Handicapping The Redskins Head Coaching Candidates

First featured in Hail Republic

What do Mike Shanahan and a Christmas tree have in common? Both will be kicked to the curb by New Years' Day (Ba-Doom Ching). Corny jokes aside and barring something unforeseen, the Redskins will hire the franchise's 28th head coach this winter (unless Dan Snyder opts to retread and go with Jimmy Zorn 2.0 or Terry Robiskie 0.5. Sorry, more corny jokes).

So who will grab the reigns and take Washington into their 2014 campaign? We have our top ten candidates listed below.

BAYLOR HEAD COACH ART BRILES

PROS - As Robert Griffin III's college coach, Art Briles will have intimate knowledge on what his star pupil can do and how to get the most out of his unique skillset. Playing in Briles' offense, RGIII accounted for over 10,000 yards of total offense, 110 touchdowns and snagged a Heisman Trophy before declaring for the 2012 NFL draft.  

CONS - RGIII's ego has already become an issue in less than two years in DC. If Briles were brought in, he could have the power to keep the endless Robert Griffin Variety Hour in check. Then again, he could also enable it perpetuating the problem.

CHANCES THE REDSKINS HIRE HIM - 18% 

PAUL WILLIAMS - Where there is smoke, there is fire. Rumors about Briles to DC are already out there. I don't know how credible the sources are, but it wouldn't be a bad gig for Briles or a bad hire for the Redskins. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a RGIII hire. Briles will be one of the most sought after college coaches this winter, despite his new contact at Baylor. Reuniting him with RGIII and installing a Griff-friendly attack could lead to success.

The major drawback out be letting a player hand pick the head coach. You cannot let inmates run the asylum. If this does happen, the paradigm and power structure of the team is changed forever.

DOUG RAMEY - Here's what scares me about Briles...he has zero NFL coaching experience, even as an assistant. In fact, he was stuck at the high school level of coaching for 20 years before getting his first college assistant job at the ripe old age of 40. I'm not trusting this guy to control a roster of 53 millionaires. NO!

LOVIE SMITH - FORMER BEARS HEAD COACH

PROS - Coached the Bears to 3 Division titles with a Super Bowl appearance and 2 NFC Championship games. Strong defensive background , NFL Coach of the year in 2005.

CONS - No offensive mind at all, would need to hire a strong OC to mentor RG3. Never was able to take the Bears to the next level and only had 1 playoff win in his last 6 seasons in Chicago.

CHANCE THE SKINS HIRE HIM - 15%

DR - My guess is that Lovie’s heart is set on the Houston job. He’s a Texas native and strong rumors have him tied to this job…unless Shanny lands there.

PW – Lovie Smith went won three division titles, went to two NFC title games and went to a Super Bowl. That alone should be enough to get Smith here for an interview. Passing up on a coach with that kind of resume would be a mistake on the Redskins’ part.

CHARGERS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR KEN WHISENHUNT

PROS: Ken Whisenhunt has two Super Bowls on his resume (one running the offense in Pittsburgh in 2005 and then again leading the Cardinals as the head coach in 2008). A series of underwhelming quarterbacks following Kurt Warner's retirement cost him his job in Arizona, but is now spearheading Phillip Rivers' rejuvenation in San Diego as their OC.

CONS: Bad quarterback play can be blamed for a lot of the Cardinals woes last year, but somewhere mired in that 1-10 finish, Whisenhunt lost the team. Going 5-11 happens, but when your message stops being received and players stop responding, a larger issue is at hand.

CHANCE THE REDSKINS HIRE HIM - 14%

PWWouldn’t have the flair of some of the younger up-and-coming coordinators of college coaches, but this would be a very solid hire. Daniel Snyder generally likes to go with experience over youth and there aren’t too many candidates with Super Bowl experience. Whisenhunt should be considered a strong candidate

DR - The thought of hiring retreads gives me little excitement. That being said, guys like Bill Belichik and Pete Carroll have proven that it can be rewarding. And as Paul points out, this guy has coached at a Super Bowl level. Bonus with this hiring would be the fact that Russ Grimm would most likely come with Whisenhunt. 

STANFORD HEAD COACH DAVID SHAW

PROS:  Whether serving as an offensive coordinator under Jim Harbaugh or as the head coach, David Shaw has been the architect of Stanford’s powerful offense.  The defending two-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year built offenses around 2009 Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart then 2010 and 2011 Heisman runner-up Andrew Luck. Shaw spent nine years coaching in the NFL and by all accounts is a respected football mind.

CONS – It remains to be seen whether Griffin is suited for a traditional pro style offense. Yes, Shaw is an excellent teacher of quarterbacks, but if Shaw’s offense doesn’t suit the things that the franchise QB can do well, then hiring him would be a waste of time.

CHANCES THE REDSKINS HIRE HIM - 13%

PW - If I were Daniel Snyder and Bruce Allen, David Shaw would be my No. 1 target. The work that Shaw has done with the development of Andrew Luck would do wonders for RGIII's game. A renewed focus on fundamentals and technique would help take RGIII to the next step of his career. Plus installing a pro style offense in DC would be beneficial to RGIII’s long-term development.

DR - If we're targeting college coaches this should be our guy. Tons of NFL experience as an assistant, 34-6 as HC of Stanford. Born and raised to be a football coach.

JON GRUDEN – FORMER BUCCANEERS HEAD COACH / ESPN ANALYST

PROS - He’s won a Super Bowl and coached a team to a division championship game under 2 difficult owners. Has done wonders with over-the-hill slow white QB’s…imagine what he could do with RG3. Has the reputation to hire the best assistants available.

