With Michigan hiring Jim Harbaugh to be the next head coach of the Wolverines, the college football coaching carousel, as far as head coaches are concerned, seems to have come to a stop for the 2014-2015 cycle. Unless any head coaches are going to take on a lesser role at another program (unlikely, but not unprecedented), we should be set for coaching changes this year unless the NFL has something to say about it.
The coaching carousel is just getting started up in the NFL, with a total of six head coaching vacancies to fill between the Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, and the Harbaugh-less San Francisco 49ers. Will any of these six NFL franchises find their next head coach from a college program? This is by no means unprecedented.
Last January saw Bill O’Brien leave Penn State for the Houston Texans. The previous January (2012) saw Chip Kelly leave Oregon for the Philadelphia Eagles and Syracuse lose Doug Marrone to the Buffalo Bills (Marrone just opted out of his contract with the Bills after two seasons, while Kelly has been given a nice boost in job status). Each of those hires happened after it looked as though the dust had settled on the coaching carousel for those respective seasons. So the question looms; will any current college football coaches pack up and leave the college ranks for a shot at NFL glory, in hopes of being the next Pete Carroll?
With the NFL coaching searches and interviews starting to heat up along with the constant coaching rumor mill that powers the carousel, there have been few discussions about college coaches being considered for NFL head coaching jobs outside of hypothetical conversations about potential options (Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn). One coach that has been connected to a possible opening is UCLA head coach Jim Mora.
The New York Jets reportedly reached out to Mora about a possible buyout terms with his contract at UCLA. The San Francisco vacancy would seem to make sense as well, if the 49ers had any interest. Mora seemed to burn out in the NFL with his stints with the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks, but UCLA reignited a spark under Mora’s leadership. With UCLA’s resurgence in the past few seasons, Mora’s stock as a head coach has gone up, even with some questionable acts along the way.
With Mora being the only college name attached to any of the coaching vacancy rumors at this point might suggest the dust will be able to settle on this year’s college coaching carousel, but until the final spot is filled in the NFL there will be no guarantees. The process of hiring a new coach in the NFL can take some time due to rules like the Rooney Rule being put in place and teams needing to ask for permission from franchisees with coaches currently in the playoffs, but the lack of search firms being hired can make the process more streamlined in the NFL.