Every offseason there is quite a bit of turnover in the NFL, as a number of head coaches are fired and, as a result, a number of new head coaches are hired. It's worth paying attention to, then, those coaches throughout the league who are very highly respected and who could perhaps wind up as one of the next head coaches in the league.
The Monday Morning Quarterback's Robert Klemko recently polled 24 people in the know - such as agents, coaches, scouts, a few reporters, and front office executives - to get a sense of those coaches who are considered to be the best candidates to become an NFL head coach. Two current Indianapolis Colts assistant coaches made the top 15 of the list.
Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton came in at number six, ranked in the "on the cusp" category to show just how close he is to getting a head coaching job. Wrote Klemko:
Pro experience: 10 seasons, two as coordinator (Indianapolis 2013-present)
Résumé: Hamilton, a former quarterback at Howard, was handed a gift with Andrew Luck and has done everything to maximize the once-in-a-decade talent. Indianapolis' offense improved dramatically in his second season as coordinator, finishing sixth in points and third in yards (despite a pass-protection challenged offensive line). Concerns over Hamilton's lack of experience, and whether he can replicate recent production with a QB other than Luck, could push Hamilton back into a three-year plan.
M.O.: Appears reticent but is actually brimming with confidence. There were times last season when he schematically embarrassed opposing defensive coordinators with clever downfield route combinations, often involving the tight end.
Hamilton has been a rising name around the league for a few years now, as even when he was hired by the Colts there were many saying that he would one day be an NFL head coach. Then earlier this offseason, the Raiders and the Bills were reportedly interested in him, though obviously neither of those ended up happening. He has what you want in a head coach, though, as he's smart, young, a likable guy, and has had success as an offensive coordinator.
Also appearing on the list was Colts assistant head coach Rob Chudzinski, who came in at number 15 in tier 2, called "building a case." Klemko wrote:
Pro experience: 11 seasons, one as head coach (Cleveland 2013)
Head coaching record: 4-12
Résumé: Cut his teeth at Miami in the early 2000s and had his football worldview shaped by All-World college tight ends Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow Jr. "Chud" spent a year in pro football hell (Cleveland) in 2013 and emerged 4-12 and jobless. Before that he was the offensive coordinator who helped Cam Newton reach record-breaking heights as a rookie passer. Unlike others on this list, Chud's current role doesn't quite lend to a breakout season the way a coordinator's would.
M.O.: One of the original visionaries of two-tight end offense, which has since swept across the league and become the norm. You have to figure his gut-punch from Cleveland and relatively stress-free two years as a miscellaneous assistant in Indy has only taught him more about the world of pro football.
Chudzinski has been an NFL head coach before, but was inexplicably fired from the Browns after just one year on the job (2013). Before that, he had success as an offensive coordinator in the league, and he joined the Colts last year as an assistant to head coach Chuck Pagano. The Colts kept him around this offseason despite interest from other teams about offensive coordinator openings, giving him the assistant head coach title. As Klemko notes, his current position will make it a bit harder to gain attention or rise through the ranks, but there are many who think that, when Hamilton leaves for a head coaching job, Chudzinski would be first in line to replace him as the Colts' offensive coordinator. If that happened, it would be a nice launching pad to another potential head coaching job in the league at some point.
While you never want to lose top assistant coaches, it's good for them to get head coaching jobs and it's also good for the team to have assistants who might one day move on to a bigger role with another team. The Colts will surely benefit from having both Pep Hamilton and Rob Chudzinski around for another year in 2015, but that might not be the case for much longer.