Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Windy City View of Coaching Candidates

With Arizona and Atlanta having already fired their head coaches the rumors about who the hot names are as potential replacements are growing quickly. This article by John Mullin of the Chicago Tribune (with emphasis added) focuses primarily on Bears Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera, however -- in addition to the names already mentioned at Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic -- Mr. Mullin adds at least one name that hadn't previously been considered here: Colts Assistant Head Coach/QB Coach, Jim Caldwell.

Mr. Caldwell was the Head Coach at Wake Forest University from 1993-2000, was the Quarterbacks coach in Tampa Bay in 2001, and joined the Indianapolis coaching staff in 2002.

Another point raised in this article that is relevant to the Steelers coaching search is the fact that assistants on playoff teams can only be interviewed "in the week before the first playoff game." So while Bill Cowher wants to be certain of his decision, it does delay the Steelers search.

"For at least the rest of this week the Bears may be dealing with another distraction. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera is in play as a leading candidate for one of the vacant head-coaching jobs in the NFL.

The Arizona Cardinals ran out of patience with Dennis Green after three successive losing seasons, the latest a 5-11 stumble in 2006, and immediately had Rivera on their list of six prospects to succeed Green.

The Atlanta Falcons, who fired coach Jim Mora on Monday, also are expected to contact the Bears for the required permission to talk with Rivera.

Former Bears personnel chief Rod Graves, given a three-year extension last week as the Cardinals' vice president of operations, contacted the Bears regarding Rivera, who played for the Bears when Graves was in the personnel department.

Also on the Cardinals' list are Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow; Texans assistant head coach/offense Mike Sherman; Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt; Steelers assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm; and Colts assistant head coach/QBs coach Jim Caldwell.

Sherman is confirmed for a Thursday interview. Grimm interviewed for the Bears' head-coaching job in 2004 before Lovie Smith was hired.

NFL rules stipulate that teams can interview candidates on playoff teams only in the week before the first playoff game, which comes Saturday. Rivera interviewed for the Packers' job that went to Mike McCarthy and was a finalist in St. Louis, losing out to Scott Linehan in a split vote after Rams management chose to stay with a coach from an offensive background instead of Rivera.

Rivera interviewed with the Rams on a Friday and with the Packers on a Saturday morning, ahead of the noon deadline last year. In Pittsburgh, the top job may open if Bill Cowher opts to end his reign as the NFL's most tenured coach.

Cowher was among nine new head coaches hired in 1992 and won last year's Super Bowl. If Cowher leaves, Grimm and Whisenhunt are expected to head the Steelers' list of candidates. But Pittsburgh has been very successful with a head coach (Cowher) from the defensive side of the ball and Rivera is a proven leader of defenses.

Rivera has been a winner at every stop. Besides playing for the Mike Ditka Bears, Rivera coached linebackers for the Eagles in their run of three consecutive NFC championship appearances and has kept the Bears among the NFL's elite defenses this season



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