In reality TV, we praise those who are here for "the right reasons" and scold those who are not, all the while ignoring the truth that there is no such thing. The same thing applies to college football coaches.
If a bevy of college football coaches were ever sent to a house in Malibu to live together while vying for the love of a single woman, and I can honestly say that there would be no greater television experience and this absolutely should happen, Bobby Petrino and Lane Kiffin would probably be the most likely suitors in the house to be described as "not here for the right reasons."
It's the quintessential reality dating show phrase uttered by contestants who seem oblivious to their own cliches as they say them. Take The Bachelorette. Every season, a new collection of suitors show up to vie for the attention of said bachelorette. They come to the house equipped with the knowledge of what has come before them. The mistakes made, the phrases uttered and the awkwardness that ensued. And instead of learning from it or avoiding the cliches, they seem to use those negative experiences as the basis for how to act in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.
The Guy Who Passed Out Drunk The First Night and The Guy Who Shows Up In A Wacky Outfit are never remembered fondly. And yet next season, someone will assume both of those roles. Possibly at the same time.
That brings us back to "the right reasons." The right reasons are an ideal that, apparently, we all expect our realty dating TV show contestants to adhere to and strive for. It is, as best I can figure, equivalent to "the right way to play the game." The right reasons are what we should all, as human beings, want to live our lives. We should wake up wanting to go to work for the right reasons, go to the mall for the right reasons and eat dinner for the right reasons.
Invariably, someone who is not doing something for "the right reasons" is a contestant identified as having ulterior motives. He's the jerk that's just here to get famous. Or the schmuck who's using this dating show platform to promote his crappy band. He's not here filming a TV show selflessly in order to find true love, like the rest of us, he's got an agenda.
When news broke that Doug Marrone was going to interview for the head coaching vacancies with the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills (among others, possibly), the predictable reactions emerged. "He said Syracuse was his dream job! What a liar!" "Stay true to your word, Marrone!" "It's all about the money for him!"
In other words, Doug Marrone, whom we were pretty sure was here for the right reasons, was not in fact here for the right reasons.
And as such, the news reminds us that there is no such thing as "the right reasons."
What reality TV and many sportswriters do so well is take human beings who exist in the same world that you and I exist in and move them into an alternate reality where the rules and expectations are different. Even though we all know that every contestant on The Bachelorette is there because it's a chance to get on television, whatever that means to them, it doesn't take long to break each of them down by a set of rules that "real-life" human beings do not actually follow. Everyone becomes an archetype. Villains are revealed. Heroes are lauded. A unique characteristic (a lisp or one's virginity) becomes the basis for how their entire existence is measured.
With coaches, especially college coaches, it's exactly the same. Bobby Petrino is a heartless mercenary who doesn't care about anyone and is motivated by greed, excess and power while, say, Pat Fitzgerald is a shining beacon of everything that a man should strive to be. It would be very, very easy to find someone who would say Fitz does things "the right way" and Petrino does things "the wrong way." Nevermind the gray-area nuance that shades every human life on this planet. There's no room for that (until that person's 30 For 30 documentary years from now that makes you realize what a jerk you were for rooting against him).
With Doug Marrone, the story has always been about how Syracuse was his dream job. He's said as much and the story of his SU coaching binder is legend in Central New York at this point. He's a Syracuse Man. He sought us out when the job became available. He committed himself to rebuilding the program from the ground up. He'd never leave SU for another college job like Tennessee or Wisconsin because it just wouldn't make any sense.
Doug Marrone was here for the right reasons. That's what he told us and showed us.
Wanting to leave Syracuse after four seasons to become an NFL coach doesn't fit with all of this. Mr. Right Reasons is altruistic to the end. He puts his own emotions, desires and needs behind those of the greater good (i.e. us). Mr. Right Reasons would be the head coach at Syracuse for at least a decade, if not longer, and he would do it gladly. Mr. Right Reasons cares not for money. This isn't about money, this is about "passion" and "honor" and "doing things the right way."
Doug Marrone is a victim of The Right Reasons Effect, but he is also part of it. Like every coach before him, he played along with years of generic coachspeak in neutral tones. We expect him to say he wants to be here and will never leave, he says he wants to be here and will never leave, we pretend to believe him, he pretends to believe us for believing in him and the world keeps spinning.
If Doug Marrone were an accountant or a carpenter or a high school teacher, no one would bat an eyelash for a second about his interest in a job at the highest level of his profession. In fact, you'd be thrilled to death on his behalf. As human beings, we recognize that Doug does actually like his current "clients" or "current students" but that when an opportunity arrives that puts him among the very best of what he does AND pays him an exorbitant amount to do so, only a moron would say no.
In the real world, the person who says no to that opportunity is the one doing things for the wrong reasons. Because there is no such thing as "the right reasons." The right reasons are a myth. A fake construct that no one can actually attain but we all pretend is attained by most people.
If the NFL wants to give Doug Marrone a rose, he should accept the rose. No one turns down the rose. That's absurd. But it's also absurd to assume that any of the other potential coaches that could get that rose instead are any different. Chip Kelly is not any better or worse for jumping from Oregon. Bill O'Brien's life goal was not to specifically be Penn State's head coach. Greg Schiano was not a monster for accepting Tampa Bay's rose last year, despite telling Rutgers that he wanted to maintain an alliance with them.
At the end of the day, no one has ever "won" The Bachelorette because they were there for the right reasons. They won because of whatever criteria happened to be the winning criteria that season based on everyone involved. There are no rules that dictate otherwise.
Doug Marrone has his reasons for pursuing an NFL gig. Maybe they are just to test the waters and feel appreciated. Maybe they are just a way to prepare for the next round in 2-3 years after his contract extension. Maybe he really does want out of Syracuse. Maybe he just wants the chance to coach in "The National Football League" (Merrill Hoge voice) and knows never to waste an opening.
Whatever his reasons, they're the right reasons. Because they're his.