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It’s time to pump the brakes on Deion Sanders hype train and enjoy the ride

Deion Sanders as the next head coach of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders with Primetime heading to Sin City? Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones hiring his former star player to replace Mike McCarthy?

We’ve read the rumors. We’ve seen the stories. We understand the hype. It’s Deion Sanders. One of the greatest showmen of his era and a guy that brought some sense of relevance back to the Colorado Buffaloes college football program.

Well, kinda.

In his first season at Colorado after putting Jackson State back on the map, Sanders created excitement in Boulder. The Buffaloes won their first three games, including a victory over a Texas Christian team that had earned a spot in the College Football Playoff a season before.

For a program that had not won more than five games in a season since 2016, this was foreign territory. The way Deion led this team to wins was something. Primetime football. Renewed interest on ESPN and other major networks. Transfers, including former top recruit Travis Hunter and Deion’s son, Shedeur, doing their thing. An entirely new brand of football in a college football landscape that had been missing it.

In the midst of this 3-0 start, Sanders did what he likes to do best. He talked. He talked a lot. We listened. We heard him. We were intrigued.

“We’re gonna continuously be questioned because we do things that have never been done. That makes people uncomfortable,” Sanders said in September. “When you see a confident Black man sitting up here, talking his talk, walking his walk, coaching 75 percent African Americans in the locker room, that’s kind of threatening.”

deion sanders
Eric Shelton/Clarion Ledger / USA TODAY NETWORK

Colorado was outdrawing powerhouses such as Ohio State, Notre Dame and Alabama on television. The scene in Boulder was filled with star power. It was something to behold. Young men taking to Prime’s coaching style and over-the-top mentality while building something special.

Then came a Sept. 23 outing against a top-10 Oregon Ducks team in Eugene, Oregon. Colorado found itself as over three-touchdown underdogs heading in against Bo Nix and Co. The end result was a 42-6 thrashing at the hands of Oregon in Deion’s Pac-12 debut.

Colorado ended up winning just one more game moving forward on the season, a 27-24 defeat of what ended up being a 3-9 Arizona State squad. The following week saw Colorado fall to a bad Stanford team by the score of 46-43. To say that this didn’t please Sanders would be an understatement.

“They gotta make up in their mind are they in love with this game or in like with it? I’m truly 100% in love with this thing and I just want people to match me,” Deion Sanders said after Colorado blew a 29-0 lead against the Cardinal.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Colorado
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

A week later, and Colorado would lose to the UCLA Bruins. Sanders made the decision to strip offensive coordinator Sean Lewis of play-calling duties despite him being seen as an up-and-comer within the college ranks (Lewis has since been hired as the San Diego State head coach).

This was part of a larger stretch that saw things spiral for the Buffaloes on the field. They lost close affairs to ranked teams such as Oregon State and Arizona before being blown out by Washington 56-14 and losing to Utah in the season finale.

Despite all of this, interest in Sanders becoming a head coach in the NFL has not died down. Despite the Buffs finishing with one conference win for the second consecutive year and the sixth time over the past decade, Sanders was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of Year.

“Deion Sanders dominated the sports conversation in 2023 as a transformative figure not just in Colorado, but for the entire realm of college sports,” Stephen Cannella, editor in chief of Sports Illustrated, said in a statement. “On and off the field, he represents a new model for the modern college coach.”

Talk about the Prime hype hitting overdrive. A solid 27-6 run at Jackson State. Leading Colorado to pretty much the same type of on-field “success” it has had in recent years prior to his arrival. What exactly are we doing here? Is Deion simply the next darling society looks to build up before ultimately attempting to tear down for its amusement later?

There are a lot of layers to this. Let me explain.

Deion Sanders to the NFL hype is overblown

jerry jones, deion sanders
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

“I’d definitely want to bring him in to hear what he has to say. He’s a smart guy and a good coach who has had a lot of early success. You’d want to pick his brain to see if it could translate. He knows how to motivate his players. He’s crushed the transfer portal, and maybe that would carry over into team building through free agency.”

