Power Ranking the Best Potentially Available Head Coaches for 2013

Marc Lillibridge@NFL_BridgeContributor INovember 21, 2012

Power Ranking the Best Potentially Available Head Coaches for 2013

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    Every year about this time, disgruntled fans beg for changes in their underperforming NFL franchises.  The proverbial “hot seat” is placed under any head coach or general manager whose team is not living up to expectations. 

    While most fans and media alike are quick to give the hook to the current coach, the next man up is not always the best answer.  Everyone is always under the impression the franchise will have a drastic turnaround right away with the “right” head coach in place.

    Remember when Coach Steve Spurrier was just what the Washington Redskins needed?  Dave Campo will bring the “Cowboy” way back!  Nick Saban is the kind of coach that will make Coach Shula proud and will lead the Dolphins to the Super Bowl.

    Finding the right mix is a matter of organizational structure and having the right players in place. The new head coach must find the perfect balance between being a teacher and an authoritarian. Great head coaches can come from anywhere. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was a special-teams coordinator. Did anybody in Atlanta even know who Mike Smith was when he was tabbed as the head man? 

    The “sexy” or “flashy” hire is not always the best move.  Sometimes the decisions work, sometimes not.  But with millions of dollars on the line, careers and legacies in flux and whole cities counting on their teams’ return to glory, hiring the next head coach is not a decision that can be taken lightly.

    Here is a list of 15 candidates that will get interviews with NFL teams looking for head coaches this offseason.  Some of the names are retreads, while others are hot new up-and-comers who are looking for a chance to be the “next big thing.”

#15 Bo Pelini, Nebraska Cornhuskers Head Coach

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    Pelini has won nine or more games in each of his first five seasons as head coach at Nebraska. Pelini has the Cornhuskers ranked 14th in the current BCS poll and has a chance to win the Big Ten title.

    With the success of first-year head coach Greg Schiano in Tampa, many general managers and owners will be looking for a hard-core disciplinarian to guide their team, and Pelini fits that bill. Pelini has had success at Oklahoma and LSU as a defensive coordinator and was a nine year assistant in the NFL.

#14 Tom Clements, Green Bay Packers Offensive Coordinator

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    The Packers' offensive coordinator last season, Joe Philbin, parlayed the success of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense into a head-coaching gig with the Miami Dolphins. Clements has the Packers' offense in stride at the right time and has a chance to equal last year’s offensive output while missing star wide receiver Greg Jennings.

    Clements is a mild-mannered coach who is an outstanding teacher. Clements has his law degree and actually practiced law before becoming a coach. Clements has coached in the NFL since 1997 and served as the Buffalo Bills' offensive coordinator for two seasons.

#13 Vic Fangio, San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator

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    Fangio is in his 26th year of coaching in the NFL, and has coached some of the best defensive players to ever play the game.  From Justin Smith to Ray Lewis to Rickey Jackson, Fangio knows how to coach good defenses.

    The 49ers finished with one of the best defenses in the NFL in 2011, and are on pace to have a top-three defense in 2012. In 2010, at Stanford, Fangio was voted Defensive Coordinator of the Year. Fangio is 54, but relates very well with the younger generation.

#12 Ken Norton, Seattle Seahawks Linebackers Coach

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    Norton, a three-time Super Bowl champion as a player, is in his third year as linebackers coach for the Seahawks. Norton coached many future NFL players during his tenure at USC, and has helped Seattle gain the ranking of the third-best defense in the NFL.

    Norton is known as a great teacher and motivator. Players that Norton coaches or has coached love him and speak very highly of his coaching style. Norton worked in the media before becoming a coach. The only drawback for Norton is that he has never held the title of coordinator at any level.

#11 Dave Toub, Chicago Bears Special Teams Coordinator

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    Toub is the best special-teams coach in the NFL right now. Using the success that Ravens coach John Harbaugh has had jumping from special-teams coordinator to head coach, Toub will be considered for head-coaching jobs too.

    Toub has been an NFL coach since 2001, and since joining the Bears in 2004, Toub has had one of the best special-teams units in the NFL each season. Toub has NFL experience as a player and coached at Missouri for 12 seasons before being hired in the NFL. Many coaches will say that a special-teams coach is the only one who has to deal with every player on the roster on a daily basis and has a great pulse of the team. 

    Toub interviewed last year for the Miami Dolphins head-coaching  job. Look for Toub to get more looks after the 2012 season.

#10 Mike Holmgren, Cleveland Browns President

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    Holmgren has expressed the desire to coach again after a tough tenure in Cleveland’s front office.  Holmgren is a Super Bowl champion with the Packers and led the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl as well.

    Holmgren has the respect of the entire NFL community, but as a head coach. Holmgren would have to be a perfect fit for the right franchise. Once a hot commodity in coaching circles, Holmgren’s need for personnel power will turn off more than a few teams. 

    Holmgren’s time in Cleveland seems to have taken some of the shine off his luster, and though his name will be bantered around, there are hotter coaching candidates.

#9 Ray Horton, Arizona Cardinals Defensive Coordinator

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    The Cardinals are not a very good offensive football team. But Horton has the defense playing at an extremely high level. The Cardinals rank ninth in total defense in the NFL.

