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Coaching Comparisons: NFL vs NCAA

While we are in coach-search mode in Tennessee, I thought it would be a good idea to look at the differences between coaching at the top in the NFL and the college ranks.

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So what are the major differences? There are many that are obvious, and more that aren't. While we are poring over the resumes of a ton of coaches from both arenas, let's take a closer look.

Recruiting - The Endless Away Game

College coaches at ALL levels take an active role in recruiting. They have to, it the source of everything that is needed to build a winning program. College coaches are always on the job of recruiting, and they do a heck of a lot of homework, not to mention traveling, to get the job done. The College game is far less reactionary than the NFL, but it would be a mistake to say that the workload is dissimilar. In fact, the College coach has to deal with a lot more. Take Chip Kelly's account for example:

"My schedule (at Oregon), the day the season was over was a lot worse than my schedule here...Because, you know, you’re planes, trains and automobiles recruiting from Sunday night until Friday afternoon and hustling back and practicing, getting a practice in Friday afternoon, practice Saturday, practice Sunday, get back on a plane and fly around the country chasing down recruits.

These efforts exist in the NFL, but on a far different level. NFL coaches have departments behind them who do the legwork and allow the coach to focus on the team itself. And recruiting, at least in the larger sense, only lasts for several months in the NFL. They are very different worlds; one where you are looking at college individuals who have built their success on the back of being excellent salesmen to close the deal on the best student-athletes versus NFL coaches who are typically not the head-honcho in efforts to sign the best FA, and have billionaire owners' money to back them up.

This is not to say NFL coaching is easier, it's definitely not. But HC in college and NFL HC might as well be different positions. The involvement is different. In college, academic performance of the team is something to be monitored and considered, and when you run into trouble in college, the entire team catches an earful. The NFL is a league of professional adults, the same rules do not apply.

High Salaries = High Expectations

The average college HC brings home a little more than $1 million a year in salary, which is a tremendous amount all things considered. But it pales to the $3.75 million average salary earned by NFL head coaches. With that pay scale increase, so does the pressure and the expectations. The NFL is an extremely exclusive club with only 32 Head Coach gigs on the floor. In the NFL, a head coach needs to be more of a CEO than simply a coach. They have an owner in their ear, a General Manager, an offensive and defensive staff with tons of personnel, not to even mention the players. In the big leagues, guys have to be able to put it all together, and this goes beyond the style of coaching and responsibilities you see handed to college leading men.

Look at Greg Schiano for an example. He was a winner in college, but he was heavily criticized for taking too much of that college culture and management style over to Tampa Bay. This is one of the reasons he was axed; the failure to adapt to the NFL. He's not alone, few coaches make it as successful figures at the Head Coach spot in the NFL, and indeed the Not.For.Long arena, let alone from the college ranks.

So which is best?

So when we are looking at coaches to come to Tennessee, which are you looking for? A College Figure who hasn't gotten his chance to make a mark in the big leagues yet? Or a coach from the ranks of another NFL team? There really is no right answer here, as the individual in question will always be the major factor in any big decision. There are allures to both sides, but I have to admit I sway more to staying "in-house". The transition is difficult enough without taking into account the increased differences that stem from college football coaching as well. Many of the best college coaches didn't make it in the NFL, and returned to the NCAA. Others, like Pete Carrol, found success in his second NFL stint. I like to think that the individual is always more important than where they've come from, but the smaller the transition, the better, especially in a league with owners and fans that don't know the meaning of the word "patience."