Not any breaking news here, but I love following the NFL and college coaching fraternities and their mechanizations. I think most of us understand that an NFL team usually only succeeds with a proper mix of coaching staff and players. So...
By Todd McShay Scouts, Inc.
When the 2004 NFL season kicks off in September seven new head coaches will be roaming the sidelines. Each year, one of the hot topics from December through February is the firing and hiring of head coaches.
While it is far too early to project which jobs will become available at the end of the upcoming season, several coaches enter the year on the "hot seat", including Marty Schottenheimer (Chargers), Dave Wannstedt (Dolphins), Butch Davis (Browns), Herm Edwards (NY Jets), Jim Haslett (Saints), Mike Tice (Vikings) and even Mike Martz (Rams).
Below is a breakdown of some of the top candidates likely to be mentioned if and when any of the 32 NFL head coaching positions become available next winter. Naturally, retread head coaches (such as Jim Fassel and Dick Jauron) will join the mix, but the following list includes only candidates with no recent NFL head coaching experience.
The list is broken down into two categories -- current NFL coordinators and current college head coaches. The dilemma that owners and general managers often encounter is whether to take a chance on a coordinator who lacks head coaching experience or a college head coach unfamiliar with the NFL landscape.
With most of the big name candidates from the past couple of years (Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs, Steve Mariucci, Tom Coughlin, Dennis Green, Dennis Erickson and Norv Turner) already locked up, there are few legitimate candidates available with head coaching experience.
The other problem that organizations face is the increasing notoriety enjoyed by college football coaches. While some college coaches -- ie. Steve Spurrier -- will always have an itch to see if they can succeed at the highest level, more coaches are now realizing that it's easier to create a stable environment on the collegiate level -- i.e. Al Groh.
If a job was to open in one of the 32 NFL cities tomorrow, the following men are most likely to be rumored as candidates to fill the void.
NFL Coordinators Brad Childress (offense), Eagles Childress has become head coach Andy Reid's right-hand man in Philadelphia. Childress has done a fine job of grooming QB Donovan McNabb and not only has he mastered Reid's offensive scheme, but he has helped shape and balance it out. Childress does not have NFL head coaching experience, but because he works so closely with Reid he has a very good feel for what it takes to run an organization. He also has some involvement with Reid in terms of personnel.
Childress is well-respected within NFL circles but he's not a guy that goes out and promotes himself. He's well organized, stable and steady. Childress has aspirations of becoming a head coach in the NFL, but he's in no hurry. He has a great situation in Philadelphia and he has to be excited about the prospect of finally having a big-play wide receiver in Terrell Owens to work with next fall. In short, it would take the perfect job to open up for him to make a move.
Charlie Weis (offense) and Romeo Crennel (defense), Patriots
Charlie Weis has played a major role in New England's success. While head coach Bill Belichick deserves much of the credit for the Patriots' success, Charlie Weis (offense) and Rome Crennel (defense) are two of the best coordinators the league has to offer. Crennel works closely with Belichick on the defensive side of the ball, where New England's versatile fronts and imaginary blitz packages and coverage schemes have become legendary.
Weis has more control over the offense but Belichick still oversees game-plans and is the final say in terms of game management. Not only does Weis do a great job of creating mismatches and picking on opponents' weaknesses, he also knows how to maximizing his player's talents. He has not gotten enough credit for molding QB Tom Brady and he also has done a marvelous job of making an extremely average offensive line look dominant at times.
Both Weis and Crennel were considered for some of last year's vacancies but the Patriots' Super Bowl run ironically held them back. There is a strong sense that both Weis and Crennel are interested in taking the next step and both coaches reportedly voiced their displeasure to Belichick after he made it extremely difficult for Weis and Crennel to sell themselves.
Al Saunders (offense), Chiefs Saunders is eligible for this list because he hasn't been a head coach in the NFL since 1988 (Chargers). In his two seasons as offensive coordinator, the Chiefs have accumulated 11,673 yards of total offense, the best two-year tally in the franchise's history. Saunders is not only the offensive coordinator but he's also the assistant head coach.
Head coach Dick Vermeil allows Saunders to be actively involved in much of the decision- making process. While Saunders was rumored to be a top candidate for the Raiders' head coaching job, he did not seem to have much interest in the position. Saunder likely knows he is the heir-apparent to Vermeil when the aging coach decides to retire.
