The boss going out and finding a trusted assistant is a big deal. What would Andy Taylor do without Barney Fife? Skipper without Little Buddy? Urban Meyer without Greg Schiano?

On that last one, we may soon find out. Nothing yet to report, but even feeble math minds know 1 plus 1 equals 2. In the case of Ohio State football, the arithmetic looks like this: new assistant Alex Grinch plus $800,000 equals the subtraction of Schiano as defensive coordinator.

You don’t pay Grinch more than Schiano, who made $700,000 last season but could make more when his contract expires Jan. 31, unless the new guy was brought in to replace the existing guy. (Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated reported that Grinch eventually will be named co-defensive coordinator).

Schiano, who joined the Buckeyes in 2016, has done so well running the defense that he soon could be a college head coach or NFL assistant. Tennessee came within a signature of hiring the 51-year-old last month before fan and alumni backlash scuttled the deal. Feldman reported Thursday that several NFL teams are interested in Schiano as a defensive coordinator.

Losing Schiano would be a big loss for the Buckeyes, even if they appear to be getting a rising star in Grinch, who coordinated a Washington State defense that improved from 84th in 2015 to 62nd in 2016 to 16th this season. It would be a big loss for Meyer, too.

Finding the right assistant is not as easy as Meyer has made it appear. For all his success in lassoing the likes of Dan Mullen (now at Florida; was offensive coordinator under Meyer at Florida) and Tom Herman (Texas; offensive coordinator under Meyer at Ohio State), Meyer knows that losing assistant coaches can be more difficult than finding them.

Part of Meyer’s health meltdown at Florida in late 2009 and resignation at the end of 2010 can be traced to the stress created within the program when defensive coordinator Charlie Strong left to coach Louisville. Strong handled much of the day-to-day dealing with players, which allowed Meyer to be more of a big-picture maestro. Meyer trusted Strong to stop problems before they began.

Trust is central to the relationship between head coach and assistant. Meyer knows he can trust Schiano and likely thinks he can trust Grinch. But trust takes time, which probably explains why Meyer is more open than ever to hiring friends. It takes less time and energy to build trust when you already know the person.

Intrigued by coach-to-coach relationships, I contacted former Ohio State coach John Cooper and former Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche for their views of what makes a good assistant.

Cooper kept things to the point: “I looked for people who could help us recruit, because that’s the name of the game,” he said.

Wyche agreed that recruiting is king is college, but loyalty is royalty, too.

“Paul Brown taught me loyalty is the most important thing,” Wyche said. “There is a lot of arguing — we like to call it discussion — going on, but when you leave that coaching room you need to all tell your players, ‘This is the best way going forward.’ You don’t need any of this, ‘None of this is going to work but we’re doing it anyway’ from the assistants.”

Wyche finished with a story about how he and Bengals offensive line coach Jim McNally stayed up all night at a Waffle House discussing whether McNally should leave for the Dallas Cowboys.

“He gets up go to the bathroom and I put salt in his coffee,” Wyche said. “I tried to come up with the right note, a trigger why he should stay here. And that was it. It came down to just being good friends who could do that kind of stuff to each other.”

That is the challenge. Good friends are hard to find.


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