Taking the Next Step: College Coaches With NFL Aspirations

Mitch Wilson@sportschatplaceSenior Writer IOctober 20, 2009

25 Nov 1999: Coach Jimmy Johnson of the Miami Dolphins talks to Emmitt Smith #22 of the Dallas Cowboys as he walks onto the field during the game at the Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. The Cowboys defeated the Dolphins 20-0.

There haven't been many college football coaches who have made the successful transition to the NFL. While I'm not sure any of the coaches in today's college game are ready and willing to make the leap, there is certainly a qualified stable worth taking a chance on.

When Lou Holtz—a college coach who failed miserably in his stint as the head coach of the New York Jets—was asked what was the biggest difference between college and the NFL he replied, "You can't recruit in the NFL."

Since Lou walked the sidelines at Shea Stadium, the game has changed. And though the NFL has free agency—which means you actually can recruit somewhat—it hasn't meant more successful transitions.

If anything, the transition from failed NFL coach to college coach or return to college coach is much smoother. You need to look no further than Pete Carroll, Bobby Petrino, and Nick Saban for proof.

Here are a list of college coaches who may someday be faced with the opportunity to make the leap to the next level.

1. Pete Carroll, head coach, USC

Why: He's been a winner at the college level and he has NFL experience as a head coach and a coordinator. It's possible he wants to take another shot at it to prove he can do it.

Why Not: He has rebuilt USC into one cushy gig. He probably has the job for life, and it pays well enough that he has no reason to look for more. I haven't even mentioned the weather.


2. Urban Meyer, head coach, Florida

Why: With two national titles in three years and a possible shot at a third, there may be little to prove and little challenge left at Florida. Meyer has a pretty big ego, so more than likely it is one more notch he can add.

Why Not: Meyer's style more than likely won't translate to the NFL game, where everyone is going to be as fast as his team. He is more suited for the college game and he's more likely to turn up at another school he has ties to.


3. Brian Kelly, head coach, Cincinnati

Why: Kelly has won everywhere he has been and there is no reason to think he can't do the same a the next level. If the Bearcats' season continues on the path they are currently on, he will be well known enough to be a candidate at least.

Why Not: Central Michigan and Cincinnati just aren't the powerhouse names we expect to see coaches get grabbed from. Kelly is more likely to step it up to a bigger program first and then make the big leap.


4. Kirk Ferentz, head coach, Iowa

Why: A few years back, Ferentz was one of the hottest names around and he was courted by several NFL teams. He decided to stay at Iowa ,but a few years later he may have regretted not taking the NFL's offer as he was nearly fired. I'm not as convinced he passes it up again given the same scenario.

Why Not: For all of the same reasons he turned it down the last time around, and he just signed a new contract.


5. Steve Sarkisian, head coach, Washington

Why: In his first year as head coach in Washington, he is making a winner out of a team that has been losing as of late. He has the Huskies looking respectable and people are taking notice.

Why Not: Big on talent and promise, but very light on head coaching experience. Probably more than likely a few years away.


6. Randy Shannon, head coach, Miami

Why: Three of the last four Hurricane coaches have taken NFL jobs. Shannon's coach, Jimmy Johnson, was one of them and one of the most successful.

Why Not: Shannon has unfinished business at Miami, and while he has rebuilt the program, it isn't quite as rebuilt as his predecessor's teams.


7. Jim Harbaugh, head coach, Stanford

Why: He seems to be taking a logical path to lead him to the sidelines in the NFL. Harbaigh seems to have been groomed to be a head coach and he's just a natural.

Why Not: Harbaugh hasn't really won at Stanford. He's had some big wins but not a string of big wins.

8. Turner Gil, head coach, Buffalo

Why: He has put the Buffalo program on the map.

Why Not: Not enough quality experience.


9. Bob Stoops, head coach, Oklahoma

Why: Maybe after years of rumors and turning down offers, he ready to make the move. Losing his Heisman-winning QB makes it a logical time for an exit.

Why Not: He's been offered every job on the planet and never seriously considers any of them.


10. Rick Neuheisal, head coach, UCLA

Why: He seems to have the personality that he would seriously consider an NFL job if the offer ever came his way.

Why Not: He hasn't done enough to merit an offer.


Visit Mitch anytime at The Sports Chat Place


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