6 College Football Coaches with NFL Potential
College football coaches have vastly different responsibilities than their NFL peers. They double as nurturing mentors for young athletes, teaching them lessons through football so they can succeed in whatever they may do in the future. To the contrary, pro coaches are measured strictly by winning and losing.
A move to the NFL may be precarious, but it is not impossible. Pete Carroll, Greg Schiano and Jim Harbaugh have all recently made successful transitions.
Carroll is in his third season with the Seattle Seahawks with one playoff appearance and a team that is 6-4 in 2012. While his NFL career record (53-53) is not overly impressive, Carroll has proven he can coach competently at the pro level.
Greg Schiano left Rutgers to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year and has completely changed the culture of the franchise. Tampa is 6-4 and riding a four-game winning streak, averaging 34.8 PPG in that stretch.
Harbaugh is 20-5-1 in less than two seasons at the helm for San Francisco, and took the Niners to the NFC Championship game last year.
With some head coach spots being vacated after this season, let's take a look at some college coaches who could make the jump successfully.
Kelly spurned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in late January to stay with Oregon.
At 44-7 in four years with the Ducks, he is the most highly-qualified candidate for a jump to the NFL. An offensive genius, he would be a nice fit for a team searching for new offensive schemes with a proven head coach from a major college program.
The Eagles or Browns might make sense for the Oregon coach. Andy Reid is on his way out in Philadelphia, and the Eagles could use a fresh voice with new ideas. If Kelly goes to Philly and Michael Vick is brought back, it could help revive Vick's career once again.
Kelly has been known to work wonders in turning mobile quarterbacks—Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas and most recently Marcus Mariotta— into efficient passers in his days at Oregon.
While the Cleveland Browns have shown they can compete in 2012, they still sit at 2-8. Kelly would provide life for a young offense that needs a kick in the pants.
Another logical choice may be the Kansas City Chiefs, who currently score a league-worst 15.2 PPG. The Chiefs have talent on offense with the likes of Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe and Tony Moeaki; they need an innovative mind to utilize that potential.
“I was interested to hear how he did it,” Belichick said. “I would say he expanded it to a different level and it was very interesting to understand what he was doing. Certainly I'’ve learned a lot from talking to Chip about his experiences with it and how he does it and his procedure and all that.”
Kelly will be a hot commodity in the offseason, despite Oregon blowing their shot at a national championship with a loss to Stanford. One has to wonder what is motivating Kelly to stay.
After three years of poor play under head coach Rich Rodriguez, Michigan football is finally back on the map again after two straight successful seasons with Brady Hoke at the helm.
Hoke previously revitalized a San Diego State football program and has now led the Wolverines to a 20-5 record over the past two seasons, not to mention a Sugar Bowl victory.
While Michigan may be Hoke's dream job, many people feel he has the ability to lead an NFL team. ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Brock Huard listed Hoke as a coach who has NFL coaching potential (via AnnArbor.com):
"He has been a winner at every level and turned things around awfully fast in Ann Arbor with his defensive-minded philosophy. His ability to lead from that side of the ball could be very intriguing for NFL teams looking for their next coach."
Hoke may be in the early stages of his six-year contract with the Wolverines, but that doesn't mean NFL teams won't come calling.
After Jim Harbaugh left Stanford to become the head coach of the 49ers, the Cardinals' future looked very murky.
They hired Jim Shaw to succeed Harbaugh, and he led the team to an 11-2 record in his first year. However, a lot of that success could be attributed to quarterback Andrew Luck, who become the first overall pick in the NFL draft in April.
Shaw's true test would be the 2012 season, a season without the services of his former star QB. Shaw has responded by leading his team to a 9-2 record thus far, with huge wins over USC, Oregon State and most recently No. 2 Oregon.
Shaw already has NFL experience, with nine years as an assistant for the Eagles, Raiders and Ravens as quality control, quarterbacks, and wide receivers coach, respectively. It would make sense that an Eagles franchise looking for a new start would bring him back to the place he started in the NFL.
Don't panic, Fighting Irish fans. Kelly isn't going anywhere. Notre Dame is 11-0 and on the cusp of a national title game berth if they can beat USC.
That doesn't mean NFL GMs won't be knocking down the door to get at one of college football's best coaches.
In January, Kelly signed a two-year extension to keep him with the Irish through 2016. That hasn't stopped him in the past, though; he bolted from Cincinnati to take the job at Notre Dame. It's not a stretch to see him doing the same thing if the right NFL offer comes along.
In Brock Huard's ESPN Insider piece, he alluded to four qualities of Kelly and other coaches he feels have NFL potential. Those qualities are grind, adaptability, tunnel vision, and the "it" factor. Huard also went on to call Kelly "a self-made football junkie".
If Kelly gets a national championship for the Irish, his future in the pros might be inevitable.
Stoops has an incredible 147-36 record at Oklahoma and one national championship. While he seems ready to make a jump to the NFL, it's not clear if that is what he wants.
However, NFL Network reporter Albert Breer feels Stoops may be leaning that way. According to Breer, "There are murmurs that if an NFL team approaches Stoops, he'll listen. And delegate to experienced people".
One scout told Breer, ""He's a tremendous manager. And he hires great assistants."
I'm sure Stoops loves the impact he's had on that historic football program, but it wouldn't be surprising for NFL teams to come calling in the next few years.
Pelini has a 48-18 career record with Nebraska and may be primed to make a run at the pros. According to a scout who spoke to Breer, "He runs that team like an NFL team."
Pelini also has experience in the NFL, spending nine years as a position coach from 1994-2002. With a temper that has been known to flare up at times, he can be compared to the New York Giants' Tom Coughlin. Beyond that, Coughlin and Pelini both know what it takes to be excellent.
I'm sure he loves what he does at Nebraska, but it may be hard for Pelini to resist a call to join the NFL ranks.