Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden and the 15 Top Coaches Waiting in the Wings
Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden are the two names that constantly come up whenever the discussion over a vacant head-coaching position arises.
But there usually are more than two vacancies at the end of the season, and there's no guarantee either of these two fine coaches will return to the sidelines next year.
Failure at one job doesn't necessarily mean failure at the next one for some of these guys. You need look no further than Bill Belichick, who had little success in Cleveland before becoming a legend in New England.
Read on for a look at the top 15 coaches waiting in the wings to see if Cowher or Gruden finished No. 1.
15. Mike Holmgren
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Mike Holmgren is on this list because he has expressed an interest in returning to coaching. Whether that happens in Cleveland or somewhere else remains to be seen.
But the fact is that Holmgren tells anyone who will listen how much he misses being on the sidelines.
14. Mike Martz
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Mike Martz is the current offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears. The Bears haven't had a good year offensively, but other than the offensive line allowing Jay Cutler to be destroyed when he's not throwing picks, what is there to nitpick?
Martz coached several teams, including the Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf," to the Super Bowl. But his offenses haven't been as good in recent years.
However, stranger things have happened and it's possible Martz gets another shot at the big chair.
13. Jason Garrett
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Jason Garrett was supposed to be the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys a few years ago. But Wade Phillips ended up staying.
Now Phillips is gone, and Garrett is the interim head coach. The reason he is so low on this list is that he'll either succeed, and the Dallas job will be his, or he'll under-perform and be stuck as a coordinator somewhere else for another few seasons.
12. Dick Jauron
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Dick Jauron was fired as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills last year, but people need to remember that the Bills organization isn't very good right now.
Jauron didn't have a superstar quarterback and the front office has its own issues that it's still trying to sort out.
Jauron has had one winning season as a head coach with the Chicago Bears. But with a solid organization behind him, which is a crap-shoot to predict at this point, Jauron could become a good head coach.
11. Steve Mariucci
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Steve Mariucci had two head-coaching stints, one with the San Francisco 49ers and one with the Detroit Lions.
Mariucci had a good record in San Francisco but lost his job after the 2002 season, reportedly due to a power struggle with then-general manager Terry Donahue.
He then coached the Detroit Lions, but that was under Matt Millen's watch, so I'm not sure that really counts.
Mariucci has been with the NFL Network the past few years, but it's unknown if he even wants to come back to coaching.
10. Jim Haslett
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Jim Haslett has built a good resume over the years and he currently is the defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins.
Haslett was named NFL Coach of the Year in 2000 for his work in turning around the New Orleans Saints. He lost his job in the wake of the disastrous year following Hurricane Katrina.
Haslett has good experience. Despite his losing record over his last few seasons as a head coach, he has the tools to be successful again.
9. Mike Leach
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Mike Leach may be enjoying what amounts to a vacation after last year's bad ending in Texas Tech.
Leach formerly was the Texas Tech head coach and he was known for his powerful offenses. With the league's emphasis on a powerful offenses, judging by the amount of quarterback-driven teams that make the playoffs, that makes Leach an interesting candidate to any team with a vacancy this offseason.
Leach's departure from Texas Tech would have little bearing on his potential future employment in the NFL, as that was all off-field issues that seem isolated and are currently being litigated.
8. Perry Fewell
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The Giants defense currently is ranked first in the league in points allowed, and second in the league with both the pass and rush defenses.
Along with being in the pressure cooker that is New York City, this gives Fewell automatic consideration next year for vacant head-coaching jobs.
7. Brad Seeley
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The Cleveland Browns assistant head coach/special teams coach, Seely is another branch off the Bill Belichick coaching tree. But that's not a real good point in his favor when you look at the careers of Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, Josh McDaniels and Eric Mangini.
However, Seely's special teams always are tops, and the Browns had to make him the assistant head coach to get him away from New England.
If there is a coaching change in Cleveland, which is looking less and less likely, Seely would be looking for employment anyway.
6. Brian Billick
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Brian Billick is another guy who has had a lot of success with one team, but he now has spent a few years out of the game as a broadcast analyst.
Billick coached the Ravens from 1999-2007, which included a Super Bowl win.
Billick came up through the offensive ranks. But it was the lack of offense that got him fired. Still, a few years off can do wonders for a coach, so there's no reason to think Billick couldn't lead another team to a Super Bowl.
5. Jim Fassel
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Jim Fassel wants another head coaching job in the NFL. But after losing his job in New York because of losing to teams the Giants had no business losing to, and then coaching the Ravens offense to two subpar years, he's now a UFL head coach.
What any team may be looking for is the experience factor. Fassel will also have the desire to prove all his critics wrong by getting redemption in NFL. Fassel has had a few years to reflect on everything and that could be the difference between what went wrong before and what could happen in the future.
4. Brian Schottenheimer
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Son of the great coach Marty Schottenheimer, Brian brings youth to the table and the offensive smarts many general managers like to see in their coaches.
Schottenheimer currently is developing Mark Sanchez. After last week's brilliant comeback versus Detroit, his stock rose.
Schottenheimer has a lot of good qualities and most likely will be a head coach at some point.
3. Rob Ryan
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The twin brother of Jets head coach Rex Ryan, Rob Ryan has put his name on the future-head-coach list. The last few weeks, Ryan has put together a defensive scheme that completely flummoxed and embarrassed Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, and then he followed that up with giving Tom Brady one of the most embarrassing days of his career.
Any owner/general manager will factor the success of the Ryan family into the equation. Then add the fact that Rob Ryan has been able to put together a decent defense in Cleveland with almost no real talent and a lot of young, inexperienced guys. You then realize it's just a matter of time before Rob is wearing the head coach hat.
2. Jon Gruden
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Jon Gruden is one of the top two sexy names that tends to pop up whenever a team indicates it is looking for a new head coach.
Gruden is good with quarterbacks and he does have a Super Bowl ring. Gruden also brings the spotlight with him and that can only be good for ticket sales.
If Gruden can return a team to the Super Bowl, or bring a team its first Super Bowl trophy like he did in Tampa Bay, he'll enter rarefied air.
1. Bill Cowher
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Bill Cowher's name comes up on any owner's list when looking for a new head coach. The problem is Cowher is going to want a lot more power than some owners may be willing to give out at this point.
However, Cowher is a winner. While he only has one Super Bowl ring to his credit, his teams almost always make the playoffs.
Cowher was successful in Pittsburgh, and there's no doubt he could be successful elsewhere. But the question is whether he's ready to return to the field or not.