Posted: Tuesday January 9, 2007 10:25AM; Updated: Tuesday January 9, 2007 11:39AM
The Dolphins appear to be the latest team to try to woo Pete Carroll away from USC.
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The scary thing about Saban's situation is that he had experience in the NFL. He spent six years as an NFL assistant, including four as BillBelichick's defensive coordinator with the Browns from 1991 to '94. But when Saban came back to the NFL after his tenure at LSU, he carried himself like a know-it-all, control-freak savior and that arrogance came back to bite him in the butt. Davis did the same thing at Cleveland -- he'd been an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys under Jimmy Johnson during the early 1990's -- and Petrino would be wise to avoid that strategy. Even though he was a Jacksonville Jaguars assistant from 1999-2001, he still has to prove he can win.
It doesn't help that in college, head coaches are basically dictators. They're the respective CEO's of their programs and they control the fates of every player on their team. It has to be a great feeling to wield such power. Ask USC's Pete Carroll. Every time he roams the Trojans sideline during a game, he looks like a man who wouldn't want to be doing anything else with his life.
Of course, Carroll also had two opportunities to be an NFL head coach -- first with the New York Jets and later with the New England Patriots -- so he knows how good he has it. He saw what it was like to have hard-to-please owners and cynical players with huge salaries who will tune a coach out quickly if they sense he's a fraud. Now that he's in college, Carroll is proving that it's lot easier to handle a roster with 85 players on scholarship than one with 53 men trying to feed their families. The mistakes don't devastate a college head coach like they do in the NFL. Saban learned that lesson firsthand, especially after two gambles on players -- Ricky Williams and Daunte Culpepper -- blew up in his face.
At least Petrino knows he has some talent to help his cause, even though quarterback Michael Vick is the most erratic star in the league. But the Falcons also have plenty of veterans, a group of players who have now played for one of the most established coaches in league history (Dan Reeves) and a young coach (Jim Mora) who took them to the NFC Championship game in 2004. And when they get their first chance to deal with Petrino, they won't be thinking about how great it is to have this bright offensive mind running their team. They'll be wondering if he can actually do something that his other college coaching peers couldn't, which is prove he belongs as a head coach at the professional level.