Urban Meyer Reminds Us Yet Again: Transitioning From College To Pro Is Not Easy

Urban Meyer was given third prize by the Jaguars early on Thursday morning, bringing his tumultuous tenure as head coach to an end.

Many questions were raised when Meyer was hired by owner Shad Khan, including how long it would last. The answer would be 13 games, leaving Jacksonville in disarray. Meyer, the three-time National Champion head coach in college, isn’t the only one to struggle with the transition to the pros.

The following is a list of head coaches who made the jump from college to pro in the last 20 years, as put together by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. As you’ll see, Meyer is just the latest example of how what you do in college, doesn’t necessarily correlate to success in the NFL.

Here is a look at few of the most notable head coaches that failed in the NFL.

Nick Saban: Dolphins HC (2005-06)

We all know Saban as the seven-time National Champion head coach, responsible for bringing Alabama back to national prominence. Now regarded as perhaps the greatest college coach of all time, it’s hard to believe that Saban was a failure in the NFL.

After coaching LSU to a 48-16 record from 2000-04 with a National Championship in 2003, Saban made a leap of faith. A leap that sent him south to Miami, to become the next head coach of the Dolphins. After going 9-7 in 2005, Miami was thought to be a playoff contender the following season. One infamous decision wound up costing Miami.

Drew Brees, a free agent at the time, was on the Dolphins’ wish list to be the team’s next quarterback. A career-threatening shoulder injury, however, steered Miami and Saban away and Daunte Culpepper was signed instead. Three years later, Brees was a Super Bowl champion with the Saints. Culpepper started four games for Miami in 2006 and was released after the season. The Dolphins finished 6-10 that season, the last of Saban in the NFL.

Once Mike Shula was fired as head coach of Alabama after the 2006 season, the writing was on the wall. After weeks of squashing rumors and putting on his best poker face, Saban was hired by Alabama on Jan. 3, 2007 and the rest was history.

Steve Spurrier: Washington Football Team HC (2002-03)

Spurrier was the University of Florida. He was football in Gainesville. Under his leadership, Florida became a premier player in the SEC from 1990-2001. Nine double-digit win seasons. A National Championship in 1996. Seven SEC Championships. A 122-27-1 record. Spurrier had it all. Then the NFL came calling.

10 days after abruptly resigning from Florida, Spurrier was named the next “Head Ball Coach” of the Washington Football Team. He even inked the largest contract in NFL history for a coach at the time, a five-year, $25 million deal.

After back-to-back losing seasons, including a 5-11 record in 2003, Spurrier resigned from his role on Dec. 30, 2003. It was the perfect storm for Spurrier, as Lou Holtz was retiring as head coach at South Carolina.

All signs pointed to Spurrier being the successor in what soon became reality. Spurrier was hired by the Gamecocks ahead of the 2005 season. Spurrier would finish his college coaching career in Columbia, retiring in 2015 after going 86-49 with three double-digit win seasons. His 2010 team also holds the distinction of being the last SEC East team to beat a Saban coached Alabama team.

Bobby Petrino: Falcons HC (2007)

Oh Petrino, how could anybody ever forget THAT season in 2007. The one where Falcons quarterback Michael Vick’s career was in limbo due to an illegal dog fighting operation. The one where Petrino was forced to start backup quarterbacks for the entire season.

Petrino’s tenure in Atlanta is the most comparable to Meyer’s. Both made it through, you guessed it, 13 games. Unlike Meyer, however, Petrino had a say in his decision to scramble back to college. Back to a place where he had Louisville on the upswing after going 12-1 in 2006. Except this time, he wasn’t going to the Big East. He was going to the SEC.

Petrino shocked everyone when he resigned as head coach midseason, announcing that he was taking the job at Arkansas. It was the manner in which Petrino handled his exit that burned every bridge for him in the NFL.

A laminated note was all the notice the Atlanta locker room was given that Petrino was leaving. Placed in the locker of every player, it was the end of Petrino in the NFL. After successful stops at Arkansas, Western Kentucky and back to Louisville, Petrino now resides as Missouri State head coach, a team that went 8-4 last season.

And so, we have learned with Meyer’s firing and the history of college coaches transitioning to the NFL, nothing is guaranteed. Even if you won National Championships in college, you can still win just two games at the next level and be looking for work.

As it pertains to Jacksonville, don’t expect Khan to dip into the college ranks for his fourth head coaching hire of the last eight seasons.

Follow Nick Geddes on Twitter @NickGeddesNews and on Instagram @nick.geddes.

Written by Nick Geddes

Nick Geddes is a 2021 graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. A life-long sports enthusiast, Nick shares a passion for sports writing and is proud to represent OutKick.

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