Every coach wants to pick a winner at draft time. Some coaches seem to be better at picking winners, but it isn’t all 40-yard dashes and game film. It isn’t all intuition. Some football coaches have a formula for picking winners. They pick only college graduates.
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That is also a way to choose football players who are less likely to carry guns, smoke dope and get arrested for DUI and domestic violence. It’s a way to pick winners. Philadelphia Eagles Coach Chip Kelly asks potential draftees whether they opened a textbook, what their major was, what their hardest class was.
The Eagles’ belief in college graduates started with its general manager since 2010, Howie Roseman. Roseman studied the last four teams in the playoffs and found the most successful teams had many college graduates on them. Of the three teams with the most fifth-year seniors drafted two met in the Superbowl — the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. The team with the least number of college grads, the Jacksonville Jaguars, went 4-12.
Coach Kelly came from Oregon, where he coached the Ducks. When Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy came and talked to the Oregon players because his son played there, he told Kelly that the two teams with the most graduates were the Colts and New England Patriots, two teams who were dominant in the first decade of this century.
This year’s 98 football players turned pro after their junior year. But Kelly told Wall Street Journal writer Kevin Clark a degree is more than a mark of intelligence. “It’s also, what is their commitment? They set goals out for themselves and can follow through for it. A lot of people can tell they want to do this, this and this. But look at their accomplishments.”
It also helps to have good study habits to be able to know Coach Kelly’s complicated playbook and no-huddle offense.
It is interesting to note the value of having football players who have completed a college degree. Another interesting tidbit is that those players who completed college are most likely to earn a second NFL contract and make more money, according to Dungy.
Our view is that players, especially football players, who leave college for the money are short-term thinkers. College players on scholarship aren’t losing anything by staying in school. They don’t add to debt like so many other college students. By not finishing college they cheat themselves of a career after pro football. A 2011 NFL study pegged the average career of a rookie drafted in 2006 at 6.86 years.
We’ll go further and say a college grad is more likely to hold on to more of his pro football earnings than a college player who quit early for the pro money. Referring back to the Dungy study about second contracts, that indicates the college grad is more likely to qualify for a pension — something that requires playing in three games, or being on the injured reserve list, for three seasons.
The benefits of having a college degree are not just for football players, but for the rest of us. College grads earn more money over the long haul. College grads have a wider range of interests and have a richer, more interesting life.