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Chasin' the Devil: Sumlin, Golden among names generating NFL buzz

One NFC personnel exec said Miami's Al Golden is 'sharp guy'. (USATSI)
One NFC personnel exec said Miami's Al Golden is 'sharp guy'. (USATSI)

Washington's close loss to Stanford makes Steve Sarkisian the only coach in last week's Chasin' the Devil Top 10 to drop a game over the weekend, leaving little room for movement among the coaches best positioned to unseat Nick Saban.

This week seems like a good time for a change-up, so let's gauge college football coaches who might have the most NFL viability with the help from several NFL voices.

Five of 32 current NFL head coaches came directly from the college game at their time of hiring. Some teams are unafraid to experiment. Consider two of last year's hires, Philadelphia's Chip Kelly and Buffalo's Doug Marrone, who never won more than eight games in four years as Orange coach, though he does have NFL pedigree as the former Saints offensive coordinator.

After polling five NFL types -- two personnel execs, two national NFL scouts and a long-time former exec recently serving as an AFC general manager -- two college coaching names came up more than once.

Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin and Miami's Al Golden.

Sumlin reportedly garnered heavy NFL interest last year, but Golden could be considered a mild surprise here. He's not often linked to the pros. Perhaps that's changing.

Below is how the voting played out. The sources were given the option to pick two coaches if they wished. Obviously this is an inexact process and doesn't tie coaches directly to teams with potential openings, but it speaks to what some NFL teams might be thinking.

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M (2)

Sumlin's buzz was palpable after an 11-2 debut at Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel's Heisman campaign. In year two, Sumlin deftly handled the Manziel offseason headaches and helped turn him into a better quarterback. "His organizational skills, evaluating, the whole business approach to the game, he's going to be a highly regarded NFL coach," an NFC personnel executive said. "Head coach is also a CEO, and he knows that."

Al Golden, Miami (2)

Golden has impressed with how he's handled a Miami program encumbered by NCAA uncertainty and desperate for a new identity after the power in the Sunshine State shifted north.

"Sharp guy. He's been a good coach at Temple, good coach at Miami," the NFC personnel exec said. "He has endured (expletive) for three years and handled it well. I think he's got the demeanor for it."

Charlie Strong, Louisville (1)

Last year, Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich had to fend off Tennessee's overtures to Strong. He might have the same problem with the NFL one day.

"He's a credible coach that's been successful," said an NFC pro personnel director. "He's also a disciplinarian that would command and demand respect from players. Everywhere he's been he's had successful defenses. He's always seen as one of the nation's best talent evaluators. Who else would have lured Teddy Bridgewater from Miami to Louisville, Ky.?"

Bill O'Brien, Penn State (1)

The former Patriots coordinator garnered interest last year from the Cleveland Browns after an 8-4 debut with the scholarship-strapped Nittany Lions, who are 3-2 this year. "I think he will be the first to go," said the former NFL GM. "Already spent time in the NFL, will have proven record at a depleted PSU. Quality offensive coach, and the NFL is looking for innovative people on that side of the football. I understand two teams tugged at him last year."

David Shaw, Stanford (1)

Shaw seems comfortable in Silicon Valley and eager to finish the job that Jim Harbaugh started. If he changes his mind, the NFL will be there. His experience as a former Ravens and Raiders assistant coach helps him. He's got the measured demeanor, the power running game and the Stanford cachet. "He has coached in the NFL prior and understands the different dynamics that the game requires," said an NFC scout. "He's the first one that comes to mind for me."

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