December 28th 2008. That was the last time Jon Gruden stepped on a football field as a head coach, capping off his tenure with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a four game losing streak and a 31-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders.
As his record stands right now, he is 95-81 as an NFL coach. But like a fine wine Gruden’s reputation has gotten better with age.
Now, nearly 4 years later the Arkansas Razorbacks and Tennessee Volunteers are about to open the bank vault for a coach with an O.K. record in the NFL and no college experience. Upon further review, I am not sure he is the guaranteed home run everyone thinks he is.
“But he has a Super Bowl ring!”
Yes and Charlie Weis has 3 Super Bowl rings (as a coordinator). Not to mention he was considered a much better offensive mind after his work with Tom Brady in New England; look how he panned out in his high profile job at Notre Dame. Working with NFL players is one thing, working with 18-23 year old kids is another.
Remember, Gruden’s most successful seasons in the NFL were with older, veteran squads, not young teams he built into winners. When the veterans got too old and he had to rebuild, he struggled to find the success he had early, a big reason behind his departure in Tampa Bay.
This is not to say that a NFL coach can not be successful in the college game, far from it. Pete Carroll, Jim Mora Jr. and Nick Saban have all disproved that theory. However history has shown that coaches with defensive backgrounds are the ones who transition better to the college game.
Arkansas and Tennessee are looking to hit a home run with their next coaching hire, but sometimes when you swing for the fences, you swing and miss.