NFL Coaching Go Round 2001-2002

Table of Coaching Changes   Mid 2002 season followup

Jan. 4: Round and round

Notre Dame started things off, really, by firing Bob Davies, goofing with The Liar, then stealing Tyrone Willingham away from Stanford. Speculation began mounting about Denny Green in Minnesota and now he’s out. Then, after a fabulous win over Maryland Wednesday night, Steve Spurrier resigned as Florida head coach saying he’d done enough at the college level and wants an NFL job. Herbstreit speculates that Broncos coach Mike Shanahan migh welcome this change but points out that the new UF coach will face sky high expectations for the 2002 season.

SJ Mercury News (to which I prefer not to link) columnist Skip Bayless speculated this morning that Stanford University and 49ers coach Steve Marriuci would be a great match for each other. I could easily see Spurrier coming in to replace Marriuci except that he’s so used to being in total control of the program that he might not accept less than a combined coach/GM job, which isn’t going to be available with the Niners.

Other possible NFL changes (the league averages seven head coaching changes a year): George Seifert is looking mighty weary in Carolina and Jim Mora had a bad season in Indy (could his son, 49ers defensive coordinator Jim Mora, replace him?); even the great Tony Dungy needs to do some damage in the post-season to be invited back (note that Spurrier almost left UF in 1995 to take this job). LSU’s Nick Saban is mentioned as a possible replacement in Indinapolis but his current bosses want to give him a bigtime extension after winning the SEC and walloping Illinois. Mike Riley was fired by the Chargers Monday and is meeting with college ADs (he came to the NFL after a good stint at Oregon).

Jan. 11: In and Out

Hmm, George O’Leary had a cup of coffee at Notre Dame and now is assistant head coach of the Vikings, thanks to having coached the Vikes’ head coach in high school. O’Leary will also be the defensive line coach, reporting to defensive coordinator Willie Shaw, which sounds odd. Another oddity: Shaw used to be the Raider’s defensive coordinator and a few years ago was mentioned as the best potential head coach out of all the NFL assistants, but he wasn’t even able to get interviews due to CWB (coaching while black); I don’t know what happened between then and now but his name was not mentioned with any job so far this year.

Stanford went in an interesting way with University of Florida offensive coordinator Buddy Teevens. Teevens previous major college head coaching experience was with Tulane where he was fired after going 10-45 in five seasons. However, a big factor seems to be that he’s an FOT–a friend of Ted Leland, the Stanford athletic director. Also, since the Tulane gig he’s spent time working under two highly regarded head coaches, Steve Spurrier and University of Illinois’ Ron Turner. The word on Teevens now is look for a high output offense, something that will work very well against the mostly porous defenses in the Pac-10.

Florida, after being turned down left and right, plucked Ron Zook of the New Orleans Saints staff. Zook, like Teevens, apparently also had the good fortune to be friends with the athletic director who hired him. He’s not an unknown to the Gators after serving as Spurrier’s defensive coordinator from ’91-93 though there is the weirdness of Zook having been demoted to special teams coach for ’94-95.. I have to like his choice of Ed Zaunbrecher for offensive coordinator after Zaunbrecher’s stint in the same job at high scoring Marshall. Some people who count must like the choice: Rex Grossman is going to return and pass up a shot at the NFL this year, though backup QB is transferring to Miami (don’t ask me, doesn’t make a lot of sense here either).

Then, in the NFL, there’s Tampa Bay. Highly regarded and fairly successful Tony Dungy reportedly must win at Philadelphia tomorrow or be replaced by Bill “The Big Tuna” Parcells. I love Parcells for what he did with the Giants but Dungy has done a terrific job even though he’s never had a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback and shouldn’t be on the hot spot.

Another coach looking over his shoulder is Marty Schottenheimer of the Washington Redskins as team officials are reportedly in Gainesville to talk to Steve Spurrier. The ex-Florida coach is also bein wooed by the Carolina Panthers but at least that team had the graciousness to get rid of their previous coach first. Schottenheimer apparently is not interested in resigning and losing out on at least $7 million owed for the rest of his contract. Ol’ Joe Theismann thinks Schottenheimer is the better coach for the Redskins.

Still open: San Diego, Indianapolis, and Carolina. Indy ownership apparently wanted to Jim Mora to stay one more season so they could go after the Raiders’s Jon Gruden. Rumors, though, have Gruden on the outs with Al Davis due to his flirtation with Notre Dame and Florida so perhaps the Irsays will get their wish a little sooner.

