Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

13 Dec 2007

Top 10 Assistants Ready to Be Head Coaches

Someone writes one of these articles about this time every season; this one is from Jeremy Green at ESPN. Rex Ryan and Jason Garrett lead the list. Always good for debate.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 13 Dec 2007

55 comments, Last at 17 Dec 2007, 2:40am by Josh


by Marko (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 1:18pm

And Norv Turner heads the list of head coaches ready to be assistants.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 1:21pm

#1 wins the thread.

by Costa (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 1:23pm

I agree with Green on both the Ryan brothers, Pendergast, Martz getting another chance and Singletary (even though he hasn't been D-coordinator yet)

Disagree on Garrett (he's clearly a fantastic coordinator and on his way to big things, but one season as a coach of any kind doesn't get you ready to be a HC), McDaniels for the same reason, and of course most of all, Haslett.

by Dr. B (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 1:34pm

It seems like Grimm has been on this kind of list every year since he became the OL coach in Pittsburgh (2001?). I'm beginning to wonder if there is something about him that comes across very poorly in interviews, because teams keep talking to him but not hiring.

by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 1:35pm

Norv Turner isn't going to get fired after this season.

by Waverly (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 1:50pm

I thought there was a new rule this year requiring teams to allow media access to assistant coaches.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 1:56pm

It may be superficial to some degree, but a guy who looks like Rob Ryan ain't very likely to be put in charge of managing a 100 million dollar-plus payroll. It may offend his sense of individuality, but if he wants that sort of gig, he oughta' consider a visit to the barber.

I think the Vikings' Leslie Frazier has a chance to be a head coach. He may not be as obvious a candidate as Mike Tomlin was, but he's been damned good, and is a former player with a great coaching pedigree from Jim Johnson and Tony Dungy. Thanks to the Rooney rule, I think he'll certainly get some interviews, which is half the battle.

by MarkB (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 2:00pm

McDaniel? I seem to remember that he was named quarterback coach about 3-4 years ago, and everyone was shocked. What was he going to teach Brady? Wasn't he the gofer guy before that? Romeo was coaching for about 30 years before he got a sniff.

by Costa (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 2:11pm

While I can totally agree with that, I will be sad if and when he does that. I like the Harley Davidson biker look he sports. =P

by RickKilling (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 2:35pm

#7: I was glad to see Frazier's name WASN'T on that list. I agree that he'll make a good HC someday in the mold of Dungy. I just want it too soon. MN needs some coaching consistency to teach the talent they have. It's usually more established programs like NE or Indy that can slice off coordinators every year and continue winning.

by RickKilling (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 2:36pm

#10: ...DON'T want it too soon..

Geez Killing. Get it together

by navin (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 2:38pm

Where is Jim Schwarz? I wouldn't be surprised if SF hires him this offseason. They almost made him the HC 3 years ago.

by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 2:39pm

Re: #3 - Garrett was the QB coach for the Dolphins in 2005 and 2006, so that would be three seasons as a coach of any kind. And, of course, he's been around the NFL - in the locker room and on successful teams - a lot longer than that. Though I guess I agree with your general point that at least a couple more seasons as OC would be ideal. And I'm sure Jerry Jones is promising him the job after Wade's tenure is up and is ready to pay him whatever it takes to keep in Dallas until that time.

by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 2:49pm

I know the Raven players love Ryan, but I'm not sure he'd make great HC material. Remember, Marvin Lewis and Mike Nolan had just as much, if not more, success at being the D-Coordinator in Baltimore.

Schematically, I think teams have really caught up to what the Ravens front 7 have been doing, and Ryan hasn't done a great job adjusting. Doing some zany overload blitz on 3rd and long sometimes is less effective than letting good pass rushers (i.e. Suggs, Barnes, Johnson) put a hand in the dirt and going after the QB.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 3:12pm

Re #12
No kidding. I think Jim Schwartz coaching the 49ers next year is almost at the point of "more likely than not."

by hwc (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 3:13pm

There is video on the Pats website press conference archives of six Josh McDaniels press conferences or interviews since the start of the regular season.

I don't know how many more interviews would be required to dispel the notion that "Belichick doesn't allow assistants to speak to the media".

