As the Washington Redskins interview candidates to become the 29th head coach in franchise history, Redskins.com’s Stephen Czarda caught up with former general manager Charley Casserly to get an insider’s take on what front offices look for in a coach beyond X’s and O’s.
In Part 2 of an exclusive multi-part series, Casserly explains why NFL ties and experience are important for a college coach building an NFL staff.
In recent years, there has been an influx of college head coaches making the jump to the professional ranks.
On the NFC side of the 2013 playoff bracket, three of the six were college head coaches within the last five years.
Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks and Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers also had prior NFL experience, in some capacity.
“I think if he’s been a pro assistant and understands the pro game, and therefore has connections within the league to hire a staff—which is crucial—and understands how to build an organization in the NFL to include the draft, salary cap, dealing with ownership; those are all things you want,” Casserly said.
Carroll led the University of Southern California on a lengthy run at the top of the BCS rankings before guiding Seattle to a No. 1 seed this season. Before arriving at USC, he was head coach for the New York Jets and New England Patriots in the 1990’s.
Harbaugh turned around a Stanford Cardinal program that recorded just one win the season prior to his arrival in 2007.
When he left, following the 2010 season, the Cardinals were fresh off their first BCS victory and a 12-1 record.
After defeating the Green Bay Packers in sub-zero temperatures last Saturday, Harbaugh’s 49ers are one victory away from a third-straight NFC Championship Game appearance.
After an NFL playing career, he served as the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders during the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
While networking at the professional level helps coaches assemble talented staffs, their understanding of being a head coach also benefits them in various facets of the game.
“The No. 1 thing is his ability to hire a staff and usually a guy with NFL experience has good connections,” Casserly elucidated. “So if he’s then been a head coach in college then he has the experience of standing in front of a whole team, standing in front of the media, gameday decisions, game management [and] motivating the whole team.
"If a guy has had experience with that then that’s good—that’s a real plus.”
While the Philadelphia Eagles’ gamble on University of Oregon’s offensive guru Chip Kelly last offseason reaped the reward of an NFC East title, he is one of the few that has made a seamless transition to the NFL with no prior experience.
“If he hasn’t been in the NFL then most don’t succeed,” Casserly said. “Jimmy Johnson is the most recent exception to the rule and Chip Kelly obviously had a good year.
"I would expect him to succeed, but those are the exceptions.
“Usually one of two things happen: they do not hire a good staff or aren’t given enough time to develop as a good coach.
"Sometimes they don’t have the patience as Nick Saban did where he walked away.
“Or they struggle with going from a college young man to dealing with a more adult person and where they can be anywhere between 22 and 35.”