Just when you thought it was safe to turn your attention away from the coaching carousel, rumors surfaced on Sunday morning that NFL franchises were targeting Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, and Penn State’s Bill O’Brien.
The Ferentz rumor comes from NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, who outlined a path from Iowa City to Kansas City.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 30, 2012
Ferentz won his 100th game as Iowa head coach this season, but suffered through the program’s first losing season since 2000. Ferentz inherited a Hawkeye program that bottomed out at the end of Hayden Fry’s legendary tenure, and in short order led it to the Orange Bowl.
And yet, this season generated consternation from assorted knee-jerk reactionaries upset with Ferentz’s hefty contract. He’s been successful, though apparently not successful enough.
The thankless malaise permeating after this season might make this the time to venture elsewhere for Ferentz, who has NFL roots. He was on the Cleveland Browns staff that included Bill Belichick and Nick Saban in the mid-1990s, and runs Iowa with a pro style.
However, this move’s reported contingency on Kansas City keeping a general manager, Scott Pioli, rumored for the chopping block should cast doubt. Parameters are less specific on the rumors that Penn State’s O’Brien is an NFL target.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported via anonymous sources O’Brien would entertain an NFL offer. There’s some ambiguity there, though FOX Sports’ NFL insider extraordinaire Jay Glazer echoed the rumor.
. @jayglazer says the hottest college coaches on NFL teams’ list: Chip Kelly, Kirk Ferentz, Bill O’Brien & sleeper Syracuse’ Doug Marrone
— FOX SPORTS: NFL (@NFLONFOX) December 30, 2012
O’Brien was New England’s offensive coordinator a season ago, leading the juggernaut Patriot offense on its march to the Super Bowl. His season with Penn State resulted in Big Ten Coach of the Year honors, after the Nittany Lions went 8-4 under daunting circumstances. Quarterback Matt McGloin developed into a bona fide play maker under O’Brien’s watch.
O’Brien operates with traditional, NFL style, but with an added new school twist.
A surprising addition to Glazer’s list is Syracuse coach Doug Marrone. The Orange routed West Virginia in Saturday’s Pinstripe Bowl, 38-14, to cap an 8-5 season. What a turnaround Syracuse, and Marrone specifically, underwent. SU was treading water early in the season and Marrone’s future with the program seemed in doubt.
While his future might still be in doubt per these reports, the circumstances are certainly different. Marrone is a surprise mention, a la fellow Big East product Greg Schiano. The former Rutgers head coach took the Tampa Bay vacancy last January in an under-the-radar move.