USC's interim head coach has revitalized the program leading up to UCLA, but is it enough to earn the full-time gig?
The gas pedal on USC's coaching search is suddenly stuck in acceleration, for a big name meant to be atop Pat Haden's Christmas list (along with a majority of the nation's looming vacancies) has reportedly been scratched.
According to Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com, Texas A&M has secured its head man Kevin Sumlin with a six-year contract extension. Yes, Sumlin is choosing job security and Johnny Football mystique in the renowned SEC over Hurricane Sanction aftermath and rediscovered relevance. The Trojans are disrespected yet again.
It's not the first time they've prematurely missed on an alleged target since ousting Lane Kiffin in late September. Steve Sarkisian? Interest denied. Lovie Smith? Interview debunked. Granted, words and promises don't mean as much in college football recently (Nick Saban, Chip Kelly, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo), but one guarantee that can be made is that USC's urgency to purchase their next head coach has already grown three sizes this Black Friday weekend, even though there's no rush whatsoever.
Never mind, Haden, that your incumbent sideline traveler Ed Orgeron has resurrected the Coliseum with a 6-1 record heading into tonight's rivalry renewal with UCLA and filled everyone's stomachs with delicious baked goods. More crucially, there is no flawless candidate—big-named nor small—that warrants the premature disruption of a program's stability for the second time in two months.
Whether the Trojans ultimately opt for a hometown child star, a sleeping up-and-comer, a dusty veteran or the raw specimen that returned them to the AP poll, the timing is inappropriate and there are too many unknowns and red flags.
Of course, seeing as though this is the rash YOLO sports culture apparently constructed by the Mayans, we're going to delve right in anyway. So who is the man and why should the answer be "none of the above?" Let's take a look at our remaining linked nominees.
Biggest Drawback = Timing.
The 1985 Rose Bowl MVP was eyed immediately by his alma mater, and is the only target to complete an interview thus far, without hoax or hiccup. A lot has happened since. The bandwagon of USC's very own fill-in Orgeron has been hysterically booked over recent weeks, without any garnered grief for lack of a cardinal 'n' gold cap and gown.
Upon John Fox's medical absence, defensive coordinator Del Rio inherited a stout roster led by Peyton Manning, who figuratively coached Jim Caldwell to a Super Bowl berth. There's something to be said about managing superstars (and on such short notice), but it's a certain luxury in comparison to Jacksonville, where he went 68-71. The subsequent turnover of the Jaguars does not illuminate his below-average record, but rather credits it.
The Trojans have not rescinded intrigue in their former linebacker, but there is not enough justification to warrant waiting until February. As B/R's Patrick Clarke alludes to, Del Rio is "one of the top defensive minds in football," and his "vast NFL experience should also give him a leg up in recruiting." The implosion of a 24-0 halftime lead against the New England Patriots last Sunday notwithstanding, it will be difficult to instill that raised limb and reputation if he and the Denver Broncos make it as far as the Super Bowl and is thereby not on campus.
Sumlin is gone. Haden can be patient, but he's unwilling to be a sitting Oregon duck while the big leagues woo Del Rio.
Biggest Drawback = Uncertainties.
Talk about resuscitating a program. Vanderbilt's 17 victories over the last two seasons is the most collective wins in any two-year span for the Commodores, with a bowl game left to be played. Even still, Franklin's success has been buried in the shadows of a sexy SEC without having beaten a ranked opponent, according to Aaron Torres of Bloguin.
Despite his rising profile and sprouting charisma, being such a sleeper provides more questions than answers for USC, who tend to chase bigger fish. The ceiling has to collapse at some point with quality wins, but does he exhibit the loyalty of a Chris Petersen to do so with his baby? As Ben Weinrib and Inside Vandy points out: "[Franklin's] had eleven jobs at ten different places over his 19 years of coaching." In that case, aren't his nomadic tendencies or inability to cash in at one job a tad disconcerting?
Then there is the ongoing case of ex-players' alleged aggravated rape. Is Franklin miraculously left out by the NCAA as an innocent bystander, or are the off-field blemishes something Haden and this community need to steer away from unconditionally?
Too much unknowns swirl about this hot commodity who vies for Google searches with Missouri's senior quarterback.
Biggest Drawback = Rustiness.
Gruden has developed a respectable career in broadcasting in his Monday Night Football outlet of ongoing expertise. His QB Camp demonstrates a rapport with young athletes and his retainment of the art of throwing the football. His stints with the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are indications that he has the chops to survive in Los Angeles and win a championship...although the championship was not won in Los Angeles...
The question isn't if Gruden can coach in Hollywood. It's not even if he can coach at the collegiate level—for every Jim Mora Jr. there is a Charlie Weis and vice versa. The question becomes whether we can find him at the bottom of the bobble head collection in the attic.
The Super Bowl winner reminded Carlos E. Medina and the Ocala Star-Banner in an October interview that he hasn’t "lost a game in 3½ years." Unfortunately, that also means he hasn't won a game in that time frame. Considering how Gruden is the only candidate USC can reach out to and sign tomorrow if they so chose, his first-hand removal from the game isn't to be ignored, especially after Tony Dungy's fake California brunch.
Biggest Drawback = Hype.
Kiffin puts anticipated bitterness aside and offers Coach O his blessing. Mora voted him Pac-12 Coach of the Year in the midst of his own No. 22 BCS ranking. Twitter has incinerated like the fourth-quarter Olympic torch with buzzing support for Orgeron and the Trojans' one heartbeat, infusing vitality into a once-dead effort that had nothing to gain.
The honeymoon has to end at some point, regardless of the Victory Bell outcome. Enter a notorious 10-25 as Mississippi's head coach from 2005-07. The Rebels aren't the nationally scrutinized entity Southern California is, but in the SEC the expectations are there. The evidence he can sustain and thrive under them is not.
Orgeron has won over the locker room and fanbase, and declared his aspirations to stay put with the family spirit of Troy. If there is any hold up in the lamination of his title in light of the postseason, it's the raw resume he presents up until the Cinderella slippers rushed the field after the Stanford upset.
Update: UCLA stabs USC 35-14. Cue the bagpipes and anarchy.
Biggest Drawback = Drab.
When news of Kiffin's firing first broke out, Reign of Troy conducted a poll of selected media to compile the rankings of USC's eventually sought-out applicants. Petersen is No. 1. No, it's not 2007.
The Statue-of-Liberty Fiesta Bowl will forever feel like yesterday because we are constantly being told that the blue-grass collar is leaving Boise for greener pastures. It's long overdue, as the Broncos have been perennial BCS-busters over the past decade and inexplicably maximized their recruiting and consequent execution of excellence.
It's 2013. Petersen is still at Boise State and the Broncos haven't been ranked or merely in the conversation since Week 1. The sheen is now vintage...or dullness.
Chris Mahr stated it best: "Of course, all this means nothing if Petersen doesn’t want the job." The credentials are incessantly aired out and now overtly wrinkled. He appears content or physically implanted in the state of Idaho, out of the spotlight USC adores so dearly. We might as well exclude Petersen from any consideration for any job until he shows up at his desired location uninvited and claims it minus a word to reporters or authorities.
Petersen has certainly earned that, and in that case please respect the duration of the season and be patient, Pat Haden. There's no rush.