Monday, January 30, 2012

Matt Ryan, Greg Schiano, and the Value of Coming from the College Football Proletariat

My column on Greg Schiano is up at SB Nation.  The thesis is that he might be better prepared for NFL success than most college coaches because he is used to coaching without a talent advantage:

Schiano might garner a series of "meh" reactions from college football fans based on Rutgers output after their explosion onto the scene in 2007, but his experience might be the right one to prepare him for the NFL. Starting in 2011 and moving backwards, here are Rutgers' recruiting rankings in the Big East according to Rivals: second, sixth, third, third, third, sixth, fourth, and third. The conclusion is simple: in an eight-team conference, Rutgers had decent talent, but nothing overwhelming. As a result, Schiano had to focus on getting more out of his three-star guys than his coaching rivals were getting out of theirs. That experience prepares him for the NFL, where talent is distributed far more evenly than it is in college.

In fact, if Rutgers' merely decent recruiting rankings reflect that Schiano is an underwhelming recruiter, then this fact might actually be a good sign for Schiano in the NFL. When Saban and Pete Carroll moved to the NFL, they were both leaving behind a primary asset: top recruiting ability. That recruiting ability undoubtedly led to their success at LSU and USC, thus leading the Dolphins and Seahawks to pay for a skill that would not translate to the NFL. Schiano might not have experienced success on the level of Saban or Carroll, but if his success was the result of good player development and acumen with strategy and tactics in lieu of bringing in great players, then he is well-prepared for the NFL.
In retrospect, it was a bit of an oversight that I didn't mention Jim Harbaugh coming to the NFL from college and immediately turning the 49ers from a perennial laughingstock to a Super Bowl contender.  Harbaugh, like Schiano, came from a non-elite program where he had to do more with less (although Harbaugh was a better recruiter than Schiano and had the benefit of five-star Andrew Luck under center).  I also wanted to reference Bill Simmons' since-abandoned theory that college coaches are vastly inferior to NFL coaches, but I didn't feel the need for added snark.

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