Jan 14: Spurrier to Redskins

Wow! Being Daniel Snyder must be great. To be able to write off a coach like Marty Schottenheimer and the $7.5 million he will get on a contract payoff after being fired and then turn around and pay Spurrier $5 million a year for five years. At least with Schottenheimer, the Redskins owner got a coach and general manager; part of Spurrier’s attraction is that he is not interested in controlling that aspect of the club. Is he worthy of being the NFL’s highest paid coach? Opinion, in the first few hours, is mixed. Hey, does Snyder need an official weblogger?

Jan 14: Dungy out at Tampa Bay
We must just not be able to understand the pressure at this rarified level. Tony Dungy was the most successful coach Tampa Bay ever had, he had the respect of his players, and he took them to the playoffs every season. So what’s his reward? The boot.

Jan 15: There’s humor, of course

The Page2 staff, in Ready, aim … fire!, has come up with their own parody of all the changes–the article gives a reason to fire all 31 coaches, even one day on the job Steve Spurrier! And in real though humourous turns, the Bucs have admitted they are on the prowl for some Tuna, 76 year young Marv Levy has contacted the Colts (Tony Dungy appears to be the frontrunner for that job), and Marty Schottenheimer, who one would think is ready for some fishing, and Norv Turner, who one would think just ought to know better, are both interviewing for the Charger gig that Tuna apparently has turned down.

From Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel on the combination of Spurrier and owner Dan Snyder: “Attila the Hun meets Genghis Khan. Brash meets rash. This is a match made in a nuclear reactor.”

Jan 19: Tampa Bay sucking wind

So sure, Parcells was all set to take over the Bucs, he was even accused of tampering with some other teams’ assistant coaches, but The Tuna blew the Bucs off so he could enter the Hall of Fame. EPSN’s Len Pasquarelli says the choices are limited for Tampa Bay and he reviews what is for the most part a bunch of washed up white guys. Okay, Denny Green is a washed up black guy, better he should go fishing and run a NASCAR team next year than coach.

To me, the only interesting name on the list is St. Louis defensive coordinator Lovie Smith. He did a great job with the Rams’ D this year and could end up being the key to a second Super Bowl win there in two weeks and is only one year away from being the Buc’s linebacker coach.

Pasquarelli also has a good column on why John Fox will be the next Carolina coach. Fox is currently the Giants’ defensive coordinator (do we see a theme here?) and defense wasn’t the reason the Giants missed the playoffs a year after their amazing run to the Super Bowl. Fox deserves a shot but this could be another case of friend hiring friend too.

Jan 21: Gruden to Tampa Bay?

The Raiders get rooked once again, in their opinion, by biased NFL officiating and the next day Gruden rumors are flying. A player (Pro Bowl db Ronde Barber?) and a draft pick from Tampa and Al Davis will rid himself of the hottest pro coach? Maybe, stranger things have happened. And this would give Al Davis a way to hire Denny Green, which (more) rumors say he wants to do. I still think, especially after Saturday’s win over Green Bay, that the Bucs would be best served by waiting for Lovie Smith to become available. The latest ESPN coaching rumors page shows that Carolina has the most interesting list of candidates, mostly good assistants like John Fox, Marvin Lewis, and Ted Cottrell. San Diego, while considering run and gun god June Jones, is mainly looking at WWBs (washedup white boys).

Jan 22: Dungy is in at Indy

Not surprisingly after claiming he would not be outbid, Jim Irsay is a happy man today after Tony Dungy accepted his offer to coach Indianapolis. Can he pull off a St. Louis-like defensive turnaround and get a healthy Edgarrin James back? Those are the two keys to making the playoffs next year after the Colts didn’t even come close this season. Dungy will retain offensive coordinator Tom Moore, which is going to make the triplets (Manning, Harrison, and James) happy.

Jan 22: Fox looks like the winner at Carolina

While the actual coronation appears to be coming tomorrow, John Fox is in Charlotte today for final meetings before being named the Panthers new coach. This is a good choice for the team, Fox has done excellent work for the Giants as defensive coordinator since 1997. What I wonder is why they chose him over Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis. The two coaches have very similar backgrounds and ages and both are expected to make solid head coaches. ESPN should do a behind the scenes special one year with cameras at some of these interviews to let us know what goes on.

