Does Recruiting History Make College Coaches More Attractive to the NFL?

Andrew GardaFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2013

New Bills head coach Doug Marrone got his job because of collegiate success—was some of the attraction his recruiting prowess?
New Bills head coach Doug Marrone got his job because of collegiate success—was some of the attraction his recruiting prowess?Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

There are lots of reasons NFL owners keep dipping into the well of college coaching for their next head coach.

Guys like Philadelphia's Chip Kelly get jobs in part because of scheme. Guys like Seattle's Pete Carroll get their (third) shot in part because they win. Guys like Buffalo's Doug Marrone get their shot in part because they can turn a school program around.

Does anyone get hired because they recruit well?

It's an interesting question, as any of the three mentioned—indeed any college coach who is successful in college—can certainly recruit. They wouldn't have the players to win if they couldn't.

Does that translate to the pros, though? Do teams think it does?

The idea that a player will run through a wall for a coach isn't a recent thing—Rex Ryan was touted as "the coach NFL players want to play for" according to a Sports Illustrated poll's Mike Florio quotes back in 2010.

Of course, it didn't win him a Super Bowl. Maybe it won him some games initially but in the long-term it hasn't made a difference.

In fact, given the locker room kerfuffles of the last few years—be it ripping Tim Tebow anonymously or Santonio Holmes' 2011 implosion—it seems maybe they like playing for him too much, feel a bit too free.

You might point out that Ryan was not a college head coach, so perhaps he doesn't fit the profile. However the truth is that even if owners want coaches who can attract players, coaches who are too friendly with players could be just as problematic.

For an example, check out the criticism from the Dallas Morning News of then Dallas coach Wade Phillips for being too protective of his players.

It also doesn't appear to me that teams are looking for coaches with tight ties to incoming players. The latest example of this was the connection of Ryan Nassib to Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone.

The fit was there. The connection was there, as both had a huge hand in turning the Syracuse football program around.

The media made that connection, and as Marrone said in interviews, made it that much rougher on him when they weren't going to select Nassib. As he said on the Tim Brando Show (thanks CBS's Will Brinson for the quotes)

"It was just tough, and you're right. You make the decision on what's best for your organization."


That's key—best for your organization. Which is to say "what the GM and owner want as much as what you want."

In fact both Marrone and Kelly passed on their college players in this draft, according to Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith.

If the NFL was interested in connections to emerging college players, wouldn't either coach have picked one?

Finally, it's one thing to woo a high school or the occasional college kid. It's an entirely different thing to talk a player into coming to your team. Sure, a coach can get a player excited or make the extra effort to call a guy the moment he's a free agent.

In the end, though, getting a guy to come to your town at the pro level is much different. You're talking about monetary incentives, what the nightlife is like, his ego, if his wife will move to your town, how his kids fit into schools, what his agent thinks, how close you are to a Super Bowl and even then, all that might not matter to him. You also need to worry about the egos already on your team.

Is it similar to a college recruitment? Sure. In the same way that a one-foot wave in a kiddie pool is similar to the waves at Mavericks.

The ego is bigger, the money is bigger, the stakes are bigger.

Sure, a coach can't be an outright jerk, but he doesn't have to be all that great in a room. He certainly can't get by just be recruiting well the way some college coaches can.

The fact is that teams look for many things in a coach making the transition from college to the pro.

It just happens that those things are what they look for in any coach.

Schematic creativity, the personality to lead men, flexibility, a sharp football mind—all things they need for any coach to succeed.


That's not even on the list.


Andrew Garda is the former NFC North Lead Writer and a current NFL Analyst and video personality for Bleacher Report. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys and the NFL writer at You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.