that recently the road of college head coaches going to the NFL has become a rocky one. After citing the cases of Petrino, Saban, Erickson and Spurrier – all very successful college coaches who bombed in the pros – he writes that
… This is not a trend. This is a landslide. College coaches have been a disaster in the NFL this decade. They either can’t cut it or can’t stand it or both.
NFL owners are shying away from college coaches, who are accustomed to being lords of the realm. Of the 72 NFL coaching changes the last decade, only seven came from the college ranks. None could be labeled a success.
But he notes that that wasn’t always the rule.
… Time was, college coaches fared well in the NFL. Boston College’s Tom Coughlin was an instant winner in Jacksonville and won four playoff games in his eight years.
OU’s Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl and Miami’s Jimmy Johnson won two. Georgia Tech’s Bobby Ross took the Chargers to the Super Bowl. Stanford’s Dennis Green won 101 games in 10 years with the Vikings.
UCLA’s Dick Vermeil took the Eagles to the Super Bowl. OU’s Chuck Fairbanks turned around the Patriots and San Diego State’s Don Coryell breathed life into the Cardinals.
And the 49ers hired away Bill Walsh from Stanford. Seemed to turn out all right.
That was 30 years ago.
All of which begs the question what’s going on here? What has changed over the last 10 years in either the pro game or the college game that has rendered college coaches worthless at the NFL level? And is it just a phase, or is it something more long term in nature?
Tramel thinks it’s more of the latter, mainly because the elite college coaches have come to realize what a sweet deal they enjoy these days.
… In the NFL, coaches are hired hands who are expendable. In the NFL, coaches can’t pad their record by scheduling New Mexico State, even in the exhibition season. In the NFL, coaches have to honor contracts.
Southern Cal’s Pete Carroll could return to the NFL most anytime he wants, but he’s like most elite-school coaches. He’s got a much better gig where he is. Big money, great security. The NFL offers big money, little security.
Carroll, Bob Stoops, Urban Meyer, Mack Brown, Mark Richt. Why would they want the landmines of the pro game, when they’ve been granted virtual lifetime eminence amid the ivory towers?
The lessons of Saban and Spurrier still are fresh in the mind.