A Bit of Everything … Morning Cup of Chiefs

The question comes all the time from people outside the circle of pro football – how can I get into the NFL?

It comes from people trying to find a spot in the front office, or from marginal college athletes who think it’s only a matter of time before some team recognizes their skills. It comes from folks trying to get into the personnel department as a scout, or on the coaching staff.

All I can do is repeat bromides that are as old as the hills – “It’s all about who you know” or “right place at the right time” and “be willing to start at ground level.”

Nick Sirianni (pictured right with QB Matt Cassel) followed all of those avenues as a young college coach looking to move up. He will begin his third season as the Chiefs offensive assistant whenever the NFL gets around to lifting its lockout of the players and signs on a new labor agreement.

Sirianni is from western New York, went to college as a wide receiver at Division III powerhouse Mt. Union College in Alliance, Ohio – hometown of Len Dawson – and until he was hired by Todd Haley in 2009, the highest level his coaching career reached was with Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), where he was wide receivers coach.

He had five years as a small college coach, so how did a 28-year old Sirianni end up in the NFL?

First, he was willing to start at ground level, returning to his alma mater after his playing days were over and coaching defensive backs for two seasons.

That was his start in the business, at the bottom of the coaching ladder. Sirianni is a native of Jamestown, New York, a small town located in the far southwest corner of the state, at the eastern end of Lake Chautauqua. Jamestown also happens to be the hometown of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, but that’s not how Sirianni got his job.

While coaching at Mt. Union and IUP, Sirianni would spend his summers back home in Jamestown. One day he was in a local health club and he met a couple who were staying at a house on the Lake. Todd and Chrissy Haley were visiting for several weeks, staying at the vacation home of Todd’s parents, Dick and Carolyn Haley.

Looking for a place to work out the Haleys found a health club that fit their needs. They also found Sirianni, who struck up a conversation with the then wide receivers coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Every day they would walk into the club and it wasn’t long before Sirianni was there as well. He peppered Haley with questions about coaching, even though he came from a coaching family where two older brothers are also football coaches.

“There was always something he wanted to know more about,” Haley said. “And he said if I ever had a chance to be a head coach that he’d like the chance to work on the staff.”

The next summer, the same thing went down. The Haleys worked out, Sirianni did too. The football questions followed. The next summer wasn’t any different. It wasn’t long before summer vacation at Chautauqua always included the presence of Sirianni.

In 2009, Haley got his head coaching job, joining the Chiefs fairly late into the coach hiring season. He filled some of the most important positions and then when it came time to round out the staff, he thought of Sirianni.

And that’s how the kid from Jamestown, N.Y. and small college football got his foot in the door as the Chiefs offensive quality control assistant. In two years in the league, Sirianni has established that he’s more than capable of handling the duties that end up on his plate, whether it’s helping out coaching the quarterbacks as he did in ’09, or working extensively on game plans as he did in ’10.

To see and hear from Sirianni, check out this video interview done recently on the team website.


Just about everything we hear these days of the world of college football programs are negative. The latest has been the major controversy around the Ohio State program, with former head coach Jim Tressel and former QB Terrelle Pryor.

But increased costs, tighter budgets and the transgressions that have become a regular part of the college football landscape would figure to limit the number of schools interested in fielding teams.

It hasn’t. According to the National Football Foundation, there are eight programs that are launching this year. That’s after five started in 2009 and six last season. Plus, there are 17 more schools that will begin football programs in 2012-13-14. That includes the Georgia State University Panthers team that began play last year with Bill Curry (left) as head coach.

That’s 36 new college programs in six years (2009-14.) Most of those are small college type programs with 4 at the NCAA Division II level and 9 from the Division III, along with 12 taking part in the NAIA.

That leaves 10 teams on the Division I level, but only one appears headed for the FBS – the University of South Alabama in 2013. The rest of those teams will go the FCS or the old Division 1-AA status – Georgia State (2010), Lamar (2010), Old Dominion (2009), Texas-San Antonio (2011), Mercer (2012), North Carolina-Charlotte (2013), Stetson (2014), Kennesaw State (2012) and Houston Baptist (2013).


I’m not much of a tennis fan, but I do occasionally watch matches from Wimbledon over the fortnight at the All England Club in London.

One thing becomes obvious when watching on the telly – the old boys at the All England Club have not sold their soul to the media or sponsors. In what amounts to the biggest tennis tournament of the year, it’s not one giant orgy of sponsorships and logos. The players are required to wear white clothing, but those rules have been loosened enough that players can add a dash of colors with their whites.

That’s what we can see from the television. There’s much more to see on site and Sports Illustrated‘s L. Jon Wertheim wrote about it in this week’s issue of the magazine:

“So much of Wimbledon’s real appeal stems not from what you see, but from what you don’t see. You’ll notice that there are no corporate logos splayed on the playing surface. There are zero courtside billboards or rotating signs. No luxury suites with flat screens, stocked bars and carving boards to make the actual sporting event feel like so much background hum. During breaks in the action, note that there is no music, no sponsored dot races on the scoreboard, no unnaturally peppy cheerleaders or mascots air-cannoning T-shirts provided by still another sponsor. At no time will you hear the phrase, “Brought to you by… ”

Particularly in these sour economic times, most professional sports teams and leagues do everything short of looking under the bleachers for loose change in an effort to tap into new revenue streams. The Yankees have a sponsored pitching change. On the surface area of the Mets’ scoreboard, there are logos representing 12 “corporate partners.”

The companies that have a presence at Wimbledon? Centre Court features an understated Rolex insignia on the scoreboard. An IBM logo adorns the service-speed board. There is a small sign for Slazenger, the tournament’s longtime ball provider. Finally, the umpire’s chair is adorned with a worn decal for Robinson’s, a brand of barley water. That’s it.”

Here’s the link where you can read the whole story. But his closing paragraph is worth repeating:

“Still, for all the money it passes up, Wimbledon makes out fine. The tournament doesn’t disclose financials but last year reported a “surplus” (never the gauche “profit”) of more than £31 million ($50 million). Who knows how much of that comes from the equity of tradition, from being singularly resistant to easy money? Maybe the moral for sports properties is this: Sure, you can make money from selling your soul. But there’s also value in hanging on to it.”

3 Responses to “A Bit of Everything … Morning Cup of Chiefs”

  • June 23, 2011  - Fansince93 says:

    I love hearing stories like this. Thanks for telling it, Bob.

  • June 23, 2011  - PAChiefsFan says:

    Great story! Who’da thunk all that was happening just a short half hour drive down the road from my neck of the woods.

  • June 23, 2011  - who knows says:

    all about who you know. period. I knew a coach, I asked for help getting in. and he said exactly what you did, and basically felt out my intentions. my desire to skip the ground level was pretty much all he needed to know to recommend a different profession

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