Kirk Ferentz and the Top College-to-Pros NFL Head Coach Prospects

Jordan CalfeeCorrespondent IIIDecember 21, 2011

Kirk Ferentz and the Top College-to-Pros NFL Head Coach Prospects

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    Considering the success that former Stanford Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh has had in his first season with the San Francisco 49ers, it seems likely that other NFL teams may look at the college level to find their next head coach.

    With the recent firings of Tony Sparano, Jack Del Rio and Todd Haley, and few more (Norv Turner?) likely coming, there will be several NFL teams looking for coaches in the offseason.

    Not all their candidates will come from the professional level. Here are the college coaches that are considered the top prospects for available NFL head coaching gigs.

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma Sooners

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    Bob Stoops' name has come up a number of times over the years in regard to NFL coaching jobs. This is unsurprising, considering the enormous success he's had with the Oklahoma Sooners.

    In 13 years in Norman, Stoops has led the Sooners to 11+ wins nine times. His teams have gone to eight BCS bowls (more than any team except Ohio State), won a BCS National Championship, played in the National Championship Game three times, and finished in the top 10 eight times.

    The only thing lacking in Stoops' resume is NFL experience. But the fact that he has had so much head coaching success already and he's only 51 makes him a very attractive NFL candidate.

Bo Pelini, Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Unlike most of the guys on this list, Bo Pelini has as much NFL experience as he does coaching in college. Pelini was the defensive backs coach for the San Francisco 49ers from 1994-1996 before working as the linebackers coach for the New England Patriots from 1997-1999 and the Green Bay Packers from 2000-2002.

    After that, he was the defensive coordinator for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Oklahoma Sooner, and LSU Tigers before taking the head coaching position with Nebraska in 2008. In his four seasons in Lincoln, Pelini has won at least nine games each season.

    He led the Cornhuskers to the Big 12 Championship Game in consecutive seasons (2009-2010), losing by a combined four points.

    With his fiery temper and his no-nonsense attitude, many people think Pelini is better suited to the NFL. Considering he coached under Bill Belichick and won a Super Bowl with the 49ers, he certainly has a solid background in the pros. And the last few years in Lincoln have shown he has a knack for winning as a head coach.

Nick Saban, Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Nick Saban is a very competitive man. The only place where he failed to succeed as a head coach so far was with the Miami Dolphins, so don't be surprised if he makes a jump back to the NFL one of these days.

    Saban has been a phenomenal college head coach, despite the fact that he works in the toughest conference in football, the SEC.

    In 10 years (five with both the LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide), his teams have won at least 10 games six times, finished in the top 10 six times, gone to five BCS Bowls, and won two BCS National Championships (Alabama's playing for his third this year, of course).

    He had a taste of success in the NFL when he led the Dolphins to six straight wins at the end of the 2005 season. Miami finished 9-7 that season and just missed the playoffs. He's proven that he can win in the NFL, and he will likely try to add a Super Bowl to his resume at some point down the line.

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa Hawkeyes

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    Kirk Ferentz has had enormous success as the head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes. In 13 seasons, he has a 96-65 record. His teams have finished in the top 10 four times, tied for the Big Ten Championship twice, and gone to two Orange Bowls.

    Ferentz also has a solid background in the NFL. He was the offensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns from 1993-1995 and the Baltimore Ravens from 1996-1998.

    With his extensive head coaching experience and his NFL pedigree (he coached under Bill Belichick with the Browns), it's not at all surprising that we've heard his name pop up in reference to the current vacancy with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Mike London, Virginia Cavaliers

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    Mike London did one of the best coaching jobs in college football this season, leading the Virginia Cavaliers to an 8-4 record just a year after they were 4-8.

    Despite a very short career thus far, London has already accrued a number of impressive accomplishments. In just two years as head coach at Richmond, he led the Spiders to an FCS National Championship. And it only took him two years in Charlottesville to lead the Cavaliers to a winning record.

    London has NFL experience, having coached the defensive line for the Houston Texans in 2005. He also worked under a former NFL coach, Al Groh, in his first years at Virginia. The 51-year-old London has a bright future, whether it be in college or the NFL.

Steve Sarkisian, Washington Huskies

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    Steve Sarkisian has a very different background than most of the coaches on this list. He played quarterback for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League before taking the job as quarterbacks coach with the USC Trojans in 2001.

    In 2004, after coaching both Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC, he took the same position with the Oakland Raiders. He was rumored to be the favorite for that head coaching job in 2005, but took his name out of the running and returned to the quarterbacks coach position at USC.

    He accepted the head coaching position with the Washington Huskies in 2009. In three seasons, his record is only 19-18, but he's led the Huskies to bowl games each of the last two seasons. Many expect him to be targeted for another NFL head coaching job in the near future.

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern Wildcats

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    The 37-year-old Pat Fitzgerald is one of the best young names in coaching. He's led the Northwestern Wildcats to four straight bowl games, which is quite a feat considering Northwestern had only been to six in their entire history before he took over.

    Fitzgerald has a little NFL experience, as he played for the Dallas Cowboys after graduating from Northwestern in 1996. A former linebacker himself, he worked as the linebackers coach for the Maryland Terrapins and Colorado Buffaloes before taking the same position with Northwestern in 2001.

    He took over as head coach in Evanston in 2006. His record as a head coach is 40-35. With his youth and playing experience, he could easily make the transition to the NFL if he so desired.