Around this time four years ago, Matt Rhule was licking his wounds after his Temple Owls lost the Boca Raton Bowl to end the season. He was three years into a recovery project in Philadelphia in which he'd gained four more wins each season. An impressive feat, no doubt, as any 10-4 campaign is after suffering through the 2-10 rookie doldrums.
Still, that was a long way from the show. Today, Rhule, currently at Baylor and just barely on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoff, is a leading candidate for both the New York Giants' open position and the one that will likely become available in Dallas in the next few days. It's a great place to be and a testament to his ability to build a foundation upon ashes of past failures.
It's an even greater place to anchor one's boots when the realization that Rhule can't lose becomes evident.
Rhule may take the reins of a historic NFC East franchise. Or somewhere else in the league. Or he'll rebuff approaches yet again, return to Waco, and set about the business of competing for another national title and upping his stock.
But it's hard to imagine that getting any higher. Rhule is on a meteoric rise. From 2-10 at Temple to 1-11 at Baylor to being considered for America's Team and the freaking Football Giants. So sitting here, impervious to the circumstances informing his decision, it seems like a no-brainer for the 44-year-old to take the plunge and accept whatever offer materializes.
With Big Blue he'll have Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley to soothe the Dave Gettleman burn. In Dallas, he'll have a roster as talented as any in the NFL desperate to be maximized. And if he fails at either place, a soft landing spot anywhere in the college football world will be made available to him.
Stubbing one's toe on The Shield is not a deterrent for future academic employers. The opposite may be true, but one wonders if better opportunities will arise in the near- or long-term. Professional football may not be the same as college in being driven by name-brand, but these are some respected name brands.
Rhule probably couldn't have imagined an ascent this quick and this high. It's pretty shocking that he appears to have his pick of the litter. Time will tell what most interests him.
What's clear now is that he's set up to win and survive a setback. Or, best case, he goes to the NFL and does what he has done everywhere else: an incredible job.