Bruce Arians might be the favorite to land the job in San Diego, but he won't be the only candidate.
Now that the Chargers have hired their general manager, they will shift their focus to finding their next head coach. President Dean Spanos said the team will narrow their list of candidates down to approximately five or six candidates and would like to name the next head coach within a week or so.
The candidate list could grow by a few with the addition of Tom Telesco to the hiring committee, and the timeline could be extended if the Chargers are unable to interview some of their top candidates until after their teams are eliminated from the playoffs.
In football and in life, it’s not always about what you know, but who you know. Determining who might be a potential candidate in San Diego is a bit like connecting the dots. That doesn’t mean an outside candidate couldn’t impress the committee or that the search is a sham, it only serves as a guide to coaches that could be considered for the job.
Just who might be on San Diego’s list of candidates? Glad you asked…
Bruce Arians is one of the more obvious candidates to become the next head coach in San Diego. Arians was hired last year in Indianapolis and worked closely with Telesco. Arians took on a bigger role as the Colts’ interim head coach while Chuck Pagano underwent cancer treatment.
One season is not necessarily enough to make Arians a clear favorite, but he’s clearly one option the Chargers will consider. Arians was actually a candidate for the job prior to Telesco being hired, so the Chargers already had some interest in him.
Arians will get some rest after two stints in the hospital for an inner-ear infection before interviewing according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. It’s only fair to give Arians a few days to prepare for his interviews.
Arians could be an ideal candidate because he is so similar to Norv Turner. Arians wouldn’t have a problem keeping John Pagano (Chuck’s brother) on as defensive coordinator, and he runs an offense that favors the deep routes. Rivers would be totally comfortable in Arians’ scheme as long as the Chargers drafted a few offensive linemen.
There’s also a chance that Arians reminds the Chargers too much of Turner and the Chargers choose to go in a different direction. Arians still seems like an ideal fit for his familiarity with Telesco and the Pagano family.
Telesco was teammates with 49ers’ offensive coordinator Greg Roman at John Carroll University. The two men also worked together early in their careers for the Carolina Panthers from 1995-1997; Roman was just getting his start in coaching and Telesco his start in scouting.
Roman’s team is still in the playoffs, so the Chargers will have to wait to interview him. Once Roman is available to be interviewed, the Chargers will have to compete for his services with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
David Caldwell was named the general manager in Jacksonville and was Roman’s college roommate. Caldwell, Telesco and Roman were all teammates at John Carroll. Chris Polian, who worked with Telesco in Indianapolis and has the same agent, is reportedly likely to become Caldwell’s director of pro personnel in Jacksonville. Polian, Roman, Telesco and Caldwell all graduated from John Carroll in successive years from 1993-1996.
Aside from the obvious connections, Roman has done a masterful job with San Francisco’s offense the past few years. Roman turned Alex Smith into a steady starter and has since given the reins to Collin Kaepernick with good success.
An offensive mind like Roman running the show in San Diego could be good for Philip Rivers. Roman, being an offensive guy, would probably keep John Pagano as his defensive coordinator. The only questions about Roman are if the Chargers will wait and if they are better fit for him than Jacksonville.
While Arians and Roman would be similar to Turner in that they run similar schemes and are offensive-minded head coaches, Zimmer would be the total opposite. Zimmer is thought to be more of a disciplinarian and he’s a defensive coach.
According to Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego, the Chargers are interested in Zimmer although no interviews have been scheduled. Zimmer has done great things with the defense in Cincinnati and will also interview for the vacancy in Cleveland.
If Zimmer was hired, there’s no guarantee that he’d keep John Pagano as the defensive coordinator. Zimmer runs the 4-3, but has experience with the 3-4 so there’s no reason that the marriage couldn’t work.
According to Jason La Canfora of CBS, the Chargers could be interested in Mike Holmgren to be their next head coach. Holmgren hasn’t been a head coach for a few years, but was the president of the Cleveland Browns until they were sold last year.
Holmgren also has the same agent as Telesco and was the head coach under Ron Wolf in Green Bay for many years. Wolf is part of the committee who hired Telesco and will be a part of the committee that hires San Diego’s next head coach.
If Holmgren wants to get back into coaching, a return to the sidelines in San Diego is not out of the question. Holmgren isn’t a young candidate, so the Chargers might not view him as the long-term answer. Holmgren wouldn’t have much say in personnel, which could be a problem for him.
Guess what? Jay (and Jon) Gruden share the same agent as Telesco. While Jon is likely to remain at ESPN, Jay has become a hot head coaching candidate. Jay Gruden will reportedly interview in Philadelphia and Arizona according to NFL.com.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the Chargers also requested an interview and at least considered the younger Gruden. It’s worth noting that Jon Gruden coached for three years in the 1990s when Wolf was the general manager there.
There are enough links to make Jay an interesting candidate for the job. A younger guy like Gruden would also seem to fit more naturally with Telesco and prove that the Chargers are looking at their next head coach as a guy who will be with the team for many years.
Mike McCoy is also represented by Bob LaMonte, the same agent as a half-dozen other names on this list. Maybe LaMonte represents everybody? It seems like it because he also represents Pat Shurmur, Andy Reid, Brad Childress and Mike Nolan, among others. If Shurmur or Nolan pops on San Diego’s radar you’ll know why.
McCoy, one of the league's hottest coordinators, is a candidate in Chicago and Arizona. The Chargers would be wise to consider McCoy a serious candidate. McCoy has drawn rave reviews for adjusting his offense to three different quarterbacks in three years and still having moderate success.
The Denver Broncos surely wouldn’t like to have their coordinators swiped by division rivals in back-to-back seasons. McCoy is a hot name and could be a good fit for an offense in San Diego that will be looking for a new identity.
Ken Whisenhunt seems to be a well-respected coach despite his team's poor performance over the last several years.
The Chargers aren’t likely to cast a wide net like some other teams for their vacancy. The Chargers could still expand the list to include more candidates, which means coaches like Kyle Shanahan, Ken Whisenhunt, Shurmur and Nolan could also be interviewed.
It seems unlikely that the Chargers would take a big risk and hire an unknown candidate, leaving this list of 10 coaches as a decent starting point. Whisenhunt, Shurmur and Nolan were all recent failures as head coaches and the Chargers will probably be a little reluctant to bring in that type of head coach.
There are still plenty of quality options available, but the Chargers need to move quickly to secure interviews with their favorite candidates. Spanos has good reason to want to move quickly, because it’s important for a new front office to be able to focus on college all-star games and not a search for a head coach.
It’s also nice if the front office knows exactly what kind of schemes their head coach wants to run on offense, defense and special teams before having to look for players that might be a fit. When the Chargers do decide on a head coach, expect that man to be somewhere on this list.