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6 College Football Coaches Who Failed Spectacularly in the NFL

When a college football coach jumps the ship and heads to the NFL, the results are generally disastrous. Very few coaches have been successful at both levels, as the rigors of the college game are completely different from the pros.

Interacting with players being paid millions of dollars and demanding excellence is different from motivating a kid who needs the scholarship to try to survive. Today we will look at six coaches who went to the NFL only to fail spectacularly.

Bobby Petrino: Atlanta Falcons (3-10)

Bobby Petrino was a successful college football coach who struggled mightily in the NFL with Atlanta.
College football success didn’t follow Bobby Petrino to the NFL. | Doug Benc/Getty Images

Bobby Petrino is one of the most polarizing college football coaches of all time. He has unceremoniously left multiple stops, but we can’t think of anything worse than his time with the Atlanta Falcons. Petrino led Atlanta to a 3-10 record before leaving the team before the season ended to become the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks. 

Nick Saban: Miami Dolphins (15-17)

Nick Saban is one of the greatest college football coaches ever, but his time in the NFL didn’t come close to matching his collegiate success. He wasn’t completely horrible in Miami, but his teams weren’t great. The Dolphins missed the playoffs both seasons Saban was with the team, and it became a blessing in disguise for Alabama fans. Since leaving the Dolphins Saban has become one of college football’s greatest players, winning multiple national championships at Alabama, and has turned the team into one of the most dominant programs in the country.

Greg Schiano: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-21)

We wouldn’t really call Greg Schiano a player’s coach, and during his time in Tampa Bay, he ruffled a lot of feathers in the locker room. The team never seemed to have a sense of identity, except as a bad team as they finished 10 games under .500 for Schiano.

He landed a few assistant coaches positions in the college game, including at Ohio State in 2018. He had the unfortunate designation as one of the worst hires of the 2018 season, as Ohio State’s defense was historically bad.

Schiano had a gig lined up with the New England Patriots for 2019, but he decided to step down to focus on his family.

Steve Spurrier: Washington Redskins (12-20)

Are you noticing a trend with a lot of these college football coaches who jump to the NFL? Most don’t last more than two seasons, either through being fired or resigning. Steve Spurrier was no different. He wanted to bring his famous passing attack to the NFL, but with quarterbacks like Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel, Spurrier couldn’t rekindle the magic he had at the University of Florida.

He last coached the South Carolina Gamecocks from 2005-15.

Chip Kelly: Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers (28-35)

Chip Kelly was an innovator on the offensive side of the ball during his time at the University of Oregon. The pace the Ducks played at was supposed to translate to the NFL, but Kelly quickly realized it wasn’t a sustainable way to play in the pros. He led the Eagles to one playoff appearance but was fired after the 2015 season. He then signed with the San Francisco 49ers, but the team fired him after one 2-14 season by the bay.  

Butch Davis: Cleveland Browns (24-35)

At the start of his time in Cleveland, Butch Davis quickly made improvements to the team. They led the league in interceptions his first season and made the playoffs in his second. During his fourth season, he was forced to resign after starting the season 3-8. Davis is currently the head coach at Florida International University.

Which spectacular failure surprises you the most?

After we took a look at our list of college coaches who failed to make any noise in the NFL, who stood out the most? We are going to go with Chip Kelly, because we think the NFL quickly caught up to his offensive schemes, making his play-calling ineffective.