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10 coaches primed to possibly do something special with a second chance head coach opportunity

When it comes to the coaching carousel, there are always trends that are trying to be duplicated with new hires in an effort to imitate the recent success of a new hire.

For example, last year a number of NFL organizations looking to fill their head coaching job targeted the young quarterback whisperer to try and piggyback off the success Rams head coach Sean McVay has had early on in his head coaching career.

If I had to pick a trend most likely to get adopted this off season, it would be based on the success that second-chance head coaches LSU head coach Ed Orgeron and Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal are having.

As we highlighted last week, both guys were previously fired as head coaches (Orgeron at Ole Miss and Cristobal at FIU) before taking a step back to an assistant role to learn from some top-notch head coaches in an effort to prepare in the event that a great second chance opportunity came around. Now they're both capitalizing on that opportunity.

With that mold in mind, I started to wonder about coaches out there who could be primed to make the most of their second opportunity given the chance. Here are ten guys I'd put at the top of that list.

In the near-future, we'll take a look at coaches who have been let go and are rebuilding Group of Five and divisional programs as head coaches who have positioned themselves well for a second chance at a bigger job.

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Steve Sarkisian
Overall head coaching record: 46-35
Current Role: Alabama offensive coordinator
Previous Head Coaching Role(s): 34-29 at Washington from 2009-2013 and 12-6 at USC from 2014 and five games into 2015
Other jobs held since being let go as a head coach: Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator (2017-18), Alabama offensive analyst (2016)

Not only has Steve Sarkisian likely benefitted tremendously from the Nick Saban School of Head Coaching Prep, but he's managed to do it twice. First stepping in for Lane Kiffin heading into the National Title game, then leaving for the Falcons offensive coordinator job before being hired again by Saban in January of 2019.

Let's also not forget the Washington program he took over went 0-12 the year before he took the job, and he immediately turned things around there, going 5-7 before three straight years at 7-6 and ending 8-4 in 2013 before returning to lead the USC program. It's no secret that Sark had reportedly battled some substance abuse issues publicly in the past, but seems to have really rebounded from how things ended at USC.

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Randy Shannon
Overall head coaching record: 29-25
Current Role: UCF defensive coordinator
Previous Head Coaching Role(s): 28-22 at Miami (FL) from 2007-2010 (also went 1-3 as the interim head coach at Florida in 2017).
Other jobs held since being let go as a head coach: TCU LBs coach (2012), Arkansas LBs coach (2013-14), Florida assistant HC / DC (2015-16) and interim head coach (2017)

Programs looking to capitalize with a really good defensive mind, head coaching experience and strong recruiting ties in the Sunshine State need to look no further than Randy Shannon. Outside of stints at TCU and Arkansas, where Shannon shared a staff room with some top-notch defensive minds, all of his coaching experience dating back to a graduate assistant in 1991 has taken place in the borders of Florida.

Shannon is a great recruiter that also did a tremendous job with off the field distractions during his time leading the Miami program. His resume has only been bolstered working with one of the premier Group of Five programs in UCF with their success.

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Don Brown
Overall head coaching record: 95-45
Current Role: Michigan defensive coordinator
Previous Head Coaching Role(s): 25-6 at Plymouth State from 1993-1995, 27-20 at Northeastern, and 43-19 at UMass from 2004-2008.
Other jobs held since last head coaching job: DC at Brown (1996-97), DC at UMass (1998-99), DC at Maryland (2009-10), DC at UConn (2011-12), DC at Boston College (2013-15).

Don Brown has led some of the most dominant defenses in the country over the past handful of seasons, even before arriving in Ann Arbor and dating back to his time at Boston College. He's had an impressive record as a head coach and folks that have ever been in the same room as him, or have watched him coach, won't be scared off by his age. Brown is highly enthusiastic, a quality recruiter, and could be a great fit with the right program.

Brown is the only coach on the list who hasn’t been fired as a head coach (he left UMass after a successful run to become defensive coordinator for the Terps), but remains on the list because he’s certainly proven himself worthy for another shot at leading a program.

 Photo Credit: Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star

Photo Credit: Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star

Rich Rodriguez
Overall head coaching record: 163-119-2
Current Role: Ole Miss offensive coordinator
Previous Head Coaching Role(s): 43-28-2 at Glenville State from 1990-96, 60-26 at West Virginia from 2001-2007, 15-22 at Michigan from 2008-10, and 43-35 at Arizona from 2012-17.
Other jobs held since being let go as a head coach: Ole Miss offensive coordinator

The most seasoned head coach on the list by a long shot, Rich Rodriguez should be an attractive candidate for head coaching openings for schools looking to hire an offensive minded head coach with an extensive resume. Rich Rod was let go amid allegations at Arizona, but some of those charges have since been dismissed.

Rodriguez has won at least 10 games once at every one of his head coaching stops...except Michigan.

