He Would Have to be Crazy
By Jim Alderson, 1/27/00

Hokie fans have again endured what seems to be our annual habit of holding our collective breath for weeks at a time as somebody else comes sniffing around the Tech campus hoping to lure away Frank Beamer. If the world is ever again covered in water, we will be prepared. As usual, Frank played it coy, apparently listening as perspective suitors whispered sweet nothings into his ear before uttering those magical words, at least to us Hokie fans, of "thanks, but no thanks."

To the delight of Tech fans, Frank Beamer is still our coach, a position that I suspect he will be holding for a good long time. Frank has used these annual flirtations with other football-playing entities to leverage quite a bit for his program, such as improvements to both the physical plant and the pay envelopes of his assistants.

I suspect he also rather enjoys watching us squirm a bit; 1992 and more than a few Hokies screaming for his head isn't that far back and I seriously doubt he has forgotten. I also expect he was well aware of some of those message board comments from an even more recent time blasting his offense up one side of Lane Stadium and down the other. Isn't it amazing how much better an Offensive Coordinator Ricky Bustle is when critical offensive components manage to stay healthy for an entire year? I imagine at least part of this is Frank letting us know that we should be careful what we wish for, or it just might happen.

What was more interesting this Raiding Season was who was interested in our coach. This time around it wasn't some traditional power fallen upon hard times (I wonder how long it will be before NBC executives are nosing around Merryman?) or a major power wannabe (nice job there in Columbia, Lou) inquiring as to Frank's availability. This time, it was the NFL, and not just any pro team but the franchise that symbolizes the very essence of that august corporate endeavor, the Green Bay Packers.

Yes, that was a Wolfe in Pack's clothing chasing Frank around the country as he collected those various coaching awards. It was the guy charged with maintaining the legacy of guys named Lombardi and Holmgren, Bart Starr and Bret Favre, Packers General Manager Ron Wolfe, who was dropping those enormous hints in the Milwaukee Journal designed to let Frank know he was their guy. That sure makes job offers from Georgia seem like a hoot; the Packers are serious business. Tech football is indeed moving up in the world. But the NFL?

I really do not understand why anyone in his right mind would want to coach in the NFL (I also really don't understand why anyone in his right mind would want to coach, period, and have to put up with people like me telling them how to do their jobs). While my own coaching experience consists of hundreds of hours spent in stadiums and in front of television sets informing incumbent coaches exactly how differently they should do things, often at the top of my lungs, I have spent zero minutes actually patrolling a sideline and making those decisions. I really have no idea of the thought processes that govern how and why they make their choices on where to coach. Given coaching turnover rates in the NFL, it would seem most of the time they do not either. Frank Beamer has expressed from time to time a vague desire to perhaps one day coach in the NFL. The question that immediately pops into my mind is: Why?

I invest much in the way of time, money and emotion following each Virginia Tech football season, more often than not in person. Sundays are usually spent reading newspapers, writing, or doing most anything in the light of the glare emanating from my television displaying yet another of those 14-10 snoozers that characterize NFL football these days other than actually watching it (I get a kick out of those who inform me they are huge football fans and watch all of the Sunday games on television. I often think about them as I leave Danville at 6am on game day to head to Blacksburg).

I keep track of the Monday game during commercials on Becker, a man I admire greatly (which should come as no surprise to those who know me). I spend late Decembers making bowl travel plans instead of wondering who will make the NFL playoffs. I find with each passing season I care less about the NFL. I do occasionally, roughly once a season, attend a Carolina Panthers game, but only if the weather is agreeable and somebody provides me with a free ticket (and where the most exciting event I have witnessed was a drunk hurling from the upper Ericsson Stadium deck onto those expensive PSL seats below. I bet they don't mention THAT in the sales pitches for those PSL seats). For the most part it bores me to tears.

The NFL team that expressed interest in Frank was the Green Bay Packers. I would have figured it would have been the Washington Redskins. I have no doubt that Matt Turk will be jettisoned in order to make room for who will obviously be their first-round draft choice, Shane Beamer. Shane certainly had a better year in the snapping department. Frank's legendary Special Teams prowess sure could have come in handy for the Redskins this year, and the father-son team could have been kept together. The Buffalo Bills could also seem to use a few Special Teams drills. Or how about the New York Jets?

Frank Beamer does have significant amounts of experience in keeping a team together and generally winning after losing his top quarterback, plus, nobody else seems to want the Jets job, probably with good reason. The job in Dallas is open, and for at least a few seconds the one in Miami (there is more than one team in South Florida that is not quite as back as back can be, and do the Dolphins really want proven loser Dave Wanstadt?).

Mike Ditka trashed the Saints every bit as totally as Bill Dooley did our program, and Frank does know how to pick up the pieces. The fact is, every year there are seemingly hundreds of NFL head jobs open each January. Rebel sharpshooters in Grozny have longer life spans, even when considering that, unlike most NFL quarterbacks, Russian artillery men do occasionally hit what they are aiming at.

Frank Beamer has a great deal at Tech (as long as he keeps winning, of course) and for the life of me I can't understand why any coach would want to trade that kind of job security for the uncertainty of life as an NFL field marshal. Not to mention the pressure that comes with the job. For all of the intensity Frank displays on the sidelines, I get the feeling he is enjoying himself immensely.

I can't say the same when I observe the expression on Jimmy Johnson's face as he watches Dan Marino bounce a pass to a receiver not ten yards down the field, or that on Norv Turner's as television constantly switches from shots of him to the owner's box of the Redskins' egomaniacal boy owner (I really doubt Jim Weaver ever calls Frank on the carpet questioning his game plans and substitution patterns). The only NFL coach who seems to enjoy himself on Sunday is a former one, and I imagine a mountain of steaks couldn't lure John Madden back to a sideline. It is a tough job with zero job security.

I suppose this isn't the end of NFL raiding attempts on Frank Beamer. Owners firing head coaches is a constant in the NFL, and somebody else will decide that a college coach who rocketed his team to the mountaintop just might be able to do the same as a pro. Although I am sure he has already done so, Frank should again check with his close friend and mentor Bobby Ross, who has found wins at San Diego and Detroit a lot tougher to come by than they were at Maryland and Georgia Tech.

The NFL is not only a dull game, it is one that treats coaches as I do tenants in my rentals: easily replaceable (for those who aren't already aware, what some laughably refer to as my real job is residential property management). Stick with us, Frank. We love you. And, to those NFL owners and General Managers thinking about making a pilgrimage to Blacksburg: keep recycling your old coaches and stay away from ours.

Jim Alderson, best known for his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports.  While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1.  For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.

          

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