Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, January 08, 2021

school's out
Another season’s end, another coaching shuffle in the NFL. Among other developments:

- Lou Saban leaves Louisiana State University for (finally) a pro head coaching stint with the Miami Dolphins.

- New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss goes in the other direction, to take the head coaching job at Notre Dame.

- Dennis Erickson, who had so much success as a college coach, gets canned from the San Francisco 49ers after a dismal run capped by a 2-14 record this season.

All this do-see-do brings up the old question: What are the differences between the college and pro football games that makes coaching effectiveness in one so difficult to predict in the other?

Dave Scheiber did a good job of interviewing a lot of former coaches with cross-level experience, including Lou Holtz, Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer, and Bobby Ross. All of them cited the usual: Different timetables for training and game preparation, different attitudes of the players, etc. Interestingly, most believed that these differences didn’t change the fundamental task: It’s still football, and thus really no different from college to pro.

I respectfully disagree. Back when Steve Spurrier quit as Washington Redskins coach a year ago, I put down my feelings on the difference between the two arenas:

People often ask me why I’m such a big NFL fan, yet care nothing for college football. Spurrier’s saga, in some ways, sums it all up: They’re two different games. The uniforms look the same, the ball looks the same, the players even look the same. But the game, from what happens in the coach’s office to the locker room to the field, is not the same. It’s not even close. It’s like taking a multi-Tony-winning Broadway play and a community theater production and then trying to argue that all facets of the two are identical. It’d be a weak argument. That’s how I feel about the NFL and college, and I’ll wager that Steve Spurrier feels about that way right now, too.

I’m a little surprised that this wasn’t mentioned more by the coaches: Not so much the individual players, but the overall talent upgrade when you get to the NFL. My feeling is that NFL teams are the distilled best from the hundreds of college programs around the country. You’ve got, in essence, 32 college all-star teams. That affects gameplanning and game play. A lot of the fancy college offensive schemes that dissect overawed college defenses simply don’t work on the NFL level, because the players as a group are so much faster/stronger/smarter/better.

For me, it’s two different games. That’s how it is, that’s how it’ll stay.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/08/2021 04:42:19 PM
Category: Football | Permalink |

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