Mike Zimmer (defense), Cowboys Zimmer has steadily climbed the coaching ranks since starting out as a defensive assistant at the University of Missouri. He made the jump from Washington State defensive coordinator to Cowboys' defensive assistant in '94 and has been the Cowboys' defensive coordinator the past three seasons. He was one of the few holdovers from the Dave Campo era and has done an admirable job of maintaining his philosophy even with Bill Parcells taking over the reigns as head coach. Zimmer's defense was the main reason for the Cowboys' unexpected success in '03 and the former secondary coach did an impressive job of preparing one of the league's youngest and most inexperienced units. If Zimmer builds on that success this season he should be a sought after head coaching candidates.
Ted Cottrell (defense), Vikings Some feel that Cottrell might have missed his window as a head coaching candidate after he was fired as the Jets' defensive coordinator following the '03 season, but we're not giving up on him yet. Cottrell was basically a scapegoat for the injury-riddled Jets. Now the defensive coordinator for the Vikings, Cottrell is in position to turn around a disappointing unit from a season ago. With the additions of DC Antoine Winfield and rookies Kenechi Udeze (DE, 1st round), Dontarrious Thomas (OLB, 2nd round) and Darrion Scott (DL, 3rd round), Cottrell will have some talent to work with. If the unit makes big strides by the middle of the season, Cottrell should be a hot name again.
College Head Coaches Nick Saban, LSU Saban is living a charmed life in Baton Rouge. He was hired prior to the '00 season and has revived one of the historically great college programs at LSU. Saban guided the Tigers to 39 victories, three bowl wins, and a split national championship. Saban is a defensive-minded coach who worked in the NFL under Bill Belichick at Cleveland and under Jerry Glanville at Houston. If Saban wants a job in the NFL he will likely get one. The question is whether Saban has a legitimate interest in getting back in the NFL as a head coach.
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
Bob Stoops has built a juggernaut in Oklahoma. Stoops suffered a blemish when he was clearly out-coached by Saban in the Sugar Bowl. That's about the only blemish he has suffered in five seasons at Oklahoma. Stoops has quickly become one of the great recruiters at the college level and the Sooners are 55-11 under his watch. Stoops is extremely cocky and people in the NFL feel that he loves to hear his name in the head coaching mix at the end of every season. He might not have the interest in making the jump to the next level. Stoops has established an absolute powerhouse in Norman and he seems very comfortable with his situation right now.
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa Ferentz has built a power in Iowa City. He has experience in the NFL and seems to be enjoying himself a lot more as a head coach on the collegiate level. Ferentz was rumored to be a candidate for the Bills and Bears last year but nothing came of it. He'll would likely prefer to see his son (Brian Ferentz, OL, So.) through the program, but if he has one more impressive season, he might get an offer he can't refuse.
Jeff Tedford, Cal-Berkley The former Oregon offensive coordinator brought his system with him to Berkley when he took the head coaching job in 2002. He not only has revived a dying program with back-to-back winning seasons -- despite probation in his first year -- for the first time in 12 seasons, but he also has a proven track record as a quarterback developer. During his 15-year coaching career Tedford has been instrumental in the development of Trent Dilfer (Seahawks), David Carr (Texans), Joey Harrington (Lions), Kyle Boller (Ravens) and current starter Golden Bears' starter Aaron Rodgers. Cal rewarded Tedford with a new contract and a promise to spend $140 million on renovations to Memorial Stadium, but if Tedford's success continues the NFL might just come calling.
Ralph Friedgen, Maryland After waiting patiently for his turn as a head coach at the college level, Friedgen has proven to be more than qualified with a 31-8 record in three seasons at Maryland. Widely known for his offensive imagination, Friedgen has proven to be a good game manager and also has done an impressive job of overcoming key injuries throughout his tenure. There's a good chance that Friedgen isn't going anywhere soon and he may never look to get into the NFL, but his offensive imagination and proven track record as a leader make him an intriguing candidate.
"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
I'm surprised they didn't list Shanahan as a hot seat guy. Right now it seems they have gotten worse on both sides of the ball. That doesn't bode well for a team that eeked into the playoffs and got slapped up in their first game.