CONS - He’s nearly 6 years removed from his last NFL game. Hasn’t won a playoff game since 2002. Some argue that his success was a product of Tony Dungy’s sloppy seconds.

CHANCE THE SKINS HIRE HIM 12%

DR - Gruden is my guy, I wanted him before the Skins hired Shanny. He’s got a working relationship with Bruce Allen and he’s a winner. He’s also a QB guru. That being said, I’m not holding my breath that Danny could pull off this hire given his track record with head coaches.

PWThe name has been floated around these parts for some time. It makes sense considering the connection to Bruce Allen. My only concern is how would he handle RGIII. Gruden is a notorious micro-manager of quarterbacks. Griffin needs a good QB coach, but I’d like to see the improvised elements of his game to remain.  Would Gruden put an end to that?

DARRELL BEVELL - SEAHAWKS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR

PROS - He’s an offensive guy who’s done amazing things with Russell Wilson. He was OC for the Vikings when Favre was killing it with them. Still a relatively young 43 years old but has 14 years experience coaching in the NFL.

CONS - No head coaching experience and he’s worked under Pete Carroll…whom every Redskins fan can agree is the Devil. Would need to hire experienced coaches around him including a strong DC.

CHANCE THE SKINS HIRE HIM: 10%

DR - I would actually love to see what this guy could do with RG3. He’s a west coast offensive guy who’s incorporated pistol stuff while committing to the running game. Not sold on him coaching the team though.

PWSeeing what Bevell is doing in Seattle intrigues me. I wonder what he could do with RGIII, Alfred Morris, Jordan Reed and Pierre Garcon. The type of balance offensively that the Seahawks have is what wins championships. Sneaky good hire if we can land him.

BILL O’BRIEN - PENN STATE HEAD COACH

PROS - He’s built a winner at Penn State from a program that was left for dead after the Sandusky fallout. Called the plays and served as OC for the Patriots for an offense that put up huge numbers.

CONS - No NFL coaching experience and only one year in the NFL as a coordinator. Spent years in coaching obscurity before the Patriots gig.

CHANCE THE SKINS HIRE HIM: 8%

DR - This is my dark horse and a guy I would be happy with. He’s won at Penn State against all odds. He’s an offensive guy who can work to mold RG3. I’m warming up to this option.

PW Bill O’Brien is one notch below David Shaw as far as college coaches go in my opinion. He is a no-nonsense Bill Belichick disciple and the job he has done at Penn State is nothing short of miraculous. I would feel very comfortable putting RGIII’s future in this guy’s hands.

SAINTS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR PETE CARMICHAEL

PROS - Drew Brees and Sean Payton get most of the credit for the Saint's offensive success, but offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael also deserves his due. The three men all arrived in New Orleans in 2006 with Carmichael as Brees' quarterbacks coach. The three paid instant dividends for the Saints, racking up Madden-on-Rookie-mode like numbers. The Saints have ranked first in total offense four times in Carmichael's six years in NO.

CONS - It’s hard to tell exactly what kind of contributions Carmichael has on the Saint's offense. Yes, he is the coordinator, but Sean Payton is one of the NFL's top play-callers and Drew Brees is a Hall of Famer. I'm not saying that Carmichael doesn't have a significant role for the Saints' offense but you have to wonder what would happen if he were trusted to construct and top offensive unit on his own.  

CHANCE THE REDSKINS HIRE HIM - 6%

PW - Pete Carmichael is my dark horse candidate. Pete Carmichael is far from a household name, but would be a pretty good hire. Can you imagine the Redskins deploying a fast-paced vertical offense like the Saints? If the Redskins assemble the right combo of talent around the QB, then it could be possible down the line.

DR - Unfortunately, it would take the Redskins 2-3 years to assemble the talent to try to duplicate the Saints. That's assuming of course, that the Redskins would make the right picks and signings to do so. I know he doesn't call the plays and it's a passing league, but it bothers me the Saints run the ball 10 times a game. I want to feed Alf more.

PANTHERS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR SEAN MCDERMOTT

PROS - Sean McDermott (currently the Maestro behind the one of the NFL's best defenses down in Carolina) coaches his team to play an aggressive and suffocating brand of defense, usually featuring a number of exotic blitzes which he learned under the tutelage of the late Jim Johnson.  McDermott has long been considered one of the better young coordinators and should be on the short list for teams looking for a strong defensive presence (including Washington).

CONS - The Panthers have invested a lot of money and a lot of high draft picks on their defense. What is the reason for the defensive dominance: coaching or personnel?  

CHANCES REDSKINS HIRE HIM - 3%

PW - While I do think Sean McDermott will be a good head coach, the Redskins probably won't hire a defensive head coach. RGIII is clearly this team’s best asset and will likely hire someone that will focus on developing the offense

DR - I agree the Redskins won't hire a defensive coach, even though our defense is historically BAD. My hope is that whomever the HC is, he brings in a D-coordinator who can make a difference like this guy does.

JAY GRUDEN - BENGALS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR

PROS - Comes from pretty solid coaching lineage. Has done a formidable job mentoring Andy Dalton and the Bengals have made the playoffs each of his 3 seasons in Cincy.

CONS - 3 years ago he was little more than an arena league coach and UFL coach. Zero head coaching experience in the NFL. Possible Snyder puppet.

CHANCE THE SKINS HIRE HIM: 1%

DR - I can maybe see Danny kicking the tires on Jay…as a courtesy to his brother. Danny calls Jon, Jon says no but you should talk to my brother. Kind of like when you ask out the hot chick and she’s like…I have a friend you should meet.

PW - I don’t want to knock Jay Gruden because he has been admirable as the Bengals’ OC, but he brings no head coaching credibility. If Chuckie weren’t his big brother, would he even have a chance at this job?