No More Mr. Nice Guy

Despite the rain a month ago, a good C and W Day was had by all.

Some of the best sports journalism these days is not available to those of us who still purchase newspapers or read columns on the internet.

It’s produced electronically and shown via programs like ESPN’s excellent 30 for 30 series and the equally well-produced A Football Life by the NFL Network.

Other than the one on Bruce Arians, the best one was done on Bill Parcells and shown over the weekend. Parcells said his “coaching life” turned when, after winning only three games as a first-year head coach with the New York Giants, he made a conscious effort to go from being Mr. Nice Guy to being Mr. Hard Ass. Parcells felt that he was trying to be the player’s friend when he realized that to be their coach he could not be their friend.


“Hard Ass” was the nickname Wayne Hardin’s players had for him at Temple. When Hardin was coach of the Owls, he was a tough taskmaster and never got too close to his players. Those players got to love coach Hardin for it, not while they played for him but years afterward when they realized what he was trying to accomplish.

“Everybody hated the guy when he was our coach,” one of his ex-players told me on Cherry and White Day. “Maybe hated is too strong a word, but nobody liked him. We all got to love him only years later when we realized what he was trying to do.”

This brings us to Geoff Collins.

The first-year Temple coach comes across as chummy-chummy with his players in almost every interaction with his players and that could be a recipe for failure. At least those are the outside perceptions fueled by the multiple images of Collins body-bumping his players during practice. Although, Andy Reid has done it with TO, no one remembers Bill Belichick, Vince Lombardi, Wayne Hardin or Bill Parcells doing anything similar.

The last time we checked, Reid hasn’t won anything of note.

Parcells had to learn it after a three-win season and that was the hard way.

Hardin never had to learn it because that’s the way he always was.

Another great head coach, Bill Belichick, adopted his coaching demeanor from watching Hardin as a kid and being in the same room with Parcells as an assistant.

Another recent coach who passed away, Mike Pettine Sr., the legendary coach at Central Bucks West, was a classic drill-instructor type whose players cursed him beneath their breath on the practice field but got to love him only years later when they talked about how critical those practices were to the championship trophies they got to hoist.

Hopefully, it will not take a three-win season for Collins to learn that lesson and his required summer reading will be the stories of Parcells, Belichick, Hardin and Pettine.

Or at least he should sit down and watch the Bill Parcells’ episode of “A Football Life” and carefully listen to everything The Tuna has to say.

Friday: Spread This


10 thoughts on “No More Mr. Nice Guy

  1. On the contrary, I never really took Geoff as being a “nice guy”. I always felt he just does that for the media.

  2. Different courses for different horses. The kids today are a different breed who got trophies for just showing up. Don’t know if the drill sergeant routine would work. These kids could fold if pushed too hard.

  3. Love the site, Mike, but I have to disagree.

    Bobby Bowden was hardly a “hard ass”. Instead he was the gentle, caring, “grandfather” to his players. Using that style, he’s responsible for the best building job in the history of College Football.

    Pete Carroll is every player’s best friend. He’s won championships at both pro and college with a “loose, laid back” gentle style. He failed previously when he tried to be the “hard ass”.

    The only correct way to “coach” for success is to be yourself. Parcells is a natural hard guy, so of course him being “nice” was going to fail because he and the players knew it was phony. Carroll failed previously trying to be the hard guy.

    Players respond to honesty. If Mayhem is a “nice guy” to his core, the players will respond and succeed. If he’s a drill instructor to his core, they’ll also succeed. If either is phony, than he’s gone.

    • Carroll’s a fantastic coach but he also left USC high and dry when he saw the storm coming. I agree with everyone saying that coaches need to be themselves while making some adjustments based on their teams along the way. Not every good coach needs to be a screamer, but that doesn’t mean every ‘player’s coach’ is going to be what the doctor ordered (Coker, Flood, who in my opinion was Coker-lite, etc.).

      Joe P.

    • My feeling is that Parcells deep down is a nice guy who decided the only demeanor that worked for him was to be strict with his players to the point of even playing mind games with them. In a football life, he mentioned to Lawrence Taylor that another player had no problem with Irv Pankey (the only guy who could block Taylor, apparently) and that set off Taylor to prove Parcells wrong. I also think that Rhule learned something from easing up on the reins of his players against Toledo and did none of the same for the AAC championship game. Also, if Rhule had run more structured and demanding practices before last year’s PSU game, we’d be talking about the AAC champion having beaten the Big 10 champion and not falling short due to 120 yards in mostly undisciplined penalties. These are all things Collins should be thinking about now. Hopefully, he is thinking long and hard about them.

  4. Different keys for different locks. Some slackers need to be barked at, and the snake-bitten need encouragement. I’m sure Collins knows what he’s doing. Ask the former punter what the scoop is.

    • “I’m sure Collins knows what he’s doing” sounds a lot like a lot of the “I’m sure Rhule knows what he’s doing” comments I heard before his first season. He finished 2-10. He was a blind man trying to find through his way through a house of horrors. Once he followed the advice to dump the spread and go to fullback and play-action, he found his way out of there. Temple football was the guinea pig of that transition. Hopefully, Collins can avoid Rhule’s rookie mistakes.

      • I met MR Saturday morning at the downtown Doubletree before his first game.., deer in the headlights! …,

        first impression was the same as not judging a book by it’s cover…, he left Temple with many high marks on the wall

        think Collins will be more self-assured going into South Bend, but can he coach on Saturday in prime time? we’ll just have to wait and see

  5. Yeah, pretty much agree with those comments and just want to add that there are really two big things I’m concerned about, in order: 1) Does Collins hit the ground running or does he have to make all of the stupid mistakes Rhule made in Year One to learn how to be a HC?; 2) Can Anthony Russo be the quarterback I think he can? I bite my fingernails a lot more thinking about Question No. 1. I’ve never trusted a kid coming into Temple as much as I’ve trust Russo. I feel very confident that he will be very confident. That’s from three years of watching that kid quarterback one of the best two high school programs in the state of Pennsylvania.

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