A poll on FOXSPORTS.com shows that 75 percent of respondents (over 130,000 votes cast) believe that Boston College football head coach Jeff Jagodzinski should not be fired, the reasoning being that "Coaches interview for other jobs all the time."
(For the record, Jagodzinski was indeed fired after interviewing for the New York Jets' head coaching job without discussing it first with his current employers.)
Let's stop here for a second and review the reasoning why Jagodzinski should not be fired: "Coaches interview for other jobs all the time."
Look, I don't begrudge Jagodzinski looking to move up the ladder into a pro coaching job with the New York Jets, but the amount of movement in college and pro football of coaches is getting ridiculous.
A contract means nothing anymore. In baseball, a contract is a contract. You don't see Joe Torre bolting from the New York Yankees in midseason to coach USC, like you saw Bobby Petrino bolt on the Atlanta Falcons to return to college.
In fact, it's so rare to see a manager in baseball move to another team in the middle of a contract that the manager has to be part of a trade, much like when the Tampa Bay then-Devil Rays acquired manager Lou Piniella from the Seattle Mariners for Randy Winn.
In football? Coaches move around with relative ease. Want out of your job? No problem. Interview somewhere else, accept the job, and leave.
Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe expounded on this situation on Wednesday:
...So many coaches and ballplayers see contracts as security without obligation.
No. It's supposed to be both. When you sign a guaranteed contract, you forfeit some independence and chances to better your position for the duration of the deal. You take security over potential opportunity. If you don't produce, the company still pays you. In exchange, the company knows you are bound to work for it until the deal expires. Pretty simple, right?
Not if you're coach of a big-time college program. In that case, you tell your AD and all of your recruits that you are going to be there. You lie. And then you bail when there's a chance of a better gig. You make a date for the prom, then stand up your date after the corsage has been purchased—just because somebody better-looking offered to go with you.
This situation is especially untenable in football when athletes regularly sit out, demanding better contracts. To an extent, this makes sense. They don't have the financial security that basketball and baseball players do. What you sign for, you make, period, so you can understand them demanding restructuring of contracts.
Not so on the coach's end. Their salaries are mostly guaranteed money and represent a commitment by an organization to a head coach—and supposedly, vice versa.
Not to say that it's solely Jagodzinski's fault, or Bobby Petrino, or even Nick Saban. Organizations are guilty of this as well, firing head coaches as soon as they see a more palatable option on the horizon.
Everyone knew the Cleveland Browns were going to dump Romeo Crennel after the season because they thought they would get Bill Cowher. After not getting him, they had egg on their face and moved on.
However, these incidents with organizations are few and far between (and to be fair, the firing of Crennel was defensible despite him being handicapped without his two top quarterbacks; had he made the playoffs, I doubt he'd be out of a job right now) while they occur with startling regularity in college and pro football with head coaches.
How can this be fixed? It's going to take an innovative organization willing to pony up extra years and dollars to make this happen.
But one day, a head coach will sign a contract (most likely with a college football team, as college football head coaches are the ones making the headlines...need I mention Jagodzinski, Petrino, and Saban again?) stipulating that he may not interview for any other job with any other organization except without prior written permission from a club.
The coach shall have no recourse to escape his contract should the organization deny that coach the opportunity to interview unless an organization at the professional level offers said coach the head coaching job, with no formal interview.
One day, it will happen. A contract these days signing a head coach to a job in college football (and to a lesser extent, professional football) doesn't mean a thing. It might as well be a year-to-year commitment.
That needs to change, and until it does, we will continually see people jump ship for better jobs in better organizations.
The argument from the other side does hold some water in that people can negotiate contracts with competing companies in just about any profession. However, for the most part, those that jump ship do so as "free agents" and generally operate under a no-competition clause that prevents them from starting their new job for a period of time. (Rick Reilly, anyone?)
Not so in college football. Petrino's was the nuttiest situation, when he left a cushy college football head coaching job to become the coach of the Atlanta Falcons. He then bailed midseason back to a different college program.
I wish I could say that I can't envision the day a college football head coach signs a contract with one college football team then the very next day bails to a professional franchise, only to bail again the day after to a different college football team. But it's scarcely feasible.
From Saban to Petrino (the worst offender of all) to Jagodzinski, there is a culture being bred that a contract is not worth the paper it's being written on. And that's simply not good business.
Originally published here.