Change is inevitable in the coaching world. Every year, at least a few NFL teams decide to go in a different direction at the head-coaching position. We've seen more than a few coaches lose their jobs this year, as there are currently six vacancies in the NFL. When it comes to candidates, there aren't many hot names currently coaching in the NFL. Therefore, I believe we could see NFL franchises target college coaches in this hiring cycle.
The one college name that gets the most buzz is Michigan's Jim Harbaugh. However, the Wolverines head man has colorfully described why that won't happen and where he believes those rumors originated. So, with Harbaugh out of the mix, which college coach is best suited to be successful at the next level? I reached out to five NFL executives to get their thoughts. Here are their responses.
Executive 1: Washington's Chris Petersen
"Petersen would be a great fit for the NFL. He runs an NFL-style offense. He loves to use the tight ends. He knows how to put together a strong coaching staff and pro players would respect him."
Executive 2: Alabama's Nick Saban
"Saban wasn't a big success with the Dolphins, but I think he would be outstanding if given another shot. He is the ultimate CEO of an organization. Alabama is a machine and Saban set the whole thing up."
Executive 3: Petersen
"I don't think Coach Pete (Chris Petersen) will ever do it, but he would be successful at the next level. He's extremely detailed and organized. He's a winner and he knows how to take a team to another level. Everyone in the coaching and scouting community has a very high opinion of him as both a person and football coach."
Executive 4: Baylor's Matt Rhule
"I've always been impressed with Ruhle when I went into Temple. He knows what he's doing and he has built a very tough football team. He has a little NFL coaching experience and I think he will ultimately end up in the league. It's not going to happen in the next couple years, but he's one I have my eye on for the future."
Executive 5: Stanford's David Shaw
"My top three guys would be Shaw, Paul Chryst (Wisconsin) and Mike MacIntyre (Colorado). I'd put Shaw right at the top of the list. He's an offensive guy, he's organized, has NFL experience and he can develop QBs."
Summary: That's two votes for Petersen and one apiece for Saban, Rhule and Shaw.
Conclusion: I think this is a pretty good list of NFL head-coaching candidates. Each of the coaches has enjoyed success at the collegiate level and possesses the requisite skill set to be a successful leader of an NFL franchise. Ruhle is probably the one vote that took me a little by surprise, but I've heard nothing but good things about him over the last few years. I've long felt Petersen and Shaw would be successful coaches at the next level and Saban would thrive on a team with a competent quarterback. One name I'd add to the list: Mark Dantonio. I know Michigan State had a rough year (3-9), but his demeanor, intelligence and toughness would translate well at the next level.