Bobby Petrino posted the third-worst coaching record for the Atlanta Falcons, which is actually quite a feat considering the history of that franchise. A 3-10 record suddenly seems a little less woeful when the name “Marion Campbell” is in the media guide.
Nick Saban went 15-17 in two seasons with the Dolphins, but at least his personnel moves enabled them to finish 1-15 after he left. A Miami columnist used words like “failure,” “loser,” “gasbag” and “weasel” to describe Saban after he quit to coach Alabama.
So, yeah, that did not go so well.
Steve Spurrier went 122-27-1 at Florida and 12-20 with the Washington Redskins. His failure in the pros ensured that NFL coaches would have to continue working 12-hour days instead of clocking out at 5 p.m.
Rich Brooks, the man who revived Kentucky football, posted a 13-19 record with the St. Louis Rams.
All four coached in college before giving the NFL a try. All four came crawling back to the college game and, in particular, the SEC.
“I think what has happened is that we all realize that it was a lot more fun coaching in college than it was in the NFL,” Spurrier said. “Again, everyone is different and some people love everything about coaching 11, 12 months a year. Personally, I’m sort of a season guy.”
At this point, I just wanted Spurrier to include golfing as one of the seasons.
“There’s football season, there’s recruiting season and then there’s about three months of golf, travel, family season and so forth,” he said.
Here’s the point: Coaching in the NFL stinks. The season never really ends, the rosters are small, many coaches possess little control over free-agent signings and the draft, and winning consistently is extremely difficult. If you hold a particularly demanding practice, players can complain to the NFLPA. And now the coaching salaries in college are approaching NFL-type money.
Petrino called his return to the college game refreshing. Of course, he could have taken a job as an executioner at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institute and, considering what happened in Atlanta, that would also probably be refreshing.
“I’m really enjoying it. We’ve had some long, hard, physical practices,” said Petrino, now at Arkansas. “It’s the whole experience. I like going to the softball games and basketball games and being a part of the entire university. Being on campus and going to events on campus is certainly something you do miss when you’re away from it.”
But you still have to wonder why Phillip Fulmer never gave the NFL a chance. Some Tennessee fans may disagree with me, but Fulmer is a really good coach. He wins pretty regularly in a very difficult conference and gets few breaks in the nonconference schedule. Tennessee plays one of the toughest schedules every season.
Sure, he can look at four of his coaching counterparts and see that he probably made the right decision by remaining in college. But still, you might think the whole you-only-live-once philosophy would encourage him to take a chance.
He didn’t. And he doesn’t regret the decision.
“There’s a lot of reasons, but No. 1, Tennessee is my school,” Fulmer said. “It’s not really a place I was passing through until I got the next opportunity or the most money or anything like that. I have a really genuine passion for the university. It was also important for me not to move my children around, particularly the big cities that NFL teams are in.
“Really, I’m not sorry that I didn’t pursue those opportunities. That doesn’t mean someday you might not take a really good look at it, but right now I’m very happy with what we’re doing.”
Out of all the SEC coaches, I think the skills of Auburn’s Tommy Tuberville would probably translate the best to the NFL. He recruits players to fit a very specific defensive scheme — not necessarily the bazillion-star guys — and his own players say he’s like the CEO of Auburn football.
But: no, not interested.
“Just talking to buddies of mine in coaching, they say that it’s really not a fun league to coach in,” Tuberville said. “It’s a business, and it’s about the players and owners. It’s not about the coaches. Nothing is. You’re really not involved in anything. In college football, you get to call a lot of your shots in terms of your players, your philosophy and how you’re going to do things.”
Spurrier’s philosophy in the summer: Keep your head down and follow through on your swing.
“You do have more free time and you answer to the president and the athletic director. And you very seldom ever see them unless you’re losing too much or you’re breaking the rules,” he said. “You are the boss in college, and if it doesn’t go well you’ve got no one but yourself to blame, that’s for sure. I just think we all realize it’s a lot more fun game and the lifestyle is more conducive to a normal, happy person as a college coach.”
Who gets to play golf three months a year.