Originally Posted by Cudders
If I’m a team president or general manager, and I’m exploring all options including top assistants, college coaches, and retreads, then the initial list would look something like this:
Panthers OC Rob Chudzinski – I’m a big, big-time fan of Chud. I think he has future head coach written all over him and his past justifies it. At their core, there are two coaches. The coaches that are married to their philosophies and tailor their talent to suit that and the coaches that evaluate their personnel and tailor their scheme to suit their talent. Both approaches can be successful, but I prefer the latter and Chud is that coach. He showed up in Cleveland with a ragtag group of quarterbacks, built his scheme around Derek Anderson’s vertical throwing abilities, and produced their most explosive offense since their return. He went to Carolina, got handed a number one overall pick at quarterback with readiness questions in a lockout-shortened off-season, and guided him to the most prolific rookie campaign of all-time. Add some potential insight from Norv Turner for game-calling purposes, and I think he’s a top-notch candidate in an offense-driven league. The Panthers’ struggles wouldn’t deter me from hiring him.
Broncos OC Mike McCoy – If Tim Tebow accomplished one thing in Denver, it was attracting attention to McCoy. Even though an Orton-led passing attack posted some respectable numbers in Denver, revamping the offense to accommodate Tebow’s limited skill set impressed me. I haven’t seen enough of him to form a concrete opinion, but I think he’s a worthwhile interview at least.
Bengals OC Jay Gruden – I like what I’ve seen from Gruden. I was never too impressed with Dalton at TCU, but he’s done a wonderful job with him so far. Gruden has highlighted what he does well and even built up some of the weaker points of his game since taking over in Cincinnati for Bratkowski. His success on the smaller circuits as the head man and his coaching background will help him. The NFL loves bloodlines.
Bengals DC Mike Zimmer – Gruden’s fellow coordinator will get a couple looks, too. Under Zimmer, Cincinnati has developed a reputation for revitalizing the careers of cast-offs. It requires a unique approach and a keen feel for the game to do that on a consistent basis. And his defenders seem to follow him. Unlike Chud though, I think his age combined with a patchwork pass rush contributing to an underperforming defense this season make him a less exciting candidate than he has been in the past.
Niners DC Vic Fangio – Fangio is an interesting candidate. As far as I’m concerned, he oversees the most versatile defense in the league and there are a lot of creative things he does with his personnel, much like Dom Capers. Going past schematics, he demands toughness and sound tackling. Under his watch, the Niners have been one of the best tackling teams in the NFL. Even though that’s fundamental, it’s often overlooked.
Packers Asst. HC/ILB Winston Moss – The Packer program is a good brand right now. Moss has been the second-in-charge during those successful seasons. He’s cut his teeth around bright offensive and defensive minds, developed talent within his position grouping, won a Super Bowl, and seems to be well-respected around the league.
Bears ST Dave Toub – Special team coordinators are going to start getting more love for big jobs and for good reason. After the head coach, the special team coordinator has the next best feel for the overall pulse of the team because his hand is in all parts of the 53-man roster. Dave Toub is the best at controlling and flipping field position. In addition to excelling at the fundamentals and being reliable, he’s creative. He uses special teams as a weapon.
Alabama HC Nick Saban – Like it or not, Saban is the best in the business at the college level. He’s ultra-competitive and sharp with a respectable NFL pedigree, too. He coaches NFL traits at ‘Bama and runs schemes with a pro skeleton. His unceremonious exit from the Dolphins might hurt him a little, but his wild success with the Tide could blind an owner. Luring him from Tuscaloosa would be tough though. He’s got a great thing going there. But, if his competitive fire is burning at him, I could see him making the jump again.
Stanford HC David Shaw – Shaw is a Jim Harbaugh disciple and an offensive architect of a Cardinals program that has evolved a lot in a short amount of time. Having his fingerprints on developing Andrew Luck is a huge positive, and being a part of the coaching staff that oversaw the best-prepped team in the nation is another. Plus, the short returns on the post-Luck era look good and he’s got almost a decade of NFL experience under his belt.
Northwestern HC Pat Fitzgerald – Ignoring the obvious Bob Stoops and Kirk Ferentz speculation, I think Fitzgerald is an intriguing dark horse. He’s disciplined. He’s energetic. He’s smart. He’s done a lot with a little. Like prospects, projecting college coaches to the NFL is about translatable tools. Steve Spurrier, for example, dominated college football. Won conference and national championships. Molded All-Americans and made a Heisman winner. His prestige didn’t equate to the NFL though. His protections were too archaic and simplified for the pro game. I could see Fitzgerald faring better in that adjustment.
Ex-HC Jon Gruden – If one of the big-name coaches comes back, I’m inclined to believe that it’s Gruden and not Cowher. The longer Cowher sits on the sidelines, the longer his odds at returning become. Gruden, on the other hand, is still a grinder. Still works the long hours. Still travels all over the place to keep up with the game. You can see the fire in him. On a team with an established quarterback, I think Gruden becomes a frontrunner.
Ex-HC Eric Mangini – Eric Mangini is one of the smartest minds in football. No one outclasses on a whiteboard or stumps him with X’s and O’s. I’m sure he interviews well, too. To me, his biggest problem has been harmonizing philosophies. He believes that character and intelligence trump athleticism. When he was fired, the Browns were one of the least athletic teams in the NFL. You need a baseline level of athleticism to succeed at the pinnacle of the sport. If he finds a patient owner, and strikes the right balance, I think he succeeds.
Ex-HC Mike Nolan – Nolan was an underwhelming head coach, but he’s rattled off a string of impressive coordinator jobs since then. He found success with Denver and Miami and has improved Atlanta’s defense with similar personnel. If the Falcons live up to people’s expectations for them without a premier pass-rusher, Nolan could become one of hottest commodities on the coaching carousel.
Ex-Eagles HC Andy Reid – If Philadelphia continues to flounder and cans Reid at the end of the season, he’s the most sought-after coach on the market. Even though he graduated from a questionable school of clock management, he still does a lot of great things. He creates offensive production with ease and masks personnel deficiencies with the best of them. The fact that he’s stuck around in a league of constant turnover is a testament. He might not be an elite head coach, but he’s still above-average. He just might be too stale for the Eagles at this point.
Ex-Jets HC Rex Ryan – If New York continues down their current path, I don’t see how Rex survives the media firestorm. Fair or not, the deteriorating results condemn him. You can’t keep promising Super Bowls and then miss the postseason. Now, he’s gotten better at managing expectations and being loose-lipped with the media, but it came too late in New York. That said, I wouldn’t pigeonhole Rex as a defensive coordinator for the rest of his coaching career. I think he’s a great situational candidate. Some people are starters and some are sustainers. Rex is a starter. He is capable of going to a traditional cellar-dweller, being a breath of fresh air, and changing their culture. Eliminating the loser attitude in the locker room is the hardest part of a rebuild. Rex can do that. So, if I need a franchise-fixer, I’d still consider Rex.