With seemingly everyone on staff here at BRB making their pitch as to why Gary Kubiak should get the ax at season's end, it has already gotten the "Who should be the next Coach" debate going. Not that there aren't still the Kubes defenders, but the balance of power seems to have definitely shifted after the facepalmer on Monday Night.
When this argument begins, you immediately hear a lot of the same names that always get thrown out there. And then you hear about a lot of the coordinators, other up-and-comers. and possibly some college coaches. So I wanted to throw some of these names out there and see where BRB nation is leaning if Kubiak does indeed get his walking papers at season's end.
While I think it is still early and anything greater than a 7-9 record saves Gary's job, I still want to get this debate on record and gauge it as the season goes on.
The list of candidates begins after the jump...
First, let me make my rationale of what kind of Coach I would personally want clear. I have been quoted in the past as saying that I want an established guy. Someone who has coached before and has had some success in this league already. I didn't want some "up-and-comer" coordinator who is looking for his first head coaching job. After all, that's what we got in Kubiak and now we're stuck in neutral. But my stance on this has changed.
I can't let the mistakes of a few outweigh the successes of the many. Pretty much all of the coaches in the league were coordinators of some type before they got to where they are today. And also being a Falcons fan and hating the Mike Smith hiring when it happened, well, I've ended up eating a lot of crow on that front, so to count out coordinators as the next Texans head coach would be pretty dumb. I will include some on my short list, definitely.
What I do want is a defensive-minded guy and someone who will demand better performance from his players. A word I get really sick of hearing thrown around by the media is "swagger." I do want a coach who will get up in a player's face and challenge them to be better, not pat them on the back and tell them that they'll get 'em next time. I want someone with attitude and fire. Someone whose idea of discipline isn't to bench a guy for a quarter. A coach who holds his players accountable and makes them play above their natural abilities.
With a lot of these coordinators, it's hard to say if they possess that ability, since none of them have ever led a team. But I do hope that it is taken into consideration if/when the next hunt begins. Let's look at some of the names that have come up for head coaching jobs in the NFL.
The "Established" Guys
Bill Cowher - This one seems to always be the first words out of everyone's mouth when talking about a possible Kubes replacement. It is easy to understand why. He has that attitude and fire I mentioned earlier. He also has a winning pedigree, and the team he built in Pittsburgh won another title right after he retired. He likes to run the ball and is a defensive-minded guy. But what the average Joe football fan doesn't realize about Cowher is that a great deal of his success was shared with his defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. LeBeau is considered one of the greatest defensive coordinators ever and he is quite happy in Pittsburgh. So a potential reunion for them in Houston is unlikely. If they came as a pair, I'd personally be all over it. Cowher alone, I'm not so sure. He is a 3-4 guy and that would mean a couple more years of getting the talent needed to run that system. The last thing Bob McNair is going to be able to sell to the fans of Houston is to give the team more time to rebuild and retool. I would put the chances of this one at 25%, and that's being generous.
Jon Gruden - I won't lie. I would like to have Jon Gruden here. I think he would fit well with this system and wouldn't require too much of a change as far as personnel goes. I know plenty here don't like him because of the way he fellates Peyton Manning and Vince Young on Monday Night Football. Still, his skills as an NFL head coach shouldn't be ignored. He was the last guy to make the Oakland Raiders actually respectable and he won a title with Tampa Bay (which I know Tony Dungy gets the credit for building). He's a big defensive guy and has no problems getting in a guy's face and telling him that he expects more out of them. I would be pretty happy with the guy here, but like I told the others, I don't want him bad enough to start campaigning for him like I did for Rick Adelman or anything when the Rockets booted Jeff Van Gundy. If he had interest in returning to the sidelines, surely he would be on the Texans' radar. I would put the chances of Gruden at 60%. It would be more if we knew for sure that he was interested in returning to coaching.
Marty Schottenheimer - Again, no idea if this guy is even interested in returning to the NFL, and at 67, you have to wonder how much he has left in the tank. The bottom line is that he has gotten results wherever he has coached before. Sure, he gets criticized for never being able to win big in the playoffs, but he consistently gets his teams there. I think the chances of this one are pretty low since I don't even hear his name come up much anymore. Like 15% low.
