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How viable is Steve Sarkisian as an NFL head coaching candidate?

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University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly isn’t the only Pac-12 head coach who is getting attention as a possible head coach in the NFL.

Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian is also being rumored as a possibility for making the jump to the professional ranks.

Sarkisian served as the quarterback coach for the Oakland Raiders under Norv Turner in 2004 before returning to the collegiate ranks. Under Sarkisian, quarterbacks Rich Gannon and Kerry Collins threw for 3,934 yards and were the eighth-ranked passing attack in the NFL.

Raiders owner Al Davis circled back to Sarkisian in 2007 and offered him the head coaching job after a 2-14 season with Art Shell at the helm. Sarkisian declined and chose to remain at USC. The Raiders hired fellow USC assistant Lane Kiffin instead.

“Being a head coach in the National Football League, there’s only 32 of them in the world,” Sarkisian said in 2011, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. “In a lot of ways, that’s the pinnacle of our profession. So when you have to make those tough decisions, you have to look at them all individually and take the face off of it, and take the jerseys off of it. … So when the opportunity came, I had to try to remove the emotion of I-get-to-go-coach-the-Oakland-Raiders and is this the best thing for my family? For myself, for my family and for our careers as we move forward? And I just didn’t feel like it was the right time to be taking that job.”

Sarkisian also turned down a chance to interview with the St. Louis Rams last season.

In his four seasons with the Washington Huskies, Sarkisian has managed to turn around a program that had sunk to unprecedented lows. Sarkisian inherited a team that went 0-12 in 2008 and hadn’t been to a bowl game since 2002. Since then, the Huskies have strung together three straight 7-6 seasons with three straight bowl appearances. The turnaround helped spearhead a much-needed $250 million renovation of Husky Stadium that will be completed this summer.

Sarkisian made a pair of big impact coaching hires a year ago bringing in defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox from Tennessee and highly regarded recruiter Tosh Lupoi from California. Wilcox helped a porous defense improve immensely in his first season. The Huskies allowed 153 fewer points in 2012 and nearly 100 fewer yards a game (95.9 yards/game).

The team that returns for Sarkisian in 2013 may be the most talented of his tenure. He’s had five seasons to help correct serious depth deficiencies and has a slew of offensive weapons in receiver Kasen Williams, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and running back Bishop Sankey.

Sarkisian has also said that his time with the Raiders left him with a fairly unsavory taste in his mouth. He said he enjoys being able to coach kids at a younger age with the opportunity to help put them on the right path for life after college. With Kelly rumored to be leaving Oregon and the Ducks possibly about to be hit with sanctions for recruiting violations, the door could be cracking open for the Huskies to re-emerge as a threat at the top of the Pac-12 conference.

There may come a point where Sarkisian wants to give the NFL another shot, but with a renovated stadium and a program seemingly on the verge of taking a sizable step forward it seems unlikely Sarkisian will decide to make that move this year.

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11 Responses to “How viable is Steve Sarkisian as an NFL head coaching candidate?”
  1. commandercornpone says: Dec 29, 2012 9:35 PM

    a lot depends on who is asking you to come aboard, not just the situation.

    you can look at the bad situation and figure “there is nowhere to go but up”. sometimes that is true.

    or you can accurately gauge it, like sarkisian did at the time in 2007, that it would be a bad move to walk right into dysfunction junction.

  2. jmclarkent says: Dec 29, 2012 9:42 PM

    According to Chip and Pete Carroll it depends on if/when the NCAA finds the BCS-crippling dirt in your program.

  3. lightcleric says: Dec 29, 2012 9:59 PM

    I was curious how those 8th-ranked 3,934 passing yards compared to today’s yardages to see how much the league has changed; it would have been 12th in 2011 and could be “average” after Week 17 this year. That’s rather striking.

    Also, coincidentally as of right now the 2012 Raiders have exactly…3,934 passing yards.

  4. japmen says: Dec 29, 2012 10:49 PM

    Sarkisian would be a horrible NFL coach. Stay in college where you will make the most impact. I dont even think you are a great college coach but having a good recruiting system can help average coaches win.

  5. wa1nwestpac12 says: Dec 29, 2012 11:20 PM

    C’mon, barely average in his years here and only notable (but not overly successful) when Jake Locker was at UW. He has very fertile recruiting grounds (CA, WA, HI, TX, FL) and some fantastic recruiting successes yet still barely mediocre, and he even lost to one of the worst teams in college football this year – WSU! He should be fired from UW, forget about being considered for an NFL head coaching job.

  6. realfootballfan says: Dec 29, 2012 11:38 PM

    More like it just showed that he’s probably not cut out to be an NFL head coach because his buddy, Kiffin, certainly has taken his career to another level despite doing absolutely nothing all on the basis of first taking that job.

    In the meantime, Sarkisian preferred to be scared of the challenge, which for me automatically disqualifies him as having the ambition necessary to be an NFL head coach, because “it wasn’t the right situation.”

    If someone gives you that opportunity (let alone the Raiders who no one would have blamed you if it didn’t work when Al Davis was alive) at thirty something, turning it down only reflects badly on you, and it’s probably why he’s still in Washington barely going over .500 in one of the weakest conferences in the nation.

  7. zrb17 says: Dec 30, 2012 12:44 AM

    Hope Sarkisian stays at UW. Go dawgs ! Woof

  8. ray1950 says: Dec 30, 2012 7:45 AM

    At what point do you give the OC at Oakland some of the credit for the passing yardage under Sarkisian? The QB coach doesn’t call the plays but I guess any stats in a storm, eh?

  9. joenash72 says: Dec 30, 2012 8:20 AM

    Why take the 2nd-best college coach in the State of Washington ?

    Mike Leach just finished leading the WSU Cougars to Apple Cup victory over Sark …

    Swing Your Sword!

  10. Sometimes Interesting says: Dec 30, 2012 8:22 AM

    I’m sure he’s a nice guy but there has to be a better option for the NFL head coach position than a guy who’s best year was going 7-6 in the NCAA.

    He stopped the bleedingy at UW, but he hasn’t turned it into a “good” program yet. His best players haven’t produced in the NFL either (Kearse, Polk, Locker, etc).

  11. jprcox says: Dec 30, 2012 6:02 PM

    Going into this season, I would have given Sarkisian a B+. Following a lackluster year which feature HIS recuiting class, he drops to a C…average.

    It would surprise me if an NFL team REALLY wanted to hire him for his performace at Washington. I hope he improves the Huskies, but until that happens he is not an elite coach in my opinion.

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