Friday, January 27, 2012
B1G head coaches rarely make NFL jump
By Adam Rittenberg
Jim Harbaugh's success with the San Francisco 49ers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' flirtation with Chip Kelly and hiring of Greg Schiano make one thing clear: College football head coaches are in high demand to fill vacancies at the NFL level.
Harbaugh transformed the 49ers in his first season after leaving Stanford. Kelly, the Oregon coach, was a somewhat surprise target of the Bucs, who then moved onto Schiano, the Rutgers coach for the past 11 seasons.
Even former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, a college coach throughout his career, was the runner-up for the Indianapolis' Colts' head-coaching vacancy.
It got me thinking about which Big Ten coaches would or could take the same job in the NFL.
Such a jump doesn't happen too often in this league.
In fact, a Big Ten head coach hasn't left for an NFL head-coaching job since Sam Wyche left Indiana for the Cincinnati Bengals after the 1983 season (he went 3-8 at IU). That's a surprising drought for one of college football's top conferences. While the Big Ten has had head coaches eventually go on to lead NFL teams (Michigan's Gary Moeller, Illinois' Mike White, Indiana's Cam Cameron), they didn't do so directly.
It speaks in part to the appeal of Big Ten head-coaching positions and the longevity of coaches in the league. Some would also argue that the quality of head coaches might not be as elite as that in league's like the SEC, where coaches like Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier have directly jumped to NFL head-coaching positions.
If the NFL hiring trend persists, some Big Ten coaches could get opportunities.
Iowa's Kirk Ferentz has repeatedly been mentioned for NFL head-coaching vacancies, most recently the Kansas City Chiefs' opening. Ferentz's coaching style and ties to the NFL as a former Bill Belichick assistant make him a potentially good fit. Although he has repeatedly pledged his loyalty to Iowa and makes very good coin, he remains the likeliest Big Ten coach to make the move.
Who else? Nebraska's Bo Pelini spent six years as an NFL assistant and actually might like life more outside the college football fishbowl. Pelini might be the next likeliest after Ferentz.
Wisconsin's Bret Bielema has spent his entire career in college, but he runs pro-style systems in Madison and has been very ambitious in his career.
Michigan's Brady Hoke? Don't see it, although his brother Jon is an NFL assistant.
Michigan State's Mark Dantonio? Nah.
Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald is a young, ambitious coach who might fit in well at the next level, although he needs to prove more in a college role.
Ohio State's Urban Meyer doesn't seem like a guy who would make the jump to the NFL, primarily because of his offensive system. Then again, Tampa Bay's pursuit of Kelly surprised me, so anything is possible.
Which Big Ten coach do you think is likeliest to jump to the NFL?