In other news, former Giants fullback Maurice Carthon (from the 1986 and ’90 Super Bowl teams) was named offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions today, moving up from the running backs coaching slot. Hard to believe Carthon has been coaching for eight years already. The Lions also added former Vikings OC Sherm Lewis as a special assistant; after the season the Lions just had, can’t blame them for wanting as much brainpower as possible focused on that side of the ball. Don’t forget that Lion HC Marty Mornhinweg’s background is also on the go side.

Speaking of offensive, the Cowboys sure need help and rumors have them offering the OC job to former Bengals/Jets coach Bruce Coslet. Some guys just aren’t meant to be head coaches even though they really look the part, and Coslet is one of them. A great offensive mind but never really got all the pieces of the head job put together. Star player-wise, the ‘Boys have an aging but still juiced Emmit Smith and confusion at quarterback: Rookie Quincy Carter was named the starter and spent much of the year on the injury list, Anthony Wright seemed to fizzle after starting a few games, Ryan Leaf didn’t impress in his third stop and looks like the stop for a cup of coffee is over, and latest news is the team is offering Chad Hutchinson a multi-year contract with a $2 million signing bonus. Hutchinson was a big time college QB at Stanford but has spent the last four years as a pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system and has been disabled twice in the past two years with elbow trouble.

Jan 22: Asking the dead

In a largely sucessful attempt at being wacky, Rick Kamla talks to the spirits of some dear departed (Lombardi, Hendrix, Hartman, MLK…) in Kamla Unfiltered: Altered State of the NFL to get some answers on the NFL. Read the whole thing but I like the coaching comments well down into the article as Kamla has ‘Phil Hartman’ get nasty on Tampa Bay and San Diego. Both teams are still headless.

In other news, John Fox was announced as the new coach of the Panthers yesterday. He immediately named former All-Pro linebacker Jack Del Rio, an All American at USC in his college days who won notice as linebackers coach the last few years at Baltimore, his defensive coordinator.

San Diego seemed headed for ex-Cleveland, Kansas City, and Washington head coach Marty Schottenheimer until he and GM John Butler bumped ugly over the issue of personnel control. Butler has it and Schottenheimer wants it. Marty can afford to be picky, somewhat, since the Redskins are on the hook for $2.5 million a year for the next three years less whatever another team pays him. But he’s getting older and one wonders how marketable he’ll be in 2003 if no job comes together this year.

Jan 22: SD goes for mediocre

Sorry, but I just am not a Marty Schottenheimer fan. Sure he goes to the playoffs often enough but has he even gone to the Super Bowl? No my friends, he has not. But San Diego hired him anyway. No mention on how the player control dispute that appeared to hold up the deal was resolved. I agree with Kamla (author of the linked article) that the Chargers are unlikely to reach the eight win mark in 2002. And not surprisingly, Norv Turner ankled the OC job rather than work with the man who replaced him in D.C. Turner’s best bet is to go work as OC for buddy Dave Wanstadt at Miami and see if he can work a miracle on Jay Fiedler.

Once again a team goes for a comfortable retread instead of elevating an innovative, possibly minority assistant. Of the eight major coaching openings I tracked, with Tampa Bay still open, three assistants got hired, two college coaches moved, and Dungy traded up to what could be a new powerhouse in Indy if he can duplicate Lovie Smith’s defensive makeover. Rumor, which may or may not resemble reality, has Al Davis just waiting for Tampa Bay to fill it’s opening so he can dump disgruntled Jon Gruden with nowhere to go but home to play with his Chucky dolls. If he does, the other half of the rumor is that Denny Green will put down his fishing rod away. Let’s see.

Jan 31: Riley to join Saints as assistant head coach

Another example of this mystery pops up with the report that Mike Riley will join the Saints as assistant head coach and secondary coach. Longtime Saints assistant Rick Venturi moves up to defensive coordinator from the positions Riley is taking. I just don’t understand how Riley can work for Venturi but also be his boss.

Other coordinator news: Bruce Coslet comes back into the league, as rumored, with the Cowboys’ offense. Coslet is a West Coast guy so how Emmitt Smith will respond is an interesting question but he knows that Coslet gets results. Kurt Schottenheimer turned down an opportunity to join brother Marty in San Diego and instead took the Lions’ DC slot. I believe this is the first major job for Kurt independent of Marty.

Feb. 5: Bucs make mad offer to Raiders

The funhouse show continues in Tampa Bay as the owner’s sons and their general manager, who was almost booted a couple of weeks ago when Parcells was on the way in, can’t seem to agree on a new coach. Latest rumor is they have made an offer to the Raiders for right to talk to Jon Gruden. A big offer. But old crank Al Davis has to take it by today or it’s off the table. You have to figure this kind of exemplifies the hidden reasons why the Bucs have never made it into the Super Bowl even though they had a pretty decent team the last few years.

