The NFL head-coaching carousel will begin to spin next week after the regular season concludes, and there are some coaches at the college level worthy of NFL franchises' consideration.
UCLA's Jim Mora and Auburn's Gus Malzahn are a couple of the names already being mentioned in NFL circles, but the list of deserving college candidates doesn't end there.
Of course, we've seen, in recent years and long ago, both successes and failures for college head coaches making the jump to become an NFL head coach, from big winners like Jimmy Johnson, Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh to those who didn't fare so well, including Steve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino and Lou Holtz.
Here are six college head coaches that I believe should be considered by NFL teams looking to fill a head-coaching vacancy after this season. Stanford's David Shaw belongs on this list, but he isn't included because he reportedly is telling people that he plans to stay with the Cardinal.
Baylor's Art Briles
In the same vein as the Chip Kelly hire in Philadelphia a couple of years ago, a team willing to embrace outside-the-box thinking would be wise to take a look at what Briles has done during his coaching career. Kelly's offense came into the league and in a lot of ways forced changes in how teams look at the game. I think Briles could do much the same. He turned things around at Houston and built Baylor into a power after people told him not to take the job because he would fail in Waco. So, yeah, he's not afraid of a challenge and knows how to jumpstart a program. He knows how to coach offense, too, and isn't really a pass-first guy, even though his quarterbacks put up huge numbers and his program produces big-time NFL WRs like Josh Gordon. Like others on this list, an NFL team would want to pair him with a strong, veteran defensive coordinator, but Briles is a tough guy who would not back down from the challenge of making it at the next level.
Notre Dame's Brian Kelly
Kelly is one of the smartest guys I've ever been around -- and not just in terms of football intelligence. He's organized, efficient, thinks outside the box and finds ways to adapt. The 2014 regular season didn't end the way Notre Dame wanted it to, as the team lost four straight to close out the year, but the Irish started the season 6-0, and no one saw that coming. Brian Kelly interviewed with the Eagles before they hired Chip Kelly in 2013, and Brian Kelly is well-schooled in the NFL game, even though he's never coached in the pros. His hands-on-CEO style could translate well at the next level.
Coastal Carolina's Joe Moglia
If a team wants to go really outside the box to potentially strike gold, it should give Moglia a call. Moglia, the Chairman of the Board at TD Ameritrade, was an assistant coach in college before he left for Wall Street and became one of the nation's most successful businessmen. He returned to coaching in 2009 as an executive advisor to Bo Pelini at Nebraska and then spent a year as a head coach in the UFL. He's compiled a 32-10 record in his three seasons at Coastal Carolina, and he intrigues me. I think he has a personality that NFL players would instantly respect because he's been to the top of the food chain in a couple of different fields. For a veteran pro team looking to get over the hump, I think Moglia could come in and be a nice fit.
Ohio State's Urban Meyer
Meyer wins everywhere he goes. His attention to detail is second to none, and he's always going to be on the cutting edge to stay ahead of the curve and make his team better. He and Pete Carroll have some similarities in the way they value competition within a team. Meyer's personality, stature, and ability to not just adapt but to evolve and thrive give him an excellent chance of being a big-time NFL coach. He's never coached on the pro level, but that's a very minor concern for me, because he can -- and does -- talk football X's and O's with some of the brightest NFL minds.
Alabama's Nick Saban
Saban is extremely disciplined and super-efficient in everything that he does. He's been a position coach, defensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL. While many people view his time as head coach of the Dolphins as a failure, I thought he had the team tracking in the right direction before he departed for Alabama. He received a lot of grief for leaving after saying he would stay with the Dolphins, and I'm not here to make any excuses for him on that subject. That said, the schemes he runs at Alabama are pro-style, and while some peg him as being too set in his ways, his hiring of Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator and subsequent changes to the Crimson Tide offense should tell you that there's more to Saban that might meet the eye. Whether he admits it or not, I think he burns to prove himself at the next level.
Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin
It's obvious that Sumlin is a QB whisperer. Not bad for a guy who played linebacker in college. He's coached Case Keenum (Houston) and Johnny Manziel to great success and had Kenny Hill off to a tremendous start this season before demoting him and breaking in a true freshman in Kyle Allen. Sumlin relates well to players and knows how to create an explosive offense. With the pro and college games more closely aligned stylistically than ever before, I think his style would be very adaptable to the NFL. Like other guys on this list, an NFL team would be smart to pair him with a top-notch defensive coordinator.