RE: 8

Yes. McDaniels moved from a defensive assistant working with the secondary to QB coach in 2004. In 2005, after Charlie Weiss left, the team did not have a named offensive coordinator, although the belief is that McDaniels did much of the play calling.

He was named Offensive Coordinator for the 2006 season and has handled all of the play calling the last two seasons.

He's 31 years old. Interestingly, his college teammate quarterback Nick Caserio coaches the Pats wide receivers. McDaniels (a WR in college) still handles the QB coaching duties along with being offensive coordinator.

by hwc (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 3:29pm

I know the money and allure of head coaching positions is a strong lure, but I'm not convinced that McDaniels is looking to make a move. He's only 31. He is offensive coordinator for the best offense and best QB in the NFL. I mean, who wouldn't enjoy coaching Brady, Moss, Welker, etc.?

Plus, he is getting the continuing benefit of mentoring from Bill Belichick. Worst case, he rides it out to the end of the Belichick/Brady era and becomes the logical choice to replace Belichick in New England before he turns 40.

It's not like his "stock" is going to go down around the league as long as he's offensive coordinator for this offense.

by langsty (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 3:47pm

glad to see Clancy Pendergrass on there - the cardinals do a REALLY good job scheming up on defense, i think he's as good as anyone in the league at making the most with what he's got. i wouldn't mind if the falcons took a look at him.

by langsty (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 3:51pm

Clancy Pendergast, rather. not pendergrass.

by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 4:11pm

"New England head coach Bill Belichick does not allow his assistant coaches access to the media, so McDaniels is not talked about very often."

Uh, what? People talk about McDaniels all the time, and I just did a very quick search and found several newspaper articles quoting McDaniels.

by Kneel Before Zod! (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 4:18pm

re 3: Ratgina was a DC for just one year before his hiring by the Jets.

by MJB (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 5:03pm

What no love for Ron Meeks? He deserves a long look at a head coaching job.

Yes, the Colts D may not be thought of as the most dominate of groups. But he does seem to get the most out the players he has. Also, look at the roster turn-over he has to deal with year in and year out, his ability to get players to step up into thier new roles and excel has to be noticed by now.

by Richard (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 5:11pm

1: Norv Turner sure is in the middle of a winning season despite a difficult schedule and injuries to key players.

by Victor (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 5:18pm

Just out of curiosity, why is Norm Chow never on a list? The last few seasons hes had weak personnel, but he has a great history. He also has relationships with Philip Rivers, and all the USC products. I think he'd be great in a place like...oh...I don't know, San Diego?

by peachy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 5:24pm

re: 7 - Oh, I dunno; the impeccable grooming of Saban and Petrino didn't help their employers, so perhaps it's time to give boho a chance.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 5:32pm

I just can't understand why Mike Smith has been overlooked for years. The Jags had the league's number 2 defense last year, despite injuries to a number of all-pro talents. Smith deserves more credit and at least a good look at a head coaching job.

by Jonathan (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 5:49pm

With the inevitable Norv Turner comment already brought up in this thread, I just wanted to point out how interesting this furor over Norv has been.

The VAST majority of sports pundits commented that San Diego would finish either 10-6 or 11-5 with the AFC West title, yet now that it looks like they might be right, people are complaining that the Chargers are not winning enough.

Green's comment on Mike Singletary ("He has never been a coordinator or a head coach, but his name is going to come up because as an ex-player who gets a ton of respect from the players that play for him. That's huge because gaining the respect of the players is half the battle in becoming a good NFL head coach and Singletary will have that from Day 1") brought to mind some interesting ancedotes over the season where the SD Union-Tribue spoke to players about the difference between Norv and Marty....seems to me like Marty was more liked, but not necessarily respected (his speeches were kind of mocked by the players).

Whereas Marty would fire up the players with impassioned speeches, it seems like (based on the UT articles) Norv's approach is to let the players find that passion themselves.

I think that's going to make a huge difference in the players (granting the Chargers finish out on top in the regular season), as it's the players, not the coaches, who need to be impassioned on the field come January.

