The Search for a New Chargers Head Coach Officially Begins

Thearon W. Henderson

Looking through the popular candidates for a Head Coach to replace Norv Turner with the San Diego Chargers.

Now that the San Diego Chargers have their new General Manager in place, it is time for them to switch their focus towards finding a new Head Coach. We'll be doing some in-depth stuff on the more serious guys when we start hearing about finalists for the position, but for right now I want to go over the names that have been rumored (or hoped–for) and give you my two cents. I'm mostly doing this to have something to link to for the dozens of times each day that someone on Twitter asks me who should be the next coach.

It would probably be a good idea to read Jeff's post about what the Chargers should be looking for in their next Head Coach before going any further.

Candidates

Bill Cowher (55 years old)

Some people think that I'm against Bill Cowher because I always dismiss him as a possibility when he's brought up. I'm not against Cowher at all, despite the fact that's been been out of football for the last five years. I am just of the believe that (1) as a friend to Marty Schottenheimer, he won't sign on to be the Head Coach of a team owned by Dean Spanos and (2) Dean won't pay millions of dollars to have a Head Coach that doesn't call plays.

Yay or Nay: Yay, but it will never happen.

Jon Gruden (49 years old)

Oh, Gruden. Gruden was a part of one of the Raiders' semi-decennial resurgences and he rode that train hard. After taking the Raiders deep in the playoffs, Al Davis traded Gruden away to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which should tell you a lot about what old Al thought of Jon. In his first season in Tampa Bay, Gruden coached the offense and left the defense to Monte Kiffin. It was enough to win the Super Bowl against his old team and the coach that replaced him: Bill Callahan.

After the Super Bowl, with the chance to build his own team in Tampa Bay (instead of Tony Dungy's), Gruden made just about every mistake he could and his Bucs squad made the playoffs just once in the six seasons following their championship run. He was fired and has since killed time doing whatever ESPN tells him to do.

Yay or Nay: Nay. If Gruden could find a situation like the one he had in Tampa, where a team seems to be missing a piece on offense that's holding them back from winning the Super Bowl, he could be a good fit. This is not that situation

Bruce Arians (60 years old)

This name has been the most rumored to land in San Diego, despite the fact that the Chargers haven't even started their coaching search yet. It will get even louder now that Tom Telesco has left the Colts to join the Chargers.

Arians has been an Offensive Coordinator in the NFL for roughly a decade now, and his offenses have never been better than mediocre. He's also been gifted with two QBs that had strong arms and could take beatings in Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck. Not only is it telling that this is the first offseason in which he's been rumored for vacant Head Coaching jobs, but there's no proof that he would be able to assist in getting the Chargers' offense on track.

We haven't even gotten to his age yet. A cold has hospitalized Arians twice in the last week, and the Colts had to play a playoff game without him because of it.

Yay or Nay: Nay. You do not hire a senior citizen with no real Head Coaching experience, who has a history of being an average Offensive Coordinator, to take over a reclamation project (which is what the Chargers are after firing their GM).

Bill O'Brien (43 years old)

Bill has decided to stay at Penn State.

Yay or Nay: Nay.

Chip Kelly (49 years old)

Chip has decided to stay at the University of Oregon.

Yay or Nay: Nay.

Mike McCoy (40 years old)

McCoy has survived some tumultuous times in Denver with the Broncos. Last year, he was given some credit for helping the team get to the playoffs despite the fact that his offense was only good in the last 2 minutes of games. This year, he's been given some credit for the Broncos offense being one of the best in the league. This, despite the fact that Peyton Manning basically trashed McCoy's offense after two games and started running his own.

Yay or Nay: Nay. Do I hate McCoy? No. I like the idea of a young offensive assistant from inside the division coming to the Chargers, especially one that has seen how Josh McDaniels and Peyton Manning run an offense. However, I consider him an unknown at this point.

Mike Zimmer (56 years old)

The San Diego Chargers are looking to land a Head Coach that will call plays. Zimmer, being a Defensive Coordinator, would seemingly replace current Chargers' Defensive Coordinator John Pagano if he were hired. That right there makes him a bit of a long-shot candidate.

Despite running a 4-3 defense the last few years with the Bengals, Zimmer did get some experience with the 3-4 defense when he was in Dallas with Bill Parcells. Even if he were to replace Pagano, the Chargers' personnel would probably force him to go back to calling a 3-4 defense, at least for the short-term.

Yay or Nay: Nay. His hiring would make things too messy on the defensive side of the ball. However, he could probably bring Hue Jackson with him as Offensive Coordinator. Speaking of which....

Hue Jackson (47 years old)

Oh, I love this one. If you are looking for a leader with a specialty for fixing offenses, this is probably your guy. Hue has been a QB Coach, RB Coach, WR Coach, Offensive Coordinator and Head Coach in the NFL.

