Ranking the 12 NFL head coaches hired straight from the Power 5 college ranks since 2000

Ranking the 12 NFL head coaches hired straight from the Power 5 college ranks since 2000

The Carolina Panthers lured Matt Rhule away from Baylor in 2020 despite no NFL head coaching experience — and he's already been axed

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Dear NFL GMs and owners, you may want to think twice about hiring a head coach straight outta the college ranks. While there have been success stories — Jimmy Johnson going from the U to Big D being the best example — that really hasn’t been the case in this millennium. Matt Rhule is the latest flop, as the Carolina Panthers head coach was canned after a 1-4 start to the 2022 NFL season — the first HC to meet that fate so far this year.

During his tenure, Carolina went 1-27 when allowing 17 or more points, including 25 losses in a row, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

While it’s understandably difficult to win games with Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield at QB, Rhule was paid a cool $62 million to do just that.

Here’s a look at 12 other coaches who made the jump from NCAA head coach to NFL HC — and how they fared. They’re ranked from worst to best.

And, no, I didn’t forget Pete Carroll. He had two NFL head coaching gigs (Jets, Patriots) before his time at USC and return to the pros with Seattle.

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2 / 14

Urban Meyer, Jacksonville Jaguars

Urban Meyer, Jacksonville Jaguars

Urban Meyer
Image: Getty Images

Record: 2-11

Highlight: From a pure football standpoint, it was beating the Buffalo Bills, 9-6, last November as 14.5-point underdogs. For those of us covering sports, it was all the headlines and fodder he gave us, including allegedly kicking Josh Lambo, who later sued Meyer, as well as staying behind in Ohio after a Jags loss, where he was photographed with a young co-ed.

Lowlight: Basically his whole tenure, but the Jaguars getting their dicks kicked in, 50-10, by the New England Patriots back in January was Jacksonville’s most lopsided loss.

Where are they now? Urban Liar, I mean Meyer, is now a talking head at Fox Sports.

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3 / 14

Bobby Petrino, Atlanta Falcons

Bobby Petrino, Atlanta Falcons

Bobby Petrino
Image: Getty Images

Record: 3-10

Highlight: Winning back-to-back games in Weeks 9 and 10, defeating the San Francisco 49ers, 20-16, and the Carolina Panthers, 20-13.

Lowlight: After promising to remain in Atlanta, Petrino bolted for Arkansas, returning to the college ranks.

Where are they now? Petrino is the head coach of the Missouri State Bears football team, which is 2-4 through Week 6.

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4 / 14

Steve Spurrier, Washington Redskins

Steve Spurrier, Washington Redskins

Steve Spurrier
Image: Getty Images

Record: 12-20

Highlight: Going 4-1 in the 2002 preseason, or starting the 2003 season 2-0. Yeah...

Lowlight: Playing favorites... Danny Wuerffel, anyone? That, and being outscored 85-31 in the team’s final three games of the 2003 season, which led to his resignation.

Where are they now? Retired. After his time in D.C., Spurrier coached the South Carolina Gamecocks from 2005-2015, and the Orlando Apollos of the AAF in 2019.

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5 / 14

Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Greg Schiano
Image: Getty Images

Record: 11-21

Highlight: The Bucs’ defense allowed the fewest rushing yards in 2012.

Lowlight: Having a local radio station buy a billboard asking for you to be fired.

Where are they now? Greg Schiano is back at Rutgers. Through Week 6, the Scarlet Knights are 3-3.

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6 / 14

Matt Rhule, Carolina Panthers

Matt Rhule, Carolina Panthers

Matt Rhule
Image: Getty Images

Record: 11-27

Highlight: Starting the 2021 season 3-0.

Lowlight: As mentioned above, losing 25 straight games in which an opponent scored 17 or more points. (Here’s a helpful article detailing everything else that went awry.)

Where are they now? Unemployed, but collecting a nice paycheck.

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7 / 14

Nick Saban, Miami Dolphins

Nick Saban, Miami Dolphins

Nick Saban
Image: Getty Images

Record: 15-17

Highlight: Winning the last six games of the 2005 season to finish with a 9-7 record.

Lowlight: Picking Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees. If it’s true that was because Brees didn’t pass his physical, then we can go with Saban rubbing his players the wrong way with his intensity. Oh, and that hat.

Where are they now? Going back on his word.

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8 / 14

Doug Marrone, Buffalo Bills

Doug Marrone, Buffalo Bills

Doug Marrone
Image: Getty Images

Record: 15-17

Highlight: In 2014, Marrone led Buffalo to its first winning season in a decade.

Lowlight: Quitting on Dec. 31, 2014.

Where are they now? He’s currently the offensive line coach for the New Orleans Saints.

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9 / 14

Butch Davis, Cleveland Browns

Butch Davis, Cleveland Browns

Butch Davis
Image: Getty Images

Record: 24-35

Highlight: Being the first coach — and only until Kevin Stefanski in 2020 — to lead the expansion Browns to the playoffs in 2002.

Lowlight: Bottlegate.

Where are they now? Unemployed after FIU declined to offer him a contract extension in 2021.

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10 / 14

Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles

Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles

Chip Kelly
Image: Getty Images

Record: 26-21

Highlight: Taking a 4-12 Philly team and going 10-6 and winning a division in his first year at the helm (2013).

Lowlight: Trading LeSean McCoy for one of his former college players (Kiko Alonso), and Nick Foles for Sam Bradford.

Where are they now? Kelly is the head coach at UCLA, who is 6-0 and ranked No. 11 in the country through Week 6.

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11 / 14

Kliff Kingsbury, Arizona Cardinals

Kliff Kingsbury, Arizona Cardinals

Kliff Kingsbury
Image: Getty Images

Record: 26-27-1 (through Week 5 of the NFL season)

Highlight: 11-6 record and playoff appearance in 2021

Lowlight: 2020's late-season collapse

Where are they now? Kingsbury is still the head coach of the Cardinals (2-3 through Week 5), which helps his rank on this list.

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12 / 14

Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans

Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans

Bill O'Brien
Image: Getty Images

Record: 52-48

Highlight: Posting a winning record with a team that was 2-14 before his arrival. Add in three division titles and two playoff wins.

Lowlight: Trading DeAndre Hopkins and starting the 2020 season 0-4.

Where are they now? O’Brien is the offensive coordinator and QB coach at undefeated (through Week 6) No. 3 Alabama under head coach Saban.

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13 / 14

Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers

Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers

Jim Harbaugh
Image: Getty Images

Record: 44-19-1

Highlight: Making the NFC Championship game in each of his first three seasons and appearing in Super Bowl XLVII against his brother, John, the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens.

Lowlight: A power struggle between coach and GM Trent Baalke that led to Harbaugh’s departure and Jim Tomsula’s disastrous tenure.

Where are they now? Jim Harbaugh has been leading his alma mater, Michigan, since 2015. Through Week 6 of the 2022 season, the Wolverines are 6-0 and ranked No. 5 in the AP Top 25 poll.

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