College game, NFL different animals

By: Nate Allen
Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Bobby Petrino was a combined 75-26 in stops at Louisville and Arkansas, but 3-10 in his brief NFL stint with the Falcons.
Photo by Michael Woods
Bobby Petrino was a combined 75-26 in stops at Louisville and Arkansas, but 3-10 in his brief NFL stint with the Falcons.

— This alleged pursuit of Jon Gruden by Arkansas and Tennessee kind of resembles a dog chasing a car.

What if the car stops? Then what?

The dog’s dream of catching the car certainly beats the reality if it did catch the car.

Actually catching Gruden might be similar for those allegedly chasing him now.

Not that Gruden wouldn’t be a fascinating hire.

The college catching him would be the only college sporting a head coach who is sporting a Super Bowl ring as a NFL head coach, rather than an NFL assistant like Charlie Weis.

Remember when Weis was the NFL big wheel that colleges chased on the premise that Weis was the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinating mastermind behind quarterback Tom Brady?

Notre Dame caught Weis in 2005. In 2009 the Irish let him go, like the dog that realized catching that back bumper wasn’t so much fun after all.

Brady won two MVPs after Weis’ departure.

Weis wallows at 1-10 with Kansas.

Gruden would bring any school charisma.

The 2002 Tampa Bay Bucs’ Super Bowl champion coach is even better known as ESPN’s NFL analyst for Monday Night Football.

Certainly the analyst with all the answers ought to bring a recruiting presence coast to coast for at least his first year or two in the college game.

However, having the fame to recruit and the ability and ceaseless want-to to recruit don’t necessarily match.

It makes coaching college players vs. coaching the pros an apples and oranges comparison that few mutually can accomplish.

Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer, both blooms off Frank Broyles’ Arkansas tree, are the only coaches who have won both the Super Bowl and college football’s national championship.

Their college success came first.

Recruiting, academics, hobnobbing with boosters and speaking all around the state while coaching your players only 20 hours per week isn’t part of the pro package.

Nor are some of the NFL facts of life, like trying to coach athletes making more than you who are often more secure in their jobs and more secure with the team owner than you, part of the college game.

Two of Arkansas’ greatest coaches, Lou Holtz and Bobby Petrino, came back to coach in the college ranks with the Hogs without completing their only season as NFL head coaches.

Conversely, the late Bill Walsh returned to coach Stanford after winning three Super Bowl championships with the San Francisco 49ers.

He got Stanford up to No. 9 in the country but retired upon consecutive losing seasons.

Two of Arkansas’ former NFL coordinators, Willy Robinson for Petrino and Kay Stephenson for Danny Ford, learned the hard way the difficulties of imparting the voluminous NFL playbook to college kids they coach only 20 hours per week.

Here is Jon Gruden’s college coaching resume: 1985-1986, graduate assistant Tennessee; 1987-1988 quarterbacks coach, Southeast Missouri State; 1989 tight ends coach, Pacific.

He’s coached or broadcast in the NFL ever since.

So as charismatic as a Gruden hire would be should it indeed occur, the college coaches you’ve heard mentioned — Mike Gundy, Gary Patterson, Tommy Tuberville, Art Briles, etc.— seem better experienced for Arkansas’ needs.

Sports, Pages 20 on 11/21/2012