Yahoo writer Pete Thamel took a deep dive into whether college coaches like Urban Meyer might find the NFL a more attractive landing spot, and in doing so the name of Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell came up.
But it’s not quite what you think.
Thamel’s piece focused primarily on Meyer, who has reportedly been contacted by two NFL teams about their head-coaching vacancies. Thamel made the point that the NFL has the potential to be a more attractive option for college coaches as college football is embroiled in three seismic changes — the transfer portal, the one-time transfer exemption, and Name, Image and Likeness.
The transfer portal, of course, already exists. The NCAA approved a one-time transfer waiver for the 2020-21 basketball season in December (a waiver that allowed Oklahoma’s Elijah Harkless to become immediately eligible). But the waiver Thamel refers to is the legislation that the NCAA is expected to pass in January. The rule would give all athletes in every sport the opportunity to transfer once without having to sit out a year. Name, Image and Likeness (or NLI) is coming, like it or not, whether the NCAA legislates it or the U.S. Congress (and it really should be the NCAA that does it).
These changes, as Thamel writes, along with the schematic cross-pollination between the college and pro games, could make the NFL a more attractive option for some college head coaches, even if they don’t have NFL experience.
So how did Campbell get roped into this? Well, as we pointed out in November, Campbell is sure to get attention from college programs that have openings, thanks to his great work in Ames the past five years. We even wrote about the reasons why Campbell should stay in Ames. But that piece was written from a college perspective. We didn’t tackle the NFL option.
It was one of Thamel’s industry sources that actually brought up Campbell:
“I think the reason we’ll see more college guys go to the NFL is the pool of pro coaches ready to be head coaches is so much smaller,” said an industry source. “Guys like Matt Campbell, Dan Mullen and Pat Fitzgerald, those kinds of guys will be in the mix now.”
We should point out that while Campbell has never coached in the NFL, he has received a phone call from an NFL team. That team? The New York Jets, who have the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft next April. Campbell turned down the chance to interview for that job at the end of 2018, a job how held by Adam Gase.
We should also point out Campbell wasn’t the only Big 12 coach mentioned in Thamel’s piece. So was Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, who was on a lot of media short lists for the Dallas Cowboys opening last year.
Thamel noted that the last two college coaches to make the jump to the NFL had Big 12 ties — former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury (who was the offensive coordinator at USC for a about a half-minute after his firing in Lubbock), now in Arizona, and former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, now in Carolina. Kingsbury has the Cardinals in line for a playoff berth in his second year at the helm. Rhule had NFL experience as an assistant before moving back into college coaching with Temple, and then Baylor.
Thamel also noted that while there are three head-coaching openings in the NFL at the moment, two of the choicest jobs aren’t open yet — Jacksonville and the New York Jets, who are now locked in at No. 1 and No. 2 in the 2021 NFL Draft, respectively. Both appear to have quarterbacks on their mind — the conventional wisdom is that Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence will go No. 1 to Jacksonville and Ohio State’s Justin Fields will go No. 2 to the Jets. Those franchises may want college coaches that can take full advantage of those talents, schematically. And a well-regarded college coach could do that.
None of this means Campbell is an endangered species in Ames. None of this means that Meyer is on his way to the NFL. None of this means a college coach will even go to the NFL for the 2021 season.
What it means is the dynamic of the college game is changing rapidly, that those changes may impact the decision-making of college head coaches when it comes to the NFL. One would have to be blind not to see that.
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