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Monday Observations: Did offensive coordinators' job chances stall?


By and large, this was not a weekend of offensive wizardry. I don't think I'll get much argument there.

Aaron Rodgers was himself; the Texans, Vikings, Ravens, Bengals and Seahawks were occasionally efficient but hardly explosive; Robert Griffin III had a great start before quickly cooling off (clearly he has been not close to 100 percent since suffering his knee injury last month) and Russell Wilson erased a slow start to regain his Rookie of the Year form. But this was hardly the finest week for many quarterbacks, and more important -- given the widespread coaching searches still gripping this league -- it was a rough weekend for some vaunted offensive coordinators.

As I watched these games, it begged the question: What were some of these owners thinking about some of these coordinators they are about to interview for the vacancies? How much does this shaky weekend cloud their overall vision of these candidates? It's only human nature to perhaps dwell on what you have just seen, and given so much competition for these jobs, I'm certain there are a few guys who would love a do-over.

In fact, the guy who might have benefited most this weekend was poor Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who was deprived of a chance to run his offense Sunday at Baltimore due to a flu/ear infection, robbing him of a chance to coach Andrew Luck in the playoffs after going 9-3 as interim head coach in Chuck Pagano's absence. With so many fellow hot coordinators like Jay Gruden (Bengals) and Rick Dennison (Texans) and Darrell Bevell (Seahawks) also primed to go out on the interview circuit, a weekend of rest and IVs in the hospital certainly didn't hurt Arians' cause.

It was hard to watch the Texans and Bengals attempt to throw the football in the first game on Saturday. Andy Dalton looked tentative and shaky and could not make a play on third down literally all game. They could not find a way to get A.J. Green involved at all, despite his size, speed and prowess, and the Texans weren't much better, with Matt Schaub again not sharp, throwing a pick-six that could have cost them the game and only Houston's superior running game bailing them out.

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The nightcap on Sunday might have been the final strike against Vikings coordinator Bill Musgrave, who was already under fire for a limited passing attack despite getting a 2,000-yard season out of Adrian Peterson. Losing starting quarterback Christian Ponder was a big blow, no doubt, but Joe Webb was a disaster, regressing by the series, after having come up big in spot starting duty in the past. I can't help but wonder if recently fired Browns head coach Pat Shurmur doesn't end up in Minnesota this offseason.

On Sunday, Seattle coordinators Bevell and Gus Bradley (defense) got off to awful starts. Seattle could not buy a first down while the Redskins built a quick 14-0 lead, and neither unit looked nearly as prepared to play as they have all season long.

Bevell's conservative play calling drew the ire of some. Washington coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and his father Mike, have been criticized for their handling of Robert Griffin III's knee and some thought they should have gone to backup Kirk Cousins on Sunday with Griffin wounded.

Make no mistake, in my estimation these are all very worthy candidates who have built up solid credentials for years on end and have earned the right to be considered for these openings ... but, this can't be what they wanted to put on film with the entire league watching and, more to the point, their next perspective owner watching.

Gruden has received requests thus far to interview in Arizona and Philadelphia. Bradley will interview with the Eagles, too -- and everything with the Eagles search is heightened after watching Andy Reid promptly snatched up and given complete control of the Chiefs after 14 years in Philly, and then the subsequent Chip Kelly chase. Daunting task enough trying to replace Reid, and now you do so knowing that several of the top options from college are already gone (assuming Kelly doesn't change his mind again after reportedly choosing to stay at Oregon).

Bevell is one of about a dozen coaches, or more, who will interview with the Bears, and with Chicago wanting an offensive coach and such stiff competition from guys like Denver's Mike McCoy, any slipup can hurt.

I asked someone recently involved in a coaching search if a stinker in the playoffs can end up working against a candidate. His response: "It shouldn't be too much of a factor, but, I mean, it certainly doesn't help."