Unnamed NFL executive to The Athletic back in September

These comments came after Deion had coached all of three games for Colorado. Intrigue is one thing. Being a fan of Sanders’ coaching style, motivation and ability to connect with players also makes sense. But the idea of seriously considering an inexperienced head coach who only enjoyed success at the lower levels of college football didn’t seem to make a ton of sense.

This is nothing against Jackson State and its counterparts. It’s just that we’re not talking about Power 5 competition. Less than three full seasons of coaching at that level couldn’t possibly prepare Sanders for the dog days of the NFL.

Heck, even those coaches who have had a ton of success at the highest levels of college football failed big time in the professional ranks.

Look at Urban Meyer as a recent case study. He won three national championships as a college head coach (2006, 08 with Florida and 2014 at Ohio State). The Jacksonville Jaguars hired him in 2021. He proceeded to post a 2-11 record and was fired 13 games into his first season. It was a spectacular disaster for Meyer.

Bobby Petrino’s run with the Atlanta Falcons back in 2007 also last 13 games after he enjoyed a ton of success with Louisville. Most recently, Matt Rhule posted an 11-27 record with the Carolina Panthers after leading Baylor to national relevance.

No two coaches are the same. Sanders’ mentality as a player-first head coach is foreign to Meyer and what he saw during his short stint in Duval. You’ll never catch Deion kicking a player. That’s for sure. This doesn’t change the fact that transitioning from college ball to the professional ranks is tricky.

Does Deion Sanders even want the NFL?

Deion likes the attention and press. We’ve known this since his days as a two-sport star with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and MLB’s New York Yankees back in the early 1990s. His on-and-off-field exploits are by now well known. They are legendary.

They are what made this scribe one of Deion’s biggest fans growing up. That, and helping the San Francisco 49ers to their last Super Bowl title. Again, the dude was (and is) an icon of his own making.

Wanting to be in the limelight is understandable given just how much stardom Sanders boasted during his playing days. Having the urge to coach professional players when connecting with amateur athletes — even in this NIL world — well, that’s a different thing.

“No. No. Not whatsoever. I don’t think I’m built for the NFL because I’m, too. I appreciate the game so much and I respect the game so much and what the game has consistently done for me for a multitude of years that when I see a guy getting paid millions and millions of dollars and he has no respect for the game and does not want to excel and exceed expectations in the game, I’m going to have a true problem.”

Deion Sanders on coaching in the NFL

It could very well be that the Prime hype train is all about media and others wanting to get a piece of his popularity. At pretty much every turn since being hired by Colorado, Sanders has pushed back against the idea of making the jump to the NFL.

Those closest to him have, too.

“He’s staying. He’s staying. He’s staying,” Sanders’ business manager Constance Schwartz-Morini said back in late-October when asked about Deion’s future in Colorado.

Even if Sanders is not long for Boulder, the likeliest scenario here is that he heads to a program of more national relevance. He had been linked to Florida State — the former college star’s alma mater — in the past. That’s a more likely transition for Prime.

Related: Deion Sanders already made a staggering impact on Colorado Buffaloes revenue in 2023

Never underestimate Deion Sanders and his self-created brand

deion sanders colorado, nfl future
Christopher Creveling-USA TODAY Sports

None of this is to say that Sanders can’t have success in whatever he does. From being named to the Florida High School Association All-Century Team during his childhood in Fort Myers to finding himself selected in the sixth round of the 1985 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals; Sanders has done his thing.

Sanders played three sports at a high level for Florida State, including earning two unanimous All-American honors under Bobby Bowden. He’d go on to win two Super Bowls, earn six Pro Bowls and become a first ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer in the professional ranks.

Along the way, Sanders built up his brand off the field. From endorsement opportunities to doing his thing as a businessman, success has been the name of the game for Prime.

We’re not willing to bet against him. But this hype train is in overdrive right now. It’s time to take a step back, let Deion hit the transfer portal hard, build more talent in Colorado and actually lead that program to national prominance before derailing this train.

Let’s not build this legend up, only to tear him down later. Let’s enjoy what he’s doing at Colorado and go from there. It shouldn’t be that hard of a concept.

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