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Bret Bielema
Overall head coaching record:
97-58
Current Role: New England Patriots defensive line coach
Previous Head Coaching Role(s): 68-24 at Wisconsin from 2006-12 and 29-34 at Arkansas from 2013-17
Other jobs held since being let go as a head coach: New England Patriots consultant to the head coach.

When Bret Bielema had things rolling at Wisconsin, when they were busy making Rose Bowl trips in three straight years, they were a really fun team to watch pound the rock. Then Bielema surprised a ton of folks when he decided to take the Arkansas job, and things just didn't work out in Fayetteville. Bielema did go 7-6, 8-5 and 7-6 from 2014-16, but a third place finish the SEC West was the best that came of it, and that just doesn't cut it in the SEC.

With the right program, wanting to play a very specific brand of football, Bielema could be a home run hire.

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Brian Polian
Overall head coaching record:
23-27
Current Role: Notre Dame special teams coordinator
Previous Head Coaching Role(s): 23-27 at Nevada from 2013-17
Other jobs held since being deciding to part ways with Nevada: Notre Dame special teams coordinator

Polian was tasked with the unenviable task of being the head coach replacing a legend, in this case the father of the Pistol - Chris Ault. In years two and three he led the team to their best records, with 7-6 finishes each year including a win in the Arizona Bowl in 2015.

Not only is Polian very well respected in the coaching community, but over the course of his head coaching journey he's has had the opportunity to work under some of the absolute best in the business including Nick Saban, Brian Kelly, Jim Harbaugh, David Shaw, as well as the likes of Kevin Sumlin, Kevin Steele, and Charlie Weiss.

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Todd Monken
Overall head coaching record:
13-25
Current Role: Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator
Previous Head Coaching Role(s): 13-25 at Southern Miss from 2013-2015
Other jobs held since being let go as a head coach: Tampa Bay Bucs offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach from 2016-18

Lost in Todd Monken's overall record as the head coach at Southern Miss is the complete rebuild he took over. Taking over a program that went winless in 2012, Monken improved the program tremendously in three years going 1-11, then 3-9 and finally the jump to 9-5 in year three. Monken also previously served as the offensive coordinator for Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State, and that head coaching tree also included Dana Holgorsen and Larry Fedora.

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Larry Fedora
Overall head coaching record:
79-62
Current Role: Analyst at Texas
Previous Head Coaching Role(s): 34-19 at Southern miss from 2008-11 and 45-43 from 2012-18 at UNC.
Other jobs held since being let go as a head coach: Analyst at Texas

Southern Miss had some success as a program before the arrival of Larry Fedora, but it was Fedora that helped take that program to new heights. He won 7, 7 and then 8 games in his first three seasons, before exploding onto the national scene with a 12-2 season in 2011. That helped his name gain steam on the national stage, and UNC pulled the trigger to bring him to Chapel Hill to revitalize their program, and he did that nearly immediately. Fedora won 8 (with a tie for first in the ACC Coastal), and then 7 and 6 games, respectively in his first three seasons before an 11-win season in 2015. That 2015 finish paired with a top finish in the ACC Coastal was the ceiling for Fedora with the Heels though, as wins went from 8 to 3 to 2 in his final three seasons there.

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Todd Graham
Overall head coaching record: 95-61
Current Role: N/A
Previous Head Coaching Role(s): 7-6 at Rice in 2006, 36-17 at Tulsa from 2007-10, 6-6 at Pitt in 2011, and 46-32 at Arizona State from 2012-17.
Other jobs held since being let go as a head coach: Analyst at Texas

Todd Graham has won Coach of the Year honors in both the Pac-12 and C-USA and has put his stamp on programs quickly at Rice, Tulsa, Pitt and Arizona State, churning out some of the country's hottest coordinators-turned-head-coaches we know today. The list of guys that have learned under Todd Graham and gone on to quality head coaching tenures includes Mike Norvell, Billy Napier, Jay Norvell, Gus Malzahn, Chad Morris, Chip Lindsey, and Jake Spavital.

Since leaving Tempe, Graham's name never seems to be too far from jobs that may be come open, and this off season could be the one we see him return to the sidelines for another shot.

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Gene Chizik
Overall head coaching record: 
38-38
Current Role: Spending time with family
Previous Head Coaching Role(s): 5-19 as head coach at Iowa State from 2007-08 and 33-19 as head coach at Auburn from 2009-12.
Other jobs held since being let go as a head coach: Defensive coordinator at North Carolina (2015-16)

Chizik, who has a national title to his name with the 2010 Auburn squad, took a step away from coaching the Tar Heels defense back in 2016 to spend some more time with his family, but at 57 Chizik has a lot of good football left in him at the right place where he can prioritize his family.

The list of accomplishments for the former SEC head coach is long and impressive, winning the Broyles award as the country's top assistant, SEC coach of the Year and a host of other recognitions. He's proven he can run a program at a very high level, and any program that can get him back on the sidelines to lead their team is going to be better because of it.

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