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Penn State Football Search: 10 NFL Coaches With Penn State and Pennsylvania Ties Who Won't Be Hired

by on December 11, 2011 2:27 AM

Penn State ties don’t necessarily hurt a candidate who aspires to be the school’s next football head coach, acting athletic director David Joyner has said.

Neither does NFL experience, as reported by earlier this week.

And you would think having roots or connections to Pennsylvania would certainly help a candidate’s application.

So –- to give the sure-to-be-overworked search committee a hand -- we set out to find what current NFL coaches might be worthy of an interview to succeed interim Nittany Lion head coach Tom Bradley.

To do so, I went to and poured over the bios of every coach of every one of the 32 teams in the NFL. Here’s what I found:

1.) Ten current NFL coaches with Keystone State and/or Penn State connections who – while they look pretty good on paper -- shouldn’t expect a call from the university’s six-person search committee.

2.) Ten hidden gems from The League who the committee should think about interviewing. I’ll share that list Sunday night.


The acid test for the following list, as well the list to come?

Joyner’s criteria laid out on Thursday at a Dallas press conference to promote the TicketCity Bowl, where Penn State (9-3) will play Houston (12-1) on Jan. 2.

"No. 1, a highly ethical coach who has a great background in that and well respected for that,” Joyner said.

“A coach that understands the importance of academics and being part of the larger educational community and the value in that for their athletes.

“And one that's able to win -- because that's important. One that's able to win within that environment. There are a lot of people out there that fit that bill and come with that kind of pedigree, and those are the kind of people we're looking for.”

I’ll add to that list:

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The new coach must have held a coordinator position in the pros or college. The non-profit business called Penn State Football nets $50 million a year, so the new coach must come with a ready set of organizational skills. And the next coach must have at least spent a few years in the college ranks.

As an aside: Only five current NFL head coaches have been head coaches in college as well – Seattle's Pete Carroll (Southern Cal; he also coached the NFL's Jets and Patriots), Miami’s Tony Sparano (New Haven), the New York Giants’ Tom Coughlin (Boston College), Chan Gailey (Georgia Tech, Samford and a Div. II national title at Troy) and San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh (San Diego, Stanford).

An NFL executive tells me that Coughlin’s name has actually been mentioned in conjunction with the Penn State job. But neither of us can see it.


1. Paul Alexander, early 50s, offensive coordinator/assistant head coach, Cincinnati Bengals – Not to be confused with the Penn State grad named Paul Alexander who is a Pittsburgh TV/radio sports fixture (who is also a BBF of Tom Bradley). This Paul Alexander was a G.A. and college assistant the 1980s, including a stint as a PSU grad assistant in 1982-84. But he’s strictly a pro guy, having been with the Bengals for 18 seasons.

2. Bruce Arians, 59, offensive coordinator, Pittsburgh Steelers – Arians coached 18 years at the college level, including two stints at Alabama (the first under Bear Bryant). But his one shot as a head coach came at Temple – where he failed miserably, going 1-45 in six years. And one of those seasons the Owls had to forfeit all their games because they used an ineligible player.

3. Jim Caldwell, 56, head coach, Indianapolis -- Caldwell coached at Penn State from 1986-92, chiefly guiding the quarterbacks and the passing game. As such, he was on the staff with Jerry Sandusky, but prior to the time period when Sandusky is alleged to have committed crimes. Caldwell left PSU to be head coach at Wake Forest, where his teams were 26-63. At Indy, his teams have been 24-19, with a trip to the Super Bowl three years ago. But in 2011, he is 0-12 – making him a very unattractive 50-83 as a head coach.

4. Tom Clements, 58, quarterback coach, Green Bay – Clements says he wants the job, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He won’t get it. A native of McKees Rocks, Clements coached at Notre Dame from 1992-95, overseeing quarterbacks and then serving as an assistant head coach for a year. But that was 16 years ago and he was a coordinator for just one year. That he has his law degree is a neat plus, though.

5. Pat Flaherty, mid-50s, offensive line coach, New York Giants -- Flaherty has PA roots: he graduated from Delone Catholic in McSherrytown, and was an All-American at East Stroudsburg. He spent 1982-83 coaching at PSU before heading onto Rutgers for eight years (working for current Penn State assistant Dick Anderson, a former Rutgers head coach) and Wake Forest for six years (working for Caldwell). He’s never been a coordinator.

