Green Bay Packers next coach will start a dynasty

ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06: Chad Clifton #76 of the Green Bay Packers holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl XLV 31-25 against the at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06: Chad Clifton #76 of the Green Bay Packers holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl XLV 31-25 against the at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Green Bay Packers next head coach has a lot of pressure on his shoulders. Thankfully, the right man for the job is out there.

College coaches who become head coaches in the NFL have a bad rap.  Fans and analysts are all too ready to fire off a list of who succeeded at a high level in college only to crash and burn in the NFL. The list includes the typical culprits:

Steve Spurrier
Lane Kiffin
Bobby Petrino
Mike Riley

Chip Kelly was the most recent high-profile headliner and he failed with two NFL franchises. He started off with a bang posting back-to-back 10-6 seasons. In his debut season, he led the Philadelphia Eagles to the NFL playoffs ending their two-year drought. However, in the following two seasons he won only eight games combined and was fired in consecutive seasons by the Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.

Of course, Nick Saban is the biggest name people will usually cite when making the case against college coaches. He is easily the most dominant coach in college football history. He has won six titles in his last 14 years coaching at the collegiate level (one with LSU and five with Alabama). He flipped the title he won with LSU into the head coaching job with the Miami Dolphins. After posting a losing record in Miami (15-17) he returned to the college game and promptly built a dynasty in Alabama.

It’s easy to lump all college coaches into the same dumpster. Easy but wrong. These coaches failed due to one primary reason. The same reason football coaches fail at any level.  They did not have a franchise quarterback. Saban came close to securing a franchise quarterback, and first ballot Hall of Famer, in Drew Brees. After finishing his first season with the Dolphins at 9-7, Saban entered the offseason pursuing the lone missing piece to move the Dolphins to the next level. The Saban/Brees vs. Belichick/Brady matchups two to three times per year would have been epic.  Saban and Brees would have rewritten NFL history as we know it. Unfortunately for fans in South Beach, Saban chose Dante Culpepper instead of Brees. Culpepper played just four games with the Dolphins and won only one game. Brees led the NFL in passing yards that same season with the Saints and won the Super Bowl three years later.

Even the best make mistakes. But what about the success stories? Do college football coaches flourish in the NFL?

Coaches who spent their entire career exclusively in the NFL have won 18 Super Bowls. Bill Belichick, Don Shula, Tom Landry, and Chuck Noll combined for 13 of these championships. And the most recent coach to celebrate under the Super Bowl confetti, Doug Pederson, also falls into this category.

The other 34 Super Bowls were won by head coaches who had experience coaching in college before taking over an NFL team. While the majority of these coaches eventually held assistant positions in the NFL as well, it isn’t a requirement.

Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer, Hank Stram, and Dick Vermeil won five Super Bowls between them. None of them had any NFL experience prior to accepting their job as an NFL head coach.  The common denominator for each?  A Hall of Fame quarterback. With very few exceptions, Super Bowls are won by teams with a good coach and a Hall of Fame quarterback. However, when an elite coach is paired with a Hall of Fame quarterback, a dynasty is born.

Which brings us to Lincoln Riley. Current NFL coaches are tapping into him for help. Yes, the best coaches at the highest level are utilizing his concepts in an effort to win on Sundays. The video game numbers his offense posts each weekend gets the headlines.  But other college coaches putting up big offensive numbers on Saturdays are not having NFL brass gleaning information from them the way they do Riley.

Since taking over as the head coach for the Oklahoma Sooners last year, his offense has rocked the entire landscape of football.  In just two seasons, he already has two Heisman Trophy winners by two different players, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.  His success with Mayfield is even more impressive when you consider he was just a three-star walk-on.

In 2017, Mayfield led the nation in yards per pass attempt, passer rating, and completion percentage.  What’s happening in Oklahoma under Riley’s guidance cannot be underscored enough.  Leading in both yards per pass attempt and completion percentage is an extremely rare combination.  In the NFL, it has happened only twice in the last 10 years and, prior to Riley’s offense in Oklahoma, it had not happened at all in the previous 10 years in college football. Riley is so far advanced he did it in his first year as a head coach.

Even more stunning is the fact that under Riley’s guidance as offensive coordinator the year before, Mayfield did it again!  This season, Murray (a first-year starter) led the nation in yards per pass attempt and passer rating.  He finished second in completion percentage.

Overall, Riley’s offense has generated absurd numbers.  In his two years as head coach, Oklahoma has scored more points and gained more yards than any team in the nation.  But this isn’t a gimmicky offense that merely throws the ball.  Oklahoma finished 13th and second the last two years in yards per rush attempt.  This isn’t a coincidence.  It’s by design.  Riley’s genius design.

Furthermore, the best coaches consistently have their teams fully prepared and executing a well-designed game plan from the first snap of the game.  And no head coach has been more effective in the first quarter than Riley.  Oklahoma is the only team in college football the last two years to average more than 12 points in the first quarter.

Riley is a gifted mastermind creating an elite offense.  He understands all the intricacies for attacking a defense.  He blends his running game seamlessly with his passing game stretching defenses to their breaking point at every level.  He does it by exploiting personnel and using a vast number of run schemes.

So while college coaches fail in their transition to the NFL due to a lack of a franchise quarterback, it won’t be an issue for Riley in Green Bay.  Remember, Mayfield was a three-star quarterback.  Imagine what he would do with Aaron Rodgers, the most gifted quarterback in football history.

Lincoln Riley will be coaching in the NFL sometime soon.  If he is paired with a Hall of Fame quarterback then he will certainly lead a team on Super Bowl Sunday and hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

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The Green Bay Packers have won only two Super Bowls during their current 27-year run with Hall of Fame quarterbacks.  That is a colossal organizational failure.  The clock is ticking and the Packers have one last chance to get this right.  Riley isn’t simply the best man to hire.  Paired with Rodgers it’s a dynasty in the making.