Tressel resigned from Ohio State after his cover-up of players trading or selling memorabilia for tattoos, etc. His poor judgment in that situation continues to affect the Buckeyes, leaving them ineligible for bowl play next season. He's essentially finished as a college coach, given a five-year “show cause” penalty.
It'd be a tough sell for Colts owner Jim Irsay to name Tressel coach after the class and integrity of Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell. Say what you will about Caldwell. He was first class in every way.
But I will say this: Tressel knows how to win football games.
And the NFL is a bottom-line business.
And second chances are the American way.
Tressel, 59, has the contacts to assemble a staff that knows how to win. He would demand peak performance from his players. He would be a forceful voice that new Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson says he wants. No, he hasn't coached in the NFL, but Ohio State and its major-college opponents are the next-best thing. Tressel has led NFL-bound players.
Tressel worked most of this season as the Colts' consultant on replay reviews. During that time, he spent Sundays alongside former Colts vice chairman Bill Polian. I assume, formally or not, it was an illuminating primer for what it takes in the NFL.
There's no overriding reason Tressel shouldn't get a second chance, given our collective willingness to forgive and forget. The Ohio State problems, as bad as they were, seemed much less egregious after the Penn State scandal broke.
The decision by Tressel to not pass along an email that would have exposed the violations sooner was a stupid one, perhaps born of the arrogance big-time college coaches possess. Should punishment last forever? Should punishment even apply to the NFL? The Colts kept Tressel sidelined for seven weeks to start the year as punishment (and to help public relations.)
Let's look at Tressel's record on the field. He was 106-22 in 10 years at Ohio State with one national title. He put Ohio State alongside Florida, Alabama, USC and Texas as a force.
Those big-time college programs are professional in all but name. In facilities, talent and expectations, they're well-run professional businesses.
Yes, there's a difference between coaching in college and the pros. The rah-rah atmosphere and father-figure control of the college coach don't usually carry over to the NFL. Yet the success of Jim Harbaugh – and to a lesser extent, Pete Carroll – has marked a possible swing of the pendulum in that paradigm. Tressel is smart enough to modify his style to fit professional players.
Take away recruiting and the NCAA rulebook and what's left for Tressel if he becomes Colts coach? On-the-field coaching and some input on personnel, along with Irsay and Grigson.
If he were hired as Colts coach, Tressel would need to apologize again for his Ohio State sins, thank the Colts for the second chance and promise to beat the Patriots the way he once promised to beat Michigan.
Tressel wouldn't be my first choice for Colts coach. (My first, Harbaugh, isn't available.) Probably not my second or third choice, either.
The Colts have interviewed Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray. They are apparently interested in Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, former Vikings coach Brad Childress and Oregon's Chip Kelly. Kelly is reportedly close to becoming the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach. CBS reported the Colts wanted to talk to Bengals' offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, but he was not interested.
Any of the above coaches would be a more popular pick initially than Tressel. But those who don't think Tressel can win football games haven't paid attention to what he's done his entire career.
Irsay and Grigson have promised a “new era” for the Colts. You couldn't ask for a much more dramatic break from the past than hiring Tressel.
If it happens, it won't be widely popular, unless (until?) he starts winning again.