NFL Head Coaching Stock: Could These College Football Coaches Make It?
Pete Carroll's sudden announcement that he would be taking the vacant Seattle Seahawks' head coaching job sent the college football world in to a frenzy.
This isn't Carroll's first rodeo in the NFL, but his 33-31 record begs the question as to whether he can consistently be an effective head coach in the big leagues.
Since we spend so much time discussing whether certain college football players have the potential to be NFL stars, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the NFL stock of some of college football's major coaches.
Jim Tressel, Ohio State
"Senator" Tressel is probably one of the most intelligent coaches in college football.
His composure on the sideline and straight-shooter attitude have earned him the respect of Buckeye Nation and many coaches around the country.
In Tressel's nine years at the helm, the Ohio State Bukceyes have gone 94-21, including six Big Ten titles overall, five of which were consecutive, and a National Championship in 2002.
Tressel fits the bill of an old school head coach in that he loves to run the ball, play rock solid defense, and use the punting game as a weapon.
His style would translate well to the pro game, as it is necessary to have a strong running game and solid defense to thrive, which leads me to believe he could find some success at football's highest level.
However, his quiet and calm-natured demeanor wouldn't mesh well with the egos of an NFL locker room. Tressel is a master of developing fine student-athletes, but NFL players are beyond the nurturing stage and aren't looking to be babied.
Tressel commands the respect of his fellow coaches and players and has proven that his classic style can win consistently in the "Spread Era", but his talents, and famed sweater vest, are best suited to mold young minds, not discipline grown men.
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
The three-time Big East Coach of the Year recently left Cincinnati and took his services to Notre Dame, following the tumultuous tenure of Charlie Weis.
Brian Kelly has been of the most underrated, yet most consistent, coaches in America over the last few years.
In four seasons as the Bearcats' head coach, Kelly led them to an astonishing 34-6 record, which includes two straight Big East titles, as well as two consecutive BCS Bowl berths.
While many coaches lecture on the importance of time of possession, Kelly stresses up-tempo play on both sides of the ball. Armed with his no-huddle offense and the philosophy of a defense that must play 60 minutes, the Bearcats' mentor brings a different attitude to each workout.
Kelly's formula for success revolves around an imaginative offense. Despite being forced to use five quarterbacks in 2008, the Bearcats ranked second in the Big East and 24th nationally in passing offense with 254.1 yards per game, and were also second in the league and 27th nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 139.4.
The up-tempo attack Kelly employs is making its way in to the NFL, as more and more teams are starting to pick up the pace on offense, so it is likely his offensive scheme would be well received.
I'm reserving judgment on Kelly to see if he can handle the pressures of a storied Notre Dame program. What he does with his latest project will say a lot about his NFL coaching potential.
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
This isn't the first time Stoops and the NFL have been mentioned in the same sentence, though much of the talk has been mere speculation and guess work.
Stoops' Sooners have run off an incredible 117-29 record over the last 11 seasons. Oklahoma has won six Big 12 titles and one National Championship in Stoops' tenure and they continue to roll along like a well-oiled machine.
Stoops is as emotional as they come in the college coaching ranks and he passes his fiery passion along to his players.
It has always been the top priority of the Oklahoma head coach to develop a well-balanced offensive attack.
The 2008 Sooners team is the perfect example: a 4,000 yard passer in quarterback Sam Bradford and a pair of 1,000 yard rushers in DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown. Moreover, Oklahoma boasted the highest scoring offense in college football history with just over 51 points a game.
Through all of Stoops' successes, he hasn't one the big game in awhile.
Since Oklahoma's National Championship victory in 2000, the Sooners have gone 1-5 in BCS games, with four straight losses. After five straight victories over arch-rival Texas, the Sooners have lost four of the last five against their hated rivals.
Many are beginning to wonder if he's losing his grip as one of the elite coaches in the nation.
Bob Stoops has always been an excellent regular season coach, but what he does in big games in the coming years will seal his legacy.
For now, Stoops' best bet would be to stick with the college game, at least until he can win the big games consistently.
Mack Brown, Texas
Mr. Nice Guy himself.
