Carolina Panthers: Top 10 Candidates To Replace John Fox

Tom Kinslow@@TomKinslowFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2010

Carolina Panthers: Top 10 Candidates To Replace John Fox

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 19:  Head coach John Fox of the Carolina Panthers watches on during warmups against the Arizona Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The Carolina Panthers are getting closer to winning the Andrew Luck sweepstakes and are also getting closer to John Fox's tenure as head coach coming to an end.

    He's had a good run with the Panthers, but all good things must come to an end, and he's going to get canned. A lot of people think he's a good coach and that he'll land on his feet somewhere else, but it's time for a change.

    With that in mind, here are 10 guys who would be great replacements for Fox.

    Any thoughts or comments? Do you think there is a guy you think is better than this group? Make sure to leave it below.

No. 10: Mike Heimerdinger

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    NASHVILLE, TN - 2009:  Mike Heimerdinger of the Tennessee Titans poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by NFL Photos)
    NFL Photos/Getty Images

    This is assuming that his health situation clears up, and that he can really stand up to the rigors of coaching, but Mike Heimerdinger would be a good choice.

    He's been talked about as a possible head coach in the past, and it's clear that he won't be an offensive coordinator for life. If he can clear up his battle with cancer and get a clean bill of health, it could be a good hire for the Panthers.

    I'm sure he could find a way to utilize a young quarterback.

No. 9: Chip Kelly

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    CORVALLIS, OR - DECEMBER 4: Head coach Chip Kelly of the Oregon Ducks looks on from the sidelines in the fourth quarter of the game against the the Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Corvallis, Oregon. The Ducks beat the Beavers
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Chip Kelly's name has been floated around by Peter King of Sports Illustrated as a possible replacement for John Fox.

    Kelly is the offensive mind behind that high-powered Oregon offense that took college football by storm the past couple of years. That would give me some concern because college schemes like that don't always translate well to the next level.

    I'm sure he could cook something up that would be pretty interesting though.

No. 8: Jon Gruden

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    TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 28: Coach Jon Gruden of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers directs play against the Oakland Raiders at Raymond James Stadium on December 28, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Jon Gruden has been flirting with coming back, and the Panthers could be the team to do it for the former Tampa Bay coach.

    He knows the NFC South and what it takes to win there, and he could be a good match for a team that needs an identity. He'll come with a hefty price tag though, and that may scare away the Panthers in the end.

    It'd be nice to see Gruden back on the sidelines.

No. 7: Ron Meeks

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - 2009:  Ron Meeks of the Carolina Panthers poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by NFL Photos)
    NFL Photos/Getty Images

    If the Panthers want to hire from within, Ron Meeks makes a lot of sense.

    Meeks is the current defensive coordinator, and his unit has played very well this year, especially when you consider that the offense simply cannot stay on the field. Meeks would probably come cheap, and he already knows what he has and what he doesn't have.

    He could be worth the risk as a hire.

No. 6: Sean McDermott

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    Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach Sean McDermott directs the defense  against the Dallas Cowboys November 14, 2005 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.  The Cowboys defeated the Eagles 21 - 20.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Sean McDermott is another defensive mind that would be a good option for Carolina to explore.

    McDermott is the mastermind behind the Eagles' defense and learned under the late, great Jim Johnson, who had that Philadelphia defense always swarming around the ball. While he isn't as good as Johnson was, not many people are and he has plenty of room for growth.

    He's another guy who would come cheap.

No. 5: Russ Grimm

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    GLENDALE, AZ - 2009:  Russ Grimm of the Arizona Cardinals poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by NFL Photos)
    NFL Photos/Getty Images

    Russ Grimm has been talked about as another Panthers target after the season.

    Grimm is the Arizona Cardinals assistant head coach and knows what it takes to win. He was on the staff under Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh before joining former Steelers assistant Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona.

    He has a winning pedigree and could be a good fit for Carolina.

No. 4: Jim Harbaugh

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    PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh congratulates Delano Howell #26 of the Stanford Cardinal after he made an interception on a pass intended for Joe Halahuni #87 of the Oregon State Beavers at Stanford Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Pa
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    One name that is gaining traction as we get closer to the offseason is Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.

    This makes sense for a lot of reasons. First, he's already been suggested as a pro coach, so it's not just a random hire like Lane Kiffin was for Oakland. Secondly, and possibly most importantly, he coaches Andrew Luck, who's slated to be the top pick in the draft, which right now belongs to the Panthers.

    He could be in play for the Panthers, and that move could make a ton of sense for Carolina.

No. 3: Bill Cowher

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    FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 06:  The NFL Today's Bill Cowher attends the grand opening of the CBS Scene Restaurant & Bar on September 6, 2008 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Mary Schwalm/Getty Images)
    Mary Schwalm/Getty Images

    Cowher has been looking to come back for some time, and the Panthers have been talked about in the past as a possible landing spot for him.

    The issue is that Cowher will carry a hefty price tag, but owner Jerry Richardson could sell him on the team, especially since he doesn't live far away and the team isn't too far removed from past success. Carolina already has a good foundation on defense, and it's something Cowher could work with.

    Cowher's a bit of longshot, but I think he's a great option for the Panthers, and it would be worth digging deeper into the pockets for him.

No. 2: Ron Rivera

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 23:  Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera of the San Diego Chargers looks on against the Indianapolis Colts during their NFL Game at Qualcomm Stadium on November 23, 2008 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Image
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Ron Rivera is the defensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers and could be a guy who would keep up that defensive toughness in Carolina.

    The Chargers have one of the best defenses in football and it's hard to name a lot of high-profile guys on that unit. That's a testament to Rivera, his scheme and the type of job he can do with a squad. He's been talked about as a head coach, and you have to think that Carolina will consider him.

    He's a guy I'd want coaching my team.

No. 1 Brian Schottenheimer

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    FLORHAM PARK, NJ - MAY 02:  Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer of the New York Jets speaks to the media during minicamp on May 2, 2009 at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    If the Panthers want to look toward the offense, which has struggled this year, Brian Schottenheimer is a guy that will be discussed.

    He's the New York Jets offensive coordinator and has been talked about as a future head coach for some time now. His play calling is a little suspect at times, but with Carolina's need for offense, I think he's the best option to head in that direction.

    It's a move that's risky, but could pay off big time if he gets the right personnel in there.