Although it is rare to see nowadays, there was a time when a college football coach could jump to the NFL and become a success at the next level. For every Butch Davis, there’s a Dick Vermeil. For college coaches, it is all about finding that work-life balance at the next level.
We are going to look at five college coaches that went to the NFL and became regarded as some of the best in the business and determine who could be the next to do it.
When Tom Coughlin landed in Chestnut Hill to take over the Boston College Eagles, the team needed to rebuild their identity. Boston College enjoyed success under Coughlin, including a win over No. 1 ranked Notre Dame in 1993.
He would go on to coach the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars to the AFC Championship game. Later he would coach the Giants and won two Super Bowls over Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
He’s currently back in Jacksonville leading all football operations.
The Oklahoma Sooners were one of college football’s most dominant teams during Switzer’s time in Norman. Switzer is one of just three head coaches to win championships at both the college and pro level. He won three national titles in Oklahoma and beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
Did you know Ohio State’s first national championship came with Paul Brown at the helm? The man widely regarded as one of the game’s most influential people, Brown would help created the original team in Cleveland (and also Cincinnati as well).
Under his watch, the Browns won three NFL championships and were one of the best teams in the league during the ’50s and ’60s.
When Pete Carroll got to USC, he was viewed as a failure of a head coach in the NFL. All he did was churn out one of college football’s greatest dynasties. Starting out with Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, USC quickly became the best team in the nation. They would go on to boast two more Heisman winners in Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush (although his trophy was vacated).
Under Carroll’s watch, USC won two national championships and had seven consecutive seasons with 11 wins or more. After leaving USC for the Seattle Seahawks Carroll would draft Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom secondary. Seattle would go on to defeat Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in a blowout Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Miami Hurricanes were full of swag under Jimmy Johnson in the 1980s. He was relatively unknown when he took over the job, but in five seasons with the Hurricanes Johnson would go on to win a national championship while holding a 52-9 record.
He would turn that success into a gig with the Dallas Cowboys, winning back-to-back Super Bowls over the Buffalo Bills with Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman, and Emmitt Smith as his big trio on offense.
Johnson will also be known for the infamous Herschel Walker trade, turning one player into a bevy of draft picks that were the foundation of the Cowboys franchise.
Who’s next in line?
A few coaches we expect to be candidates for NFL coaching positions are Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw. Harbaugh took the 49ers to a Super Bowl, and Shaw being Harbaugh’s replacement at Stanford would also be a prime choice for an NFL head coaching job.