With an almost unprecedented seven NFL coaches fired on ‘Black Monday’, and two more HC’s twisting in the wind, the NFL coaching carousel is about to swirl like never before.
The two most prominent names mentioned by virtually everyone have been Oregon HC Chip Kelly and Jon Gruden. But how realistic are they as NFL candidates this year?
Chip Kelly and Jon Gruden
Kelly in particular is at his peak of marketability. In four seasons in the Pac-12 he has gone 45-7 and a remarkable 33-3 in conference play.
It’s possible that one or even both may surface on an NFL sideline in 2013, but I wouldn’t be surprised if both stay where they are currently.
For one, it will take an NFL franchise a ton of cash to lure either, and outside of the Philadelphia Eagles, there are not many big cash franchises (Cowboys/Patriots/Redskins) in the coaching market.
Gruden is making plenty with his ESPN gig and other ventures, while any contract offer made to Kelly can be matched by the vault over at Nike University in Eugene.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gruden never to return to the sidelines. John Madden was being rumored for NFL jobs long after he went to the broadcast booth, but he never left.
Here are my three prime candidates for NFL head coaching positions who I actually see getting and potentially accepting offers in the coming weeks.
One is a coach who was claiming to stay put in the college game just a month ago; one is indeed a Gruden; and the other also hails from big-time NFL coaching royalty.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill O’Brien blurted out that cuss word on purpose after Penn State’s season finale. That was so the ESPN reporter wouldn’t get around to the would-be follow-up question asking if he had already coached his last game in State College.
During the following week O’Brien got on sports-talk radio announcing every intention of staying long-term at Penn State. That was something a coach in his position had to say publicly so he could get a jump-start on recruiting with the Nittany Lions ineligible for post-season play.
Of course, Gary Andersen publicly maintained his intentions of staying at Utah State for life, until the Wisconsin job became available.
Likewise, 8-9 NFL coaching changes is more than enough for O’Brien to wander his eyes back to the pro game.
But will it get better for Coach O’Brien than he has it in Happy Valley right now? The answer…probably not.
He took over a program under near-impossible circumstances in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. It even got to the point that there was serious talk about the NCAA shutting down the Penn State program.
With that backdrop, O’Brien incredibly coached his team to an 8-4 record and was arguably the second-best team in the Big Ten. More importantly, O’Brien changed the culture of the program, going with a far more up-tempo offense than the outdated Joe Paterno outfits had become.
But the cold reality is that Penn State faces three more long years of probation.
Also, O’Brien had the advantage of coaching players recruited by the previous PSU regime. Recruiting was a tough enough sell with the unprecedented Sandusky scandal going on. It might be even tougher this year with the sanctions now a done deal and recruits knowing that the current coach is hot NFL property.
If the on-field product slips, O’Brien’s stock then starts to drop. And then no, Bill O’Brien will not be a lifer in Happy Valley.
I put Coach Bill’s chances at taking a NFL HC position at least at 80%, and I have the Eagles and Bears as his two most likely destinations.
Jon Gruden’s younger brother is an Arena Football legend. As a quarterback his teams won four championships, and he won two more titles as a head coach. During that time he also served seven years on his brother’s NFL staff in Tampa Bay.
Jay Gruden became the Bengals offensive coordinator last year, and his work was considered impressive enough that he got offers to interview from three NFL teams. He reportedly turned down an offer from the Indianapolis Colts, then was given a three-year/$3.6 million extension to stay with the Bengals. It was said at the time that one of the overriding reasons for staying was so his son could play a senior season in high school ball as quarterback in the Cincinnati area.
With the amount of HC opportunities this year, Jay may be more likely to take an offer now. There have been conflicting reports on Philadelphia’s interest of interviewing him.
It will take more than $1.2 million per to keep him in the OC role this time around.
Despite only being 33 years old, Kyle Shanahan has been an offensive coordinator for five seasons now, the last three with the Washington Redskins.
Is that age too young to be a NFL head man? Well, Mike Tomlin and others in recent seasons have proven not. Mike Shanahan was 36 when hired as Los Angeles Raiders head coach, a stint that did not go well as he infamously clashed with Al Davis. By the time the elder Shanahan resurfaced nearly a decade later, he was a much more finished product.
Any real talk at head coaching destinations for Kyle Shanahan will wait until the Redskins current playoff run ends. His father will not let any other teams contact him until then.
With Robert Griffin III at quarterback this season, Kyle implemented the Pistol formation (started at the University of Nevada a few years back and perfected by QB Colin Kaepernick) along with other triple-option type looks.
Kyle made headlines during the replacement ref debacle after getting fined $25,000 after confronting an official following a Week 3 game.
No matter how deep Washington’s post-season run goes, organizations seriously considering Kyle Shanahan will be more than ready to wait.