The talk of college coaches needing to jump to the NFL to find new challenges or to build legacies doesn't make much sense.
Coaches like Nick Saban, Chip Kelly and Brian Kelly don't need to look elsewhere for that. The challenges and legacies can be found where they work now.
The NFL doesn't have a monopoly on legacy building for coaches. The college game has always been better for that anyway.
As Brian Kelly talks to NFL teams, maybe it is a play to get a big raise from Notre Dame, or whatever motivation he might have other than actually taking a NFL job. As Chip Kelly showed us by coming back to Oregon, it can be hard to tell. At some point, Brian Kelly should wonder about what he might be passing up by leaving.
Becoming the best coach in college football history, which Saban has a chance to do, is a mighty challenge. Bringing a national championship back to Notre Dame, or bringing the first one to Oregon, as Brian and Chip Kelly have come so close to doing (and have built programs that can get there soon), cements a legacy forever.
The NFL might provide that too. But coaches don't need to go pro to seek it.
The NFL is a players' game. College football celebrates its coaches. That's never going to change, and reaching the pinnacle in the NFL doesn't mean unlimited fame and glory. Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan would get infinitely more credit for winning a Super Bowl this season than John Fox, Mike McCarthy or Mike Smith. BCS Championship winners Bob Stoops and Les Miles are probably more revered and well known than Super Bowl winners like Brian Billick and Mike Tomlin.
Brian Kelly would be forever hailed at Notre Dame if he can win a national championship, and maybe even if he can just keep the Irish in the hunt for however long he is there. And with some good players coming back like nose tackle Louis Nix, quarterback Everett Golson and a recruiting class that Rivals.com has ranked No. 1 in the nation, he has a great start towards that. Kelly has already talked about having the best job in America, so he understands what Notre Dame offers. He would be hailed in Philadelphia or Cleveland or wherever for bringing a Super Bowl, but there's a reason nobody has done that in those cities yet. And he's not likely to get a statue outside the stadium even if he does.
Pete Carroll has done well in the NFL and college, and he knows how difficult it can be in the pros, according to CoachingSearch.com:
"For me it is a whole lot different than it would be for a guy that hasn't been here," Carroll said. "That lack of familiarity with kind of how it works makes it much more challenging. I think the guys that haven't been here should be slow to make that consideration. This can be a very rough business if you don't get off to a smooth start. If you have been around and been on some staffs and know some people it's a whole different deal. I would encourage those guys to do it."
Saban has been asked so many times about going to the NFL he's starting to get angry with the question. On ESPN Radio, he said he has been asked to close the door on the NFL so many times, the "damn hinges are worn off." He has talked about the joy of seeing players do well after college (and not just in the football realm), and there's something to that. And no matter what he does in the NFL, his popularity won't grow larger than it will be if he stays in Tuscaloosa. Saban seems to know better than to screw up happiness - or whatever feeling the stone-faced Saban gets from winning every year.
Bear Bryant is the standard bearer in college football. Saban will never be mythologized the way Bryant is. But Saban has a 154-55-1 record, a 73.6 career winning percentage. He has four national titles. Bryant had a 78 percent mark in his career and six titles. Saban is 61 years old and will have the preseason No. 1 team next year. It's not crazy to believe that if he coaches 10 more years, and that he could pass Bryant's marks - and he's doing it in an era that is more difficult in many ways. That's every bit the challenge the NFL could offer him. And he already has that statue outside the stadium.
That's what Brian Kelly, Chip Kelly and Nick Saban face. The NFL is king in this country and curiosity of if they could be the next Jimmy Johnson and make the successful leap understandably has to interest them. So should the fear of being the next Steve Spurrier with the Redskins or ... the next Saban with the Dolphins.
Chip Kelly and Saban already decided that everything they need is already at their current job. Will Brian Kelly have that revelation as well?
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