Eric Mangini was fired this morning by President Mike Holmgren. This decision immediately sent shock waves through the city. Everything else that seemed to matter instantly shut down. People began calling into every local talk radio show and began analyzing he decision. The talking heads at WKNR began debating who should take over and who is best fitted to turn this thing around. There are several candidates for the position, many of which I am in favor of for a variety of reasons. There are also a few questionable candidates. Let’s take a look at what’s out there:
Jon Gruden: Currently Gruden is the color analyst for ESPN Monday Night Football. Before that all Gruden did was resurrect the Raiders and make them one of the best teams in the NFL. After his stint with Oakland, Gruden led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory over the team he assembled in Oakland. Granted many argue he won that championship with Tony Dungy’s players, but you can’t argue his ability to motivate and get a team over the hump. Having worked under Holmgren in the past, he is very familiar with his system and was considered one of the best young offensive minds in football during is time as a head coach. He also looks like Chucky, so that’s a positive in my book. He is considered to be the leading candidate for the job, but it will come down to whether or not he is ready to leave the TV booth.
John Fox: Fox just finished his 9th season as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. Although the Panthers finished the season an NFL worst 2-14, it is not indicative of the job he did during his time there. He touts a winning record as a head coach and came within minutes of winning the Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme of all people. His teams are often the best in the league defensively given his background as a defensive coordinator prior to being a head coach. His no-nonsense approach and tough minded attitude could be just what the doctor ordered. He is well respected around the league and many feel he was given a raw deal this past season in Carolina. Like Gruden he also has a strong relationship with Holmgren and should move into the #1 contender spot should Gruden decide to remain with ESPN.
Marty Mornhinweg: Great Scott! This is the wild card in the head coaching search for the Cleveland Browns. It’s hard to determine exactly what you’ll get if you hire Mornhinweg to be the head coach. He sports a career 5-27 record as a head coach, which quite frankly is beyond atrocious. However, his only two seasons as a head coach were spent in Detroit during the early days of the Matt Millen era. No one could win in Detroit during the Matt Millen era so how much blame is fair to place on him? Of course he also took the wind in overtime rather than the ball, so who knows? The upside for Mornhinweg is that he’s an absolute genius when it comes to running an offense and teaching quarterbacks. Look no further than his most recent student, Michael Vick, in Philly. It would be intriguing to see what he could do with Colt McCoy in a quarterback friendly system. The optimal situation for the Browns would be to hire one of the above mentioned candidates and lure in Mornhinweg to run the offense. All I know is that if Mornhinweg is the coach, Doc Brown better have his time traveling De Lorean ready to go.
Josh McDaniels: This is another tough one. McDaniels, much like Mornhinweg is considered to be one of the top offensive coaches in football. This much is evident from his time with the world beater New England Patriots in 2007 and his offense in Denver the past two seasons wasn’t exactly too bad either. However, one can’t overlook how terribly he ran things as the man in Denver. He drove several high-profile skill players out of town and basically ignored the defensive side of the ball. With Holmgren running the show and McDaniels focused solely on game planning and coaching things could work out much differently than they did in Denver. It’s an intriguing pick, but very risky.
Jim Harbaugh: Harbaugh is the hottest college coaching name out there right now. The former NFL QB has done an amazing job turning around the Stanford Cardinal over the past few seasons and has transformed them into a college football juggernaut. He’s also done an exceptional job of molding Andrew Luck into an NFL ready QB in a pro style system. Imagine what he could do with Colt McCoy. He also has an amazing coaching pedigree thanks to his father and his brother John Harbaugh has made the playoffs in all three of his seasons with the Ravens. Unfortunately, he is the big name being thrown around for the Michigan job should they give the axe to Rich Rodriguez. Given that Michigan is his alma mater, it’s hard to imagine him passing up that opportunity. His name has also been tossed around for other NFL jobs, most notably the open 49ers job. It’s unlikely we’ll see him manning the Browns sidelines, but Holmgren has to offer him a chance to interview.
Brad Childress: This one is scary. While Childress had success in his five seasons with the Vikings, it’s hard to ignore just how badly it ended. He was fired before the season ended and it was no small secret that the Viking players loathed him…not hate… LOATHED him. Chilly also has the personality of a dog turd. He probably needs some time to digest what happened in Minnesota and learn from the mistakes he made. It’s more likely he’ll end up as an offensive coordinator than a head coach over the next few seasons. He served as an assistant under Holmgren so it seems likely he’ll get an interview, but it seems more likely that he’d be considered for the offensive coordinator position first and foremost. He is highly regarded on the offensive side of the ball and in Minnesota had one of the most dangerous offenses thanks to the weapons he was able to utilize. Mornhinweg is probably the leader for the offensive coordinator position, but Childress is likely a close second.
