With the resignation of Atlanta head coach Bobby Petrino, the time has come to start talking about NFL assistant coaches who are ready to make the jump to head coach. The recent stints of Nick Saban and Petrino show that college head coaches moving to the NFL isn't always a great fit. Saban and Petrino were too spoiled, couldn't deal with the losses and as soon as things didn't go their way, they turned tail and looked for the next best college job.
This list is a group of guys that have spent time at the NFL level and understand that commitment it takes to build a program and win in the league. It should also be noted that coaches out of the NFL right now such as former Pittsburgh head coach Bill Cowher and San Diego's Marty Schottenheimer are not on the list but their résumés clearly speak for themselves. Obviously, any franchise would be lucky to bring them into their organizations.
1. Rex Ryan
Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator
He has pioneered one of the best defenses in the NFL over the past few years. Injuries have hurt this unit in 2007, but it remains a top 10 defense because of the leadership of Ryan and the respect that every player on that unit has for him as a person and as a coach.
2. Jason Garrett
Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator
Even though he only has one year as an offensive coordinator in the NFL, he is ready to take the next step. Garrett spent the majority of his career as the No. 3 QB and learned a lot in the process. He has an excellent offensive mind and would be a great fit for a young organization that can be patient and watch him mature into an excellent head coach.
3. Josh McDaniels
New England Patriots offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach
McDaniels is not talked about very often, but should not be ignored. Belichick gets all the credit for what has become "Patriots football" but look at the success Romeo Crennel is now having and the success Eric Mangini had in 2006. Those guys are solid head coaches because they learned from the best, so there is no reason to think McDaniels will not be successful as well.
4. Clancy Pendergast
Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator
Pendergast does not receive as much attention because the Cardinals have not had a ton of success, but he's done a great job with the defense. He has a "gym rat" mentality when it comes to coaching and no assistant coach watches as much film or does as many weekly and offseason breakdowns as Pendergast. He has a great defensive mind and is a master at adjusting his schemes on a weekly basis.
5. Mike Martz
Detroit Lions offensive coordinator
Unlike the first four guys on this list, he would fall more into the retread category. Say what you want about the guy that has been labeled by some as the "Mad Scientist," but the last time I checked, being a head coach is still about winning and Martz did that consistently in St. Louis and brought a Super Bowl championship to the city. Martz's teams score points and they put people in the seats.
6. Mike Singletary
San Francisco 49ers assistant head coach/defense
He has never been a coordinator or a head coach, but his name is going to come up because as an ex-player who gets a ton of respect from the players that play for him. That's huge because gaining the respect of the players is half the battle in becoming a good NFL head coach and Singletary will have that from Day 1. He is not as polished right now as you may want, but he is still learning and a great fit for an organization that will allow its coach to grow on the go.
7. Russ Grimm
Arizona Cardinals assistant head coach/offensive line coach
Grimm's name has come up in several places over the past few seasons and will again this year. He is tough, but fair and everywhere he has been, the players had a lot of respect for him. He is not real flashy and might be a step behind some of the guys mentioned ahead of him on this list in the Xs and Os area, but give him two solid coordinators and he will be fine because he is the type of guy that sees the entire big picture. That is more important then trying to be an offensive or defensive genius, as other NFL failures in the past have been labeled.
8. Rob Ryan
Oakland defensive coordinator
Some say the Raiders defense has underachieved at times this season, but how consistent can you be on defense when you get inconsistent performances on offense every single week? Last season, there was a lot of animosity between the offense, defense and some of the coaching staff, but it was Ryan who worked behind the scenes to keep the team together. Some were lobbying for him to get the job this year and he has the coaching pedigree to be successful. The coaches that work for him and the players that play for him swear by him. He deserves an opportunity to take the next step.
9. Jim Haslett
St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator
Like Martz, he would fall into the retread category. Haslett has done a very good job with a Rams defense that is beat up and void of big time playmakers. Haslett made some mistakes as a head coach in New Orleans, but I'm willing to bet he has learned from them and will have more success the second time around.
10. Rob Chudzinski
Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator
You could make a case for him being the assistant coach of the year. In one season he has taken a historically terrible Browns offense and made it one of the best in the NFL. He has been a winner everywhere he has been, whether it was a player or coach at the University of Miami or his stint in San Diego under Schottenheimer. He is young, talented and knows the game. It might be a little early, but his time is coming.
Jeremy Green, director of pro scouting for Scouts Inc., has been an NFL scout for more than 10 years.