Experience: 1995 : Defensive assistant for Houston Oilers
1996-2002: Defensive assistant for Dallas Cowboys
2003: Linebackers coach for Cleveland Browns
2004-2008: Defensive coordinator for Arizona Cardinals
2009: Defensive coordinator for Kansas City Chiefs
2010-present: Defensive coordinator at California
Current position: Defensive coordinator at California
Philosophy: Although 2011 has not been as kind to the Cal defense, Pendergast broke into the college game in a major way in 2010 with the Golden Bears defense. He had the Pac-10's top defensive team in terms of sacks, pass defense, first downs allowed, and total defense, and ranked in the top 25 in all of those categories. His 3-4 scheme has adjusted well to the Pac-12, and before coming to Berkeley, Pendergast had some success at the professional level as well.
He coached the 2008 Arizona Cardinals' defense that played in Super Bowl XLIII, and his defenses for the Chiefs as well as Cardinals were known for their big-play ability. In six professional seasons as a defensive coordinator, Pendgergast's defenses racked up 176 total takeaways, with 148 of those coming between 2004 and 2008 as the Cardinals' defensive coordinator.
Why he may be hired:
1. Familiar face: As an alumnus of the school, being hired as the head coach at Arizona would be a homecoming of sorts. The fan base would easily be able to identify with one of their own, and would likely give Pendergast the support that would be necessary to get his head coaching career off on the right foot.
2. Affordability: Even after bonuses, the Cal defensive coordinator brought in less than $200,000 last year. With a track record for producing productive defenses, it may be one of the more cost effective hires that Greg Byrne could possibly make.
3. Recruiting in-state: Currently the lead recruiter in the state of Arizona for California, Pendergast has been able to lure prospects in each of his two seasons from the Grand Canyon State up to Berkeley. Byrne has stated he's looking for a coach that can lure the top talent in the state of Arizona to Tucson, and with his connections from his Cardinals days and now his time at Berkeley, Pendergast may be the candidate most prepared to keep the state's best players at home.
4. Ability to turn defenses around: In 2009, Cal ranked 71st in the nation in total defense, allowing opponents 378 yards per game. In just his first season, Pendergast improved the Bears' defense to the nation's 18th ranked defense, with his unit giving up just 319 yards per game. For an Arizona defense that currently ranks as one of the worst in the country, Pendergast's quick fix ability may be just what the Wildcats need to be competitive again.
5. Pro experience: For what would be a first time college coach, Pendergast's professional experience would definitely be to his benefit in terms of getting his new players to buy into his schemes and concepts. The same can be said in recruiting, as he would likely be able to establish a rapport with players using his past work as a defensive coordinator in the NFL to attract kids to Arizona. Each player's goal is to get to the league, and Pendergast would immediately gain credibility as a guy that would know how to get them there.
Why he may not be hired:
1. Possible return to NFL: In his nearly 16 year coaching career, only one and a half of those have been spent at the college level. While his professional coaching days may be behind him, the possibility that he would bolt for a NFL job if given the opportunity may be too much of a risk for Byrne to give him serious consideration.
2. No head coaching experience: For a school that is in desperate need for a proven leader, Byrne may opt to go with a coach that he proven the ability to win games as a head coach. Hiring a coordinator may be a roll of the dice the Arizona Athletic Director may not be willing to take, thus eliminating Pendergast from having any chance at becoming.
3. Journeyman: As alluded to above, Pendergast has been a coach at various levels for nearly 16 years, and in that time he has held jobs with seven teams if you include his 12 day stint with the Oakland Raiders before he was brought on at California. Whether it's his character or his job performance, Pendergast's inability to hold onto any one job for more than six years may make some very wary of his hiring at Arizona.
4. Long-term success: While his defenses at the professional level have been somewhat consistent, California went from the nation's 18th ranked defense in 2010 to one that is ranked outside of the top 40 this season. It is hard to argue that he does not have the potential to coach great defenses, but he's yet to show that he can maintain that success over the long haul.
5. Not a big name: There would likely be some backlash if Byrne went this route, as there are some more up and coming coordinators that fans would like to see. Pendergast has a decent amount of respect in coaching circles, but it is possible that it is not enough for fans to truly respect the hire if it is made.