Fresh Starts: Who Are the NFL's Best Options for Head Coach Jobs in 2009?
The carousel is spinning. The first day of the offseason began very early for 20 teams, and three teams made quick decisions that would re-shape their organizations’ futures.
With the New York Jets, Detroit Lions, and Cleveland Browns officially in the hunt for the new man that will lead their respective organizations, it’s only natural to wonder how many other teams will join the fracas with them.
Off the top of my head, I imagine the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals will be joining in on the fun. The St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders may be looking for long-term solutions outside of their 2008 interim options as well.
There are a lot of popular coordinators out there who will receive plenty of interest in the coming month, but should they be the direction everyone goes in?
Steve Mariucci to the Cleveland Browns
Bill Cowher to Cleveland Browns: I'm just not that that into you.
It's sad. The Browns deserve Cowher, and unfortunately, it's not to be. It would've made for a wonderful story, and we all know how much the NFL loves those. But it's time to look in a different direction.
How about they head to another television studio and see what Steve Mariucci is up to?
Cleveland's desire to bring in Cowher shows how much they want a true head coach roaming their sidelines—a guy who's comfortable making tough decisions for the better of the season.
The fiasco in Detroit a few years ago may have turned the Mooch off from coaching for a while, but it's worth finding out if he’s healed from the scars.
Going into Cleveland will give Mariucci a very talented team in desperate need of his offensive guidance. It will give them a guy who knows how to handle the strain of being a head coach and who knows how to get the best from his players.
With the uninspired approach to football the Browns had in 2008, I can't think of anything more necessary than Mariucci. Does Cleveland really want to play the coordinator game again?
Brian Billick to the New York Jets
The situation in New York is a tricky one. Their head coach of three years was fired after posting a winning season, so any hopefuls for the job already understand that it's a high-pressure position. The faint at heart need not apply.
And if there's anything Brian Billick is not, it's faint at heart.
Billick is much more than awesome sound bytes in a Coors Light commercial. His time with the Baltimore Ravens is well-documented. He won a Super Bowl and posted winning seasons off the strength of his defense alone. That's quite the reputation to carry.
His experience as a head coach is what's most necessary in New York. There is no more time for inexperienced coordinators receiving their first promotion.
Billick will be the coach who knows how to handle veteran players, and can help bring along younger guys. His record and history will automatically command respect. Losing the locker room won't be an issue.
But there is one thing: By no means are the Jets to acquire Kyle Boller—no matter how much he begs.
Kevin Gilbride to the Cincinnati Bengals
The culture in Cincinnati is what needs to change most. They're not winning any games, popularity contests, or voluntary public service awards over there. A change is what's necessary.
Many wonder how Marvin Lewis hasn't completely worn out his welcome yet, but the time for wondering has to stop, and a new era must begin. And why not start by looking at champions?
Kevin Gilbride will bring nearly 20 years of NFL experience to Cincinnati where he's led some of the best offenses in the league.
With a healthy Carson Palmer returning, T.J. Houshmandzadeh likely being re-signed, and Cedric Benson looking ready to truly begin his career, Gilbride will have the tools in place to run an efficient offense.
He's worked with Tom Coughlin before, so Gilbride understands what it takes to bring discipline to an organization—something the Bengals have clearly lacked for a very long time.
Steve Spagnuolo to the Kansas City Chiefs
Herm Edwards hasn’t been fired yet, but it’s really only a matter of time, right? Kansas City is looking for someone to take over football operations, and as soon as that guy is chosen, Edwards should be out the door.
In the scenario that Edwards is removed, why not bring in a real defensive-minded coach to help the Chiefs defense stop being such a doormat?
Poor defense has been part of the Chiefs’ reputation since the Dick Vermeil era—Spagnuolo would change that instantly.
Kansas City already has some talented youth in pace on the defensive side of the ball. DE Tamba Hali leads a young, talented defense in need of someone who isn’t Gunther Cunningham.
One thing to consider for the Chiefs is the abundance of talented defensive players that will want to play for Spagnuolo. The potential for bringing new players to the Chiefs will be very high when the hottest head-coaching commodity in the NFL is a possibility.
Josh McDaniels to the Oakland Raiders
Let's imagine we live in a world where Al Davis isn't absolutely insane. Are we together? Okay, good.
Operating under the assumption that anyone really wants to work for the Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots' offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels probably makes the most sense.
When a team finishes 11-5 without their franchise quarterback and with a committee of running backs, the man who made it possible has to receive an open invite to the black hole.
Josh McDaniels' offensive prowess makes so much sense the words are typing themselves right now.
Start salivating, Raiders' fans.
If McDaniels could take a quarterback who hadn’t started since high school and turn him into an efficient, 400-yard passing nightmare for opposing defenses, what can he possibly do for a first-overall draft selection?
The talent is there for JaMarcus Russell—he only needs someone patient enough to help him channel it effectively. And it's exactly what McDaniels did with Matt Cassel at first, until he saw he had the confidence to take more chances and lead his team.
Aside from that, McDaniels knows how to use the right running back in the right situations. The Raiders have a talented squad that lacks confidence. They need someone that knows how to get the very best out of everyone.
And less interference from Al Davis would help, too.
Clarence Shelmon to the Detroit Lions
What? Who? Whatever, man.
Stay with me, people.
When you call the plays that helps the NFL’s best quarterback execute and lead his team to an unlikely playoff berth, you deserve to have your name mentioned in potential head coaching conversations.
Clarence Shelmon is the offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers. When it became obvious that LaDainian Tomlinson would be experiencing his first average year in forever, Shelmon created an offense with a brand new focal point—the quarterback.
As the Chargers' defense found ways to lose games for San Diego, and everyone thought LT's slower pace spelled the end of San Diego's contention, Rivers emerged and quietly had the best season of his career,
With Shelmon calling the plays, Rivers tossed 34 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions, and he owns the highest passer rating in the NFL.
Achieving those kinds of results from his quarterback, and shifting his gameplan accordingly when the team was supposed to be built around his future Hall of Fame running back should make Shelmon a legitimate consideration for any head coaching job.
Let's be honest here. The Lions aren't going to secure an experienced head coach in there. The Lions have been an afterthought in Detroit, and the organization is widely-regarded as the NFL's endless abyss of misery.
While Detroit tries to figure out where everything went wrong in 2008, looking towards an inventive coordinator in 2009 may help keep the Lions from repeating.
Angel Navedo covers the New York Jets for Examiner.com. His work can also be found on NYJetsFan.com, where he is the Head Writer, and on MyGridironSpace.com—a premier social networking site built exclusively for NFL fans.
He is also a Senior Writer at the Bleacher Report, where he is one of the New York Jets Community Leaders.
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