What College Coaches Could Invade the NFL? Oddsmakers Have Their Eyes on 3 Names Including Jim Harbaugh
This year’s NFL head coach hiring cycle will be a blood bath. There will likely be several openings, some for very high profile jobs with young Quarterbacks or playoff-ready teams. So who could fill those jobs? Oddsmakers have already keyed in on three college coaches who could get a full-court press from NFL teams.
From AAC to the NFL?
Cincinnati Head Coach Luke Fickell leads the way for making the jump to the NFL this offseason. Fickell is given +333 odds, or an implied 23.1% chance to land an NFL Head Coaching job this offseason. Fickell's only prior NFL experience is as a UDFA on the 1997 Saints. He never played a down. Fickell may be given the best odds of the three college coaches to head to the NFL, but don't bet on it. The NFL has never hired a head coach from outside a Power conference or Notre Dame.
This year, Fickell has already made some history by leading Cincinnati to the College Football Playoff. So is it really out of the realm of possibility an NFL team takes a chance on him? Is a return possible?
Big Names Same Rumors
The other two candidates are very familiar with working in the NFL. Michigan Head Coach and former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is expected to be a hot name. He's given +350 odds, or an implied 22.2% chance to return to the NFL.
Jim Harbaugh has long been connected to a return to the NFL. Just last year, he was connected to the Jets head coach opening. He was also connected to the Dolphin's job before hiring Brian Flores. He hasn't left Michigan yet. Now with a substantial long-term contract and proof he can turn the program around, it feels unlikely he'd head back. Still, Harbaugh does have unfinished business as he's never won a Super Bowl.
The other is Alabama head coach and former Dolphins head coach Nick Saban. Saban is given +800 odds or an implied 11.3% chance to give the NFL another try. Saban to the NFL rumors is both plentiful and rare at the same time. There's speculation about whether Saban would consider it every year, but there's never anything connecting him to a specific job. So, it's odd to see his name listed here. It would be a shock to see him return to the NFL.
NFL Teams Love Hiring College Coaches
NFL teams have turned to college football for new head coaches more than ever in recent years. In each of the last three offseasons, one college coach has been hired to run an NFL team. The 2019 Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, the 2020 Panthers hired Matt Rhule, and the 2021 Jaguars hired Urban Meyer. It stands to reason that we should expect at least one hire this offseason to come from the college ranks. Now, oddsmakers have their eyes on three head coaches in the playoffs. Who can blame them? Why wouldn't an NFL team want an elite program builder?