The list is long. There have been many big head coaches who tore it up in college and then fell flat on their faces in the NFL. But for every Steve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino or Nick Saban, there are a few names who got it done in both places. Let's run down that list here. -- Sid Saraf
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It won't be remembered as successful, but the former Oregon coach got off to a hot start with the Eagles. Back-to-back 10-6 seasons in years one and two looked promising, but once Kelly wrestled control of personnel, he doomed himself with a series of moves. In one offseason, letting top wide reciever Jeremy Maclin go via free agency, trading LeSean McCoy, signing DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell to bloated deals (just to name a few) all blew up in his face. In addition, Kelly was just 7-12 over his last 19 games, so Jeffrey Lurie pulled the plug with one game to go in 2015. Still, a 26-21 overall record and a playoff berth is nothing to sneeze at.
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Coughlin was a little-known assistant with the New York Giants when he took the head-coaching gig at Boston College in 1991 and turned the program around. His three seasons at BC were highlighted by a victory over top-ranked Notre Dame in 1993 that springboarded him back into the NFL. He was named the first coach of the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars and after spending eight seasons and reaching as far as the AFC Championship Game, Coughlin moved on to the New York Giants. The rest is history as he won a pair of Super Bowls with Big Blue.
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Some people might scoff at Switzer's inclusion in this list, but consider this: Switzer is one of just three head coaches in history to win championships in college and a Super Bowl in the NFL. He won three national titles during his 16-year career at Oklahoma and then took over for Jimmy Johnson during the Dallas Cowboys' reign of success in the 1990s. In his second season at the helm, Switzer led Big D to a Super Bowl win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. You can't argue with the resume, no matter what happened after that.
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Harbaugh is a tricky one. His track record as a head coach is impressive as he's turned around teams at every stop. He took a small-college program at the University of San Diego and turned it into an 11-win team. Then he grabbed hold of a moribund Stanford program and transformed it into the national powerhouse it is today. Then, he guided a San Francisco 49ers team that was stuck in mediocrity for years to three consecutive appearances in the NFC Championship Game and one Super Bowl berth. He has never won a title -- and is back in the college ranks now -- but you can't shame his results. He belongs on this list.
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The Cleveland Browns are named after him, for Pete's sake. And if that wasn't enough, he went on to found the Cincinnati Bengals, as well. Paul Brown is a giant of the game and one its most treasured ancestors. He won three championships with the Browns and has been credited with several breakthroughs, including using game film to study opponents. However, did you know that Brown was the man who coached Ohio State to its first national title back in 1942? This was a man who got it done everywhere he went.
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Before landing in the NFL, Coryell spent 12 seasons coaching at San Diego State. All he did there was rack up three undefeated seasons with an overall record of 104-19-2. He was truly a football pioneer as he was obsessed with the passing offense, decades before it became par for the course in the NFL. He went on to the pros and after a few seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, he took over the San Diego Chargers in 1978 -- a team that hadn't sniffed the postseason since 1965. That all changed. With his powerful 'Air Coryell' offense, the Chargers won three straight AFC west crowns and made four straight trips to the playoffs.
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Vermeil didn't last long in the college ranks, but he stood out during his two seasons at UCLA in the mid-1970s. He and the Bruins won their first conference title in a decade and even took down top-ranked Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. But, it was in the NFL where he made serious noise. He took the Philadelphia Eagles to their first Super Bowl appearance and years later, guided the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl win.
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Not so long ago, Carroll would have made the list of "Successful college coaches who flopped in the NFL." Not anymore. Carroll had two failed head-coaching gigs in the NFL before heading to college and taking the USC Trojans to the top of the mountain with consecutive national titles in the mid-2000s. He returned to the pros in 2010 with the Seattle Seahawks and soon took the team to one Super Bowl win and came within a play of winning a second. Let's see if he continues to build on his success.
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Johnson wasn't a household name when he was named the head coach at the University of Miami in 1984. But in five years in Coral Gables, he compiled a record of 52-9 and won a national championship and played for another. He was named the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 1989 and resurrected an organization that was sitting at the bottom of the league. The infamous Herschel Walker trade he orchestrated set the table for a run of Big D dominance that saw him win back-to-back Super Bowls.
His story is legendary. Walsh spent two years as the head coach at Stanford before winning the San Francisco 49ers job in 1979. That same year, he drafted a little-known quarterback named Joe Montana and took off. Using something called the "West Coast offense," Walsh and Co. decimated the NFL and won three Super Bowls during his tenure. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.