Published: January 7th, 2011 | Tags: Jim Harbaugh, Alex Karras, Butch Davis, Chuck Fairbanks, Jim Mora, Lane Kiffin, Lou Holtz, McLean Stevenson, Mike Riley, Nick Saban, Pete Carroll, Pick Six, Steve Spurrier
You cannot blame Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh for considering a leaping to the NFL (after agreeing to coach the 49ers on Friday). The allure of an NFL coaching gig can be very strong. Especially if your brother, John, is having success leading one of the top teams in the NFL.
But sometimes the grass is not always greener, Jim. This is the kind of thinking that compelled McLean Stevenson to leave “M*A*S*H” to star in his own sitcom, “Hello, Larry.” Sometimes the best job is the one you don’t leave.
Did he make the right decision? Just ask these coaches, as we count down the top six coaches who should have stayed in school.
One coach who will not make the list, is current Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. Not only was his stint with the Patriots judged unfairly, he also won the NFC West in his first season in Seattle. Scoreboard, Pete.
Current USC coach Lane Kiffin also does not make the list because he barely qualifies as a college coach.
So let’s break it down.
6. Butch Davis: Call him the anti-LeBron James. The guy who left Miami to coach in Cleveland. Davis did lead the Browns to one playoff berth, in 2002, but his overall record was not so impressive, 24-35. Davis should have left his talents in Miami with the Hurricanes.
5. Nick Saban: It’s not that Saban was not a competent coach who could have won in the NFL. It never seemed that his heart was into the pro game. Saban also did not make any friends when he repeatedly denied his interest in the Alabama job. But what was he supposed to do? Come out and announce that he wanted to take a college job while he still had an NFL gig? Jim Mora would tell you that is a bad idea.
4. Lou Holtz: His NFL coaching career can be summed up in one word — fight song. That’s right, Holtz wrote a fight song for the Jets, which was sung by Alex Karras on Monday Night Football (you can flash forward to the 4:20 mark). You will notice in that link Holtz’s Jets were set to face Chuck Fairbanks‘ Patriots. Fairbanks, of course, had success with Oklahoma and the Patriots, but he was suspended by New England for the last game of the 1978 season because he had already accepted the Colorado job. Holtz didn’t make it a full season, retiring with a 3-10 mark in the NFL.
3. Steve Spurrier: The old ball coach won a Heisman Trophy as a quarterback at Florida, but he was unable to establish himself as an NFL quarterback. Which mirrored his coaching career almost perfectly. Spurrier went 12-20 in just two seasons.
2. Mike Riley: Ask anybody in San Diego who remembers Riley, and most will reply that he is a nice guy. But in the NFL, as the saying goes, nice guys and teams with Ryan Leaf at quarterback finish last. Riley complied a 14-34 record with the Chargers, but history might have been different if Peyton Manning had fallen to San Diego.
1. Bobby Petrino: When Petrino bolted from the Falcons to Arkansas in 2007 — with a 3-10 record, identical to Holtz’s — he wrote a “Dear John” letter to the team. Safety Lawyer Milloy had a copy of it taped above his locker, with a red “X” through Petrino’s words and the player’s own assessment written in: “Coward.” Not only is Petrino persona non grata in Atlanta, rumor has it he is banned from Home Depot, too.
Former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is still steaming, earlier this year calling Petrino a “gutless (person born of unmarried parents).”
That is some heat.