We recently looked at the coaches that were on the hot seat for the Pac-12. In this post we'll examine which coaches are most likely to be the next ones to make the NFL jump.
Pac-12 coaches have had a long track record of success, and the past few years have seen a mother influx of great coaching talent. Pete Carroll has led the Seattle Seahwaks to three playoff berths, two NFC West titles and a Super Bowl victory this year. Jim Harbaugh has won two NFC West championships, taken his team to three straight NFC championship games, and earned one Super Bowl berth.
Last year, Chip Kelly took over the Philadelphia Eagles and led them to an NFC East berth. Most recently, former Cal coach Jeff Tedford joined the NFL ranks as an offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
For those counting, that's four former Pac-12 head coaches making the NFL transition. Who's next up to make the journey?
There are a few viable candidates. But let's rank them from least likely to most likely.
5. Mark Helfrich, Oregon
Caveat: This is a very distant 5. Helfrich is far from ready for the NFL ranks, but he does have time to develop himself by learning how to adapt to his personnel. It's too early to say if he's ready for the big time.
4. Todd Graham, Arizona State
I don't really buy Graham being an NFL-type coach, but if he keeps on replicating his success at Arizona State he might very well get there one day. He has coached and recruited very well his first two years at Tempe. He installed a very friendly system that catered to his personnel. He gets along with his players. And he seems very adaptable to get the most out of his talent. Expect Graham to rise on this list as the years go by.
3. Steve Sarkisian, USC
Steve Sarkisian had a pretty successful tenure with limited talent with the Washington Huskies, and now he gets to take the next big steps with the USC Trojans. Sarkisian will be in the mix down the line once he gets his feet wet and if he returns the Trojans to greatness.
Sarkisian probably won't be considering the NFL yet, but if he has a few great years with the Trojans that possibility could become quite viable. Obviously if he starts winning national titles he's sticking with the Trojans, but if he stays at the middle ground and just wins the Pac-12 every now and then, he might consider a jump one day.
2. David Shaw, Stanford
Shaw has proven that he exists in no shadow of Jim Harbaugh, leading the Cardinal to two straight Pac-12 championships and beating fellow BCS power Oregon two straight years in a row. He runs a very conventional and NFL-friendly offense at Stanford and could probably take over a team.
Two things could hold Shaw back: He loves Stanford and seems content to keep on coaching there, and it remains to be seen what he'll do when he starts having to develop his own recruits rather than Harbaugh's. So far the formula has worked quite well.
1. Jim Mora, UCLA
Jim Mora has been an NFL lifer, but he does seem to enjoy things in UCLA. That could change the moment Brett Hundley leaves for the NFL Draft, but the Bruins have recruited so well it's hard not to see them being a national threat the next three seasons. The big question post-Hundley is whether he can find a worthy successor.
Also, a lot could depend on what happens the next few years if USC reestablishes themselves as a national threat with Sarkisian. The dynamic there will play a big factor.