Thursday, January 06, 2005

Stay in School!
By Zach

So, the inevitable finally happened. Dennis Erickson got fired as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Erickson, a two-time national champion at the University of Miami, was on his second go-around as an NFL coach. He went 31-33 as the Seattle Seahawks head coach, coming a Phil Luckett disaster call from going to the playoffs in 1998, his final season, then returned to college to coach Oregon State. He returned the Beavers to respectability, trouncing Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, then once again jumped at the chance to go pro, taking over for the deposed Steve Mariucci in San Fran.
Get this man a college sweater, stat.
A team that had made the playoffs in 2002 finished 2003 at 7-9, which prompted ownership to gut the team, trading superstar reciever Terrell Owens to Philadelphia (well, Baltimore first, but I digress) and letting quarterback Jeff Garcia go to Cleveland. The result? The Niners finished 2-14, tied for the worst record in franchise history, and leaving Erickson's two year mark at 9-23. Yikes.

Erickson is just one in a series of coaches who don't seem to understand that they just aren't cut out for life as a pro coach. Erickson is one of just a few coaches in NCAA history to win two national titles. What's wrong with that? Stay in the college ranks, build a program, and become a legend. You'll make plenty of money, you'll get a stadium named after you, and you'll never have to recruit. Instead, coaches like Erickson continue to think that they can go pro. Look at Steve Spurrier. Just recently, Nick Saban took the head coaching gig with the Miami Dolphins. Saban had previously built LSU into a national power, winning a share of the national championship in 2003. The guy he split the national championship with that year, Pete Carrol, turned a disastrous stint with the New England Patriots into the head coaching gig at USC. Last I checked, the Trojans had won 22 straight games and a couple of national championships.

It's the same with the NBA. Remember John Calipari, the NBA coach? Or Rick Pitino in Boston? Yeah, that's what I thought. The money in the professional ranks is alluring, for sure. And I know that it seems like the pros are the prestigious way to go. But think about some of the best known coaches. Mike Krzyzewski, Bobby Bowden, Bobby Knight...all college coaches. The fact is that success in the pros is more about balancing egos than it is about Xs and Os.

So today's plea is to coaches out there. If you're good at what you do, be proud of that. Try and reach to far, and you might find your own personal Stalingrad waiting.


Blogger David Arnott said...

To be fair, Terry Donahue and John York were the Niners' biggest problems this year. While Erickson is by no means a top-tier pro football coach, he was given nearly nothing to work with. On top of that, Donahue and York basically went around telling everyone on the down low that Erickson should have been doing a better job with the team. What kind of management is that? The least they could have done is a little spin control to explain to everyone that they were purging the team of bad contracts and rebuilding. Instead, they tried to maintain a facade of competitiveness. While firing both Erickson and Donahue is easily defensible (and while firing only Donahue would have been acceptable), York has now ensured that the team will remain mediocre for an even longer period of time because he is going to hire a coach before hiring a GM. He doesn't really know what he's doing. He thinks that his business smarts in other fields should transfer to the NFL, and he doesn't understand that's not necessarily so. Thus, the Niners are doomed to another two to three years of turmoil unless York sells the team.

2:48 AM  

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