Go bolts!! =)

by Jonathan (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 5:51pm

Sorry, at the end of my ^ post, I meant "...a huge difference in the PLAYOFFS..", not PLAYERS, lol

My apologies ;)

by Jimmy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 6:03pm

Being a great ex-player sure worked wonders for Art Shell's coaching career.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 6:26pm

Re #16 et al.
It was Decreed From On High in the offseason that head coaches would no longer be allowed to forbid their assistants from speaking to the press. So, you may thank Commissioner Goodell for letting you hear of Mr. McDaniels.

Re #24
Chow interviewed for head coaching jobs in college last year and with the Cardinals, and will reportedly interview for the UCLA job this year. I think, not unreasonably, his long-time college background suggests he'd be better suited as a college head coach than as an NFL one.

by Bob in Jax (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 9:26pm

#26 -- Yes, Mike Smith deserves a shot as HC somewhere. Of course, every time I see one of these articles, I am secretly happy that he is ignored again. Selfish, I know, and I will be happy for him when he gets a shot, but I will be happier still as long as he is the Jag's DC. :)

by Bob in Jax (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 9:27pm

Oops! Apostrophe issues. Sorry.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 10:12pm

7: Because Belichick looks like a top CEO on the sidelines.

by hwc (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 11:11pm

Because Belichick looks like a top CEO on the sidelines...

Hah. I'll be that the gray Belichick hoodie is one of the biggest selling items in the NFL catalog. Belichick is just a saavy marketer. That's all.

by Jake (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 12:43am

McDaniel has been a defensive assistant, an offensive assistant and a OC. He's definitely building a good resume even if the success of this year has more to do with talent than scheme (and many think this is BB's offense too with his consultations with Urban Meyer but who knows really). He's also very young. In a year or two, he should be at the top of the lists.
And the only reason McDaniel now talks to the media? Its mandatory. One of those rules the NFL comes up with every year because it doesn't like something BB is doing. Funny how the competition committee happens to work like that when over the last decade or so its been full of guys who don't like BB (Casserly, Polian, Fisher etc).

by Boots Day (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 1:37am

Between Singletary, Leslie Frazier, and Ron Rivera, that's three members of the 1985 Bears defense who have a shot at being head coaches someday.

by jimmo (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 3:00am

I'm surprised Martz is still on this list; I'd have to say this is his last NFL stop for quite awhile. Detroit's offense is stagnant, top-pick receivers are failing to develop (maybe their own fault, maybe not) and his QBs get hit far too often for an owner/GM to take a chance on him. That's just the on-field issues.

I've been a big Martz booster ever since he first made Trent Green respectable in Washington, but I really see him needing to move to college ball where the QBs are more plentiful and the glare maybe not so bright.

by Just Another Falcon Fan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 3:05am

Re: #36

Granted, he had to retire before 1985, but Doug Plank is a head coach...of the Georgia Force of the Arena Football League. He's also asked to be considered for the head coach position on Arthur Blank's other pro football team, which seems like it would be a demotion.

by Shyam (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 3:27am

I won't take anything that Jeremy Green said seriously. Has anyone heard him on radio. He wears a lofty title 'Director' of Scouts Inc. but there is no useful data he ever presents. He is one of those empty suits who says 'running game is good' / 'passing game is good' purely based off of the previous week's results. Let's not give this guy credence and link to his stuff on a website as intelligent as this one.


by jurb (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 5:05am

I'm surprised not to see Ron Rivera on this list. He's been considered one of the hottest head coaching prospects over the last couple of years and now he can't even crack this guy's top 10. If anything, the Bears' struggles in Rivera's absence should only validate his coaching reputation. What gives?

by sam (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 9:35am



The Jags lost a number of good assistants during their four-year playoff run. With the emergence of David Garrard, Dirk Koetter may get some looks as well.

by iapetus (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 11:04am

I realise that official policy for Jaguars fans is to constantly whine about the lack of respect the Jaguars receive at every level. And I try to keep up with it, I really do. But secretly I breathe a sigh of relief every time I see a list like this and Mike Smith's name isn't on it. I know he deserves it, but at the same time I'm glad to see him passed over again because it increases the likelihood that we'll get to keep him. Does that make me a bad fan?

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 11:42am

"7: Because Belichick looks like a top CEO on the sidelines."