Steve Mariucci: Mariucci is another disciple of the tree of Holmgren and a rather successful one at that. In six seasons as head coach of the 49ers, Mariucci compiled a record of 57-39 and four playoff appearances. That’s not too shabby and many argue he was given a raw deal towards the end. Unfortunately in two and a half seasons in Detroit he complied a record of 15-28 but again, this was under Matt Millen, so how much credence do you place in it? He has a record above .500 for his career and has shown an ability to get the most out of his teams. Of course, he has to want to leave his cushy job as an analyst for the NFL Network. Might a chance to work with Holmgren again be enough to do that? We’ll have to wait and see.
Brian Billick: Billick’s name hasn’t been thrown around nationally, but many local folks believe he should get an interview. It’s hard to see him meshing well with Holmgren, but it’s a successful name with a pro track record. Again, he’s another that would want to be willing to leave the TV booth, but who knows? I wouldn’t complain if he was given a chance to remedy this. Plus, he’s been in the AFC North. He knows what these rivalries mean in the grand scheme of things. You mean to tell me he wouldn’t love to stick it to the Steelers and Bengals again, not to mention his former employer, the Ravens? It’s an interesting pick.
Jeff Fisher: Fisher has been the head coach of the Titans since before they were the Titans. He came with the team from Houston as the Oilers in the mid 90’s and has had mostly success during his time. As of today he is still employed by Tennessee, but should he become available he would vault straight to the top of this list. He has a winning record in 17 seasons with the Oilers/Titans and made the Super Bowl. If they didn’t have to share a division with the Colts it’s likely he may have had even more success. It’ll be interesting to see if the Titans finally decide to let him go i favor of QB Vince Young. If they do they’re idiots, and if that’s the case the Browns should give it a shot. Besides, with that ‘stache he’d become a legend.
Perry Fewell: Fewell is the defensive coordinator for the Giants and has quickly become the “unproven coordinator guy” in contention for the position. I will admit that I don’t know much about him other than the fact that he went 3-4 as interim coach of the Bills in 2009 and the Giants defense is scary good. After further research I found out that under Fewell the Bills had the #2 ranked defense in 2008 and his defenses consistenly rank near the top of the league. Should the Browns decide to take a shot on Fewell it will definitely help that side of the ball. Unfortunately, that’s not the side of the ball that needs helping. Also bear in mind that interviewing Fewell meets the league requirements set forth under the Rooney Rule. He’s at the bottom of the list for me as of now.
Marvin Lewis: He’s going to walk away from the Bengals job now that his contract is up. The question now is whether or not he wants to jump back into the coaching grind or take some time off. Keep in mind he’s probably aged an extra 20 years thanks to Chad Ochocinco’s hijinx over the years. Lewis’ time in Cincy can best be described as up and down. Management did very little to help him put a winning team on the field. It seemed as if the Bengals alternated winning and losing seasons during his entire tenure. He’s an old school tough as nails coach and would help whip this team into shape, but again the Browns really need an offensive oriented coach. Lewis, like Fewell, could get an interview simply to meet the requirements of the Rooney Rule, but even then he has to be considered a legit candidate.
Bill Cowher: It’s a possibility… a very, very small possibility, but I doubt it would happen. If Cowher comes back into coaching it will be for a team that is ready to compete for a Super Bowl starting tomorrow or for a more glamorous city like Miami. I also can’t see him betraying the Rooney’s and the people of Pittsburgh by coming back to coach in Cleveland. If it went bad it could be an even bigger blow to his legacy than the same position with a different team. And would he want to give up power to Holmgren, one of his comtemporaries and someone he beat in the Super Bowl? I doubt it. Regardless, his name makes the list solely because it’s made the list each of the past two times we’ve been in this situation.
Mike Holmgren: The big man himself. He might be the best qualified candidate out there. However, Holmgren said very adamantly in his press conference today that he doesn’t want to coach. How true that really is, is anyone’s guess but until he’s roaming the sidelines on Sunday with a head set on we have to take him for his word. One thing we’ve learned watching Holmgren coach over the years is that he does a remarkable job crafting an offense and molding a quarterback. He had some guy named Brett Favre in Green Bay and Matt Hasselbeck was no slouch in Seattle. Favre is headed for Canton some day and Hasselbeck has made numerous pro bowl and playoff appearances. Hell, if Hasselbeck plays his cards right there’s still an outside chance he could make it to Canton as well. Not bad, Coach, not bad at all. Given all of that, you mean to tell me he wouldn’t love the chance to get his hands on McCoy? It’s another reason why Holmgren can’t be ruled out. The most likely scenario could be two to three years of Holmgren with Mornhinweg or McDaniels in position to take over afterwards.
And that pretty much does it. As more coaching candidates become known I’ll offer my opinion on them as well. I will also weigh in further once it looks like the Browns are close to their decision. In the meantime, hang on Browns fans… Things are about to get interesting.