    The defensive players play hard for Horton and respect him a great deal. An NFL cornerback for 10 seasons, Horton understands how to speak to players and yet push them to be their best. Horton has two Super Bowl rings as an assistant coach and one as a player, so the man knows how to win.  Look for Horton to interview for a couple of open positions.

#8 David Shaw, Stanford Cardinal Head Coach

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    Shaw has Stanford ranked eighth in the BCS. The Cardinal is also coming off a huge win over Oregon. Shaw led the Cardinal to a BCS bowl game in 2011, his first year as head coach. Shaw runs a pro-style offense and helped groom quarterback Andrew Luck into the overall first pick in the 2012 NFL draft.

    Shaw has nine years of NFL coaching experience, having worked for the Eagles, Raiders and Ravens as an assistant. Shaw has worked with quarterbacks and wide receivers at the NFL level and could bring a youthful, yet strong personality to an NFL team. 

    College coaches always have to be concerned about interviewing for a NFL job due to recruiting issues. Shaw’s name may not be in the media, but have no doubt, Shaw will be requested to interview for a NFL head-coaching job in 2013.

#7 Mike McCoy, Denver Broncos Offensive Coordinator

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    Anybody that can get Tim Tebow to play his best at quarterback deserves a head-coaching job due to that fact alone. All kidding aside, McCoy not only helped Tebow lead the Broncos to the playoffs last year, but completely rebuilt his offense around Peyton Manning this year. The results speak for themselves.

    The former NFL quarterback has worked wonders with every NFL offense he has coached in his 12-year NFL coaching career. McCoy interviewed for the Dolphins' and Raiders' head-coaching jobs in January because of those successes.

    With the success of the Broncos' offense this season, look for McCoy to be a head coach in the NFL in 2013.

#6 Bill Cowher, Free Agent

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    Cowher’s name appears on these power rankings every year, and yet every year, the “Chin” ends up back in studio at CBS. With a possibility of at least seven NFL head-coaching jobs open in 2013, look for this to be the year Cowher jumps back into coaching.

    Cowher can be selective in choosing his spot, but with coaching ties in Cleveland and Kansas City, rumors will swirl about Cowher working for those two organizations. Cowher recently purchased a home in New York City, causing speculation that he is eyeing the Jets' job if Rex Ryan should be let go.

    With 31 years of NFL coaching experience and a Super Bowl ring as a head coach, Cowher can call the shots, but opportunities will begin to dwindle if Cowher does not get back on the sideline in 2013.

#5 Brian Kelly, Notre Dame Head Coach

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    Kelly has the Fighting Irish No.1 in the BCS for the first time in school history. Kelly has singlehandedly restored one of the most prestigious programs.

    If Kelly leads the Irish to a national championship, his star cannot get brighter. Though Kelly has only been at the school for three seasons, he has already turned the program into a consistent winner.

    Kelly has been successful at every level of coaching, from Grand Valley State to Central Michigan to Cincinnati. Kelly’s popularity across the country is at an all-time high and NFL owners love hiring winners.

#4 Bruce Arians, Indianapolis Colts Interim Head Coach

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    No NFL assistant coach is hotter right now than Arians. Not only is the 20-year NFL coaching veteran helping lead the upstart Colts to a possible playoff berth, but Arians is doing so as offensive coordinator and interim head coach.

    The most incredible part of the story is that Arians had zero idea when taking the Colts job that he would be put in position to lead the team. But when head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with cancer, Arians took over, and the team did not miss a beat.

    Arians has two Super Bowl rings as an assistant coach and has mentored the likes of Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and now Luck.  Arians will be a head coach in 2013.

#3 Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach

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    Reid has to get let go of his current position to interview for other teams, but with each Eagles loss, that looks more and more likely to happen. That Reid’s name is so high on this list is a perfect example of the phrase “one man’s trash is another’s treasure.”

    Reid is a very good football coach. He led the Eagles to five NFC title games and is very well respected in the NFL. Reid has been with the Eagles since 1999, and a change will be good for both the coach and the team.

    Reid is a good talent evaluator, and a fresh start should revitalize the 20-year NFL coach.  Look for Reid to be coaching in the NFL in 2013 but wearing a different logo on his shirt. 

#2 Chip Kelly, Oregon Ducks Head Coach

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    Kelly was the first choice for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year out of the college ranks, but got cold feet at the last minute. That will not happen again in 2013. Kelly is an offensive genius, and will bring his creative offense to the NFL.

    How that offense translates to the NFL stage will be very interesting to see, but at every level Kelly has coached, he has shown the ability to adapt for success.

    The only knock on Kelly is his lack of NFL experience of any kind. Kelly will be coaching in the NFL next season, but is a boom or bust candidate. He could very easily follow in the steps of Butch Davis, Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier in their attempts to jump from college to the pros and fail.

#1 Jon Gruden, Free Agent

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    The former Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach is always in the conversation when hiring a new head coach comes up. The current "Monday Night Football" voice is already rumored to be in the mix for college gigs like Tennessee and Arkansas. 

    All the college rumors will do is force NFL owners to look harder at Gruden as a potential candidate for their franchise. Gruden has a Super Bowl pedigree, is passionate about football and players love him.

    While many people believe that Gruden will want complete control of personnel moves, associates close to Gruden say that he has accepted the fact that full control of an NFL team is not vogue any longer. Gruden will have his choice of quite a few coaching jobs.  If he takes them or not is another matter.