Living in Ohio since 2003, I had a chance to cover Ohio State football and former head coach Jim Tressel several times while working for the Columbus Dispatch. Although that's not enough to be an expert on Ohio State football, I probably have a better feel for Tressel than I do for any other college coach.
So as Tressel resigned from Ohio State this weekend following NCAA violations for players receiving illegal benefits, I wondered how he would fit in the NFL. After some thought and consulting with people who know the program better than I do, I came to the conclusion that Tressel wouldn't be a good fit.
For starters, college head coaches rarely make a successful jump to the NFL. Bobby Petrino, Nick Saban, Butch Davis and Steve Spurrier are recent examples of failed attempts. It's a different game and a very different culture in the pros where coaches are more so facilitators than dictators. Many college coaches struggle not having that same power. You can't yank a player's scholarship and threaten to send them home, and many NFL players make more money than the coaches, often making the coach expendable.
One of Tressel's biggest assets -- recruiting -- also would be taken away. Ohio State was able to annually land some of the top talent in the country because Tressel and his staff were very good recruiters. Having better players than 90 percent of college football programs played a big role in Tressel's 106-22 record at Ohio State. The NFL playing field is much more balanced. The only recruiting that takes place is during free agency, and usually that comes down to which team is willing to pay the most money.
On the field Tressel was a conservative play-caller. Ohio State's offenses lacked imagination most seasons, despite Tressel having some dynamic players during his 10 years in Columbus. Tressel often described the punt as the most important play in football. In the pass-happy NFL, which is shifting toward high-scoring offenses, that philosophy could be a disaster waiting to happen.
Tressel is a great college football coach. But based on his track record, his style of coaching doesn't translate well to the NFL.
There is a good chance colleges will avoid Tressel for now until this most recent scandal fades. So if Tressel wants to immediately get back into coaching, and his only option is the NFL, his best fit would probably be as a position coach and not at the head of the team.