John Fox - No one knows if he is going to get fired in Carolina this year, but it is expected. He has held that post since 2002 and has gotten to a Super Bowl with Jake Freakin' Delhomme at quarterback. I have to think that if he hits the market this offseason that he will have no problem finding another job, so the competition for him may be steep. With Carolina the current favorite to land Cowher this offseason since that is where he currently resides, Fox should be available. I wouldn't mind this hire and I'm sure Bob wouldn't either. But he won't come without a fight. I put this one at 50% due to the demand he'll likely be in.
Brian Billick - No, thank you. 0%.
The "Up & Comers"
Leslie Frazier - For the past couple of offseasons, this guy has been a hot name to get a head coaching job, but he has remained the defensive coordinator with the Vikings. No one is sure if he is just hanging on and hoping to take the job in Minnesota after Childress is inevitably fired at year's end or if he just didn't see any other head coaching jobs he liked. He fits the defensive-minded category that I'd like, but with the personnel on the Vikings' defense, I have to wonder how much of it is him and how much of it is the "Leo Mazzone Effect" (taking credit for being a great pitching coach when you had Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz in their prime). I think it is a foregone conclusion he gets the reigns in Minnesota after "Chili" gets the boot. I put the chances at 1%, because nothing is ever 100% certain.
Sean McDermott - This is the one name that Rivers, Matt and myself seem to agree wholeheartedly on. He has been with the Eagles since 1998 and has worked his way up from a scouting director to the defensive coordinator last season. He definitely fits the defensive mold I'm looking for and is a young guy at just 36. One of the great things about his defensive scheme is that he actually runs blitz packages, something that makes Texans fans drool. He will likely draw some interest from others this offseason, but I think if Houston wants him, they could get him, as he is still kind of flying under the radar as the next "sexy pick" for a head coaching job. Kind of like Mike Smith did. I put the chances at 75% if Bob is interested in him.
Brian Schottenheimer - The son of Marty has made quite a name for himself as the Jets offensive coordinator. What he has been able to do with a hack like Mark Sanchez shouldn't be overlooked, and he was a pretty big part in Drew Brees' development while in San Diego. I think he may be a year or two away from being head coach material. 10% chance.
Mike Mularkey - This is just me listing a guy I know from watching the Falcons. He was the head coach for a couple of years with the Bills and has been the offensive coordinator for Atlanta since 2008. I like him and thought he had a crap team when he took the job in Buffalo (imagine that...Buffalo crappy? He did lead them to a 9-7 record one year) and he deserves another shot. He likes to run the ball a lot and is pretty good with quarterbacks. Still, I think he won't garner much interest after the Buffalo disaster, in which he resigned after getting into it with management. 5% chance.
Mike Zimmer - What Zimmer has done with the Bengals defense should say all you need to know about him. He has done an amazing job with what he was given. Being on "Hard Knocks" with the Bengals raised his visibility around the league, believe it or not. Great defensive guy that should be worth an interview, but maybe not ready to don the lead headset yet. 10% chance.
There are plenty of other names out there, like Todd Bowles (Miami), Pat Shurmur (St. Louis), Kevin Gilbride (New York Giants), Mike Nolan (Denver), Mike Heimerdinger (Tennessee), Ron Rivera (San Diego) and Peter Carmichael, Jr. (New Orleans). And the list is sure to grow as the season progresses.
After the waves Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino made in their short stints in the NFL, most owners are hesitant to hire anyone from the college ranks. Can you blame them? Still, many names come up like Brian Kelly (Cincinnati), Kirk Ferentz (Iowa) and Jim Harbaugh (Stanford), as well as the usual suspects like Urban Meyer (Florida) and Bob Stoops (Oklahoma). I just don't see it happening here. If any of them had a shot, and I mean a real outside shot, it would maybe be Harbaugh. I just have to believe after 9 years, Bob McNair will want to do whatever he can to get a guy who is going to get results fast, and a college coach is unlikely to do that.
There you have it, guys. That is the short list of most of the names being kicked around out there. Have someone in mind that I missed (I'm sure Night Owl will bring up Herm Edwards)? Really like one of the guys listed? Get your name on it now in the comments below and look back at the start of the 2011 season and laugh...or cry.