Monday, November 16, 2009

The Long List

Starting with the Notre Dame loss to Navy, and accelerating with the loss to Pittsburgh this Saturday, there has been a flurry of articles, discussions, blog posts, and speculation about who is on Jack Swarbrick's "short list" of potential candidates to replace Charlie Weis as head football coach at Notre Dame. Yes, it's unseemly to engage in such speculation when Coach Weis is still the head coach and could conceivably remain head coach if he beats Connecticut and Stanford and wins the Bowl game. But I'm going to do it anyway.

I think all the talk about the "short list" skips a very important step: The Long List. By jumping straight to the Short List I think one takes some risks. The first risk is that one fails to adequately consider potentially great hires that just don't happen to be the "hot" names at the moment. The second risk is that one can unnecessarily paint oneself into a corner and be so anxious to hire one of the Short List candidates that one loses proper bargaining leverage as well as proper perspective. The third risk is that one gets into a position where there is no viable Plan B (or Plan C, etc...) if one of the Short List candidates backs out and one therefore ends up looking unprepared and desperate. For all these reasons I think that before one jumps to the Short List, it is vital to draft the Long List.

The Long List is that group of coaches that meet your criteria for the job of Notre Dame football coach, and who appear to be in a circumstance where they are likely to be available to at least consider taking the job, whether they have actually expressed any interest or not. The Long List doesn't include coaches who are already in better coaching jobs and who are unlikely to leave them anytime soon. My Long List doesn't include Urban Meyer or Nick Saban. I cannot imagine that either of those coaches is going to leave the #1 or #2 ranked team in the nation for Notre Dame.

What are the criteria for head football coach at Notre Dame? They are surprisingly few.

  1. Track record as a successful head coach at the Division I college level or the NFL. (Assistants need not apply).
  2. Ability to recruit. Ideally a proven recruiter, but may have to make judgment call on the recruiting potential of NFL candidates.
  3. Person of integrity and class. (This rules out Urban Meyer and Nick Saban).
  4. Committed to making sure Notre Dame student athletes go to class, graduate on time, and represent the University with class. (Real students, no thugs).
That's it!

For me, the preferred model is the one that has made Notre Dame most successful in the past. Hire a coach who has been a very successful college head coach elsewhere. Find a guy who has displayed a knack for over-achieving at a "lesser" program, of doing "more" with "less." Frank Leahy was very successful at Boston College before coming to Notre Dame. Ara Parseghian won at Northwestern. Dan Devine won at Arizona State and Missouri. Lou Holtz won at William & Mary, North Carolina State, and Arkansas.

Gerry Faust, Bob Davie, and Charlie Weis has no head coaching experience in college or the NFL before coming to Notre Dame.

Ty Willingham is the exception that proves the rule, although in reality his overall record at Stanford of 44–36–1, while successful, was only moderately so.

The preferred model notwithstanding, I don't want to rule out NFL coaches entirely, as long as they have been a head coach. I don't want to leave the next Pete Carroll off my list. Also, despite lack of prior recruiting experience, an NFL coach has an added recruiting adavntage in that he has extra credibility with high school players who hope to play in the NFL someday.

I think the remaining criteria are self-explanatory.

