Charlie Strong owns quite the résumé in regards to his college coaching career. However, the former Florida Gators defensive coordinator is taking on a new role. As of February 11, Strong is officially an NFL coach after nearly 40 years in the college ranks.
Career of Charlie Strong
In 1984, Charlie Strong began his coaching career. Starting as a graduate assistant to Charlie Pell at the University of Florida, Strong got his first full-time coaching job two years later.
Southern Illinois hired Strong to be their wide receivers coach. However, he always had a knack for defense. Strong was an all-conference defensive back at Central Arkansas before entering the coaching realm.
If there was ever one theme about Strong’s early career, it was his constant returns to Gainesville. Nevertheless, people go where the job offer comes from. Strong’s first major coaching position came in 1999 from South Carolina.
Despite an 0-11 season with head coach Lou Holtz, Strong was part of the turnaround in Columbia that saw the Gamecocks go from 0-11 in 1999 to 9-3 in 2001. The success at USC had Florida come calling yet again. Strong became the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida in 2003 and would hold the role through the 2009 season. He also served as an Associate Head Coach to Urban Meyer in the latter stages of his seven-year tenure.
That experience with a National Championship winning team opened up head coaching positions at Louisville then Texas, before arriving at South Florida. Head coaching may have not been Strong’s forte, being relieved of his duties at Texas and USF due to poor performance. Eventually, Strong found himself on the coaching staff at Alabama as a defensive analyst. Charlie Strong says he saw the culture in Tuscaloosa and what it took to develop a winning culture.
After one year with Nick Saban, Strong took the step into the NFL for the first time in his long career.
First Time in the Pros
Charlie Strong coached perhaps hundreds of NFL players in his time coaching throughout college. However, he never dealt with a roster of entirely NFL players.
On February 11, the Jacksonville Jaguars announced the signing of Strong to be an assistant head coach and the inside linebackers coach. Strong joins first-time NFL head coach Urban Meyer with the task of turning the Jaguars franchise around.
The first step might be changing the culture in Jacksonville. Strong says that all NFL players are there for a reason, it is just about being the best players they can be.
However, this is a big step for anybody. In college, Strong saw his players seemingly every day. In the NFL, these players have families and other obligations.
If there is any consolation, Strong and Meyer have the first overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Trevor Lawrence is the projected top pick, and he could serve as a player to build around. In fact, he could be the keystone piece of the culture Charlie Strong wants to build in Jacksonville.
Culture could take years to develop. Likewise, it will take years for the Jacksonville Jaguars to return to being one of the better teams in the NFL.
However, Strong has a history of being part of winning franchises and elite defenses. Hiring Urban Meyer and other college coaches like Strong is a gamble. But this is a bet that could certainly pay off. If Meyer and Strong can illustrate some of their college success, the Jaguars will thrive.