10 NFL Head Coaches Who Would do Better in College
10 NFL Head Coaches Who Belong in College
In the 30+ years that I have watched NFL and college football, I’ve never failed to be amazed at just how different the two sports can be. Even though the NFL gets all it’s players from the college game, the two could not be more diametrically opposed. Everything from the schemes they run, to the way they select players and coaches just further illustrate how the two sports are night and day.
So for this article, I went through the resume’ of every NFL head coach to determine which ones would be better off taking their talents to the college game. For this I had to determine some criteria.
My main criteria was, if you were a really successful professional coach, no matter how much you passed the eyeball test that you’d be great in college, you didn’t make the list. But what makes a coach a better fit for college as opposed to the NFL?
For one thing it has to do with innovation and creativity. In college football it’s rewarded and in the professional game it’s much more limited. Offenses in college are much more exotic and athletic while the NFL maintains tradition for the sake of it’s players.
Another big difference is in how a team gets it’s players. In the NFL the head coach picks free agents and draft picks to come play for him. In college the head coach makes his sales pitch to high school athletes and JUCO players and then sits back to see which ones pick him and his program. It’s a subtle difference but one that I have always found very important.
This list are the 10 guys that I feel like either their pitch in the NFL has worn out it’s welcome or what they do best just fits better in college.
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Curt writes about the Pittsburgh Steelers, college football, and the NFL draft for rantsports. He also covers the NFL draft at draftboardinsider and the Oklahoma Sooners on getrealfootball.
Pat Shurmur, Cleveland Browns
Shurmur has taken a lot of flack this year for how poorly his team has played. But I don’t see him as a bad coach, just a little over his head. In college Shurmur would bring his playing pedigree which would help with recruiting and his wealth of experience especially on offense and be given much more freedom to do his thing. Also, the fanbase in Cleveland is hard to deal with, and he could, on the right team have a long and successful college coaching career.
Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
I suppose this one may seem obvious, but I really think Carroll was just too good a college coach to be able to switch things up and make it work in the NFL with that same success. He’s s done a good job, but I can’t help but feel like his ceiling is so much more limited in the NFL. He’s got that college sort of demeanor and works so well with young athletes.
Rex Ryan, New York Jets
Ryan is clearly not cut out to coach in the NFL at this point. He's become the butt of jokes and I don't believe the league takes him seriously But you can’t deny he has a strong defensive mind and could have great success in college though a beefy defense and methodical and plodding offense. Something that does not work in the NFL like it used to.
Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
So far this season the Schiano experiment has gotten an incomplete if I were grading it. He was an excellent coach in college and while his NFL start hasn’t been spectacular, he has held his own. But I have to wonder if his taskmaster sort of approach will work in the long run in the league, or if the college game is a better fit for his style.
Dennis Allen, Oakland Raiders
Allen is an interesting case because he’s almost completely untested in the NFL. But I include him because no one should have to suffer in the NFL as the coach of the Raiders. But I also include him, because the type of defense he teaches is very much a college style; an opportunistic type of D that will give up yards but get lots of sacks and force turnovers.
Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals
I think Whisenhunt would make a great college head coach because he’s an innovator and a risk taker. Coaching in the NFL has forced him to reign much of that in, but in college he could really go high flying with his risk/reward offensive systems, and this would help him pull in prospects.
Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
I can see Garrett and his ability to coach up quarterbacks as a real plus for him in college. He’s still not shown he’s gotten the support of his team, and it could be a case where working with younger and more impressionable players might be a better fit.
John Fox, Denver Broncos
Fox is one of the coaches on this list that have had good luck in the NFL, but with his ability to build a defense and his willingness to be flexible with his offensive systems make him a nice fit for a college team as well. Also, his cache’ in the NFL would be an excellent recruiting tool.
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
I included Payton in this list for a couple of reasons. First, with all the problems he has had with the bounty-gate scandal it might be nice for him to have a fresh start in college, and he’s got a brilliant offensive mind that could do some real damage in college. He’s another guy who you would think could really haul in the high-powered offensive players.
Mike Mularkey, Jacksonville Jaguars
Mularkey is another coach who’s imagination and innovation, especially on offense would serve him so much better in college. All his wacky game planning in the NFL gets him in hot water with fans and costs his team games, but in college he can use the matchups and design far out schemes that would be very effective.