Friday, January 05, 2007

Who are the REAL Candidates? Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic Gets Serious

Now that Bill Cowher has made his departure from the Steelers official, it's time to look carefully at the gentlemen who will by vying to take over as head coach. So without further adieu, here is a "power ranking" of the candidates.

The Leaders
The following three coaches are candidates for all the NFL jobs currently open, and the the two external candidates will be in Pittsburgh over the weekend.

Ken Whisenhunt (44 years old) - Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Coordinator (2004-Current)
  • Tight ends coach - Pittsburgh Steelers (2001-2003)
  • Tight ends coach - New York Jets (2000)
  • Special teams coach - Cleveland Browns (1999)
  • Tight ends coach - Baltimore Ravens (1997-1998)
  • Special teams, Tight ends & H-backs coach - Vanderbilt University (1995-1996)
Mr. Whisenhunt received serious consideration for the Oakland position last year, that combined with the fact that several of the current Steelers players have expressed a desire to have one of the current Steelers' assistant coaches elevated to the head coach position would seem to make Mr. Whisenhunt the leading candidate. However as my great friend Big Dan the 'Burgh Man asked during a recent conversation is making the players comfortable a good thing? After all, it's a thin line between comfort and complacency.

Cam Cameron (45 years old) - San Diego Chargers Offensive Coordinator (2002-Current)
  • Head coach - Indiana University (1997-2001)
  • Quarterback coach - Washington Redskins (1994-1996)
Mr. Cameron's Marty Schottenheimer pedigree must be attractive to the Rooneys -- given Bill Cowher's successful run as Steelers head coach -- not to mention his results in leading the Chargers' offense. In 2002 the Chargers finished the season with the 16th ranked offense in the NFL (the Steelers finished 5th). In 2003 the Chargers finished with the 14th ranked offense (Steelers: 22nd). In 2004 and 2005 the Chargers finished with the 10th ranked offense (Steelers: 16th and 15th). For the most recently completed season the Chargers finished with the 4th ranked offense (the Steelers offense finished 7th).

Ron Rivera (44 years old) - Chicago Bears Defensive Coordinator (2004-Current)
  • Linebacker coach - Philadelphia Eagles (1999-2003)
  • Defensive quality control - Chicago Bears (1997-1998)
Under Mr. Rivera the Bears' defense has developed into the very best defense in the NFC, and one of the best in the entire league. During his first season as defensive coordinator the Bears defense ranked 21st in the NFL, however in 2005 that unit jumped to the #2 defense in average yardage allowed per game (281.8) and #1 in average points allowed per game (12.6). In 2006 the Bears defense "slipped" to #5 in average yards allowed per game (294.1) and #3 in points allowed (15.9).

They've Got a Shot

Russ Grimm (46 years old) - Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line Coach - Pittsburgh Steelers (2004-Current)
  • Offensive line coach - Pittsburgh Steelers (2001-2003)
  • Offensive line coach - Washington Redskins (1997-2000)
  • Tight ends coach - Washington Redskins (1992-1996)
One of the best, if not the best, offensive line coaches in the league, and the only coach to have the title of "Assistant Head Coach" during Bill Cowher's tenure in Pittsburgh..

Rex Ryan (44 years old) - Baltimore Ravens Defensive Coordinator (2005-Current)
  • Defensive line coach - Baltimore Ravens (1999-2004)
  • Defensive coordinator - Oklahoma University (1998)
  • Defensive coordinator - University of Cincinnati (1996-1997)
The latest in a line of very successful, skilled defensive coordinators in Baltimore. This past season the Ravens' defense was #1 in average yards allowed per game (264.1 -- more than 20 yards less than the #2 defense), #1 in average points allowed per game (12.6 -- more than two points less than the #2 team), #2 in sacks (60 -- San Diego had 61), #1 in sack yardage (418 -- 67 yards more than the #2 team), and #1 in interceptions (28).

Jim Caldwell (51 years old) - Colts Assistant Head Coach/QB Coach (2005-Current)
  • Quarterback coach - Indianapolis Colts (2002-2004)
  • Quarterback coach - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2001)
  • Head Coach - Wake Forest University (1993-2000)
The Colts' offense ranked second in scoring in 2005 (439 points), third in yardage (5,799), and first in 3rd down effeciency (48.7%). In 2006 the Colts tied for second in scoring (427 points), third in yardage (6,070), and first in 3rd effeciency (56.1%). In addition to his jobs listed above, Mr. Caldwell was also an assistant coach at Penn State from 1986-1992.

Kirk Ferentz (51 years old) - University of Iowa Head Coach (1999-Current)

Served on Bill Belichick's staff at Cleveland in the early 1990s. Hails from Upper St. Clair, and this native son is getting attention amongst some of the media.

An Outside Chance at Best

Jim Haslett (51 years old) - St. Louis Rams Defensive Coordinator (2006-Current)
  • Head coach - New Orleans Saints (2000-2005, 45 wins-51 losses)
  • Defensive coordinator - Pittsburgh (1997-1999)
  • Defensive coordinator - New Orleans (1996)
  • Pittsburgh native
My personal favorite in this group. He would continue the use of the 3-4 defense, cut his teeth as a head coach in New Orleans -- and had what might go down as the worst experience of any head coach in the post-Katrina travelling show that the Saints suffered through in 2005 -- and is a native of the Pittsburgh area.

Bob Bratkowski (51 years old) - Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Coordinator (2001-Current)
  • Wide receiver coach - Pittsburgh Steelers (1999-2000)
  • Offensive Coordinator - Seattle Seahawks (1995-1998)
One of the more experienced candidates in this list. In his first season as Cincinnati's Offensive Coordinator the Bengals' had the 23rd best offense in the NFL, by 2005 they had moved up to sxith, and finished 8th this past season.

Rick Dennison (48 years old) - Denver Broncos Offensive Coordinator (2006-Current)
  • Offensive line coach - Denver (2001-2005)
  • Special teams coach - Denver (1997-2000)
  • Offensive assistant coach - Denver (1995-1996)
Mr. Dennison just completed his first season as the Broncos' Offensive Coordinator, a season in which that unit finished 21st in the NFL, but he has a good breadth of experience and is worthy of an interview.

Pete Carroll (55 years old) - University of Southern California Head Coach (2001-Current)
  • Head Coach - New England Patriots (1997-1999)
  • Defensive Coordinator - San Francisco 49ers (1995-1996)
The question is this: Is Pete Carroll interested in the NFL?



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