NFL. “Not For Long.” This is what Nick Saban has said the NFL stands for, and who can blame him. Seven coaches were fired on “Black Monday” this year, and six were fired on “Black Monday” of last year. NFL head coach is one of the least secure jobs in the world. You have 2-3 years, and in some cases only one, to turn around an organization. Extenuating circumstances be damned, no excuses, you’re fired. In a league where it’s not even okay to just be good anymore1, who can blame Bill O’Brien and Chip Kelly for saying no to the NFL.
If you are a college coach, you have a chance to be immortal: Bear Bryant, Joe Paterno, Woody Hayes, Bobby Bowden, etc. If you’re a college football coach, and your team is good, you have own the campus. Ohio State University President Gordon Gee famously said about then coach Jim Tressel, “I hope he doesn’t fire me.” The amount of power these college coaches have is probably understated if anything.
Nick Saban has already dabbled in the NFL, coaching the Miami Dolphins for the 2005 and 2006 season. He became the Univeristy of Alabama coach in 2007, and he isn’t leaving. He knows the uncertainty, he knows the risk. He came back to college, and it seems like he never wants to leave. He is already on his way to becoming a legend, if he isn’t already, three national championships, and he has a shot for a fourth tonight. He knows that being a college coach is the best thing for him. He knows that one day, his name will be remembered. He knows that being a college coach is his best chance at becoming a football god, and it seems like Bill O’Brien and Chip Kelly have looked on and learned from Saban: stay out of the NFL.
Bill O’Brien came to Penn State amongst the shadows of a criminal investigation and grief among a fan base and team betrayed. He came in and wouldn’t let the football program, and in turn the university, fold. He held that community together by winning games and making the football program competitive again. So, obviously, he drew the eyes of NFL owners and GMs. O’Brien interviewed and seemed like a strong candidate for the Cleveland Browns or the Philadelphia Eagles. O’Brien made the decision2 to return to Happy Valley. He knew that there, he was already revered as a savior. Now, he wants to take it one step further.
Chip Kelly has worked his way up the college ranks. Getting his first big break as the offensive coordinator at the University of New Hampshire3 (UNH), he worked his way up to head coach of the Oregon Ducks. His offensive attack has led the Ducks to become a national power. So much so, that now Kelly has been interviewed by the Cleveland Browns, Philadelphia Eagles, and San Diego Chargers. Kelly told them all no, to the surprise of many, and is returning to Oregon. Many are surprised, but when you think about it, can you blame him? He has a great thing going at Oregon, loads of money, recruits wanting to come play for him, long-term security, the list goes on and on. The thing that gets ignored, though, is Kelly, if he went to the NFL, could either bust and boom, but in the end, he would be just another NFL head coach. At Oregon, though, he is on his way to becoming a legend. If his success continues, and maybe they win a national championship, Kelly would write the history books at Oregon.
Being a college coach, the summit is so much higher than a professional coach. Yes, the pros, for the most part, offer more money, but that’s really it. As a college coach, you have long-term security, control over the entire program, and the most important part, the potential to be a legend. Kelly and O’Brien turned down the pros, but they made the right choice. They could have been just another NFL coach and stuck around “Not For Long.” We might have heard their name in a couple years on a “Black Monday.” Instead, in a couple years we might be hearing their name as one of the greatest college coaches. If that happens, they will be on their way to becoming something more than they ever would have in the NFL: a football god.
- Lovie Smith was fired, much to the dismay of his players, after a 10-6 season that saw his starting QB miss multiple games.
- He also might have been persuaded by lots of money, but you know: money…morale obligation… tomato, potato.
- 603! 603! 603!