NFL Black Monday: Coaching Candidates Who Should Be on Every Team's Short List

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIDecember 31, 2012

How could teams not give Bruce Arians a call after the job he did with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012?
How could teams not give Bruce Arians a call after the job he did with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012?Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Black Monday began with the firing of Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur, and there are several other dismissals expected to take place by nightfall. Those who are in the market for a new leading man to turn around their franchise should all have several of the same names on their wish list.

More than ever, the NFL is about quarterback play and offense, and there are some intriguing candidates whose brilliance on that side of the ball can provide fixes for such dire situations.

Here is a breakdown of the four candidates who should be prohibitive favorites to land gigs very soon.


Jon Gruden

Not much more needs to be said about Gruden's track record than his Super Bowl ring.

Mike Freeman of reported on Monday that Gruden would listen to offers once the regular season ended despite his public intimation that he's content with his position at ESPN.

With the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gruden keyed instant turnarounds and competitiveness at each stop. That was especially true in Tampa, where he won a Super Bowl in his first season with the team.

Gruden is a disciple of the West Coast offense and a QB guru, having taken the Brad Johnson-led Bucs to the NFL's promised land.

Who better to take over the reins and immediately turn around a team than the man they call Chucky? There should be no question about Gruden's ability, but recently the trend in the NFL has been to hire younger head coaches.

It's not as if Gruden is ancient at age 49, though, and that shouldn't be a factor that hurts him. There are several ex-head coaches floating around on the market, but Gruden is easily the best choice for an instant franchise fix.


Chip Kelly

It has been reported by the NFL Network's Michael Lombardi that Kelly is the hottest of the college candidates. There is good reason for that.

With his revolutionary, lightning-fast-tempo offense at Oregon, Kelly has already changed the way several NFL teams attack defenses. Several are using elements of his fast-paced attack to keep defenses off balance and prevent them subbing in situational personnel groups.

The juggernaut Kelly has built with the Ducks leaves him without much to prove in the college game aside from winning a national title. The greater challenge for Kelly at this point would be to take his schemes to the NFL.

With the increase in pay and the opportunity to strut his scheme on the big stage, Kelly may not be able to resist making the jump.

Teams should be scrapping for position to hire him. He is a dynamic play-caller and a colorful personality. His style is aggressive and bold, and he is a proven winner. Some coaches don't make the transition from college to the NFL well, but there seems to be a consensus that Kelly can pull it off.

CBS NFL insider Jason La Canfora has reported that the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns are already in hot pursuit of Kelly. Both fired their head coaches on Black Monday.

Expect more reports to this effect as the week progresses, especially after Kelly is done coaching the Ducks in the Fiesta Bowl on January 3.


Bruce Arians

Look no further than the job Arians has done in relief of Chuck Pagano for the Indianapolis Colts. Not only did Arians have to take over head-coaching duties for the first time, but he also had to push the right buttons on a young team expected by many to be among the worst in the league.

It's also not easy to call plays and be the head coach, much less under the circumstances Arians faced with Pagano's leukemia diagnosis.

Here we are, though, fresh off the end of the regular season with Indy sporting an 11-5 record in what has become one of the greatest stories in NFL history.

Arians held the Colts together under unimaginable adversity and should generate plenty of interest. Even coaching on an interim basis, many believe he is a viable candidate for Coach of the Year. Who could argue with that?

The playoffs could help Arians further improve his stock.

The Colts will face the Baltimore Ravens, with whom Arians is very familiar, having called plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers for a long time. A victory would nonetheless be extremely impressive.

This is Arians' second stint in Indianapolis. The first came when he was a quarterbacks coach for Peyton Manning; now, he has helped Andrew Luck set a rookie record for passing yards.

After what the Colts have done in 2012, it not only reinforces the parity in the NFL but also shows how quickly teams can turn it around with the right coach in place, no matter the situation.

Whether he leaves the magical situation in Indianapolis remains to be seen, but plenty of teams will be calling Arians to gauge his interest in his first full-time coaching gig.


Mike McCoy

If anyone knows how to tailor an offense to a quarterback's strengths, it's McCoy.

The Denver Broncos offensive coordinator was the man who called the shots during Tim Tebow's magical playoff run with the franchise in 2011. That required adjusting on the fly and playing to Tebow's unique skill set.

McCoy had to do a complete 180 this season with the acquisition of legendary QB Peyton Manning.

Mixing in Manning's cerebral genius with what he had in mind, Denver is firing on all cylinders in a much different way in winning 11 straight games to grab the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.

Another positive about McCoy is that he's relatively young at age 40. If teams are looking to bring in a fresh face, he would be an ideal fit.

Considering his success and ability to build an offense around two completely different QBs in as many years, it's a no-brainer for teams to reach out. In just about every potential coaching vacancy, save for the San Diego Chargers, quarterback has been a troubled position. McCoy would help instantly.