Who are the five highest paid coaches in the NFL?
Go ahead, I'll wait.
The answers are a little further down, but see if you can guess before you peek.
While we're waiting, here are the five highest paid coaches in college football, according to USA Today's annual salary report:
- Nick Saban, Alabama - 5.4 mil
- Mack Brown, Texas - 5.3 mil
- Bob Stoops, Oklahoma - 4.5 mil
- Urban Meyer, Ohio State - 4.3 mil
- Les Miles, LSU - 3.8 mil (not counting his fancy new raise, woo pig sooie)
Sounds about right. Now here are the five highest paid coaches in the SEC:
- Nick Saban, Alabama - 5.4 mil
- Les Miles, LSU - 3.8 mil
- Steve Spurrier, South Carolina - 3.5 mil
- Gene Chizik, Auburn - 3.5 mil (whoops)
- Mark Richt, Georgia - 2.9 mil
Derek Dooley made a shade over two million dollars per year.
So, here's the thing: when courting Jon Gruden, you have to know about the other suitors he's dealing with. The vast majority of Gruden's coaching experience and that big fat Super Bowl ring came in the NFL, where he is always a hot commodity. If Gruden wanted to return to the NFL, he could almost certainly do so, and he would almost certainly find his way to this list...
Here are the five highest paid coaches in the NFL, according to Forbes:
- Bill Belichick, Patriots - 7.5 mil
- Mike Shanahan, Redskins - 7.0 mil
- Jeff Fisher, Rams - 7.0 mil
- Pete Carroll, Seahawks - 7.0 mil
- Lovie Smith, Bears - 6.0 mil
How many did you guess?
We made this point in one of our many Gruden comment threads earlier in this search, but let's put it out here on the front page: how much better is it, really, to be a head coach in the NFL versus a head coach in the SEC?
The NFL certainly removes the burden of recruiting, but also introduces the issue of owners and general managers; you may be cooking with someone else's groceries, as Bill Parcells liked to say. Different strokes for different folks. And traditionally, being an NFL head coach has always been more prestigious and more lucrative.
But here's an argument I find very intriguing. It's obviously biased, because we're an SEC blog. But humor me for a second:
Pick five current NFL coaches and put them in a lineup. Doesn't have to be the five highest paid, pick any five.
Now put them against a lineup of Nick Saban, Les Miles, Steve Spurrier, Mark Richt, and Will Muschamp.
Which lineup will the average sports fan be able to name first?
Some of you will say, "It has to be the NFL."
The two best teams in the NFL right now are the Houston Texans and the Atlanta Falcons. How many casual sports fans can name either of their coaches off the top of their head?
Being an NFL head coach isn't as much of a rockstar gig as it used to be. How many truly famous NFL coaches are there anymore? There's Belichick, then who?
This is in part because the league turns over its head coaches so often, and that's in part due to the NFL's aggressive and moderately successful quest for parity. More than half the league has changed head coaches in the last three years. Fantasy football, which is more and more the lens through which fans watch the NFL, also has something to do with this - you don't draft coaches. Professional sports are players' leagues, period.
College sports are and always will be coaches' leagues because players graduate. While turnover is still high in the SEC - this month's body count makes eight of fourteen teams that have changed coaches in the last three years - this also isn't a league where a good year is four games over .500 like the NFL. Six SEC teams did better than that this season. Whether or not it is more easily attained ("differently attained" is probably the best way to say it) than in the NFL, being a successful coach in the SEC is one of the best jobs in sports. If one is inclined to pursue fortune and glory, X is repeatedly marking the spot in the Southeastern Conference.
And if Tennessee breaks the bank for Gruden, the gap between the highest paid coaches in the NFL and the highest paid coaches in college football will vanish. And if that happens, everybody's getting paid.
So what would you do? Would you support Tennessee offering Jon Gruden something in the neighborhood of $6-7 million dollars per year, making him the highest paid coach in college football for at least a day? Because that certainly seems to be his fair market value if you factor in what he could earn in the NFL. Would you do so knowing it includes the additional $3ish million for football staff that Tennessee is currently making, putting our total football staff number around $10 million dollars?
We have discussed at length here why Tennessee's hire has to be the right hire, has to be a home run, and along those lines why there's Gruden, then there's everyone else. If the Vols continue to pursue and ultimately land Gruden for anything in the neighborhood of what he could earn in the NFL, it will change things not only for Tennessee, but the entire football landscape.