Doug Marrone is head coach of the Buffalo Bills, and you can sort of understand it. Yes, he was Syracuse's coach until just the other day. But in 2006, Marrone was in his sixth of eight seasons as an NFL assistant, as offensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints.
In 2006, Chip Kelly was an offensive coordinator, too. But on the college level. And I do mean college. The University of New Hampshire.
And now Kelly coaches the Philadelphia Eagles. You don't think the NFL has changed its tune on hiring college coaches?
Between 2002 and 2010, the NFL hired only three head coaches off a college campus. But the last three years, the NFL has handed over five locker rooms to college coaches, including one who spent 13 years in the Yankee Conference, none of them as head coach.
College coaches are in vogue again for the NFL, just like they were in the '70s.
Alas, or thankfully, depending on your point of view, Bob Stoops' NFL stock has slipped. The league was hot after Stoops early in the 2000s — David Boren says he feared losing Stoops most to the Cleveland Browns, not the Florida Gators — but now the NFL doesn't chase Stoops so much, so far as we know.
The NFL looks to college coaches for various reasons. Offensive innovation, like with Kelly and his up-tempo scorching at Oregon. Fire and motivation, like with Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll. Discipline, like with Greg Schiano.
General excellence, like Stoops produced for almost a decade, might still attract the NFL, but that excellence at OU has given way to general consistency, which won't entice the pros.
Mike Gundy never is mentioned for the NFL, though his collegiate accomplishments trump Schiano's and match Harbaugh's. Gundy, I suppose, isn't seen as the offensive mastermind in Stillwater, just the guy who knows what he wants to do and how to find someone who can deliver, from Larry Fedora's quick tempo to Dana Holgorsen's Air Raid.
Of course, you never know. It only takes one general manager (or owner) to like one college head coach, and a marriage is made, even if it seems a dubious union.
Patriots owner Billy Sullivan hired Chuck Fairbanks in 1973, even though the Sooners ran the wishbone. Jerry Jones hired Barry Switzer in 1994, even though Switzer was a wishbone aficionado and hadn't coached even that in five years. Bill Bidwell hired Bud Wilkinson in 1978 even though when Bud last had coached, at OU 15 years earlier, the Sooners and everyone else still were playing single-platoon football.
Hiring college coaches was all the rage in the '70s. No college coach got an NFL head coaching job from 1961-70, and only eight in the 40 years before that. But then they came in droves.
Dan Devine and Tommy Prothro in '71. Bill Peterson and John Ralston in '72. Fairbanks and Don Coryell in '73. John McKay, Dick Vermeil and Lou Holtz in '76. The trend slowed, eventually to a trickle. Between 2002 and 2010, only three college coaches were hired — one of them was a joke, the Raiders' Lane Kiffin, and the other two, Miami's Nick Saban and Atlanta's Bobby Petrino, lasted a combined 45 games.
But now comes the newest wave, some with great success.
Jim Harbaugh might not be the best football coach in own family — or he might be the best football coach in the world. Super Bowl 47 will help us know. Carroll, thought to be an NFL failure when he went 33-31 with the Jets and Patriots in the '90s, has turned the Seahawks into a power.
NFL decision-makers often are lemmings. The success of the 49ers and Seahawks will cause them to scour college campuses.
They all would covet Saban. And Stanford's David Shaw, Penn State's Bill O'Brien, Notre Dame's Brian Kelly and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin remain hot candidates. Plus others we don't see coming, since college football is loaded with Greg Schianos.
Or even Stoops and Gundy. You never know.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.