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