Charlie Strong. Chip Kelly. Nick Saban.
These three modern coaches embody the new era of College Coaching Success. But more importantly, they tell a lot about modern programs in an era where loyalty is about useful as the hardcover dictionary used to look up what it actually means.
Doug Marrone has somehow won two bowl games and a conference championship after inheriting a
beat to death decapitated animal program that had struggled for a decade prior. He was no nonsense, liked by the school's brass and the perfect mold of a head coach. He had the NFL experience, was an alumni who wanted to bring the program back to the glory days and had a system to do it.
Naturally, this looks just as appealing to a NFL franchise as it did to Syracuse and thus, Marrone is a wanted man. What I find intriguing about this whole process is not just whether Marrone stays or leaves, but what it says about the program.
This is where the three guys at the top come into play. Charlie Strong was a wanted commodity among big time colleges. Louisville then ran to their checkbooks and signed him to an eight year deal. This doesn't mean he won't leave, but that it would take a huge commitment from a hiring college or NFL team to take him away from Louisville. He signed it, meaning even without an alumni connection, he's happy there.
Chip Kelly entered Oregon as the offensive coordinator in 2007 and head coach in 2009. Before Kelly, Oregon was a decent program that couldn't seem to take the leap into the next level. Kelly (and some Nike money) blasted them to that pinnacle. Now, he's the hottest name in town with an interview lined up.
Let's stop for a second here before I get to Saban. Louisville has decided they have a "program changing" coach and did what any middle level program has to do to keep him there: give him a monster contract and dive in. Kelly has proven to be a program changer for Oregon. He is the guy who can guarantee that Oregon stays among the elite programs in this era. But he's not even a certainty to stay when his contract is $20.5 million over six years.
In my opinion, Kelly could demand $5-7 million a year from Oregon who then runs to Phil Knight who had better give Kelly that money. Kelly is the man at Oregon, the mad scientist/genius behind their scheme and could, if he chose, get job security for a long time in Oregon.
Syracuse, while not a public school like these two guys, has to honestly assess what Doug Marrone is to them. If they think Marrone is THE GUY like many have hailed him as, then they have to pull a Louisville and make it very hard for someone to pluck him up. Otherwise, they are looking like Oregon who hasn't done enough (yet) to make being the man at a college look more appealing than the prestige and cash the NFL presents.
But my final example is what I think Syracuse and Doug Marrone will ultimately see occur. LSU was another decent program that Nick Saban entered and brought to elite status. (Crazy to think before Saban in 03 LSU had the same number of NTL Titles as Cuse.) LSU couldn't lock him up and Saban made the switch to the NFL. Where he was average. He's now at Alabama and after his poor experience with the media and brass of the NFL, he's pretty much at Bama until he's done.
The lure of the NFL is far too tempting. There are no boosters, no recruiting, no crazy rulebooks for off the field activity, no grades to worry about. It's a business of football where those who love the game can make a living doing just what they love to do. Marrone loves football and with all of the off the field issues that seems to follow SU football, I'm not so sure the NFL's media pressure's are enough to outweigh the negatives.
However, I don't think Marrone's going to be a dynasty setting NFL coach, which in reality, is the goal every NFL exec has when they hire a coach.The NFL and NCAA are different for a variety of reasons but ultimately, the in the NFL you have to win. Win often and win a lot. Championships are the goal. In college, there are a few programs with that standard but overall, that's not the case. I love Marrone, but I think he's the same cut as Saban: college fits what he tries to do with teams far better then the NFL
I think Syracuse and Dr. Gross knows Marrone will go to the NFL. He's got the pedigree, the connections and already the resumé to validate a hire. The reason Marrone is taking the interviews is probably the same reason I would: get Dr. Gross to show his hand. He hasn't said a lot publicly I haven't heard a lot privately either. Marrone genuinely wants to make Syracuse great before he jumps to the NFL.
The real question behind all of this: is Syracuse willing and able to afford it?