A pair of Marshall football legends are targeted to replace Doc Holiday as the new head coach.
When John “Doc” Holiday took the Marshall job in 2010, the Thundering Herd had gone to one bowl game in the last five years. The program had struggled since Bob Pruiett’s retirement, who led the Herd back to FBS in 1997 after being an FCS power. Holiday led the Herd to eight bowl games in eleven seasons and won 85 games. That record made it surprising the Herd decided not to renew Holiday’s contract.
Holiday went 7-3 this season, losing the Camellia Bowl to Buffalo 17-10. According to Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, the decision to fire Holiday came from above Athletic Director Mike Hamrick’s head and was influenced by the governor of West Virginia.
Marshall targeting Leftwich, Pennington in coaching search
With Holiday out as the head coach, the Thundering Herd targets two former Marshall football legends, former quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich, according to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman.
Chad Pennington finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1999, leading the Herd to a 35-4 record in three seasons starting at Marshall. In 1999, Pennington led the Herd to an undefeated record and a top-10 finish in the AP Poll. Pennington was a first-round pick of the New York Jets, playing 10 seasons in the NFL.
Pennington is a high school coach in Kentucky but has neither professional nor college coaching experience.
Leftwich succeeded Pennington at Marshall, becoming the starting quarterback in 2000, leading the Herd to two 11-win seasons and a top-25 finish in 2002. The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Leftwich in the first round of the NFL draft. Currently, Leftwich is the offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and that’s what he’s focused on amid his name mentioned in connection to his alma mater.
#GoBucs Byron Leftwich on being a "dream candidate," for the Marshall job. "I just heard about that myself…I'm just focused on this game.''
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) January 6, 2021
Pennington might not be ready to be a college coach. Leftwich’s experience is exclusively in the NFL. Leftwich is also considered to be a future NFL head coach.
Does Leftwich want to forfeit an opportunity to coach in the NFL to go back to Huntington, West Virginia? Is Pennington ready to run an entire football program? It is likely Leftwich stays in the NFL and the best strategy for the Herd is to open the position to a national search.