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Extra Points: Rating the NFL coaching candidates
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - One man's mistake is generally another's opportunity.
Hours after their now annual loss in Pittsburgh, the Cleveland Browns kicked off "Black Monday" a little early, firing their head coach Rob Chudzinski after just one season.
Four more teams followed suit the next day when the Minnesota Vikings (Leslie Frazier), Washington Redskins (Mike Shanahan), Detroit Lions (Jim Schwartz) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Greg Schiano) delivered pink slips to their mentors.
Add in the Houston Texans, who said goodbye to Gary Kubiak during the season, and there are now six job openings around the NFL that need to be filled.
Most of the talk on "Black Monday" centered on innovation -- perhaps a tip of the cap to Philadelphia's Chip Kelly -- along with continuity, stability and most of all consistency -- the one aspect of the job none of the disposed coaches could accomplish.
Cleveland raised a lot of eyebrows by parting ways with Chudzinski after paying lip service to the continuity and stability themes when hiring him before the season.
"We understand the importance of continuity, but I think it's really important for you to hear this: we also understand the importance of getting it right," Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam said.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, on the other hand, seemed to take issue with Frazier's old-school approach, hinting that Minnesota would finally be scrapping its much-maligned Tampa 2-based defensive scheme, while also looking for a more imaginative offense which could incorporate some spread philosophies around the running of Adrian Peterson.
"There are so many (new schemes) going out there," Spielman said. "I am very excited about the process, just to learn and to talk to a lot of different people to see their philosophies."
It's a fair question to ask why Spielman was behind the curve and not learning about those schemes before but that's a story for another day.
Shanahan, a former two-time Super Bowl winner in Denver, was another guy who seemed stuck in neutral as the game rapidly passed him by. When the veteran coach lost his franchise quarterback, Robert Griffin III, it was a fait accompli for him inside the Beltway.
"Redskins fans deserve a better result," said owner Daniel Snyder in a statement Monday. "We will focus on what it takes to build a winning team, and my pledge to this organization and to this community is to continue to commit the resources and talent necessary to put this team back in the playoffs."
In Tampa, Schiano's downfall had more to do with the sizzle than the steak. Sure, he didn't produce enough wins but Tampa Bay ownership was willing to wait it out with the intent on proving that it's original off-the-radar hiring of Schiano was the right move. Problem is, the former Rutgers coach was so off-putting to so many, the Buccaneers could no longer sell him to their fan base or the community.
"The results over the past two years have not lived up to our standards and we believe the time has come to find a new direction," said Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer in a statement Monday.
Spielman has already claimed his candidates fall into 13 different categories encompassing each and every level of football, a blatant attempt to accentuate his own importance.
"There is no specific (criteria)," Spielman said. "Offense, defense, college coach, high school coach, whatever. It is a coach that we feel is the best fit for our organization."
The truth is we all know who the hot candidates are and some of them are about to get the opportunity of a lifetime.
With that in mind here's The Sports Network's cheat sheet to getting it right:
1. - Greg Roman, 49ers offensive coordinator - Roman should be generating far more buzz. He has juggled completely different quarterbacks and offenses under Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco, succeeding with both Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick. The Niners are 36-11-1 since Harbaugh and Roman arrived from Stanford.
2. - Ken Whisenhunt, Chargers offensive coordinator - The former Cardinals head coach had a big hand in Philip Rivers' resurgence in San Diego and the Chargers' march toward the playoffs this season. With Kurt Warner, Whisenhunt was able to make two playoff appearances and a run to Super Bowl XLIII in the desert. Give him a competent QB and he will produce at a high level.
3. - Jay Gruden, Bengals offensive coordinator - Most of the innovation in offensive football is going on outside the NFL in places like college, the Arena Football League and Canada. Jay Gruden, the younger brother of Jon, spent over 10 years in the AFL and was a part of six ArenaBowl champions while devising ways to create space and teaching QBs about decision-making and the importance of accuracy. He arrived in Cincinnati at the same time as Andy Dalton and the Bengals have made the postseason three consecutive times for the first time in franchise history.
4. - Mike Zimmer, Bengals defensive coordinator - Zimmer has spent the previous 14 years as a defensive coordinator in Dallas, Atlanta and Cincinnati, putting together some impressive units along the way. Universally regarded as head-coaching material, Zimmer is hurt by just how quickly the NFL has morphed into an offensive league and the fact that most franchises looking for new coaches want offensive-minded guys.
5. - Darrell Bevell, Seahawks offensive coordinator - Bevell's first job as an offensive coordinator in the NFL came in Minnesota as Brad Childress' yes man, hardly a resume builder. But, he's turned it around in the Emerald City by building the Seattle offense around the unique skills of Russell Wilson, who is 15-1 at home as the starter in his first two NFL seasons.
6. - Jack Del Rio, Broncos defensive coordinator - Del Rio won 68 games during eight-plus years in Jacksonville, including two playoff appearances, a resume only bolstered by that franchise's drastic decline since he left. Denver is obviously about offense but Del Rio has done a nice job cobbling together a unit besieged by injuries. If the Broncos are able to complete a Super Bowl run without Von Miller, that would be another feather in Del Rio's cap.