Feb. 8: Bucs imploding

Well, one day after the Bucs werethisclose to naming Marvin Lewis as head coach, they dumped him. And now GM Rich McKay’s future with the Bucs is unclear, since he wanted Lewis and the Glazer boys told him no. On one hand this is not too surprising a development since ex-coach Tony Dungy was shown the door because he couldn’t move the offense and Lewis has no track record on that side of the ball. On the other hand, their search has been so high profile, what with being jilted by Bill Parcells early on and being left with their noses pressed up against the Raiders window with a birght shiny Gruden doll just inside, that you’d think the team would go with the obvious choice and calm the storm. Lewis now appears resigned to another defensive coordinator stint, getting paid near head coach dollars, with Spurrier and the Redskins. Marv Levy, 76 years old and obviously bored out of his skull with five years of retirement, is offering his services on a one year deal (leaving the Bucs in position to grab Gruden when his contract expires), but the initial reaction from Tampa Bay is not too bright. Tick tock, tick tock boys!

Feb. 12: Tampa bumbles again

One would think at this point the Glazer boys down in Florida would learn to keep their movements, meetings, and mouths shut unless they have something good to say. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen might not be a bad choice for their head coaching slot, he is hot and has solid offensive-side credentials, but he decided to stay at Maryland. I suppose the press conference Friedgen held to announce this would have let the cat out of the bag anyway, but one must think that this whole tryst could have been kept under wraps, at least for the time being, if some effort had been made. The previous candidate, Marvin Lewis, got a nice consolation prize: the biggest contract ever for an assistant coach to be the Redskins’ defensive coordinator. Someday, Marvin, someday, you’ll get that head coaching gig you deserve and have a chance to show all the owners and GMs what they passed up these last few years.

Feb. 12: Glazers, I am available to be your GM

The Farce in Florida continues unabated, as Mark Kreidler points out in Bucs are making Notre Dame look good. Not to mention that Oregon coach Mike Bellotti is letting people know quietly that he “is very happy, though, with his current situation.” In other words, don’t bother calling. And he’s getting this message out in response to rumours that the team may call him.

Glazer Brothers, I just want to let you know that I am interested in being hired as general manager of the Buccaneers, as I read that your are about to come to a parting of the ways with Rich McKay. Although I don’t have any direct experience, and my dad wasn’t one of the greatest football coaches of all time, I have been a huge football fan since childhood and I am smart and learn fast. Also, I will work for a lot less than $1.8 million a year, how does $500,000 sound? Plus relocation expenses, of course, and since I have to move across the country, let’s make it a five year deal. One thing, I have these stomach issues so I need a semi-private bathroom to use at all games, home and away. That won’t be a deal breaker, will it?

I’m sure I can have the respect of the other teams fairly quickly after I hire a head coach. Well, I think they will at least stop laughing every time the team is mentioned. I can’t say who just yet, that’s part of what I bring to the table, but let’s just say the guy knows offense and is willing to have a strong DCon at his side. But mainly you should hire me because I am willing to take the heat for any decision you want to make. In other words, I am gonna be a great figurehead for you. Let’s take a meeting!

Feb. 15: Tampa Bay, thanks for the laughs

Okay, I’m just sitting here surfing the web and I see on ESPN that now the Buccaneers have asked the 49ers permission to talk with Steve Mariucci. Man did I get a good laugh on that! Our lovable Mooch has two years left on his contract and so signing him would cost the Bucs something. Al Davis drove a hard deal, too hard, to let Gruden out of one year of a contract, so why would John York and Terry Donahue let their coach go for less? And why would Mooch want to go to Tampa Bay anyway? I can only think of two reasons, neither compelling: to get away from Terrell Owens and to be both coach and general manager. TO may be a little bit strongwilled but he sure delivers a lot more than Tampa Bay’s star wideout, Keyshawn Johnson, and the 49ers have a quarterback who can pass the ball too. True, with the 49ers, Mariucci will probably need to wait years, maybe four or five, before Donahue would be willing to give up the GM slot but one would think that a bigger say for the coach in personnel matters would suffice in the near term. Tampa Bay will be needing a new GM shortly though, that much is clear after Rich McKay interviewed for the Atlanta GM opening. Come on guys, I already made it clear why you should hire me for the job. And I promise to stop laughing as soon as I get that contract in hand!

