The Atlanta Falcons hired away Bobby Petrino from the University of Louisville in January 2007. He lasted 11 months on the job. Nick Saban left LSU in December 2004 to coach the Miami Dolphins. Two years and one week later, campus life summoned back Saban, to Alabama. But Saban remains two steps behind Dennis Erickson, who also did the college-NFL-college yo-yo (Miami U., Seattle Seahawks, Oregon State), only to keep the pattern going. Erickson jumped to the San Francisco 49ers in 2003. He coached the Niners two years and was fired; now he's at Arizona State, his third Pac-10 head-coaching job. Steve Spurrier tried it, too. Left a cushy job at Florida U. to coach the Redskins and tried to appease fickle owner Daniel Snyder. Failure all the way around. Spurrier was fired after two seasons. This is not a trend. This is a landslide. College coaches have been a disaster in the NFL this decade. They either can't cut it or can't stand it or both. NFL owners are shying away from college coaches, who are accustomed to being lords of the realm. Of the 72 NFL coaching changes the last decade, only seven came from the college ranks. None could be labeled a success. In the NFL, coaches are hired hands who are expendable. In the NFL, coaches can't pad their record by scheduling New Mexico State, even in the exhibition season. In the NFL, coaches have to honor contracts. Southern Cal's Pete Carroll could return to the NFL most anytime he wants, but he's like most elite-school coaches. He's got a much better gig where he is. Big money, great security. The NFL offers big money, little security. Carroll, Bob Stoops, Urban Meyer, Mack Brown, Mark Richt. Why would they want the landmines of the pro game, when they've been granted virtual lifetime eminence amid the ivory towers? The lessons of Saban and Spurrier still are fresh in the mind. On the rare occasions when NFL execs turn to the college game, often as not they stray off the boulevards. Louisville. Cal-Berkeley. Two from Oregon State. The only current NFL head coach hired away from college football is Oakland's Lane Kiffin, who was neither head coach nor coordinator at Southern Cal and who literally is day-to-day with the volatile Raiders. And it's been awhile since a college coach had even reasonable NFL success. Butch Davis did OK in Cleveland; he was fired in year No. 4, with a record of 24-35, but at least he got the Browns to the playoffs in 2002. The last success story off a college campus was Steve Mariucci, hired by the 49ers away from Cal in 1997. Mariucci, who had NFL experience before California, went 60-43, with three playoff wins, in six San Francisco seasons. But Mariucci's 49er run seems a long time ago. Time was, college coaches fared well in the NFL. Boston College's Tom Coughlin was an instant winner in Jacksonville and won four playoff games in his eight years. OU's Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl and Miami's Jimmy Johnson won two. Georgia Tech's Bobby Ross took the Chargers to the Super Bowl. Stanford's Dennis Green won 101 games in 10 years with the Vikings. UCLA's Dick Vermeil took the Eagles to the Super Bowl. OU's Chuck Fairbanks turned around the Patriots and San Diego State's Don Coryell breathed life into the Cardinals. And the 49ers hired away Bill Walsh from Stanford. Seemed to turn out all right. That was 30 years ago. Today's Bill Walshes don't come from Stanford or any other place that sports an English department.