7. - Vic Fangio, 49ers defensive coordinator - Fangio spent 25 years in the NFL before jumping to Stanford with Harbaugh in 2010 and then following him back to the league with the Niners. The veteran coach took over a nondescript group and has turned San Fran into a top five defense in all three of his years in the Bay Area. He's also hurt, however, by the bias toward defensive guys and the fact he's never been a head coach at any level despite being 55.
8. - Lovie Smith, ex-Chicago Bears coach - Smith sat out the 2013 season after being fired in Chicago, but he had a more than solid 81-63 record in the Second City, along with three playoff appearances. A former secondary coach in Tampa Bay under Tony Dungy, Smith is believed to be the frontrunner for the Bucs job but the landscape is changing rapidly and Lovie's "Tampa-2" default setting looks more outdated by the day.
9. - Adam Gase, Broncos offensive coordinator - Gase is the hot young candidate, portrayed as the 35-year-old wunderkind of Denver's record-setting offense. Gase has already postponed a potential interview with the Cleveland Browns until the Broncos season is over, a tact indicating he's either buying his own hype, understands he is not ready for an NFL coaching job, or simply doesn't want any part of the Cleveland gig. Whatever the answer is, buyer beware here. Gase has only been in charge of Denver's offense for one year and the real leader and lynchpin of that unit is Peyton Manning. That kind of QB situation isn't going to be duplicated elsewhere.
10. - Todd Bowles, Cardinals defensive coordinator - Expect Bowles to be this year's "Rooney Rule Flavor of the Week." A former interim head coach in Miami after the Dolphins jettisoned Tony Sparano back 2011, Bowles' reputation rebounded in the desert this year as Bruce Arian's defensive coordinator after a disastrous stint as the DC in Philadelphia. You need to be aggressive to be successful in today's NFL and Bowles has shown the willingness to do that with superior talent in Arizona .
11. - Dan Quinn, Seahawks defensive coordinator - Seattle is the Super Bowl favorite on the NFC side and possess a talented, attacking defense with the best secondary in the game. That said, Quinn is similar to Gase in that he's had one year at the helm of a defense Gus Bradley built. Meanwhile, if he does move on, he's not taking the Seahawks' defensive backfield with him.
12. - Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator - McDaniels was an abject disaster in his first stint as a head coach in Denver, brining a Schiano-like megalomaniac personality to the Rockies that set the franchise back years. Just because the my-way-or-the-highway approach works for Bill Belichick doesn't mean it is going to work for his acolytes like Schiano and McDaniels. The hope for those who like McDaniels -- like Cleveland GM Mike Lombardi -- is that he has matured and learned from his mistakes in Denver. That's too big a risk, however.
13. - Harold Goodwin, Cardinals offensive coordinator - Here's where the Rooney Rule does actually help. Goodwin isn't getting a head coaching job this time around but he's a good young coach who could significantly up his profile by taking a number of interviews.
THE COLLEGE GUYS:
1. - David Shaw, Stanford - Shaw says he has no interest in the NFL but his father spent 15 years in the league as an assistant and paved the way for David's stints as an assistant with Philadelphia, Oakland and Baltimore from 1997 through 2005. Since then Shaw has focused on the college game, being elevated to Stanford head coach after Harbaugh left for the 49ers. Shaw is 34-6 with trips to the Fiesta and two Rose Bowls and en route to his third straight top-10 finish. At some point NFL people believe he will go looking for the next challenge.
2. - Bill O'Brien, Penn State - O'Brien is well-regarded for holding Penn State together in the shadow of the Jerry Sandusky-scandal but his NFL suitors are more enamored by his stint in New England as the play-caller for Belichick after McDaniels left. He's almost a lock to be hired by Houston.
3. - James Franklin, Vanderbilt - A former college quarterback at Division II East Stroudsburg University, the 42-year-old Franklin has opened plenty of eyes as the offensive coordinator at the University of Maryland and head coach at Vanderbilt, where he has amassed a 23-15 overall mark and 11-13 conference mark in the SEC, college football's toughest landscape. He has also led Vanderbilt to a bowl game in each of his first three seasons at the controls, quite the accomplishment at a school which had never participated in a bowl in consecutive seasons before Franklin arrived. He also had a cup of coffee in the NFL back in 2005 when he was the Packers' receivers coach.
4. - Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M - Sumlin recently signed an extension through 2019 but you know what those are worth at the college level. A number of NFL teams are enamored with his offensive schemes and if targeted, Sumlin will listen.
5. - Art Briles, Baylor - Briles would only be in play for one spot and that's the Redskins because of his history with Robert Griffin III at Baylor. Briles certainly knows how to use RG3 and the 'Skins have so much invested into the embattled quarterback, bringing in a coach he is comfortable around has to be explored. That said, Briles is probably more interested in the University of Texas job than jumping to the pros.
12/31 14:53:23 ET