So here is my Long List. Please leave comments below if you have another name I should add (that meets my criteria), or if you think I should drop a name from the Long List because you don't think the candidate does meet my criteria. I will hyper-link each candidate to their Wikipedia entry (or another source if the Wikipedia entry isn't very thorough) so you can read more about them. The names below are listed in no particular order.
  • Marty Shottenheimer (Former head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers. Maybe too old?)
  • Bill Cowher (Former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers)
  • Mike Holmgren (Former head coach of the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks)
  • Jon Gruden (Former head coach of the Oakland Raiders and the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Has ties to Notre Dame and the local area).
  • Tony Dungy (Former head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts)
  • Jeff Fisher (Long-time, current coach of the Tennessee Titans. Titans having a bad year, rumors that Fisher may be ready for a new challenge).
  • Mike Belotti (Long-time University of Oregon head coach, now the UO Athletic Director)
  • Pat Hill (Long-time and present head coach of Fresno State University)
  • Greg Schiano (Head coach at Rutgers University)
  • Skip Holtz (Head coach at East Carolina, former head coach at Connecticut)
  • Brian Kelly (Head coach University of Cincinnati, former head coach at Grand Valley State and Central Michigan)
  • Jim Harbaugh (Head coach at Stanford, former head coach at University of San Diego. Has beaten USC two of last three years)
  • Mike Riley (Head coach at Oregon State, former head coach of the San Diego Chargers. Perfect 5-0 record in bowl games. Beat USC in 2006 and 2008)
  • Pat Fitzgerald (Head coach at Northwestern)
  • Mark Dantonio (Head coach at Michigan State, former head coach at University of Cincinnati)
  • Randy Edsall (Head coach at University of Connecticut)
  • Chris Petersen (Head coach at Boise State)
  • Gary Patterson (Head coach at TCU)
  • Kyle Whittingham (Head coach at Utah)
  • Kirk Ferentz (Head coach at Iowa, former head coach at Maine)
  • Bob Stoops (Head coach at Oklahoma. Won one National championship and 6 Big XII titles. Not sure if he is really interested as reported, or if he is just angling for a raise from OU).
That's twenty-one proven head coaches who are either available right now, or who would likely be interested in "moving up" to coach Notre Dame if given the opportunity. They might not all be home runs, or the best fit, or even remotely interested. But I think they all bear a closer look before you scribble out your short list just based upon what you hear on ESPN.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Here some additions to the Long List suggested by OC Domer readers:
  • Butch Davis (Head coach at North Carolina, former head coach at Miami and Cleveland Browns. Personally, I'd have difficulty accepting a former Miami coach at ND)
  • Tommy Tuberville (Former head coach at Ole Miss and Auburn)
  • Terry Bowden (Head coach at North Alabama, former head coach at Auburn)
  • Mike Shanahan (Former head coach of the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders)


WillyFrazier said...

I like Kelly a lot. I think he is the answer. He's won championships at every coaching position and coach of the year at every stop. I really think it's time for him to move up to the big dogs. He can come in now and win. When asked why his back up QB was so successful he said they have a "in and win" program where their back-ups are ready at all times to play at the same level as the starter. Plus son of an old Irish police man from Boston. Last name Kelly...Perfect.

Anonymous said...

"Bob Stoops (Head coach at Oklahoma. Won one National championship and 6 Big XII titles. Not sure if he is really interested as reported, or if he is just angling for a raise from OU)."

Go with later thought. just like urban and his wife bandying about that "dream"job nonsense (after he had blown ND off when he had the chance at it) during his contract renegotiation. once he got his money, he "clarified" his position: that he's not leaving FL

As to the NFL candidates, I say no way. Even though not a head football coach, this robotic X & Os @$@%! has made it clear we can not take a chance on another pro guy. some people just don't make the transition one way or the other. in fact, lou holtz is one of the more famous ones that couldn't hack it in the other league even though he was hall of famer at college level.

WillyFrazier said...

I agree, no NFL coach, I wouldn't mind Stoops. I just think Kelly is a diamond in the ruff.

Clay said...

Good post. I like the approach. Should we take a look at George O'Leary if he says he's sorry (half-kidding)? The only candidate I would add is Turner Gill. I know he was the hot name last year. It doesn't appear that they've done that well this year, but for all I know it's a rebuilding year. Thoughts on Gill?

Anonymous said...

What about Butch Davis? He can recruit and has proven he can put together winning programs

OC Domer said...

I like Turner Gill, but he only has one winning season. Doesn't meet criteria as successful head coach (yet).

OC Domer said...

Butch Davis would probably be a legitimate addition to the list, if I could stomach having a guy who used to coach at Miami. Which I can't.

Anonymous said...

I think Tuberville deserves a look too. 110 wins in 14 seasons at Auburn and Ole Miss including 1 undefeated season, definitely deserves to make the long list. Auburn always had good defenses and stout running backs and beat Tebow and company 2 years in a row.

OC Domer said...

Tuberville is a very nice add to the Long List!

Jay-A said...

