NFL coaching carousel: Here are the top 13 candidates for coordinator jobs
Chip Kelly is the wild card on a list long on former (or soon-to-be-fired) NFL head coaches
The next few days will be dominated by dissections of head coaching interviews and which candidates will be speaking to which teams first. The regular season is over, many owners are embarking on searches, and change is in the air.
But it takes more than a head coach to change a culture and turn a team around, and the total staff matters most. Never underestimate the importance of top coordinators, especially when there will be far more teams shaking up their staffs than just those pursuing a new head coach. The rebuilding process for many franchises looking for new head coaches is going to be long. They are blowing up their buildings again for a reason, and it's going to take time. But adding the right coordinator or two, for a contending team, can be the difference between making or missing the playoffs.
The good news is that, while teams can block their top position coaches and assistants from interviewing for coordinator jobs, and the process gets bogged down and complicated as a new group of head coaches makes the rounds trying to sell general managers and owners on their prospective staff lists, that's not the only pool from which coordinator-needy teams can choose. There are an abundance of coaches who are already outside the NFL looking to get back in, and several who gambled on themselves and allowed their contracts to expire who can be added right away. And several of them should be.
Here's who's at the top of those lists:
Mike Nolan: The former 49ers coach from 2005-08 has been a top coordinator for years and is well respected and battle tested. He is re-energized by taking this season off and should be in demand.
Mike Pettine: He was let go by the Browns as their head coach a year ago, but had success as an assistant in the Rex Ryan scheme, and he too will get opportunities on that side of the ball.
Wade Phillips: He was leading a Super Bowl defense in Denver a year ago, has an expiring contract and clearly wants to keep coaching. With Denver likely looking for a new head coach, Phillips will be seeing what openings present themselves.
Other names: Defensive assistants Leslie Frazier and Perry Fewell have head coaching experience as well and could be strong additions at the coordinator level. And with the Rams moving on from their coaching staff in the aftermath of Jeff Fisher's firing, Gregg Williams brings abundant experience and had the Rams defense playing at a very high level much of this season. Gus Bradley was a highly thought-of defensive coordinator before his doomed stint as coach of the Jaguars.
Mike McCoy: He will be coveted as a coordinator again now that he's out in San Diego after going 27-37 in four seasons. His work with quarterbacks of all shapes and sizes is well documented.
Norv Turner: He's feeling good and energized after his early-season falling out with the Vikings and is open to opportunities.
Tom Clements: A long-time assistant to Mike McCarthy in Green Bay, he has an expiring contract and should be on many lists.
Greg Olson: He was the scapegoat for Blake Bortles' failures in Jacksonville, getting fired midseason, but he would be primed for a reboot.
Brad Childress: He's a key part of Andy Reid's staff in Kansas City as the co-offensive coordinator, but I can't help but wonder if his longtime friend would let him move on for a lateral move if the opportunity presented itself.
Chip Kelly: He's the person who could frankly do the most to potentially rehab his imagine as a top schemer/play caller, but it's hard to fathom that happening now that he is out in San Francisco. If Kelly really is as sold on the NFL life as he says he is, and having a long career at this level, then running a pro offense that operates like a pro offense would be a great start ... but there will be much more lucrative college opportunities out there for him in 2017, and that's most likely where you'll find him after a long hiatus.
The bottom line is there are plenty of qualified candidates who could be pursued at the coordinator level, ASAP, while other teams are trying to rebuild their entire staffs as part of the head coaching process.
Ravens need to get it right on offense
Outside of the head coaching searches, few decisions will be more important than what the Ravens do at offensive coordinator. It has been a revolving door and a source of concern within the organization. Sunday's brutal offensive outing should spell the end of Marty Morhinweg's brief stint as play caller.
Some in the organization said coach John Harbaugh, sensitive to the fact that he's churned through a lot of offensive coaches already, was struggling with the decision entering the weekend. It's hard to imagine Morhinweg back, though, and the next guy to work with Joe Flacco needs to stick around for more than like 20 games.
Two years ago, for instance, had Kyle Shanahan picked Baltimore over Atlanta, the Ravens still might be looking for another coordinator, with Shanahan a hot head coaching candidate, but they'd also have probably been in the playoffs now. McCoy would be at the top of my list, but he will be an "it" guy. Turner or Clements would make a lot of sense, in terms of older coaches who you don't have to worry about leaving for head coaching gigs, and who could hit it off with Flacco. Regardless, this is right up there with pass rusher, cornerback, receiver and center as some of Baltimore's biggest offseason needs, and this time the guy needs to stick.
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