NFL Coaches Who Should Come Back to College
Some coaches are better off in college than the NFL.
Although the rules are pretty much the same at both levels, the transition could be drastic. For some, leading a group of men proves to be a lot more difficult than an entire locker room of boys.
But just because some of these coaches made the jump up to the pros doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be welcomed back at the college level.
In fact, for some of these coaches, the move is pretty much necessary if they hope to continue to earn a living as a football coach.
Join us as we take a look at five coaches who would be better suited returning to school.
Current Position: Cincinnati Bengals (Offensive Coordinator)
NFL Jobs: Cincinnati Bengals (OC; 2014-Present), Cincinnati Bengals (RB; 2013), Cincinnati Bengals (DB; 2012), Oakland Raiders (HC; 2011), Oakland Raiders (OC; 2010), Baltimore Ravens (QB; 2008-09), Atlanta Falcons (OC; 2007), Cincinnati Bengals (WR; 2004-06), Washington Redskins (OC; 2003), Washington Redskins (RB; 2001-02)
College Jobs: USC (OC; 1997-00), Cal (OC; 1996), Arizona State (QB; 1995), Arizona State (RB; 1992-94)
Hue Jackson has spent the last decade-and-a-half at various jobs in the NFL. In fact, he’s jumped around from six different teams since 2001.
That includes a head coaching stint during the 2011 season with the Raiders.
Unfortunately, after starting 7-4, Jackson’s team finished the season 1-4. Oakland would miss the playoffs, and he would get the boot.
Maybe the NFL just isn’t the answer for the 48-year-old.
Before the jump to the pros, he spent nearly a decade coaching at the college level, having success more often than not.
Some of Jackson’s biggest contributions include leading the Bears' proficient offense in 1996 and recruiting Carson Palmer to come play for the Trojans.
With a knack for offensive production and more than 10 years of experience in the NFL, Jackson has a resume that would impress any school.
Current Position: Houston Texans (Defensive Backs Coach)
NFL Jobs: Houston Texans (2014-Present)
College Jobs: Penn State (DC; 2013), Penn State (DB; 2012-13), South Carolina (ST, LB; 2011), Minnesota (ST/LB; 2007-10)
John Butler made a name for himself last season as the Nittany Lions defensive coordinator.
Last season, his defense finished No. 49 in total defense and No. 58 in total defense. Penn State also ranked No. 42 in yards per play allowed (5.30).
Needless to say, his coaching was a big part of the turnaround.
Although following Bill O’Brien to the NFL was a tempting offer, it would have been in Butler’s best interest to stay firm. He had a chance to continue building up his resume and prove that he has what it takes to succeed at a top level.
One year isn’t enough to confirm that, and now Butler will have his hands full in coaching a Texans secondary that was burned for 29 touchdowns while intercepting just seven passes.
Forget being an NFL defensive backs coach. If Butler had stuck around the college ranks a little longer, it wouldn’t have been long before he became a candidate for a top NFL assistant position or even a shot at head coach.
Current Position: Dallas Cowboys (Offensive Line Coach/Offensive Coordinator)
NFL Jobs: Dallas Cowboys (OC/OL; 2012-Present), New York Jets (AHC/OL; 2008-11), Oakland Raiders (HC; 2002-03), Oakland Raiders (OC; 1998-01), Philadelphia Eagles (OL; 1995-97)
College Jobs: Nebraska (HC; 2004-07), Wisconsin (OL; 1990-94)
Bill Callahan has had a career full of ups and downs.
In 2002, he led the Raiders to a Super Bowl appearance. However, that was soon followed by allegations from Tim Brown on SiriusXM NFL Radio (h/t Pro Football Talk) that the coach threw the game, as well as a 4-12 season in 2003.
Callahan also had some success as the Cornhuskers head coach, leading the team to a division title in 2006. But he also had two losing seasons and finished with an overall mark of 27-22.
Following what transpired in Oakland, it’s unclear whether an NFL team would ever consider the 57-year-old for a head coaching position.
However, given his experience at Nebraska and in the NFL, Callahan would be a good veteran coach for many schools.
It could be in his best interest to close out his career at the collegiate level.
Current Position: Buffalo Bills (Head Coach)
NFL Jobs: Buffalo Bills (HC; 2013-Present), New Orleans Saints (OC; 2006-08), New York Jets (OL; 2002-05)
College Jobs: Syracuse (HC; 2009-12), Tennessee (TE/OT; 2001), Georgia (OL; 2000), Georgia Tech (OL; 1997-99), Georgia Tech (TE; 1996)
For the third straight year, the Bills wrapped up the season 6-10.
Although it’s hard to expect much from head coach Doug Marrone in his first season, there wasn’t anything that hinted that change was on the horizon. Buffalo once again struggled offensively—No. 19 in total offense and No. 22 in scoring—and went 1-5 against playoff teams.
Furthermore, it’s not like he wowed during his time with the Orange.
In four seasons, he was just 25-25. However, he did manage to win both bowl games that his team played in.
Still, the jump to the NFL was a bit premature. Instead, he should have gained more experience at the college level before moving on.
At 49 years of age, he is still relatively young. It's never too late to take a step down if it could lead to a more promising career.
Current Position: None
NFL Jobs: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (HC; 2012-13), Chicago Bears (DB; 1998), Chicago Bears (DA; 1996-97)
College Jobs: Rutgers (HC; 2001-11), Miami (DC; 1999-00), Penn State (DB; 1991-95)
You have to give Greg Schiano props for trying.
In two seasons with the Buccaneers, it was obvious he wasn’t a fit. After going 7-9 in his debut campaign, the Bucs finished 4-11 in 2013.
But to make matters worse, his "must control everything" coaching style just didn't mesh well with players. Not to mention, some of his tactics annoyed and infuriated fellow coaches.
As expected, the 47-year-old was fired before the season was up.
Although his coaching style didn’t prosper in the NFL, that doesn’t mean he is a bad coach. In fact, it simply means he’s better suited for the college game.
Over 11 years with the Scarlet Knights, he compiled a 68-67 record. It may not seem superb, but for the talent he had, Schiano did one heck of a job.
That included going 5-1 in bowl games.
Now without a job, it’s best for Schiano to return home to where he first made a name for himself: college football.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats and rankings are courtesy of CFBStats.