The Short List: Carolina Panthers Head Coaching Candidates

Eric QuackenbushSenior Analyst IJanuary 6, 2011

The Short List: Carolina Panthers Head Coaching Candidates

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    Carolina Panthers head coach candidates Fewell, Manusky, Ryan, and RiveraDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

    On Wednesday I discussed my three favorites to potentially be interviewed for the head coaching vacancy with the Carolina Panthers: Bruce Arians, Perry Fewell, and Ron Rivera. Today however, I've learned that there are four NFL coordinators of interest to the Panthers. Of the three I listed on Wednesday, two of them have been invited for an interview. Of the two who have been invited for an interview, one is skeptical that he is being used merely to satisfy the Rooney Rule, a rule which was implemented years ago to give minority coaching candidates first crack at a coaching job with an NFL team.

5. San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator, Greg Manusky

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    Greg Manusky, 49ersNFL Photos/Getty Images

    San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has made the list of interview candidates to the Carolina Panthers head coaching position.

    I'm not thrilled about it, and that could partially be due to the fact that a win-less Carolina Panthers team earned its first win against the 49ers during the 2010 regular season.

    After studying Manusky's history, I'm even less convinced that he's the right fit for this particular situation. He seems more to me like a player's buddy kind of coach...Think Herman Edwards: One-and-done in almost every playoff appearance...of which were sparse.

    Former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon had this to say about Manusky.

    "Manusky's leadership skills were evident, whether he was leading a special teams meeting, or pulling a prank on a teammate to lighten the mood. You just knew eventually, he would be a great coach. Even as special teams captain, he would make players come in early and watch tape."

    Manusky's experience is lengthy, so he is certainly qualified to be considered for the position. He played 12 years with three teams: Washington, Kansas City, and Minnesota from 1988 to 1999. Beyond that, his coaching experience spans the past 10 years where he was the linebackers coach for the Redskins and Chargers. In 2007 Manusky was hired to the 49ers and became the team's defensive coordinator.

4. Cleveland Browns Defensive Coordinator, Rob Ryan

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    Rob Ryan, BrownsMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The twin brother of Rex Ryan, and son of former NFL head coach Buddy Ryan, Rob Ryan is looking to make his mark in the NFL and move up from a defensive coordinator to a head coach.

    I don't thrill to coaches coming from the Cleveland Browns. It's nothing personal, but the two coaches (Quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer and offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson) who were on the Panthers staff over the last two and three years respectively, were absolutely useless and in the case of Scherer, did more harm than good. Perhaps it's an unfair assessment of Ryan, and he might be one of the top available (until other teams finish their playoff runs) coaching candidates, but Cleveland coaches have left a bad memory, and I wish to keep it that way.

    Ryan does feel confident he will land a head coaching position somewhere, however. While speaking to Cleveland reporters, Ryan said, "I'm sure I'll get a chance. You read all of these things, 'Oh this guy is going here, this guy is going there.' But nobody knows. It's a big process, obviously, to hire a head coach. Am I going to be ready for that challenge? Yes, absolutely."

    Ryan's experience in the NFL is just as extensive as his brother's. Of his 24-year coaching career, he has spent 13 years coaching around NFL teams. Ryan was the defensive coordinator for the Raiders from 2004 to 2008, he was linebackers coach for the Patriots from 200 to 2003, and he was defensive backs coach in Arizona from 1994 to 1995.

    One of his defensive players in Cleveland, cornerback Sheldon Brown, had this to say about Ryan: "He's an energetic guy, a young guy. He's a players' coach, without a doubt. (Ryan) understands the games about the players and getting them to play."

3. New York Giants Defensive Coordinator, Perry Fewell

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    Perry Fewell, GiantsRick Stewart/Getty Images

    Getty Images really should update its photo files to include more recent photos of Perry Fewell. But that's a story for another time.

    After learning more about Fewell's history, he's moved into my top-two currently legitimate coaching candidates for the Carolina Panthers. Of course with all good things, there must be a snag. This is a snag along the lines of a person being fed up with getting his chain jerked because of a technicality alive and well in the NFL, known as the Rooney Rule. It patronizes minorities more than it helps them. A team is going to hire the candidate who is best suited for the job. There are enough minority coaches in the NFL to prove that team owners aren't as archaic as perhaps Rooney sees.

    Fewell, who does not want to be used merely to satisfy a rule that is past its time, made a statement to the New York Daily News. Fewell may intend to skip his interview in Carolina among others citing that he doesn't want to be a 'token interview'. As it stands there are four teams who requested to interview Fewell, Denver, Carolina, San Francisco and Cleveland. Three of those four team have other minority candidates slated to interview, but Cleveland does not. Fewell has a firm interview with Denver on Sunday, but it's unclear whether he plans to visit other sites.

    It will be a shame if Fewell is a one-and-done head coaching candidate and lands with the first team he interviews, the Denver Broncos, based on a rule that should really be done away with.

    A coach who is attentive to the smallest details and knows how to draw the best out of players and can motivate with positive reinforcement, is just what this team of young Panthers needs.

    Said NFL assistant John Bonamego, "He knows football, but more importantly, he knows people. Players aren't going to blindly follow somebody they don't respect, but he's always been able to communicate with guys. He's not a pushover, and he'll inspire people to give their best."

    Fewell has been an assistant in 13 of his 26-year coaching career. This season (2010) was his first with the New York Giants. Prior to that, he has coached in Buffalo, St. Louis, Chicago, and in the college ranks he coached for North Carolina, Kent State, Vanderbilt, and Army.

2. San Diego Chargers Defensive Coordinator, Ron Rivera

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    Ron Rivera, ChargersDonald Miralle/Getty Images

    Ron Rivera is my top choice of actual candidates on Carolina's list. He has an extensive resume and one which is a little more accomplished than the aforementioned candidates. However, Rivera has been an impossible candidate for any team to land. Yes, there allegedly was the job offered to him by the Detroit Lions, but at that point of time, who really wanted to take on the task of rebuilding the Lions? Furthermore, who wants to leave sunny, warm San Diego for the bitter arctic of Detroit?

    Rivera has had extensive experience in the NFL, and as a former player, has participated in various defensive alignments. He played in Buddy Ryan's aggressive 46 defense, he's coached in Jim Johnson's blitz-happy defense in Philadelphia, he played nine years with the Chicago Bears and was a backup on the 1985 team. Rivera is familiar with the Tampa-2 scheme he coached in Chicago (including a Super Bowl run), and has currently turned San Diego's 3-4 defense into the top pass defense and the No. 2 rush defense in the league.

1. Other Potential Candidates

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    Of course there are still the teams going into the playoffs that the Panthers aren't able to request an interview with at this time, until any candidate of interest's team is out of the playoffs.

    They might include Brian Schottenheimer of the New York Jets, or Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott...Eagles coaches under Andy Reid, John Harbaugh and Steve Spagnuolo have gone on to head coaching jobs with a fair-to-great amount of success.

    At this time, the Carolina Panthers have expressed no interest in interviewing Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh.