Where will NFL coaching prospects land in 2013?

There is one thing that sports fans can tell you: Conventional wisdom is not always followed.  This can be especially true when teams are interviewing potential head coaching candidates.  And if some NFL franchises are even looking for a new general manager and a coach, things can get even crazier.

While the interviews and signings are going on right now, lets take a look at which coaches would best suit the teams looking for a new coach and teams who might be looking for a coach.

Arizona Cardinals – When the news broke that Arizona interviewed former Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, the move made some sense.  The Cardinals quarterback issues continued to pose problems, and what choice could be better than to reunite Reid with quarterback Kevin Kolb? Sadly, Reid has since signed on with Kansas City, leaving Arizona looking for a coach who they feel can develop a quarterback.

CBS analyst and former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher would be a great hire for Arizona, but it would certainly be a long shot.  Instead, why not try for Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy who has done an outstanding job of developing systems around the quarterbacks that he had been given?  Arizona’s defense has been terrific under defensive coordinator Ray Horton who is also considered a head coaching prospect. If Arizona could somehow bring in McCoy and retain Horton, the Cardinals could have a formidable team.

Buffalo Bills – Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone interviewed with the team recently, and that does seem to be a good fit.  Bills G.M. Buddy Nix will stay with the team this year, and Buffalo has been vocal about bringing in a franchise quarterback this season.  Marrone, who also served as the New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator during Sean Payton’s first three seasons on the job, knows what it takes to run an offense in the NFL.

Speaking of New Orleans Saints offensive coordinators, why not give Pete Carmichael a look?  While Carmichael does not have the head coaching experience that Marrone does, Carmichael has worked under both Payton and Marty Schottenheimer.  Both Payton and Schottenheimer have found a lot of success in their careers as NFL head coaches.  Either way, Marrone or Carmichael can give Buffalo the coach who can develop the franchise quarterback they are looking for.

Chicago Bears – Lovie Smith’s firing made absolutely no sense.  Despite posting a 10-6 record, Chicago decided to go in a different direction.  The Bears might regret that decision in the years to come, but one thing is for sure: Teams should give Smith a look for the vacancy at head coach.  If by some unforeseeable reason Smith does not get a head coaching job, he will be one of the league’s premier defensive coordinators.

Even though his name has been dropped in San Diego and Philadelphia, Monday Night Football analyst and former Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden would make sense here.  Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has all the tools to get the job done, even though there have been some questions about his maturity, but he needs better protection if Chicago wants to make a move to be a contender in a tough NFC North.

Gruden will have the offensive know-how to let Chicago’s offense shine, and he will also have a Tampa 2 defensive scheme ready to go.  When Gruden was Tampa’s head coach, the Buccaneers ran a Tampa 2 with Monte Kiffin as the defensive coordinator.  Kiffin, who resigned from Southern Cal, could make his return to the NFL.  And what better situation than to be reunited with Gruden and a previously made Tampa 2 defense?

Cleveland Browns – Reports coming out of Cleveland are saying that new owner Jimmy Haslam wants University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly.  There is no doubt that Kelly is one of the most popular prospects for an NFL head-coaching job. However, there is one candidate that is simply a better fit for Cleveland.

As incredible of a story as it has been for Indianapolis and coach Chuck Pagano, much credit has to be given to Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians for the Colts’ playoff season. Before arriving in Indianapolis, however, Arians served as the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator.  When the Steelers let Arians walk a year ago despite having success there as the offensive playcaller, it was a huge surprise.  And that is why Arians to Cleveland makes so much sense.

Arians is familiar with the AFC North and knows what it takes to be successful there.  He helped develop Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and has also coached Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He’s got the offensive knowledge to help Cleveland be productive against a very defensive division.

Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid already signed on as the coach for Kansas City, but this fit does not make too much sense.  It’s obvious that getting an offensive-minded coach was definitely the right move, but the Arizona job makes more sense for Reid.  Someone like Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, brother of Jon Gruden, makes sense as he was directly involved in the development of quarterback Andy Dalton. Moving forward, Kansas City needs a quarterback that they can rely on.

If Reid and the Chiefs new general manager (whoever that is) decides that they want to get West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith in the draft, then this choice makes more sense. Reid developed another scrambling quarterback, Donovan McNabb, who led them to several NFC Championships and even a Super Bowl appearance.  K.C. may be asking Reid to work the exact same magic he had in Philly about a decade ago.

Philadelphia Eagles – Oregon coach Chip Kelly would make for an interesting hire for Philadelphia.  Michael Vick is still on the roster, and it would be fascinating to see what Chip Kelly’s offense with Michael Vick would look like.  Still, reports are that Kelly is getting very close to becoming Cleveland’s head coach.

So if Kelly is out of the mix, who could step in? Despite Philly needing someone who could help them offensively, Lovie Smith could be a great hire.  The Eagles defense has talented players, and bringing in someone like Smith could only help booster their play.

There is no doubt that there will be questions about Philadelphia’s quarterback situation as Nick Foles did a great job as the starter.  With both Vick and Foles on the roster, quarterback controversy will be there. The next coach coming in must see that and know that he has to deal with that from day one.

San Diego Chargers – Bruce Arians’ name has been rumored here, but Ken Whisenhunt would be a terrific hire for the Chargers.  Again, Arizona was plagued by not finding a franchise quarterback.  Whisenhunt wouldn’t have to worry about that with Philip Rivers already on the roster.  If Whisenhunt could find another great defensive coordinator like he did with Horton in Arizona, there is no reason to think that San Diego couldn’t compete with Denver for the division title.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Head coach Mike Mularkey has not been fired.  Well, at least not yet.  A report came out recently that the Jaguars assistants were told to look elsewhere.  That is not a good sign for Mularkey at all.

It all comes down to the hiring of a general manager. If the new G.M. wants Mularkey to stay, he will.  If not, Mularkey goes.

Should Mularkey get fired, the direction of the team from there should make sense.  Jacksonville has expressed interest in acquiring quarterback Tim Tebow.  Tebow’s presence could help Jacksonville get fan attendance back where it needs to be.

So if Tebow does go back home, which coach would be the best choice to lead them?  Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is the obvious choice.

McCoy coached Tebow in Denver in 2011.  That year, Tebow led the Broncos to a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs.  If Tebow does come back, a reunion with McCoy may very well be the recipe Jacksonville needs to get back on the winning track.


Tennessee’s coaching search crucial to future success

Derek Dooley’s firing comes as no surprise to anyone.  In a conference that has won six consecutive national championships, winning is critical.  Dooley’s SEC record at Tennessee, 4-19, did little to dispute that theory.

Throw in Tennessee’s financial woes in the athletic department and an unavoidable recipe for a head coaching change resulted.

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart spoke of his department as being at a “crossroads.”  If things are as bleak as they do seem, Tennessee cannot afford to lose anymore.  That is, they cannot afford to lose in the offseason anymore.

Vol fans still try to forget the dark days known as the “Kiffin era,” which continues to bring punishments by the NCAA.  Lane Kiffin’s departure forced Tennessee to hire a new head coach near the end of the hiring window.  Most of the top coaching prospects had already made their decision and moved on.  That left the Vols to find someone who they believed could get the job done as well as bring stability back to the program.

Enter Derek Dooley.  From here, the rest of the story is obvious.  Two head coach searches have not panned out the way that the team and the fans hoped they would.

While both Kiffin and Dooley did contribute to making the program better, neither coaches in Knoxville anymore, meaning that Hart needs to find a coach who can reestablish a Tennessee program that once dominated in the SEC .

So who can be the savior of the program despite Tennessee’s financial troubles?  Ask that question in Knoxville and the most abundant answer you will get is Jon Gruden.

Gruden would certainly be that homerun hire that would not only excite the fan base, but also result in wins.  Yes Gruden would ask Tennessee to make him one of the highest-paid coaches in football, but at this stage Tennessee would find any way to make that happen.

Supposing that Gruden does not sign with Tennessee, hiring someone like Louisville head coach Charlie Strong or even trying to contact Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen could also be good ideas.  Hart wants someone with previous head coaching experience, as he mentioned in his press conference this week, and someone with proven success.

Fans of the orange and white certainly want to see Gruden as the next coach, but not landing Gruden will not be a failure for Hart.  What is important for this athletic director is to get the right hire.  For as many losses as Tennessee fans have suffered in these past three years, they will not tolerate any more.  That means that Hart must bring Big Orange Country its biggest win in years during the offseason.