Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh, Chip Kelly.
What do those men all have in common? They all recently made the leap from the college to the pro game.
Philadelphia, Seattle and San Francisco, three cities that are quietly changing the mold of what could be the future of coaching in the National Football League. College coaches jumping to the league isn’t something new, but the level of success (i.e Seattle and San Francisco are arguably the two strongest franchises in the league right now) they’re having is.
Of course, you have guys like Houston head coach Bill O’Brien who was already an assistant coach in the league before going to Penn State, now getting his first shot at being the head man. At the other end of the spectrum, Greg Schiano is an example of a guy who came from college and didn’t have much success, while Lane Kiffin, someone who has jumped back and forth between the two, sits somewhere in the middle.
Kelly’s turnaround in Philadelphia has been quite impressive so far, turning a four-win team into NFC East Champs is one heck of a feat. It was Kelly’s potent offense at Oregon that caught the eyes of one Jeff Laurie among others. While change remains the only constant in the NFL, coaches jumping from the college ranks could soon be the next thing to be constant.
Here’s a look at the top-10 college head coaches most likely to be an NFL head coach:
10. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
Fisher has put together quite the resume in Tallahassee as he took over for the great Bobby Bowden. He’s had just 10 losses in four seasons including an undefeated, 13 win season that would bring home a national championship — the last of the Bowl Championship Series era.
While Fisher has signed an extension to stay at Florida State for quite a while, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything because as well all know, money talks. In a year or two, Fisher could very well be poached away to another college program in dire need of a turnaround, or he could make his NFL debut.
The talent that has come from Florida State in recent years is quite impressive and something that league executives have surely taken notice of. Just in this year’s draft class alone, there are several top prospects with Timmy Jernigan and Kelvin Benjamin leading the way. The success that Fisher has had at the quarterback position is something to take note of as well.
Don’t forget, it was Chip Kelly’s success that got him a job in the league — it very could be the same way that Fisher ends up here too.
9. Les Miles, LSU
Sure, there’s some red flags that NFL executives may or may not have with Miles, but like it or not, he’s an intriguing prospect as an NFL head coach. He’s had a lot of success taking a losing team and not just turning them around, but building a deep foundation that brings success for several years to come.
After being the offensive line coach at Colorado, he returned to Michigan, his alma matter, to give the Wolverines eight winning seasons and four Rose Bowl appearances. After spending two years as a tight ends coach with the Dallas Cowboys, he became the head coach at Oklahoma State, leading them to three consecutive bowl appearances and two big upset wins against the state rival Sooners who were ranked in the top five nationally both times.
Let’s not forget his body of work at LSU either, since taking over in 2005, Miles has just 24 losses and has had three things that are key to having a winning team: Great offensive line play, a technically sound defense, and top-tier special teams play. Being in arguably the toughest conference in college footall, it’s worth noting that Miles’ has always had highly ranked offensive and defensive units.
The thing that stands out to me the most with Miles is his Jimmy Johnson-like ability to manage a locker room full of guys with a multitude of egos. Les Miles is someone who can handle 21st century football players, something that will cause many to gauge how he projects as a head coach in the NFL.