On Monday, the NFL firing began around the NFL as both the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins decided that they needed a change at head coach.
As the NFL season digresses, there will be more firings to come and many teams will look to the college game for potential head coaches. It didn’t take long for the rumors to begin about the next possible head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs being from college, as Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz was mentioned as a candidate to replace Todd Haley. Kirk Ferentz will not be the only name tossed out there but other coaches from the college game will be floated around for NFL coaching jobs as well.
Because a coach has a lot of success in college does not always mean it will translate at the next level. More often than not former college coaches do not achieve greatness – or even just goodness – in the NFL.
* – Nick Saban photo credit: via The Palm Beach Post
Every team that hires a college coach is trying to capture the success of Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer from the nineties. These two coaches went from coaching college to the NFL and won Super Bowls for the Dallas Cowboys. Barry Switzer would be the last college-to-NFL coach to win a Super Bowl in 1995 for the Cowboys, and before that his predecessor Jimmy Johnson did the same thing, winning two.
Since then, many top notch college coaches have tried to carry their success from college to the NFL and have failed. One coach that sticks out among this group is Bobby Petrino, who left Louisville to coach the Atlanta Falcons and quit before the NFL season ended. Petrino stepped down in his first season as head coach in Atlanta after only 13 games and returned to coaching college football at Arkansas the following year.
Since the nineties, none of the college-to-NFL coaches could ever crack the code to becoming elite at the next level and most were quickly removed from their duties. Many of these coaches were great in college yet mediocre in the NFL. Here is a list of some of the top college coaches that have gone to the NFL and their records:
- Bobby Petrino Louisville – Atlanta Falcons (2007) 3-10
- Nick Saban LSU – Miami Dolphins (2005-06) 15-17
- Dennis Erickson Miami – Seahawks (1995-98), 49ers (2003-04) 40-56
- Steve Spurrier Florida – Washington Redskins (2002-03) 2-20
- Butch Davis Miami – Cleveland Browns (2001-05) 24-35
- Mike Riley Oregon – State San Diego Chargers (1999-2001) 14-34
None of the coaches on this list had a winning record in the NFL. All were forced to go back to coaching college football.
Bobby Petrino and Nick Saban have not skipped a beat since coming back to the college game. Both immediately got back to their winning ways from before they left for the NFL. Petrino’s Arkansas Razorbacks have been ranked in the top 10 all season long and Saban is taking Alabama to the national championship game. The Ol’ Ball Coach (Steve Spurrier) has also gotten back to becoming one of the top coaches in college football as he has turned the South Carolina program around after his short NFL career.
Currently Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll are the two former college coaches now in the NFL and trying to change the trend set by their peers in the past. It is hard to tell if Harbaugh and Carroll will be elite coaches in the NFL because they have not been there long enough since being removed from college football to properly judge them. Both do seem to be off to a good start as Carroll went to playoffs in his first year and Harbaugh will be heading there this season.
It has been two decades since the last the college coach made the jump to the NFL and won a Super Bowl. Any NFL team that wants to hire a college coach to lead their franchise had better think twice because history is not on their side when it comes to success.