Scooter Hobbs column: Still some differences between NFL, colleges

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, January 31, 2024

If the NFL Saints were a college team, the fan base would be in a five-alarm panic by now.

There would be an angry mob storming the team headquarters in Metairie, waggling torches afire.

After all, it’s been two weeks since the team fired offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and yet there’s been no smoke detected from the chimney announcing a replacement.

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This, even though the Saints have interviewed at least 10 (that we know of) possible saviors for that sputtering offense.

Maybe the fans are still in shock that head coach Dennis Allen is conducting the interviews when the consensus was that he’d be in the unemployment line himself after one of the Saints’ most disappointing seasons in recent memory.

Instead, the Saints went the route of selecting a scapegoat for their offensive ills, with Carmichael (and two offensive assistants) taking the fall. That had to suffice as the pound of flesh to pacify Saints fans upset with a woefully underachieving season.

Amazingly, Carmichael, who’d spent 18 years with the Saints, has found another job before the Saints could replace him — he’s reportedly headed to the Denver Broncos where he’ll be reunited with Sean Payton. They had considerable success moving the ball as a duo during their Saints days, although Payton was always suspected of being the real mastermind (and play caller) behind those whirlwind offenses. Drew Brees may have had something to do with it as well.

Anyway, the Saints are still in the market for a replacement and they are taking their own sweet time about it, seemingly interviewing half the NFL assistants.

In the NFL, that’s fine.

They can always ante up with the excuse that it’s better to get it right than to get it quick.

No big hurry, but that wouldn’t fly in college.

Any self-respecting college fan base would be apoplectic by now.

The reason? Simple.

Recruiting — with a capital “R.”

It probably applies more to head coaching changes in college than for coordinators.

But it’s the first question an incoming coach gets when donning his new ball cap on the podium — How will you catch up on recruiting?

Fans fret over it probably more than the staffs.

Every day that passes without a coach in charge, on social media at least, is seen — oh, the horrors — as another wasted day on the all-important recruiting trail, with national signing day getting 60 minutes closer with every passing hour.

That may be changing, of course, due to the NCAA

transfer portal and its unlimited free agency legal in all 50 states for the college game.

You can always make amends, picking and choosing, once the portal window opens. The biggest concern with a coaching vacancy is to keep the ones you have from stampeding through the portal gates to somewhere else.

Coaches don’t like it, and most claim they play the portal reluctantly and only as a last resort.

Few think it’s a sustainable model, but for now it’s the reality.

Besides, LSU’s Brian Kelly had an explanation for dallying before replacing his own offensive coordinator after Mike Denbrock left for Notre Dame — it was fairly well assumed all along that he’d hire from within, which he did by naming quarterbacks coach Joe Sloan and wide receivers coach Cortez Hankton to keep on keeping on. But he waited only four days after LSU’s season ended to get new blood for that troublesome defense with Blake Baker taking over as coordinator.

So all seems well with the Tigers.

The Saints meanwhile, can meander along with their search for an offensive coordinator.

No hurry.

There’s no national signing day, just the NFL draft, and not until April when they can select the players they want — whether they desire to be Saints or not.

It’s just another difference between the NFL and the college game — and yet another one that the college game keeps blurring the lines between.


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at