The Rhule, Not the Exception

Some of you are wondering why is Matt Rhule, coming off tenure with the Carolina Panthers that was a colossal failure (11-27), considered a hot commodity in the college ranks.

The reason is simple. College coaches who succeed in the NFL are more the exception than the (don’t do it, Danny!) RHULE (couldn’t help myself).

Lou Holtz, Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, and Urban Meyer are all Hall of Fame (or soon-to-be) college coaches who, at one point, were considered to be at the top of their profession. They all won titles, and they all succeeded at multiple stops. Except, of course, the NFL.

The most recent flameout was Meyer (won at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, and Ohio State), who lasted a mere 13 games in the league where they play for pay. Sure, the preverbal final nail in the coffin might have been off the field, but his record on it was abysmal (2-11), and if the Jacksonville Jaguars believed he was their guy, they would have stuck with him.

His contemporary and arguably the greatest coach in college football history, Nick Saban (won at Toledo, Michigan State, LSU, and Alabama), also failed on many given Sundays. He did have a winning season in Year 1 (9-7) but took a step back in Year 2 (6-10), and one last-place finish with the Miami Dolphins was all he could handle.

Not long after stating, “I guess I have to say it. I’m not going to be the Alabama coach,” Saban was off to Tuscaloosa with a 15-17 NFL record.

One of Meyer’s predecessors at Florida, Steve Spurrier (won at Duke, Florida, and South Carolina), also couldn’t resist the lore of the National Football League.

Like Saban, he was two and done (12-20) with Washington. Only two years into a then-record five-year, $25 million, the ole ball coach walked away from $15 million and resigned, citing the need for “new leadership” in the Nation’s Capitol. He wasn’t talking about the White House.

The always quotable Spurrier gave us this fabulous nugget before he left the NFL: “Ok, we wound up 5-11! Not very good! But there was some worse ‘un us. I guess that’s one positive way to look at it, we weren’t the worst team in the league.”

Each had their doubters, but you can understand why the NFL was intrigued by Saban, Meyer, and Spurrier in search of their Jimmy Johnson. It was before my time, so I can only imagine what the New York Jets were thinking when they hired Lou Holtz (won at NC State, Arkansas, and Notre Dame).

Fresh off a Peach Bowl loss, Holtz became the HC of the NYJ in 1976, where he finished 3-10 with two wins over the Buffalo Bills and one over the winless Tampa Bay Bucs.

Even with the end in sight, Holtz resigned with one game left in the season.

This isn’t the case for Matt Rhule becoming a Hall of Fame college coach. He doesn’t belong in the same breath as the above quartet.

Rhule still has a lot of work to do to be in the same class as Chip KellyBobby PetrinoGreg Schiano, and Lane Kiffin, all successful college coaches who flamed out in the NFL, some in spectacular fashion.

Even Saban and Spurrier couldn’t cut it in the NFL, so don’t hold it against Rhule.

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