The NFL has seen its share of college football head coaches make the jump to the league. Hall of Famer Jimmy Johnson pulled it off in the late 1980s after winning national titles at Miami. More recently, Kliff Kingsbury went from the college game to the pros in 2019.
But could USC Trojans head coach Lincoln Riley be the next one to make the jump? One longtime USC insider believes it has the potential to happen.
Is Lincoln Riley Putting Out Feelers for NFL Teams?
USC insider Scott Wolf wrote on Thursday that Riley’s name is being mentioned in the NFL.
“In NFL coaching circles, the talk is that Lincoln Riley is putting out feelers about taking a job in the NFL next season,” Wolf wrote.
He added that there’s this other prominent reason why Riley’s name is attached as an NFL possibility: the potential No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
“The word is Riley would be open to an NFL job if he could follow Caleb Williams to the same franchise. If the Chicago Bears had the No. 1 pick, it would probably ideal for this theory,” Wolf wrote.
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) October 20, 2023
There’s another attachment to the theory Wolf presented.
“The other part of the theory is that an NFL team would tell Riley who to hire, especially on the defensive staff, to avoid some of the pratfalls that have happened in college,” Wolf said.
While Riley has reignited some enthusiasm in the Land of Troy with his recruiting classes and re-emerging as a major player for the Pac-12 title, Riley’s USC teams have still come under scrutiny due to the Trojans’ defensive struggles.
Notably, USC’s defensive lapses were evident in the season opener against San Jose State by allowing 28 points, including surrendering three touchdowns to a former backup quarterback turned wide receiver in Nick Nash. USC then allowed 41 points in a victory against Deion Sanders’ Colorado Buffaloes. Then, a week ago, Norte Dame poured 45 on the Trojans, handing USC its first loss of the season.
Wolf Stands By His Own Reporting on Appearance With Dan Patrick
While Wolf runs an independent blog, he’s covered USC for nearly three decades as he’s in his 25th year covering the team.
And he stood by his reporting in an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show Thursday.
“I’ve heard this from three different NFL coaches that they’ve heard he’s putting out feelers to NFL teams,” Wolf told Patrick.
Wolf reconfirmed that the Heisman Trophy winner Williams is another reason behind the theory Riley could be in for an NFL jump himself.
“He’s ready to jump if it’s the right scenario, which means he wants to go somewhere with Caleb Williams,” Wolf said. “So it’d be the team with the top pick or who trades for the top pick that would be the ticket to the NFL.”
There’s another reason behind the NFL rumbling with Riley, per Wolf. Riley has told the LA media that he only wants to continue coaching until he’s 50 — Riley is now 40.
“So this would probably be a time to think about jumping to the NFL if he wants to do it,” Wolf said.
Riley Addresses NFL Rumors Following Narrow Loss to Utah
Wolf has the belief Riley will make the jump. Riley, however, didn’t take long to address the rumors of him being interested in the NFL.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Riley said to reporters after the 34-32 loss to Utah on Saturday. “We signed up to do this thing for a long time.”
He also added that coaching at USC has come with “scars,” particularly the last second loss to the Utes who won off a field goal. But even with those “scars,” he plans to stay in his current post.
“When you haven’t been in this position in a while, it takes time, and it’s gonna take some scars,” Riley said. “It’s gonna take some tough lessons to learn. These are lessons that we couldn’t learn last year. It wasn’t like this. It didn’t feel like this.
“This is part of our progression, and it sucks, it kills you. But this program will be better for it,” Riley continued. “Because for the first time in a while, there are going to be championship expectations here, and those aren’t going anywhere.”