You obviously have to weigh the totality of the man's experience. In Gruden's case, you have coaching lineage, someone who grew up in coaching whose brother, Jon, won a Super Bowl and who has been a part of his staffs. Gruden clearly has done some good work with the Bengals, given Dalton's limitations, reaching the playoffs in back-to-back years, and he already knows the organizational details and minutia required to run his own operation from his time as a head coach in the Arena League. (And trust me, coaches there are a one-man army making personnel decisions, dealing with agents, involved in all aspects of the organization. You can't tell me John Elway's time as an owner in that league didn't at least offer some form of preparation for what he is doing now running the Broncos.)

Dennison, who will interview with Chicago, has been a long-standing student in the Mike Shanahan branch of the West Coast offense. He knows Chicago's quarterback, Jay Cutler, and the system in which he has best thrived in his rocky career. So it makes sense they talk to him, if to pick his brain on how to get Cutler more consistent, if nothing else. And Bevell, after a rough start in the first quarter, had Russell Wilson humming along in the second quarter and got the run game cranked up as the game went on.

This was anything but a total loss for most of these guys.

But this was a weekend in which quarterbacking was set back some (this is supposed to be the best of the best here, right?). And, rightly or wrongly, some of that blame is going to fall on the men who call the plays for them.

As for Arians, he is expected to be released from the hospital on Monday and then free to travel wherever his coaching itinerary will take him. The Eagles and Bears already scheduled interviews and the Chargers and Browns surely will do the same (I still think he may be the guy in San Diego).

And, with Andrew Luck looking game enough under difficult conditions, and plagued by some key drops, it was easy to see even in defeat that Indianapolis is well poised to do big things in the future. Not a bad fallback plan for Arians if the head coaching thing doesn't work out.

Extra points

 Ken Whisenhunt was pretty deep into talks with the Bills when they went all in on Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, eventually agreeing to terms with the college coach on Saturday night. The Bills had reached a point where they were talking about offsets, and some pretty far-along contract language, according to league sources. One thing the Bills made clear to candidates in the coaching search is that owner Ralph Wilson, who isn't getting any younger, is very committed to spending to secure talent and try to build a winner, and they are open to change at the quarterback position.

 With the Browns apparently out of the Kelly sweepstakes, they now have some big decisions to make. If you hire Kelly, then you know he is going to demand a ton of power and the general manager is going to end up effectively working for him. They have begun their general manager search, however, with strong talent evaluators in Tom Gamble (49ers) and George Paton (Vikings), and in whatever move they make now in terms of a head coach, it could be quite possible that the football operations staff ends up wielding significant power and the coach more of a ... well, coach. Whisenhunt, who knows the AFC North well from his time in Pittsburgh, had a strong interview with the Browns, and the team had been looking primarily at offensive-minded head coaches -- they really need to get that side of the ball fixed with coordinator Dick Jauron doing a great job with the defense -- but at this point, you would think they would be open to all candidates, be they offense, defense or special teams.

 I have mentioned this in the past but continue to hear it -- longtime CFL general manager Jim Popp is getting traction in some of these searches. He has already met with at least one NFL owner, I'm told, and has more things lined up. He could end up surfacing further in the Jets search, and, as he lives in Charlotte, N.C. (he's an American who resides in Montreal during the season but North Carolina in the offseason), and is a Panthers season-ticket holder, it's only natural owner Jerry Richardson might want to talk to him, too, with that search taking off this week. Popp was runner-up to Ryan Grigson for the Colts GM gig a year ago.

 I continue to hear that if Atlanta's Dave Caldwell gets the Jaguars GM job that head coach Mike Mularkey would almost certainly be out (actually, I am not sure any of the candidates there did not recommend a change) and that 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman would be a top candidate there. Also keep hearing Bill Polian's son, Chris, ends up with a personnel director job there. Will be interesting to see if Jags keep defensive coordinator Mel Tucker (who is free to talk to other clubs but must still be granted permission to actually interview for a coordinator position). Tucker was the runner-up to Mularkey a year ago and received a nice boost in his contract from owner Shahid Khan, who was a big supporter of Tucker's. Reid has his eye on him in Kansas City from what I hear, among others.

Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday during the season on The NFL Today.

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