I dunno, the CEO/COB for the billion dollar software company I work for wears a hoodie and a pony tail to work, and doesn't have an office...

by Jesus (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 1:07pm

I just don't understand why Mitch Cumsteen doesn't make the list . . .

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 1:44pm

Sophrandos, Belichik had an extensive history with Kraft, and can put on a suit and tie and look like the typical executive in an interview with a billionaire. Rob Ryan has neither advantage. If Ol' Rob wants a head coaching gig, he's going to have to sell himself, and part of selling yourself is tailoring your appearance to the expectations of a buyer who doesn't know you well.

These decisions aren't made in a vacuum, and unless a guy is the obvious best candidate, a status rarely achieved by someone who hasn't previously had extreme success as a head coach, he is more often than not going to lose out to someone who has a more conventional appearance, in a billionaire's mind-set.

The same dynamic helps explain why black coaches have difficulty getting interviews or jobs, even if an owner isn't conciously racist. Human nature doesn't change much, and it is unlikely that there will be any Rooney rule requiring interviews with guys who look like members of the Hell's Angels.

by mrparker (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 2:11pm

Is it just me or are great head coaches usually assistants at a very young age under superbowl winning coaches.

Hire someone who was young under belichek, dungy, vermeil. I'm talking guys like Tomlin who were position coaches under these guys in their 20s. They seem to make the best head coaches

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 7:05pm

Re #36
I know he spent about the entire year on IR, but you forgot Jeff Fisher.

by cottonfever (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 7:24pm

"...being a head coach is about winning and Martz did that consistently in St Louis and brought a Superbowl championship to the city." Vermeil was the head coach who won a Superbowl, Martz did not.

by Tom (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 8:10pm

Re 45:

There is probably a good chance Al Davis gives Ryan a shot at head coach in the future.

Also, I think the lack of black coaches has to do more with breaking into the "old boys" club, then racism.

by Jason Mulgrew aka The Mul-Dawg aka Fantasy Football Legend a (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 10:15pm

re: 44

I remember that poster. Does he still post?

If Andy Reid resigns after this season, I would like Rex Ryan to be the new coach

by Raiderjoe (not verified) :: Sat, 12/15/2007 - 2:58am

All u other fans of teams can keep dreaing. Raidrs not giving up Rob Ryan to other teams. He stay in oakland where he belongs. The great Al Davis and don't forget he is gerat will keep Ryan in Oakland.
L Kifin and Rob Ryan showing hey tare greta
this season. Big things in store for Raiders in 2008 starts with Jamacrus Russell being next great Qb following P Manning, C Plamer, and T Brady. Tony Romo good too, but not genius Qb.

by Raiderjoe (not verified) :: Sat, 12/15/2007 - 3:01am

Sorr if my posts was bad. Had little too mosuch of sierrsa Nevada pale aele tonigh at bar
Talk football here tomorrow after good looks
nice ad of pbs girl sweet dreams from that ogiht

by old (not verified) :: Sat, 12/15/2007 - 7:05am

brought to mind some interesting ancedotes over the season where the SD Union-Tribue spoke to players about the difference between Norv and Marty….seems to me like Marty was more liked, but not necessarily respected (his speeches were kind of mocked by the players).
Whereas Marty would fire up the players with impassioned speeches, it seems like (based on the UT articles)...
:: Jonathan — 12/13/2007 @ 3:49 pm

There seems to me to be a contradiction between players mocking Marty's speeches and also being fired up by Marty's speeches.

If I had to pick a head coach these days I would pick a guy who worked under a guy who worked for Chuck Noll.

by Daniel (not verified) :: Sat, 12/15/2007 - 7:12pm

It may be before your time, but Art Shell was very successful in his first stint with the Raiders. A lot of NFL coaches have been ex-players, just not star players, including recent coaches Bill Cowher, Gary Kubiak, Jack Del Rio, and Ken Wisenhunt. Dick Lebeau is considered a borderline Hall of Famer as a player, and should be enshrined for his work as a defensive coordinator. I also believe Tom Landry and Chuck Noll were ex-players as well.

by Josh (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2007 - 2:40am

Drunk raiderjoe is better than regular raiderjoe!