In 2009, when the Oregon Ducks lost in the Rose Bowl to the Ohio State Buckeyes, it wrapped up a tough finish to what we all thought was a down year in the Pac 10 (now the Pac 12). The conference only managed to place two teams in the AP Top 25 to close the season and only Oregon managed to post double-digit wins.
However, a retrospective look at that 2009 season showcases that while the conference may not have had the talent to compete with a league like the SEC or the Big 12, the coaching talent was off the charts and the league continues to be a proving grounds for young coaches rising through the ranks.
That’s because in 2009, Chip Kelly, Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll were all head coaches in the Pac 10. Four seasons later, they all coached their teams to playoff berths in the NFL.
Whether they’ve been deemed an innovator (Kelly) a motivator (Carroll) or some crazy concoction of both (Harbaugh), the three highlight what may be a new movement in the NFL: hiring high-profiled college coaches to turn around a franchise.
With that in mind, here are five college football coaches who may be destined for the NFL ranks sometime soon:
No. 5: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M Aggies
Sumlin reportedly turned down the Philadelphia Eagles before they eventually settled in on Chip Kelly, and while that deal certainly worked out in the Eagles’ favor, Sumlin is still highly coveted in NFL circles. The 49-year old doesn’t appear to be in any rush to leave Texas A&M, but if the right fit were to arise and Sumlin were allowed to test his offensive philosophy at the game’s highest level, it’d be hard to imagine him not giving it a go.
No. 4: Chris Petersen, Washington Huskies
Petersen just took the job in Washington, so I’m sure the inclusion of Petersen on a list of likely NFL candidates perplexes and annoys Husky fans, but if Petersen can win in the Pac 12, we know that the NFL will take notice. Of course, that’s all contingent on him continuing to win, because, after all, being dominant in the WAC and the MWC doesn’t necessarily translate to NFL success. However, we’ve seen in recent years that being good in the Pac 12 really does (see lede).
No. 3: David Shaw, Stanford Cardinal
Shaw picked up right where Jim Harbaugh left off and the Stanford Cardinal haven’t just survived, they’ve thrived. Shaw’s power offenses and his smothering defenses have turned Stanford into the premier team in the Pac 12, and Shaw’s style certainly translates to the NFL based off what we’ve seen teams like San Francisco and Seattle do in the past few seasons.
No. 2: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State Seminoles
Jimbo Fisher was a proven entity as a recruiter, but after taking over for Bobby Bowden and cleaning up a mess of a situation at Florida State from a discipline standpoint, he finally broke through in 2013, leading the Seminoles to a national championship. Now, Fisher looks like he’s on the precipice of forming college football’s next juggernaut, and if he continues to win at FSU it won’t be long before the NFL comes calling.
No. 1: Gus Malzahn, Auburn Tigers
At every single level, people have questioned whether or not Gus Malzahn’s updated, up-tempo version of the Wing T could be successful, and at every single level it’s entirely changed the game. Malzahn is the brightest offensive mind in the game and he’ll continue to prove that his success is no gimmick and I’d be surprised if we didn’t see him wreaking havoc on NFL defenses sometime this decade.
Tags: Auburn Tigers Chip Kelly Chris Petersen David Shaw Florida State Seminoles Gus Malzahn Jim Harbaugh Jimbo Fisher Kevin Sumlin NFL Pete Carroll Stanford Cardinal Texas A&M Aggies Washington Huskies