Update 10 p.m.: The 49ers gave the Bucs permission to talk to Mariucci, saying that Tampa Bay’s willingness to name him coach and general manager (as predicted above) “because this is an opportunity that is unique.” A decision is due early next week.

Feb. 18: Bucs, Gruden strike deal

Details are thin at the moment but the Associated Press is reporting a stunner in Tampa Bay: the Buccaneers have signed Raiders coach Jon Gruden to a five year deal. The Glazer brothers met yesterday with 49ers coach Steve Mariucci but were unable to make a deal; money probably wasn’t the sticking point since the rumors pegged the offer as seven years at $6 million per year, more than anyone else in the league is getting. Apparently, Mooch really doesn’t want to move his family out of their showcase Los Gatos home because the local paper (the unlinkable SJ Merc) has run a number of articles showing that the 49ers executives aren’t all that sad at the prospect of losing him. For example, they won’t give him an extension on a contract that only pays $2 million a year. I know that sounds like a lot but not when Spurrier is now getting $5 million and Mike Holmgren $4 million. This ought to be an interesting off-season in the Bay Area. Next questions: who will replace Gruden? And is Gruden also being named general manager, freeing Rich McKay to go to Atlanta?

Noon Update: ESPN TV is reporting that the Gruden deal is for $4 million per year and he will be the coach only. Still, Rich McKay is seriously unhappy at the way he was treated during this coaching search and wants out. Will the Glazers heal the illwill and let him leave without a fuss?

12:30 update: Compensation – the Raiders will receive first- and second-round draft picks in 2002, a first-round pick in 2003, and a second-round pick in 2004, no cash or players. Merrill Hoge thinks Gruden is a brilliant choice who will be able to adapt his offensive scheme to the strengths of his players. Look for an offense that is mainly smash mouth (with those two great RBs) and knows how to stretch the field (calling Keyshawn).

Feb. 18: Bucs, McKay kiss and make up

After interviewing for the Atlanta GM opening and being left twisting in the wind over the hiring of Marvin Lewis, Rich McKay took an apology and about $14 million over six years to stay in Tampa Bay. Hey, you give me $2.3 mill a year and a coach like Jon Gruden and I’d probably suck it up too. Meanwhile, Gruden retained the entire holdover defensive coaching staff led by DC Monte Kiffin and rumors have brother Jay Gruden moving over from the Arena Football League to take an offensive assistant slot, perhaps even OC although Jon will call the plays as he did in Oakland.

The situation in Oakland is, shall we say, fluid. That is, there are lots of rumors and little hard fact except that whoever comes in as coach will have to keep all the assistants. Since one rumor is the new coach will be current OC Bill Callahan and the other strong one is Bill Tuna, I mean Parcells, that probably won’t be a big hurdle. Given Al Davis’ history, the team may not rush to hire anyone before the free agent period and draft combine happen on March 1. With either of those guys as coach and the two extra draft picks from Tampa Bay, one has to think the 2002 Raiders will easily surpass this past season’s ten wins.

March 12: Finally, Davis ends hunting season

It’s official: Raiders name Bill Callahan new head coach and boy what a surprise. Dennis Green was going to forgo the joy of a fishing show. Bill Parcells had finally convinced Al Davis to let someone else have some control. Art Shell was ready, finally, to be a head coach again, or so his agent would have us believe. Green never made it on the radar, Parcells is too anxious to get into Canton, and Shell, well, seems like the consensus is he’s a real good offensive line coach. Davis probably made this decision promoting offensive coordinator Callahan to head coach minutes after getting off the phone with one of the Glazer brothers four weeks ago and since then having the laugh of his life watching and reading and listening to all the speculation on who he’d choose. Local reporting said life was just going on at the team complex in Alameda, with the coaches coming in every day and doing their prep work, evaluating players and getting ready for mini-camps and the draft. The Raiders signed a couple of big name free agents for their defense and both said the lack of a coach was not a factor. How much you want to bet Davis let them in on his joke?

The End–for this year…

Table of Coaching Changes

Univ. Florida
Notre Dame
Tampa Bay
San Diego
Old Coach
Steve Spurrier
Tyrone Willingham
Bob Davies
Marty Schottenheimer
Tony Dungy
Jim Mora
Mike Riley
George Seifert
Jon Gruden
New Coach
Ron Zook
Buddy Teevens
Tyrone Willingham
Steve Spurrier
Jon Gruden
Tony Dungy
Marty Schottenheimer
John Fox
Bill Callahan

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