Skeptics dismiss the suggestion as ridiculous, saying that Jim Tressel’s methods and message of fostering a football family would never fly in the NFL.
But Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay appears to be mulling that premise as we speak.
Former Colts coach Tony Dungy said on Dan Patrick’s syndicated radio show Monday morning that Irsay has “about six or seven candidates” to succeed the fired Jim Caldwell and that Dungy was hearing former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel could be Irsay’s choice.
“I think he’s got his person in mind,” Dungy said of Irsay, his boss for seven years. “I don’t know who it is, but I know how Jim operates. He gets a strong feel about somebody; it may be Jim Tressel, that’s what I’m hearing, I don’t know that. I think he’s got a man in mind and wants to get this done pretty quick.”
Reportedly Tressel has had two interviews with the Colts after serving as their replay consultant for the final 10 games last season. Tressel went to four NFL camps last summer in search of work and could have hit it off with Irsay in August. That was before Tressel was slapped with a show-cause penalty by the NCAA that makes it virtually impossible for him to work in big-time college football again.
In the past, I’ve been on the skeptics’ side, believing that professional players wouldn’t be able to relate to Tressel. But I’m starting to come around to the idea of Tressel coaching the Colts.
Perhaps it’s because I’m sickened by the old boys’ network of the NFL, which continually recycles coaches and lets an agent control their hiring like Bob LaMonte does with the Browns. Taking a chance on an outsider, even though college coaches rarely succeed in the NFL (Jimmy Johnson and Jim Harbaugh notwithstanding), would seem like a breath of fresh air.
Perhaps it’s because Tressel seems like a good choice to nurture Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, whom the Colts are likely to make the first overall pick. Tressel went to BCS championships with Craig Krenzel, Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and Todd Boeckman and was able to maximize their assets, although the late quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels greatly aided their growth.
Perhaps it’s because I don’t think NFL players will consider the scandal that prompted Tressel’s Memorial Day ouster in the same light as the NCAA. While he ultimately covered up and lied about the sale of memorabilia for money and tattoos by quarterback Terrelle Pryor and other stars because he wanted to win a national title, pros may see that as Tressel having his players’ backs.
In a December interview, former Buckeye running back Beanie Wells said he thought Tressel would do a “magnificent job” in the NFL, citing his great motivational skills and traits that make him “a players’ coach.”
Ultimately, Irsay must decide how he feels about Tressel’s transgressions.
“If I were Jim Irsay, you’d have to determine what you think about Jim Tressel as a person,” Dungy told Patrick. “As you get through that and say, ‘I believe in this guy and I know what happened at Ohio State and I think it was a mistake and he’s learned from it … I believe in second chances.’ That’s a decision Jim Irsay has to make and how that’s going to play in his community.”
Dungy’s last point could be a huge factor. The NCAA is headquartered in Indianapolis and hiring Tressel could be a slap in the face to that organization. Readers of the Indianapolis Star are voicing their displeasure on the newspaper’s website. Wrote Debby from Palmyra, Va., “I thought Jim Irsay was a Christian. I do not understand … how he could hire a man with no morals.”
I don’t share Debby’s belief that Tressel has no morals. I think Tressel can learn from his mistakes.
If he gets the Colts job, he’ll have to ditch his “Winners Manual” and such chemistry-building practices as testing players on the hometowns of their teammates. He’ll have to open up his buttoned-up offense. He’ll have to say goodbye to his old OSU and Youngstown State cronies, like offensive coordinator Jim Bollman, and realize he needs a top-flight staff with NFL experience to succeed. Tressel will have to spice up his news conferences and appear more genuine — less smug and senatorial. The American flag at his flank will have to go.
Irsay is an outside-the-box owner with a little Mark Cuban in him. He could be the perfect owner to take a leap that seems to me more palatable by the day.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at http://marla.ohio.com/. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MarlaRidenour. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.