When the Houston Texans fired Gary Kubiak this week, it wasn't the firing itself that was remarkable. Head coaches, unfortunately, are dismissed all the time. The difference here was Kubiak was the first one fired during what is a new chapter of how the NFL hires.
For the first time in league history, as the hiring-and-firing cycle officially begins with the Kubiak dismissal, every franchise will have access to a league database of coaching candidates designed to expand the talent pool and lead to more diverse hirings.
This list was leaked by Peter King on the December 18th version of "The Season" on Monday Morning Quarterback.
The article discusses a group of coaching candidates that have been listed:
According to someone who has seen it, the top minority coaches
preferred by the committee are former Bears coach Lovie Smith, Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, and defensive coordinators Mel Tucker (Chicago), Ray Horton (Cleveland) and Todd Bowles (Arizona). Only teams with a head coach opening—at the moment that would be Houston—would officially have access to the names on the list. Other minority candidates the committee identified include college coaches Charlie Strong of Louisville and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, and NFL assistants Hue Jackson (Cincinnati), Winston Moss (Green Bay), Darren Perry (Green Bay), Eric Studesville (Denver) and Karl Dorrell (Houston). Also included on the list are non-minority candidates: offensive coordinators Darrell Bevell (Seattle), Pete Carmichael (New Orleans) and Jay Gruden (Cincinnati), along with defensive coordinators Kevin Coyle (Miami), Mike Pettine (Buffalo), Dan Quinn (Seattle) and Bob Sutton (Kansas City). Washington tight ends coach Sean McVay is also a preferred candidate.
Several team officials say various franchises are already consulting this list, which is basically the result of the work of the NFL's new internal search firm and is meant to augment what teams were already doing. The number of names could be in the many dozens, if not hundreds.
While the purpose of this list is to encourage minority hiring, the names on the list are not just minorities. It's some of the best talent in college and professional football, I'm told, assembled by an all-star panel of former coaches and team executives. The goal of the panel is to expand the talent pipeline—including, but not limited to, increased exposure for minority candidates.
The desire is to eliminate the stale list of retread candidates and introduce teams to names they might not otherwise consider or know.
This story is important because we've never seen anything like this in the NFL until now. No one will say for certain what names are included, but here are five we believe to be on the list.
Mel Tucker: Defensive coordinator for the Bears. Chicago's run defense has been putrid, but team personnel men blame the lack of talent as opposed to Tucker. They point to successful track records in Jacksonville and Cleveland.
Eric Studesville: Running backs coach for the Broncos. He has coached Tiki Barber, Willis McGahee, Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and Knowshon Moreno.
Charlie Strong: Head coach at Louisville. This from a current NFL scout: "He's one of the top three or four NFL head-coaching prospects out there. He's that good. If he doesn't get an NFL job soon, it's an embarrassment to our league." Strong has one of the more extensive college coaching backgrounds of almost any potential candidate.
Pete Carmichael Jr.: Offensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints. He's an interesting case for three reasons: First, he could be one of the few white candidates pushed by the diversity panel. Second, Drew Brees speaks extremely highly of Carmichael. Third, the question becomes how much credit suitors give Carmichael for the Saints' great offense, considering head coach Sean Payton calls the plays.
Karl Dorrell: Quarterbacks coach for the Houston Texans. Not a banner year for Houston quarterbacks.
These names aren't as well known to the casual fan. They are not Jon Gruden, but that's the point. The league believes that putting these names—and the others on the list—in front of owners and general managers will mean they get consideration they may not have otherwise.
This process isn't a substitute for the Rooney rule, which mandates that teams interview minority candidates for head-coaching and front-office jobs; it's an augment. Teams have their own lists of candidates, but those lists are often incomplete, lack diversity and are full of retreads. Usually white retreads.
This new list avoids that problem. There is supposedly a great deal of new blood on it. That's why this move, again, is vital. The coaching and front-office pipeline can be more vibrant instead of stale.
Will it work? It can't be much worse.
It's believed the Texans will consider some of the names on this list, though owner Bob McNair has stated he wants a coach with a strong NFL background.
"We would like someone who has had head coaching experience, but has also had NFL experience," McNair said, via Deepi Sidhu of the team's website. "It's a combination of those two things would be the ideal situation, and there are people who meet those conditions."
Several NFL team officials believe former Chicago coach Lovie Smith is at or near the top of McNair's list. McNair has previously stated his interest in Smith.
The main issue the Texans face is a horrible quarterback situation, and the criticism some in the NFL have is that Smith is a defensive-minded coach who didn't handle the quarterback situation in Chicago well. Yet he coached Jay Cutler, one of the NFL's premier quarterback knuckleheads and someone almost any coach would have difficulty coaching.
Names on this list, if not the entire list, will eventually leak to the media. From the way it's been described, the list of names is thorough and extensive. Most importantly, it's the next step in the evolution of the NFL making its hiring practices completely fair.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.