In 2010, Jackson became the Offensive Coordinator for the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders finished 31st in points scored and 31st in offensive yardage in 2009. In 2010, the team finished 6th in points and 10th in yards. Jason Campbell, who had a record of 20-32 as a starter in Washington, has a record of 11-7 with Hue Jackson. Jackson's 2011 Raiders team went 6-8 and tied for first place in the AFC West. The 2010 Raiders finished 6-0 against the division with Hue as Offensive Coordinator.

Stop me if I'm drooling too much.

Jackson was fired by the Oakland Raiders after just one season. Some say it was because he worked a trade for Carson Palmer following the death of Al Davis, and it was categorized as a "power play". I categorize that as an offensive coach doing what needs to get done to get a QB after Jason Campbell was seriously injured. I also think the main reason for his firing was a new regime being brought in. They wanted to clean house and start fresh with "their guys."

Yay or Nay: Yay all the way. How can you not love Hue? Hiring him would stick it to the Raiders, and there's probably nobody better qualified to fix this broken down offense. He was beloved by his players in Oakland and he excited the fanbase. Also, he is the same age Bill Belichick was when the Patriots hired him (after he was fired by the Browns).

Kyle Shanahan (33 years old)

This is the long play. This is who the Steelers would pick to coach their team, although they'd probably prefer him to be a minority of some sort. This is who you hire if you want to follow the philosophy of hiring a guy for the decade and/or more, instead of hiring whoever might give you the best chance to win games in 2013 (which he also might be).

Yay or Nay: Yay, and not just for the fact that he's already one of the league's top Offensive Coordinators and has been for a few years now. I would be happy with Kyle Shanahan as the Head Coach because it would be the smartest, most patient hiring that the team could make.

Jay Gruden (45 years old)

Jon's younger brother. He's been an Offensive Coordinator in the NFL for two seasons now, and those seasons happen to coincide with an improvement for the Cincinnati Bengals' offense. They also coincide with the team drafting Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, so maybe it's not all on Gruden.

Yay or Nay: Nay. Like McCoy, I feel like I don't know enough about him.

Ken Whisenhunt (50 years old)

Note that Ken turns 51 in about a month, but I guess that doesn't really matter.

Many people look at the Whisenhunt era in Arizona and say "When he had a good QB, the team was very good." I don't disagree with that, but I could say the same thing about Jim Caldwell's tenure with the Colts and get a very different reaction.

When push comes to shove, I think you have to hang both the successes and failures on Whisenhunt, whom was in the draft room and is responsible for developing players.

Yay or Nay: Nay. I look at Whisenhunt almost the way I look at Mike Martz (who we won't even address with this list). I believe his offense to only be good if it has elite talent in it, and that feels like poor coaching to me. There are going to be years when you have to make due without Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin as your receivers and Kurt Warner as your QB, and Whisenhunt hasn't proved that he can do that.

Greg Roman (39 years old)

From what I've read today, Roman and Tom Telesco actually went to college together. That could maybe possibly mean something.

Roman has been working with Harbaughs for as long as I can remember. He did a two year stint with John in Baltimore before joining Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, and then the 49ers, as an Offensive Coordinator. I really enjoyed the way he managed Alex Smith and then seamlessly took the training wheels off the second Colin Kaepernick came into a game.

Yay or Nay: Yay with a caveat. Coaches that come from underneath a "hardass" coach tend to not work out so well. They tend to carry an air of unearned arrogance. I don't know much of Roman's personality, but I would hope it's not similar to Charlie Weis'.

Lovie Smith (54 years old)

People love Lovie. I don't know why.

Yay or Nay: Nay. Just go re-read what I wrote about Mike Zimmer and add in the fact that Lovie doesn't run a 3-4. Tom Telesco's hiring helps him in that the Colts run/ran a Cover-2 4-3 defense. If he wants that back, Lovie would be the guy to get to run it.

Josh McDaniels (36 years old)

Josh had about the most up-and-down career in the history of coaching after the Denver Broncos hired him. He made some big mistakes in the beginning, most notably by making enemies with Jay Cutler on his first day, but I'm willing to believe he's learned from them. Lots of people think he's staying in New England to take over for Bill Belichick, but to believe that you have to believe that Bill is mortal and will one day no longer be able to coach football.

Yay or Nay: Yay. Solid background with running offenses, even in Denver. Definitely gets fans excited, although initial reaction may be lukewarm.

Everyone Else (Combined age of a thousand)

Rick Dennison, Mike Holmgren, Gus Bradley, Norv Turner, Chan Gailey, Steve Mariucci, Jim Mora Jr., Cam Cameron, Rob Ryan, etc.

Yay or Nay: Nay. Some of these guys are alright but most of them are crap or living off of good Head Coaches. More importantly, none of them excite me as a fan … and isn't that the point of this hire? To get me excited so that I'm ready to buy some tickets and believe in a happy future?

Final List of John-Approved Candidates

  • Bill Cowher
  • Hue Jackson
  • Kyle Shanahan
  • Greg Roman
  • Josh McDaniels

Boy, that's an odd list. You probably won't find anybody else with that list, and I'll probably want to change it in an hour, but those are the guys that I currently like to be the next Head Coach of the San Diego Chargers. What does your list look like?

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