Blog Entry

Stage Coach

Posted on: January 22, 2008 5:43 pm
Edited on: January 22, 2008 8:14 pm

I'm going to use my first blog post to cover a topic I've found myself writing on two years in a row, after the career moves by Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino.

I'm also going to use it as an opportunity to preserve a post I made some weeks ago on the subject.

Bear in mind that I barely knew who Petrino was before he moved to the Falcons, and hadn't paid much attention to Saban before he took the Dolphins job. As a disclaimer, I was born in Alabama and have been a lifelong fan of the Crimson Tide. I went to High School in Florida, starting the same year the Dolphins went 17-0, and was a fan up until the eventual retirements of Shula and Dan Marino. I was also a long time Falcons fan, having lived in Atlanta during the years my interest in pro football was developing, and gone back to the city during my time in college (or should I say "Institute").

In many cases I tend to be a fan of individual coaches or players rather than a team as an entity, and so have been known to abandon fandom for some teams when it has gotten ot the point that all of the people that drew me to a team are long gone.

My one time fandom for the Dolphins, and lifelong fandom of Alabama, however, do not influence my ideas on the merits of this discussion. I've long held these beliefs, predating this specific situations by decades.


I always have to shake my head in wonderment that sports fans think they have any right to stand in judgement of a career decision made by a coach or player.

Of course Saban's situation from last year has been drawn into this discussion of Petrino, and both men had an absolute right to make a decision based on what they felt was best for them and their families.

Now, I was a Falcon's fan on the day they started playing, and a Dolphin's fan for more than 40 years. Alhough I've been a fan of those teams, I never wore the rose colored glasses. The Falcons have never been a well manaaged franchise, and the Dolphins have done nothing but go downhill since Wayne bought them. (I'm sure the dynamics in Miami are more complicated than just Wayne's ownership, but that is another discussion).

However, in both cases these coaches found the reality of their situation with the team to be different than the expectations 'sold' to them when they took the positions, and likely discovered after fighting through the cold veil of experience that they were happiest in a different situation.

Life is both too long and too short to spend it in a situation where you are not happy or comfortable, if you have a choice.

It is very unusual for either a college or pro coach to stay in one position indefinitely any more, and it is more often the franchise or university that makes the choice, rather than the coach. To blame a coach for being the one to make the decision rather than the franchise really doesn't make any sense. Both Saban and Petrino would have eventually been fired by their pro franchise, after some number of years, no matter what success they achieved, unless they won the Super Bowl every year.

You cannot blame them for making a move on their own terms when an opportunity came along that they like better. Both took pay cuts, both knew they'd face criticism for leaving. That alone tells you a lot about how important it was to those two men to get out of the traps they found themselves in.

Head coach of the Falcons has NEVER been a long term career, and likely never will be.

The Dolphins have done a better job of sticking by coaches since Shula left, but their stubborn refusal to make a fundamental decision to fix the quarterback position is going to hamstring that team until they wise up and do so. Did Saban fix the QB situation? No. But that problem predated him by years, so its hard to blame him for it.

Here's the bottom line. These men have the right to make their own decisons regarding their professional futures, just like we do. Venomous criticisms of their career decisions are useless, ineffective, and really, completely out of line.

If you feel inclined to ridicule these men, the next time you make a career decision for the sake of your happiness and that of your family, ask yourself if you think its anyone's business to criticize it in media, message boards, or at all.

As a side discussion, you'd think it would be detrimental to a coach's career to do very much 'job jumping', yet history does not seem to bear this out. Nick's cousin, Lou Saban, jumped coaching jobs constantly throughout his career, and never seemed to have a problem finding his next coaching job. Interestingly, he once acknowledged this, but said that he always thought the next job was going to be the one that lasted until he decided to retire. I really believe he meant that, yet the temptation was always somehow too strong to enter the next green pasture.



Since: Jan 3, 2007
Posted on: January 23, 2008 11:27 pm

Stage Coach

Thanks Dawgs.

I just saw that Mike Smith from Jax decided to step into that meat grinder. ;-)

He's a good man, who has trained under a head coach who was another outstanding Defensive Coordinator. He deserves success, and I hope he's given the time he needs to get the players he'll need.

Now living in Charlotte, I remained a Falcons fan thru the first few years of the Panthers' existence. I was a bit skeptical of them at first. When my brother hopped on the bandwagon earlier, I gave him a hard time on the grounds that the team wasn't owned by a Charottean, wasn't named after Charlotte, and for a time didn't even PLAY in Charlotte! LOL

However, over the years I've been impressed with the Richardson's ownership, and that finally won me over. For the most part he's stuck by his coaches, except understandbly for Seifert's 1-15 season, and they've had very little tolerance for off field misbehavior by the players.

Since: Jan 20, 2008
Posted on: January 23, 2008 9:58 pm

Stage Coach

I enjoyed reading your blog very much. It was very eye-opening for me. I am guilty(as a lifelong Falcon fan) of being hyper-critical of Petrino's decision. The reality is, it is just that-his decision. I wouldn't want to stay at a job where I was not happy, and therefore can't expect that of another man. I would like to thank you for exspressing your insightful opinion on this subject

Since: Jan 3, 2007
Posted on: January 22, 2008 6:58 pm

Stage Coach

Thanks Sherm.

I can't remember ever being really disappointed about a successful coach/manager leaving a team, although I've been disappointed with a firing a time or two that I thought was short sighted. (Joe Torre from the Braves in the early 80s as an example).

I've been lucky in that a lot of my favorite coaches over the years retired, rather than left, though ... Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings, Dean Smith, Don Shula, and one year soon (I imagine) Bobby Cox.

I haven't been a Falcons fan in years, but I've often been disgusted by their 'firing practices'.  (This is actually a primary reason why I'm no longer a fan). They've hired some good coaches over the years, and refused to stick by them when the record was more indicative of reasonable expectations from the team's talent pool than coaching performance (Jerry Glanville and Dan Reeves come immediately to mind).

Since: Dec 14, 2007
Posted on: January 22, 2008 6:13 pm

Stage Coach


Excellent first entry. I look forward to more. I am surpised that you are not a little more upset about your teams but they are your feelings and you are entitled to them. The Dolphins will be much better next year. Atlanta on the other hand I can see having a hangover for years to come. Best of luck. Nice start to blogging.

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