6. Mike Munchak, 51, head coach, Tennessee Titans – Munchak is from Scranton and was an outstanding lineman on some great Nittany Lion teams. But he was only at PSU for four years. Conversely, he’s been with the Tennessee (formerly Houston) franchise since 1982 – this past last season, at last, as head coach. Those are the ties, and dream job, that bind.

7. Mike Pettine, 45, defensive coordinator, New York Jets – Pettine’s dad, Mike Sr., was a legendary high school coach at C.B. West, retiring as Pa.’s winningest high school coach (326 wins). A Virginia grad, the young Pettine’s only college coaching experience is a two-year stint at Pitt (1993-94). He coached high school for seven seasons, at William Tennent and North Penn, so he has in-state credibility. (In 1999, ESPN documented the North Penn football season in a film titled “The Season.”) He’s Rex Ryan’s right-hand man – not sure if that’s a plus or minus – but the college landscape is totally alien to him.

8. Greg Manusky, 45, defensive coordinator, San Diego Chargers – Manusky is from Wilkes-Barre and played at Dallas High School. He followed that with successful careers as a player at Colgate and in the NFL, where he played 12 years, including a 113-game stretch where he did not miss game. But he’s never coached at the college level.

9. Marty Mornhinweg, 49, offensive coordinator/assistant head coach, Philadelphia Eagles – He’s not having his best season, but Mornhinweg’s been in the job for eight years. If he’s destined to be a head coach (again), it is in the pros. He was head coach with the Detroit Lions for two years, going 5-27. He does have college experience, including three years at Mizzou. His son Skylar, a 6-foot- and 215-pound senior standout QB at St. Joe’s in the Philly area, did commit to Penn State (instead of Stanford) over the summer. But that’s up in the air. It’s very possible that PSU won’t even get one Mornhinweg.

10. Darren Perry, 42, secondary coach, Green Bay Packers – Perry’s agent announced two weeks ago that his client was interested in the job. A former Penn State captain and among the Lions’ all-time leaders in interceptions, Perry has never coached in college. He has a strong affinity for Penn State; his oldest of four daughters goes to PSU, and in 2011 he was at PSU’s home game against Illinois and away game at Wisconsin. Perry, born in Virginia, has strong in-state ties – he played and coached with the Steelers.

Perry’s peripatetic career would be good for recruiting, having taken him to California, Big Ten country (Wisconsin, Cincinnati), SEC country (New Orleans) and Maryland – that’s in addition to Pennsylvania and Virginia. He’s never been a coordinator, which hasn’t seemed to matter with Mike Tomlin and Raheem Morris, a pair of young successful coaches who both directly ascended from coaching the secondary to head coaching jobs in the NFL.


These seven NFL guys didn’t have enough to make list of not having enough to make The List:

Richie Anderson, 40, wide receiver coach, Kansas City Chiefs – Anderson is in his second season with the Chiefs after 13 seasons in the NFL. He rushed for 1,756 yards and 29 TDs for Penn State (1989-92).

Gary Brown, 41, running backs coach, Cleveland Browns – The former Lion running back from Williamsport paid his coaching dues with stops at Lycoming College, Susquehanna and Rutgers before joining the Browns in 2009. He played eight years in the NFL, rushing for over 4,000 yards.

Sam Gash, 42, running backs coach, Detroit Lions — A bruising fullback at Penn State and in the NFL, Gash was a coach with the Jets before heading to Detroit in 2008. He ran for 1,674 yards in the NFL, with 169 receptions.

Peter Giunta, 55, cornerbacks coach, N.Y. Giants – He was a defensive assistant at Penn State in 1981, and coached the Nittany Lion tight ends in 1982-83 and was an assistant at four colleges, including Princeton.

Chet Parlavecchio, early 50s, special teams assistant, Tennessee Titans – He is in his first NFL season. The former smash-mouth Penn State linebacker was hired by former teammate Munchak after a long career coaching high school football in New Jersey.

Dave Wannstedt, 59, assistant head coach, Buffalo Bills – A former NFL head coach with the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins (a combined 80-86), he was 42-31 in six seasons as head coach of Pitt. Pitt wouldn’t hire Bradley; Penn State won’t hire Wannstedt.

See Also:

Penn State Football: Why Whittingham or Petersen Won’t Be Penn State’s Next Head Coach

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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