OC -
I put together a post explaining why I view Stoops (if he's indeed interested) as the best available:

That said, you've put together an outstanding list. One name which, I realize, is a complete long-shot is Terry Bowden. Yes, he's a Bowden and, yes, he had some issues at Auburn, but the man has proven he can coach at every level of college (he's 9-0 this year with North Alabama) and, if memory serves, was always quite complimentary of ND. Besides which, whatever happened at Auburn (and frankly, the program faced sanctions, stemming from his predecessor, when Bowden was hired) occurred over a decadea ago. Anyway, just a random one.


Andy said...

Mike Shanahan should be added to the list.

Kenny said...

I'm not quite sure why Paul Johnson isn't on this list. He did a tremendous job bringing the Navy program back to respectability, and has Georgia Tech in the Top 10.

I'm not sure he would be the best candidate, but he almost certainly belongs on a long list like this.

Dekom said...

Coach Jags, once of BC.

OC Domer said...

Thanks for the great contributions guys. I think Shanahan is a legitimate add to the list, and I admit I left him off the Long List because I just don't see him as a good fit. I thought his last couple years at Denver were pretty disappointing.

Terry Bowden is an interesting thought, and he should be on the List.

I won't add Jags because I question the integrity after what he did to BC. I don't want to invest in a guy who is looking to bolt to the NFL.

Paul Johnson is legit. But he's still new at G-Tech, so I don't view him as available right now.

Clay said...

Does Tuberville meet the character criterion? Wasn't Auburn always shrouded in the mists of possible allegations of NCAA violations? I remember at least one story of grade purchasing by football players. I don't want Tuberville bringing any of those SEC shenanigans to ND.

OC Domer said...

Clay: Fair points about Tuberville if true. I'm not familiar with the details, so I'll leave his name out there for now. But if there is a real integrity question that would be disqualifying.

joe said...

I like Jim Harbaugh, he has put Stanford back on the map very quickly and seems to get more from his players that he should. I tend to like Gruden as well as he over achieved in Oakland, but he drives me crazy on Monday Night football.

Little brother

Anonymous said...

If you wanted to go really long list, Henry Frazier III would be on. He has rebuilt two dead programs, and has been FCS Coach of the YEar for his work at Prarie View A&M, which was probably the worst program around when he took over. Top 25 last year, sitting at 20 this year. Has not done it at Div 1-A, but neither had Tressel. Takes leftovers from even TCU and gets them to win.

Ska said...

Pete Carroll coached at the college level for ten years before going on to be a pro coach. He had college experience as a coach. One of Charlie's problems is that he has had trouble transitioning to the college level of coaching and the very different mentality of college student athletes.
I would cross off any head pro coach unless they had extensive college coaching experience.

Wacko said...

OC: As my personal favorite is Shanahan, I was wondering why you don't see him as a good fit. College coaching experience (I-A, coordinator level), two-time Superbowl winner. I think injuries had a huge impact on his last couple seasons as well.

What is it that you don't think fits?

Rich said...

I think it's best to look at a coach that has a proven track record in or against one of the power conferences.
Tuberville's teams were generally good defensively but he would need to pick up a good oc. Harbaugh has righted the ship in Palo Alto and knows about the academics that would have to be considered as the Irish coach. Riley has a good PAC 10 resume and does well against the hated Trojans. Johnson would also know how to recruit the type of athlete that would thrive at ND.

OC Domer said...

Wacko: I think Shanahan has some of the problems Charlie has with regards to personality. He's a bit abrasive, and I'm not sure he has the "salesman" personality to be a great recruiter. I also felt that his tenure as the GM/HC at Denver exposed him as not being a great evaluator of talent. Recruiting has two components: (1) Identifying the right guys to go after, and (2) making the sale. Obviously I don't have any personal experience with Coach Shanahan, but my perception is that he wouldn't be great in either component of recruiting.

Ryan said...

I have a top four in order of whom should be the next CEO of the golden domers...
1)Brian Kelly U Cincy:Has won at all levels and has left every school he left in much better condition than he received them in. He should be top priority
2)Peterson Boise State: Who honestly knew anything thing about Boise other than they played on blue turf before Peterson. Proven winner in big games pulling out of a much smaller talent pool than he would have available to him at ND and still wins A LOT
3)Patterson TCU: Nasty defense year in year out and consistent winner. Same can be said about TCU like Boise all we knew about them is that they were Horney frogs now Peterson has them as one of the top 2 programs in talent rich Texas
4)last but not least Harbaugh: Midwestern guy who comes from a family of coaches and was one of the all time great big game clutch QB's Has completely resurrected Stanford and made them a serious game. I'm thinking the midwest sounds good to him but at the rate Rich Rod is going he may be eyeing his Alma Mater and that would be embarrassing to hire a guy that would leave for the school up north alumni or not

Anonymous said...

