Early on Wednesday, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that at least one NFL team was interested in interviewing Minnesota Gophers head football coach PJ Fleck for an open head coaching position. We don’t know where that interest is coming from or who leaked the report to Pelissero.
But since then, the debate has been waging online and on talk radio. Would PJ Fleck find success in the National Football League? Would his style translate to a league played by professionals?
Many say no, but the reasoning is generic… if they even give a reason.
I can 1 billion percent guarantee you the PJ Fleck story is a fake scoop. His agent absolutely gave that to a reporter to generate some buzz for him. I can absolutely assure you of that.— Jordan Strack (@JordanStrack) December 30, 2020
There are a lot of dummies that own NFL teams — and still make $200M a year b/c of TV. There is no owner dumb enough to believe Fleck’s “look at me” approach & mediocre in-game decision-making (on frequent display this short season) would work in NFL.— Reusse (@Patrick_Reusse) December 30, 2020
PJ Fleck’s “Shtick”
This is why most people think PJ Fleck would fail as an NFL coach. It has nothing to do with his coaching record or his philosophy on/off the field. “PJ Fleck’s shtick won’t work in the NFL”, is all I keep seeing…
I just think that is the laziest observation in sports history. Fleck’s “shtick” is energy and positivity. That’s it. Who would want to follow a person who is so positive and energetic?
Well as much as the Twitter world doesn’t want to believe it, almost all people want to be lead by positive, energetic people like PJ Fleck. Age doesn’t matter.
Of course, some things would change. Would Fleck be sprinting from one side of an NFL field, to the other, when quarters change? Maybe not. Would he read children’s books every week to his team, to teach life lessons? Probably not.
But that doesn’t mean that his “shtick” wouldn’t work outside of college. In all reality, anyone’s “shtick” can work as long as it’s a real one. If PJ’s blind positivity and outward facing energy is real, which there’s been zero evidence that it isn’t, then it could definitely work in the NFL.
Why it could work
It isn’t that I believe Fleck’s leadership style would translate to the NFL, it’s that I believe it would transfer to any type of leadership role. He’s high energy and demands 100 percent out of everyone who rows his boat, including himself.
As Fleck will tell you, ‘the most difficult part about being the standard, is that you’re the standard’.
Fleck doesn’t just lead by talking the talk. As the standard, he’s always walking the walk. PJ brings high energy everyday because he expects it out of you. He brings 110% everyday because that’s what he tells you to bring.
This is a coach who isn’t going to ask you to bring something to the table that he isn’t willing to bring himself. In reality, how else would you want your leader to lead?
At the end of the day, Fleck manages people at an elite level. That's what coaching and teaching is about. He's willing and has the energy to do all of the little things that come with building relationships and trust.— Minnesota Sports Fan (@realmnsportsfan) December 30, 2020
You can't find that everywhere and it makes a difference.
These are grown men we’re talking about..
No they aren’t. We’re talking about a locker room full of guys who are in their mid to late 20’s. The average age of NFL players is something around 26-27 years old, which would make most of them younger than I am, at 31.
Not only that, but these are dudes who have been groomed in football locker rooms for their entire lives, being spoon fed corny sayings and analogies to make sense of life both on and off the gridiron.
Communication and attention to detail would be the key
Here is where PJ Fleck would blow people away at the NFL level. He eats difficult conversations for breakfast and he has his pulse on everything happening in his program
PJ is a communicator. If someone in his program has a problem, it’s going to get addressed immediately. If Stefon Diggs is mad because he isn’t getting enough touches, then Fleck is going to know before anyone else and he’s going to talk to Steph about it early and often.
Diggs wouldn’t have an opportunity to bring it up in a media session until he and PJ had talked about it at least a dozen different times. Why? Because he cares. It’s really hard to dislike someone who cares about you and about the program as much as PJ, especially when he’s willing to sit down and talk to you about it.
Sure, some guys wouldn’t buy in. PJ himself has admitted on multiple occasions that he’s not for everyone. He’d absolutely need a GM who is in lockstep with what he needs for his “culture” but new coaches weed out dissenters whenever they take on new locker rooms.
The situation with PJ would be no different.
The Detroit Lions have come up multiple times as the possible team who has interenst in Fleck. He obviously cut his head coaching teeth at Western Michigan, before taking the job at Minnesota and a complete culture change like what would come with Fleck, might be enticing.
Both Pat McAfee and Lions reporter, Jeff Risdon agree.
Do you think PJ Fleck would operate well in the NFL?— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) December 30, 2020
I think it would have to be a young team looking to flip the culture & I think I know the perfect place for it to work… #PatMcAfeeShowLIVE pic.twitter.com/1fQEBqRnaJ
He's basically the anti-Patricia and that holds some appeal in DET. Demanding but relentlessly positive, focused on the small things, energetic and creative. Worth at least listening to him. Personally I like Fleck as a college coach.— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) December 30, 2020
Haters will hate
Honestly, I don’t think PJ Fleck leaves Minnesota this offseason to take a job in the NFL. There’s just too much left to finish with the Gophers and, if he’s successful, the National Football League will always be there. He hasn’t had enough success at this level to get what he would want as an NFL head coach.
Maybe we should as Seattle Seahawks head coach, Pete Carroll… whose “shtick” would never work as an NFL head coach.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan