6 College Football Coaches Bound To Test the NFL Waters at Some Point
Every year, at least a few successful college football coaches think of moving up to the NFL.
Sometimes it works out, like Jim Harbaugh has so far for the 49ers, but more often than not, it doesn't go well, like Nick Saban and the Dolphins.
Still, college coaches will continue to move up and NFL teams will continue to hire them. But who is the next Pete Carroll or Jim Harbaugh in the college coaching ranks right now?
Here are six guys that I think will eventually make the move up to the pros, for better or worse.
Guys Who'll Never Go: Les Miles and Mike Gundy
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I actually decided to start the list with a couple of coaches who I think will never, ever go to the pros, despite rumors to the contrary.
Les Miles, LSU
The Mad Hatter has been a winner at LSU since his first year. He's one of the winningest coaches in college football (71-17 since moving to LSU) and he looks to be on his way to a second national championship.
However, his crazy antics, like faking a punt on 4th-and-26, wouldn't translate well into the NFL and he knows it. Furthermore, he's dominated the toughest division of the toughest conference in all of college football. Why spoil a good gig?
Miles has seen too many guys try out the NFL and fail, and he seems very happy where he is. After all, he didn't take the head coaching job at Michigan, and that's his alma mater. He'll stick around Death Valley for the foreseeable future.
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
What state is Mike Gundy from? Answer: Oklahoma.
Quick, where did Gundy play in college? Too slow, it was Oklahoma State.
Where did he get his first job as a coach? Oklahoma State.
Where was his only head coaching gig? You guessed it: Oklahoma State.
I sincerely believe that Gundy is not interested in coaching anywhere but Oklahoma State. He's had a very successful couple of years and could maybe make it into the NFL if he wanted, but he's already got his dream job. No one will pry him away from Oklahoma State, not even the NFL.
6. Urban Meyer, Formerly Florida
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Every year that a top college job becomes available, the rumors that Urban Meyer will take the job begin to swirl.
First it was Notre Dame. After all, he is Catholic, right? Then he didn't take the job.
Then it was Ohio State. After all, he is from Ohio, right? He won't take the job.
Here's the truth that a lot of people don't realize. Any competitive SEC school is a pinnacle program. And what I mean by that is that historic powerhouses like Notre Dame and Ohio State and Michigan are not "a step up" from a school like Florida.
Urban Meyer is done with college football. He was happy at Florida, he was successful, and he was getting tons of talented recruits.
However, since Jacksonville, Miami, Indianapolis and San Diego might all be looking for replacements next year, the pros are a possibility. The pros are the only real step up he could take from Florida, so if he wants back in football, it'll be at the pro level.
Still, he's at the bottom of the list because I think his health concerns are serious enough to keep him at ESPN for the rest of his career.
5. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin
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Bielema is building a dynasty in the Big Ten, and with Jim Tressel out at Ohio State, the way is clear for Wisconsin to become the new top dog in the conference.
The Badgers have been ranked five out of the six years that Bielema has been the coach (assuming they stay ranked this season), and last year they represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl.
Bielema is also a young guy. He's only 41 years old and is already one of the more successful coaches in college football. He's also a defensive-minded guy coaching a school that consistently produces top offensive talent, which makes him look like he knows the whole game pretty well.
If they win the Big Ten again this year, Wisconsin and Bielema will be on top of the conference for a long time. And once you're on top in college ball, the only upgrade that's left is the NFL.
4. Bobby Petrino, Arkansas
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This might be a bit of a cop-out, since Petrino was already a Head Coach in the NFL. However, he quit after less than a season because of the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal. He saw that the situation was about to get bad and didn't fit his plan, so he got out.
However, I think that his stint in the NFL, however brief, shows that his ultimate goal is the NFL.
He's also had impressive teams at Arkansas these past couple of years. To make things better for him, both quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis will likely be returning again next year, assuring that Arkansas's offense will still be potent.
The only SEC coaches who've had more consistent success are Les Miles and Nick Saban, neither of whom will be heading to the NFL any time soon. If an NFL franchise wants to pull an experienced coach from the SEC, the one they'll land is Petrino.
3. Chris Petersen, Boise State
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Yeah, that Chris Petersen. While he has already made it clear that he won't leave Boise State for a bigger job in college football, that doesn't mean he wouldn't leave for the pros.
Consider that this year, Petersen is going to lose the quarterback that has helped him significantly to put together the fantastic 69-5 record he's accumulated in his five years as head coach in Idaho.
That might make him reconsider where his loyalties lie. Boise might be a too small of a program for someone to go directly to the pros from, but what was Boise before Petersen took over? Not much. He made the team relevant, he got them on TV, he got them in big bowl games.
Building a program from the ground up to the level Boise has reached might get him a shot at an NFL-level job, and it might be sooner than you would think.
2. Chip Kelly, Oregon
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Chip Kelly has done very impressive things at Oregon, and he's done it quickly.
He's 29-5 so far in his three years at Oregon, and that record will be better by the season's end. He also seems to have the respect and support of all of his players, gets top recruit classes regularly, and has shown that he's pretty good at dealing with adversity.
Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli commits a robbery and is dismissed? No problem, I'll start Darron Thomas and we'll still win every game until the national championship.
Star running back LaMichael James goes out with an injury? No problem, we'll still drop 86 points on our next two opponents, one of whom may win their division of the conference.
The only thing holding Kelly back right now is that he's spent such a short time as a head coach. If he keeps up this kind of success for a couple of more years, there's no doubt in my mind that the pros will come calling.
1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
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Oklahoma may be on the outside looking in right now, but since Bob Stoops got there, there hasn't been a better program outside of the SEC.
If you're looking for a coach who consistently develops talented players and keeps his team in the national championship race every year, you can't beat Bob Stoops.
He's won 136 games since taking over Oklahoma in 1999. That's an average of better than 10 wins per season. (That's 53 more wins than Pete Carroll gathered up.) To make that even more impressive, he's never had a losing season. He did go 7-5 once, but that's as bad as it's gotten. There were also three national championship appearances and one victory as well, just for good measure.
Stoops has apparently been adamant about leaving the Big 12, but Oklahoma staying for now may make him rethink his future with the program.
He seems to be happy where he is for now, but if the Big 12's messy situation gets any worse, don't be surprised if he bolts for the big leagues as soon as the opportunity arises.