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Who will be the next big-time college coach to leave for NFL?

January 4, 2012 | 11:08 am

Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss which college football coaches might jump to the NFL. Check back throughout the day for more responses and join the discussion with a comment of your own.

Desmond Conner, Hartford Courant

If his LSU club beats Alabama for the national title, could it be Lester Edwin Miles?

The Mad-Hatter? Les Miles?

He had some experience at the pro level as an assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys years ago, but maybe, just maybe, he's ready for that challenge as a top guy at the top level.

Miles is looking at title No. 2 here (2007) next week and already is one of the highest-paid coaches in college, $3.75 million per season excluding performance bonuses.

How many challenges are left for him at this level?

Miles may be perfectly fine with staying at the college level and winning multiple titles. After all, 'Bama Coach Nick Saban was a college success at LSU before going to the NFL, where he didn't last two seasons.

Saban made his decision to go to the Dolphins after a Capital One Bowl loss to Iowa on the final play of the game.

If Miles, who inked a seven-year deal last January, wins the national title next week, with so much shifting in greed-driven college football and perhaps the potential for coaches salaries to be reined in as well, maybe he gives the NFL a look.

[Updated at 11:17 a.m.:

Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times

College coaches don't have a great history in the pros going back to Oklahoma's Bud Wilkinson.  Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban, two of the best college coaches of their generations, failed in NFL attempts. That said, I suspect LSU's Les Miles would be an interesting proposition for some NFL teams if his Tigers win Monday's BCS title game.

Miles is often cast as sort of a coaching goof, nicknamed "The Hat," but there's an "it" factor about Miles that no one can deny. More interesting to me is Oregon Coach Chip Kelly. Would his high-tempo philosophy translate to the NFL?

Spread offenses, historically, have not worked in the NFL. The Run and Shoot was laughed out of the league by defensive-minded coaches like Buddy Ryan for not being "macho" enough. How can you run inside the five without a tight end?

Buffalo's Jim Kelly, though, did have success with his "No-Huddle" approach and you wonder, with a few tweaks, whether another Kelly (Chip) would be tempted to see if his breakneck brand could translate to the next level.]

[Updated at 11:26 a.m.:

Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune

The next Jim Harbaugh could be Oregon coach Chip Kelly, the Rose Bowl winner and the Associated Press coach of the year. There has been some interest in Kelly in NFL circles, in part because Harbaugh has proved a college coach can make the leap to the NFL if he has the right formula.

For awhile, NFL teams were cautious about college coaches because a string of them had struggled after being hired in the pros. That mindset could be changing. Every NFL team is looking for a fertile offensive mind, and Kelly has had great success with his offenses. His offenses are a little unconventional, but teams like the Broncos and Panthers are showing that unconventional offenses can work, and might even be the future of the league. Kelly is an NFL coach waiting to happen.]

[Updated at 1:55 p.m.:

[Iliana Limón, Orlando Sentinel

Alabama coach Nick Saban may be due for a new reclamation project.

Saban spent five years leading the Michigan State program, five years leading the LSU program and he is completing his fifth year leading the Alabama program.

He is among the first to insist he loves coaching at the college level, noting his ability to influence and shape the future of young men who play for the Tide.

However, like all great coaches, Saban has a big ego. Saban went 34-24-1at Michigan State, 48-16 at LSU and is currently 54-12 at Alabama. Deep down, it has to bother him that he posted a disappointing 15-17 record while coaching the Miami Dolphins during the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

Dolphins fans may loudly suggest Saban should stick to the college level and stay away from the NFL, but don’t underestimate the potent desire to prove he can win big at the pro level.]


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Photo: LSU Coach Les Miles. Credit: Dave Martin / Associated Press