Coaching in the NFL is strangely different than the college ranks. A lot of guys have found that out. Bud Wilkinson, as much of an institution as the college game ever produced, was a fish out of water in the NFL.
Barry Switzer never quite achieved any respect, despite a Super Bowl win. Steve Spurrier was laughed out of the league. Nick Saban had an unfortunate and uncomfortable exit from Miami. Bobby Petrino's departure from Atlanta was a complete farce. A lot of so-called coaching "icons" have had nibbles, including Joe Paterno, but they never took the plunge, possibly because the process of player procurement in the NFL might have put them on a level playing field with everyone else (I would say they couldn't cheat, but I'll be more diplomatic).
There are coaches in the college ranks that have taken their teams to the top of the BCS National Rankings and who could make good pro coaches, or who already have. There are others who we'd like to see get the opportunity or take the shot, just to see what they could do when matched up with the more advanced minds on the pro level, and we're only being half-facetious when we say that.
Let's look at our list:
1.) KIRK FERENTZ, Iowa -- This guy's been well-respected for a long time. Ferentz was an offensive line coach for six years in the NFL, and spent three of those seasons with Bill Belichick in Cleveland. He's sent his share of players to the next level while at Iowa, and has constantly been mentioned in conjunction with head coaching jobs in the pros. He was able to leverage this interest into a contract at Iowa that will keep him there through 2015, and he is one of the highest paid coaches in the country.
2.) CHARLIE WEIS, Notre Dame -- Listen, the guy has been absolutely reviled at times in South Bend, and that goes with the territory, but he spent fifteen years in the NFL as an assistant, including three years of winning Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, and if he wanted, he probably could have had an NFL job by now. Say what you will, but he helped develop Brady Quinn into a quarterback who could be drafted in the first round, and he's doing the same with Jimmy Clausen. The question is: Would a job with one of the NFL's lesser lights be a step down for him?
3.) MIKE SHERMAN, Texas A&M -- Sherman has had careers in both college and pro coaching. He won three straight division titles with the Green Bay Packers and also served as offensive coordinator with the Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans. He is, as far as I can tell, the only current college coach who has also been an NFL general manager. He has made his Aggies respectable, running pro sets. With a lot of freshmen and sophomores, the best is yet to come. Sherman is committed to A&M through 2014 at $1.8 million per year.
4.) BO PELINI, Nebraska -- Most people really admire the job Pelini has done in re-injecting some toughness and defense into the Huskers, something that was lost under former NFL coach Bill Callahan. Pelini spent nine years in the NFL as an assistant with the Niners, Packers and Patriots. His contract runs through 2013, and like Sherman, he's making $1.8 million yearly.
5.) JEFF TEDFORD, California -- The two-time pac-10 coach of the year, Tedford was offensive coordinator at Fresno State and Oregon before taking the head job at Cal, where he has gone to six straight bowl games. He is renowned for the job he has done working with quarterbacks. Tedford has worked with the likes of Trent Dilfer, Joey Harrington, Kyle Boller, Aaron Rodgers, Billy Volek and AJ Feeley in the college ranks, and is generally known as a pretty sharp offensive mind.
6.) MIKE RILEY, Oregon State - Riley has had success in his second tour of duty with the Beavers, making it into five bowl games. He has been around the block, coaching in the Canadian Football League and the World League of American Football , not to mention three years as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. I think that maybe he deserves another shot somewhere in the NFL.
7.) CHRIS PETERSEN, Boise State -- The guy's had nothing but success. When he was working under Dan Hawkins as an assistant, he was nominated for the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach. Since taking over the Boise State program, he's had a 40-4 record, and things just seem to get better. He's only making $850,000, which makes him a relative pauper compared to others who are competing for BCS spots. Other WAC schools wish the NFL would make him an offer.
8.) URBAN MEYER, Florida -- Meyer is one of those guys who certainly prefers the security of college and the recruiting edges he can have over other coaches, and I would imagine he could be a "lifer." Yet I would like to see what he could do on an NFL level, if for no other reason than that the spread option, with which he has won two national titles at Florida and authored an undefeated season at Utah. His system become the rage in high school and college football and eventually "spread" to the NFL in the form of the "Wildcat" and other variations, and it would be fun to see how that offense would perform if it were implemented on a full-time basis.
9.) JERRY GLANVILLE, Portland State -- I bet you didn't realize he was still coaching, but the truth is, he's been back at it for several years now, first working as June Jones' defensive coordinator at Hawaii (no, that's not a joke) and now as the head coach at Portland State, where his team sports the third-ranked passing offense in FCS ball, even though they're just 2-4. At last he's had some success as an NFL head man, coaching in seven playoff games. Hey - how many guys have coached in the Sun Bowl, Senior Bowl and Pro Bowl, AND driven in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series AND leave tickets for Elvis at every game AND may have been one of the last people to see Jimmy Hoffa alive? That's right - nobody.
I want to leave room for one assistant....
10.) MARK WHIPPLE, Miami -- Whipple has an impressive resume. He won a Division 1-AA national title with U-Mass, and has been an assistant coach with the Steelers and Eagles in the NFL. At Miami he has really added some imagination to that offense, taking shots downfield, and the Hurricanes are relevant again. He'll be one year at Miami, then he'll get a shot at a head coaching job. I suspect his eyes are on the NFL again one day.
For the future, there's also:
11.) PAT FITZGERALD, Northwestern -- Northwestern is a tough place to coach because of the academic requirements, and Fitzgerald has the program showing signs of life, with a 9-4 record and a bowl game last year, and two wins away from bowl eligibility this season. The former Dallas Cowboys linebacker just needs some more seasoning; he's only 34 yards old.
Pete Carroll, USC (he'd never go back), Butch Davis, North Carolina (I bet he'd love to go back), Steve Fairchild, Colorado State (former NFL coordinator), Jim Harbaugh, Stanford (he's right on track), Ralph Friedgen, Maryland (he may need a job at season's end).