The NFL grass isn’t always greener, especially when you already have a job with a college football blue-blood.
It’s the time of year where the NFL begins its own coaching carousel. So far, despite a lack of hires, there has been a decent bit of news. Most notably, there has been the saga of Kliff Kingsbury at USC. Lynn Swann, may he be USC’s athletic director forever, is blocking him from interviewing for NFL jobs.
More interesting for Notre Dame fans, however, are the rumors going around that Brian Kelly may be headed to the NFL. The Buccaneers have interest, and the typical wisdom is that being a successful NFL coach is more prestigious than being a prestigious college coach. After all, even Nick Saban once took a stab at it.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Kelly to the NFL rumors have surfaced. In the past he said this on the topic:
“I don’t know how to stop that other than to say there’s no other place, first of all, in college that I would want to coach. No. 2, I get to pick the players that play for me, I get to negotiate the contracts. I’ve got the salary cap, I’ve got all that. In the NFL, you don’t get to do any of that. Look what Chip Kelly’s going through. He tries to control all that and he gets killed for it. I can do all that here at Notre Dame.”
So, it would appear, if years old comments are still valid, that Kelly simply prefers the way in which college coaching works. In this scenario, it would appear the Notre Dame is in no danger of losing its football coach. However, it did lead to the question, is the Notre Dame job better than an NFL head coaching job?
As I noted, the conventional wisdom is that the NFL comes with more prestige for a coach. It seems every year coaches leave high profile positions in college to try their luck at the NFL. Chip Kelly and Jimmy Johnson spring to mind.
No head coaches in the modern era have jumped ship from Notre Dame to the NFL, though. Now, obviously there are a number of factors that go into this, but it seems that while rumors circulate about Brian Kelly, he can not be poached.
In terms of visibility, Notre Dame is on national television every week. End of story. In the NFL, bad teams and small markets are relegated to regional television. So Notre Dame receives more visibility than a number of teams.
As Kelly stated, he has complete control over his program. This isn’t a luxury shared by many NFL coaches. Most have to work with front office employees to help put together a full roster. This, infamously, was an issue during Bill Parcell’s tenure with the Patriots. Parcell’s famously once said, “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries”.
Simply put, the Notre Dame job comes with more freedom than most NFL jobs.
The expectations at Notre Dame are National Championships — as they should be. Even though it has now been decades since an Irish team won the National Championship, fans are eagerly awaiting the awakened echoes. On the other hand, in the NFL, only about half the teams have the expectation of making the playoffs any given year.
Looking at the Notre Dame job against the average open NFL position, it’s clear that the Notre Dame job is the better of the two jobs. Even among competitive NFL teams, most fall flat compared to the Notre Dame job in terms of desirability for a coach. At the end of the day, the head football coach at Notre Dame is still just a step below the Presidency in terms of importance in the eyes of the Irish faithful.