Either Meyer or Saban would give the Irish a National Championship within 2 or 3 years - and that's what they want, isn't it?

Say what you want about the man, but Saban runs clean and above board programs. Plus, he can recruit like crazy. AND he doesn't have a buyout clause in his current contract.

I may be mistaken, but doesn't Meyer's contract have a "no buyout" clause just for Notre Dame?

Maybe the reason the Irish have sucked so much for so long is that they are waiting for some mythical supercoach to be delivered to them - like the second coming of Knute Rockne or something. How about this thought? JUST HIRE THE BEST POSSIBLE FOOTBALL COACH AVAILABLE - I know it's a novel concept, but it's working for a lot of other teams out there.

My Two Cents: Terry Bowden is the best X's and O's coach in the land - but he can't seem to get top level recruits to play for him. Is it possible that he wins at the next level down because his dad sends him the players that just barely can't make it in the upper levels of the NCAA?

Anonymous said...

I have to put my two cents in for Brian Kelly of Cincinatti. As another poster pointed out, Kelly "has won at all levels and has left every school he left in much better condition than he received them in." Kelly definitely meets your criterion of displaying "a knack for over-achieving at a 'lesser' program, of doing 'more' with 'less.'" Not only that, but he has proven that he can win in a Big Six conference. I know that the Big East has its detractors, but I think you'll find as many quality programs in the Big East as you can find in the Big Ten or the ACC. Personally, I think the Big East is stronger than the Big Ten or ACC. Anyway, Kelly's success at all levels suggests that he knows how to actually coach college kids. Kelly knows how to motivate his players to play with passion and heart - to play above their abilities, so to speak. Charlie Weis seems profoundly unable to motivate his players - at least on the defensive side of the ball. And don't throw all the blame on Tenuta and Brown. Weis is the HEAD coach, after all.

jb said...

Florida defensive coordinator, Dan McCarney, at 56 yrs. old, would be a great candidate for Notre Dame. Twelve years as head coach in the Big 12, ten wins in a year, five bowls in seven years AT IOWA STATE. Also member of the Hayden Fry coaching tree which includes Barry Alvarez, Bill Snyder, the Stoops brothers and others.As assistant under Fry at Iowa, Alvarez at Wisconsin, where their defenses have not been the same since his tenure, Jim Leavitt at South Florida, who said he's the best line coach in the nation, and now under Urban Meyer, with his twelve years at Iowa State, leaving there as dean of coaches then, has an amazing amount of energy as coach and recruiter, midwestern ties, twenty years of recruiting in Florida, Texas and California. Considered one of the best line coaches in the country, bases his teams on running and strong defenses. I think with the resources at Notre Dame this guy would blossom.

jb said...

Here's a good link to the things Dan McCarney accomplished at ISU. The only other coaches on that list I like are Brian Kelly and Kirk Ferentz, preferrably Ferentz with his success and very calm and cool demeanor. Also QB coach for the Baltimore Ravens.

Joshua Fischer said...

Personally, the addition of Butch Davis is not even conceivable to me. Living in Cleveland when he was coach there was rough. Drop kick him from the list.

I like Bill Cowher (the most. . .unless he's willing to go coach Minnesota Vikings), Mike Holmgren, and even John Gruden (though he wouldn't be my first choice) for their experience.

Shanahan has the right heritage I suppose. ;-) Never was someone I liked as an honorable person.

Ditch the idea of a retread of the Holtz legacy. We love Lou. We haven't been much of a team since he left (though I really loved the Quinn/Samardzija hook up). Don't bring his son in and sully his legacy.

I understand the concern of hiring another NFL coach. But for the recruiting ability (as noted), I'm willing to take the chance.

Just my 2 pennies. . .which devalue on a regular basis. ;-)