The January silly season of football coaches switching jobs, both college and National Football League, has pretty much wrapped up, give or take the occasional Rob Ryan, and it left me with the same question that goes through my head every year. Which means less: Coaches who swear their loyalty up and down at end-of-season press conferences, only to switch jobs later that week; or coaches’ signatures on contracts in the first place?
I don’t know what makes me shake my head more: A coach signing a five-year deal, and then heading for “greener pastures” after one season; or a coach who practically cuts open his veins to show that he bleeds school colors or team colors, despite the fact that he pretty much has the keys to his next office in hand.
Becoming a head football coach at any level is a long and difficult career choice, with the odds stacked against advancing far enough to reach the pinnacle of the profession. I am by no means attempting to gloss over the long hours and hard work involved. But for those who work hard enough and are fortunate enough to advance, is there a better work situation in any other profession?
Once a head coach signs his name on a contract, the only actions that can derail him from either receiving every cent agreed upon or leaving for a better job are illegal activities, either by NCAA, NFL, or actual legal standards. If you do a lousy job and your team loses at an unacceptable rate, you still collect every dime. And if your team succeeds, the next, “better” job is only a phone call away.
However, the days of someone staying in the same job for decades, like a Tom Landry or a pre-scandal Joe Paterno, are long-gone. It’s a different era now, with coaches leaving for better jobs at the drop of a hat, or impatient NFL owners or college boosters, administrations, and athletic directors who are unwilling to allow programs to grow. As sports fans, we may not like this, but we have no choice other than to accept it.
There is one change that I firmly believe should occur, however, on both the college and professional levels. The commitment required by the sport of football, from both coaches and players, is far and away the most severe of any sport in terms of time, mental preparation, and physical preparation. When teams that have had some success during the season near the end of their journeys, the deserving or lucky ones are rewarded with bowl games in college, or playoff berths in the NFL.
I think it is absolutely inexcusable that job interviews are allowed to take place before teams’ seasons are finished, and that includes bowl games and playoff runs. As a player or fellow coach, I want to know that I am getting the full commitment and focus of everyone on the staff so my team can take advantage of the opportunity it earned. There is no way coaches who are interviewing for other positions are anywhere near 100% focused on their current duties. It’s humanly impossible.
I know my proposal is a pipe dream, and it will never happen on either level, with the pressure to beat out competitors and get the “right man for the job” in place as soon as possible, but I strongly believe coaches should be prohibited from contact with other schools or organizations until their teams’ seasons are completed.
The number of years on the contract may be irrelevant, but would it kill these guys to at least finish their jobs for the season before making their next moves?