Mike McCarthy and Mike McCormack. Similar names. Similar distinctions.
McCarthy is the only former Baker University football player who has been an NFL head coach. He’s currently the Green Bay Packers’ head man.
And McCormack is the only former Kansas University football player who has been an NFL head coach. McCormack called the shots for the Eagles, Colts and Seahawks in decades past.
You would think that over the years more than just one former Jayhawk would have advanced to a top coaching rung in the NFL, but McCormack stands alone.
Parenthetically, however, it should be noted that John Hadl was the head coach of the Los Angeles Express (1984, 1985) before the upstart USFL went belly-up.
Meanwhile, a couple of other men who once wore a KU football uniform logged long careers as NFL assistants.
Oliver Spencer was offensive line coach of the Raiders for 17 seasons (1964-80) and Mike Sweatman spent 23 NFL seasons as a special teams coach with a handful of franchises before retiring in 2007.
Also, Nolan Cromwell, KU’s Wishbone quarterback in the mid-1970s, spent 16 years as an NFL aide before moving to Texas A&M and becoming the Aggies’ offensive coordinator in 2008.
I suppose if anyone were to ask who has the best chance to become the second former Jayhawk to reach head coach status in the NFL, it would be Cromwell.
Still, Cromwell isn’t the only probability. In checking current NFL coaching staffs, I found five men who once suited for the Jayhawks.
One of those five can probably be discounted, however. Luke Richesson, a special teams player for KU in the mid-1990s, is the Jacksonville strength and conditioning coach, and that’s not a job generally considered a conduit to head coach.
Two others spent only one season as a KU football player — New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Carolina special teams coach Danny Crossman.
Schottenheimer red-shirted as a KU freshman quarterback in 1992, then transferred to Florida. Crossman was a freshman defensive back in 1985. He, too, transferred, opting to follow KU coach Mike Gottfried to Pittsburgh.
On the flip side, the other two former Jayhawks now coaching in the NFL — Darrin Simmons and Skip Peete — came to Kansas from other schools.
Simmons, special teams coach for Cincinnati, spent his first two years after high school at Dodge City Community College. Simmons still ranks in the Top Five in many KU punting stats, earning second-team All-Big Eight honors in 1985.
Peete, running backs coach of the Dallas Cowboys, also logged two years with the Jayhawks after playing two seasons at Arizona University. A wide receiver, Peete earned KU letters in 1984 and 1985. Peete’s father, Willie, was a long-time NFL assistant coach and brother Rodney was an NFL quarterback for 16 seasons.
Arguably, of those five, the one with the best shot at becoming a head coach is Schottenheimer because he’s a coordinator and those jobs are basically one step away from the highest level. It doesn’t hurt, either, that his father Marty was a successful NFL head coach at one time.