Geoff Collins is leaving, and you can’t be even slightly surprised. The man’s resume already includes 11 collegiate stops through Temple, and two of them were as a graduate assistant and later a full-time assistant at Georgia Tech, where he will be the next head coach.
Collins is a salesman, a pretty good one, and his next stop, he’ll be able to sell as home. Collins grew up just outside Atlanta. Temple beat writer Marc Narducci correctly predicted early in the season that if Georgia Tech opened up, Collins would want the job. He’s got the job.
Unlike Matt Rhule, however, Collins doesn’t break the heart of Temple fans because he never quite had their heart. He came in, he absolutely did a good enough job, he left after proving he was a head coach, which he hadn’t been before.
He didn’t buy a house in South Philly, or have his own parents move here, or beat Penn State, or have ESPN’s “GameDay” show up on Market Street. That was Rhule.
Collins was competent. I grew to respect him. Two seasons, two winning seasons. Historically, at Temple, that makes you ultra-competent. Still, around here he’ll be remembered as the guy between Rhule and the next guy. That’s if he’s remembered at all. Outside of Temple football fans, nobody around here could really pick Collins out of a lineup if he wasn’t wearing his Temple gear. And that’s OK, he knew what the job was and how to do it.
What’s next here? There will be a lot of hand-wringing about whether Temple should add some crazy buyout figure so the next guy can’t leave after two years. (That won’t work. All you can do is keep making the buyout a recoup.)
A former longtime Temple employee called me the other day and said as long as Lincoln Financial Field doesn’t regularly get 40,000 a game -- and it won’t, he added, from experience -- these coaches will always leave for the greener pastures of the Power 5. (This guy wasn’t believing a new stadium was the answer, either.)
The American Athletic Conference has become the prime Power 5 proving ground. It’s not just Temple. If Georgia Tech hadn’t gone after Temple’s coach, the Memphis coach was reportedly on its list.
Having a wanted coach is way better obviously than having a coach you need to fire. The legitimate quest, however, should be to find the next Rhule, not the next Collins. In other words, the guy who stays at least four seasons, not two.
Maybe Temple already has identified that guy. Narducci notes there is already a lot of speculation that Baylor associate head coach Francis Brown, who left Temple’s staff for that school with Rhule, could be a top candidate here.
That’s a make-it-happen kind of move. Not a no-brainer. Brown has never been a coordinator like Collins or Rhule, or worked in the NFL like Rhule. He coaches the defensive backs at Baylor, as he did at Temple.
But let’s argue, as we have before, that the head coaching job, it may be more important to have been a recruiting coordinator than an offensive or defensive coordinator. Brown has done the recruiting job, and he’s really good at it. And he’s local. Coming back to Temple for him is like Collins going to Georgia Tech. He played QB at Camden High. He worked as a high school assistant in South Jersey. He got terrific South Jersey players to Temple.
Yes, he’d have to get the right coordinators in or he’d fail. That’s true of anybody. The fact is, there’s enough talent right now at 10th and Diamond, and Brown brought a lot of that talent in.
The other candidate I’d be more than fine with is Ed Foley. I respect him completely, believe he could be good in the head job. But they didn’t give it to Foley when Rhule left so maybe they would pass again. You don’t get praised for hiring the internal guy. Just understand, Foley would have done just fine the last two seasons and he’d still be the coach.
Temple could go and hire the next Collins, a Power 5 coordinator ready to be a head coach. But let’s argue that, in addition to the fan base being tired of these quick exits, Temple’s players have earned some stability. Next season’s seniors will work under their third head coach. If it’s an unknown guy who brings in an unknown staff, he better be better than ultra-competent. The man better be special. And the special ones get taken, quickly. Hard to break that cycle.
Best of all, of course, is a special guy who would stick around more than a minute. Maybe Temple already has their man.