First, I wanted to say Brett did a Hell of a job in his letter to Kubiak. A pretty good coach and a great man.
To me, I think Kubiak's greatest downfall was still a trait I admire: his loyalty. It bit him in the ass plenty of times, most notably with Defensive Coordinators and Schaub, but it's one I greatly respect and is much closer to the mentality I want for the teams I love. It leads to Biggio, Bagwell, Andre being lifers and hopefully leads to JJ Watt being the same.
It led to Kubiak staying too long in many people's eyes, but those are 2 years I wouldn't give back for anything save a Super Bowl.
To Coach Kubes: may your hair stay the flattest of tops, your battlefightin' be eternal, your bootlegs be clean, and for once, may someone else take some of the blame as "on them." It wasn't just you coach, but I admire the sentiment even if others didn't.
My short list in order: Sumlin (I think his recent contract was more in reaction to USC than pros), Jon Gruden, David Shaw, Greg Roman, Ray Horton, Todd Bowles.
The NFL is evolving. Watch the NFL Network Football Life about "The Forward Pass." The reason three yards and a cloud of dust football was ever seen as the best way to win was because the game was born from rugby and the "right" way was in the trenches. Most (almost every) coach punts too often and fan perception is often "you have to take the three points" and other such tomfoolery because the game was born from rugby and kicking was a major aspect.
But, the rules, the trends, the analytics all point to passing being WAY more efficient than running the ball. I'm not necessarily saying I want to be the most pass happy team in the NFL or underutilize Arian if he comes back healthy.
What I am saying is I want an innovator, preferably offensive. I want someone unafraid to meld the college and pro concepts, who's willing to push the envelope offensively like Jim Harbaugh/Greg Roman, the Patriots, the Seahawks, the Saints, the Redskins, the Eagles. Someone like Gary Kubiak sometimes was and could've become had he ever let it loose. I don't think it was conservatism with Kubiak as much as doubt--obviously not a good quality for a coach. But, make no mistake, he was a tremendous offensive mind. I don't buy for a second the recent narrative he had a predictable offense that defenses figured out--his QBs made his O predictable because of their limitations (again, on him, let's just be smart with the narrative).
You notice a lot of read option and running teams on my list and it's not that I want the read option, it's that I want creativity and our coach to think outside the box and evolve with the game, or even better yet drag it forward in its evolution. I want someone who doesn't fear analytics but embraces them as another tool. If it's going to be a DC, I want the most creative damn DC in stopping this evolving trend. I DO NOT want Bill Cowher. I DO NOT want Lovie Smith (aka the Gary Kubiak of defense). They were at their best stopping old school running football. Or at least a very different passing game.
Gruden seems to still be very plugged into the x's and o's and college concepts being melded into the league. Sumlin and Shaw are two at the forefront pushing that envelope in college. Greg Roman is doing it for the 49ers. Ray Horton and Todd Bowles are absolutely at the forefront of attacking these O's in creative ways.
Lance Zierlein pegged Penn St head coach (and Belichick disciple) Bill O’Brien as a great candidate. I don’t know as much about him, so I’ll defer. Hue Jackson also might be an option. His failures in Oakland might have had more to do with the stank of Al Davis. As long as he has no control of personnel, which wouldn’t be an issue.
Alas, then Bob McNair's press conference. He wants someone with head coaching experience and some sort of pro experience. That knocks out everyone on my list other than Gruden and Shaw (who had 9 years experience as NFL assistant). I find Shaw very unlikely (too outside the box for McNair and I don't think he'd consider college ranks unless he had liked the "name" of Sumlin. Also, it appears Shaw isn’t very interested in the NFL). So, my eggs are really all in the Gruden basket right now--unless McNair changes his parameters.
What I don't get is why? Why would McNair limit his search so much by getting rid of the best of the college ranks and the brightest waiting in the wings of the NFL? Why say that in the press conference and handcuff yourself? Good googly, I hope that doesn't mean he's looking for a retread, aka failed NFL coach just for name value. Because, the options are basically either past Super Bowl winners now out of touch, Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, Lovie Smith, Ken Whisenhunt, Norv Turner, Josh McDaniels, Wade Phillips? Marty Schottenheimer? Am I missing any? Do any at the end list excite you?
My only guess is this: Bob McNair has a VERY short list of 1-3 candidates, who he has either heard from their people or has some intel that they would be interested. Gruden, Lovie Smith, Wade Phillips? He knows who he wants and feels confident he will get him--elsewise why be so specific to the press? It reminds me a lot of when they hired Wade as DC--they knew all along who they were hiring.
So, I would expect them to hire the guy one to two days after their last game--if not sooner. Yeah, I could see them making their hiring announcement before the season ends and bringing him in to observe like Dan Reeves did. Unless (knock on wood), Gruden has to finish the MNF season. Are there playoff MNF games? Either way, it will be quick.