You won't find a classier coach, or man for that matter, in all of college football.
Mack Brown does, and says, the right things at the right times, and it has earned him a great deal of love and support from one of the nation's largest fan bases.
Apart from being an ideal person, Brown's record at Texas simply can't be ignored. Under Brown, the Longhorns have gone 128-27 in 12 seasons.
That's unheard of.
To go along with nine straight 10-plus winning seasons, Brown and the Longhorns have won two Big XII titles, have shared or won the Big XII South division six times, and a National Championship in 2005.
A Mack Brown-coached football team consists of two key things: skill and desire.
However cliche that may be, Brown has coached in some of the most memorable games of the last 25 years, games in which his team has had to mount thrilling comebacks and defy the odds time and time again by using sheer determination.
There may not be a more clutch coach than Mack Brown. He is one of the best motivators in the game and all of his players trust him, even in the stickiest of situations.
While his incredibly impressive record and contagious smile have graced the Forty Acres, the NFL is not as kind.
Don't get me wrong, Brown is firmly entrenched as one of the top three coaches in the country, but unfortunately, you can't keep a coaching job in the NFL by being a nice guy.
While he is a brilliant football mind, he is also devoted to fathering young men and guiding them on the path to happier futures. His soft heart would be devoured by the cut-throat NFL.
Besides, we like Mack in the college game anyway.
Nick Saban, Alabama
Here we go again.
Nick Saban and the NFL are no strangers, as Saban served as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins from 2005-2006.
Many deemed Saban's stint in the NFL as a failure and that he ran and hid behind a strong college program.
While his tenure in Miami was indeed very rocky, I believe he was a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The personnel in Miami were disgraceful, and Dante Culpepper's ill-advised attempt to come back too early from a knee-injury didn't help matters.
We all know Saban is a brilliant college coach. The proof is in the pudding.
Two championships with two different schools, LSU in '03 and Alabama in '09, and a combined record of 81-24 in eight years between the two schools is flat out impressive. The man is a winner.
His brand of hard-nosed running and stingy defense has resurrected the Alabama football program and placed them atop the college football world once again.
A similar approach could make him a successful NFL head coach.
If given a decent squad, he could turn them in to winners in a few years time. He's just that good.
Urban Meyer, Florida
Now wouldn't this be interesting?
It seems that anything Urban Meyer touches turns to gold, at least in football anyway.
Since his days at Bowling Green, the man has flat out won games.
In stints at Bowling Green, Utah, and now Florida, Meyer has achieved a record of 96-18, including two National Championships in '06 and '08 with the Gators.
Until the loss to Alabama in the SEC title game, Meyer's Gators were enjoying a 22 game winning streak between the 2008-2009 seasons.
Urban Meyer's teams at Bowling Green, Utah, and Florida have all run the spread, chiefly utilizing a run-first variation with adjustments to fit the offensive personnel. Meyer's first two years at Florida shifted toward a drop-back passing attack led by Chris Leak, while Alex Smith (Utah) and Tim Tebow led an option run-based spread.
Using this offense, he has won two BCS titles, has become the first coach to lead a non-BCS conference team (Utah) to a BCS bowl, has coached a Heisman trophy winner (Tim Tebow), and has graduated a player who became a number one overall pick in the NFL draft (Alex Smith).
While his version of the spread has been remarkably successful at the college level, many wonder as to whether it could translate into the pro game.
Seeing as how NFL defenses are so fast, I imagine it would be difficult to implement Meyer's version of the spread offense.
However, if the the right players were in place, I could see it taking the NFL by surprise, similar to the way the Wildcat made its grand entrance into the league.
Meyer has been successful at every place he has coached at in his young career, so why not the NFL?
He is one of the few coaches in the college ranks that I could see earning the respect of the players in an NFL locker room as well as making a smooth transition to the demanding job of being an NFL head coach.
His health is an issue at the moment, as is evident by his temporary leave of absence from coaching the Gators. That could be something to monitor when considering how stressful life in the NFL can be.
Could Meyer handle the physical and mental toll day in and day out?