Well folks, with the Golden era is offically over, it’s time to examine who should replace him. Here’s our updated list of potential candidates.
Before we unveil the big board of who the Board of Trustees should chase after (and hopefully they don’t mess it up again after years of miserable decision making), a few points should be observed. As we always do here, we strived for realism. No, there won’t be any Gary Patterson’s or Kyle Wittingham’s on this list. This is a list of only the guys we actually could have a shot at. Here is the list of head coaches that Miami should consider:
Miami Head Coach Big Board (in no order):
Charlie Strong (assuming his Texas endevour fails)
Mark Richt (assuming Georgia underachieves this year as in past years, the heat will be on him)
Chuck Pagano (assuming his rift with the front office leads to his dismissal)
Chip Kelly (assuming the team implodes this year and he is fired)
This is certainly an interesting group of potential candidates with each bringing something intriguing to the table (and hopefully wins too). Many Miami fans would’ve listed only one name- Butch Davis, but once again it is crucial Miami evaluates all its options before coming to any rash conclusions. This is a massively important time in Miami’s history. The talent on this team is enough to win an ACC title, but coaching is still holding this team back. Miami has been down for many years; appealing to recruits with highlight videos of Miami’s glory years only works if they were alive when these great years happened. Pretty soon these recruits won’t have even been on this Earth for that. Instead, they’ll know Miami for the reputation that has plagued them for over a decade- underachieving, mismanaged sleeping giant. We must nail this hire. Another wasted 4-6 years, and fans, recruits, coaches, analysts, and the like will be left believing that Miami’s 80s and early 2000s dominance was merely a flash in the pan, that Miami will never be back… There is no margin for error in this hire. Let’s narrow down the candidates to a top twenty:
The Elite Hires
I decided to lump these two great coaches both at the number one spot due to their remarkably similar situations and little liklihood of actually being on the market this year. But if they were to come on the market, or even get close to doing so… Miami must move quickly to snatch them up. Both Richt and Stoops have achieved great successs at College Football blue blood programs. Richt has achieved consistent ten win seasons in the SEC for about 15 years, and has guided them to numerous major bowl wins and conference victories. He’s also built a fantastic staff, cleaned up on the recruiting trail, and created an NFL pipeline. He has Miami ties: he was a quarterback here from 1979-1982. He’s a home run hire except for the question of his teams always having one or two inexplicable losses per season… They’re always solid ten win teams, but never championship teams. But perhaps his title team is yet to come. If Georgia underachieves this year, and once again blows one or more winnable games, Richt’s seat could warm. And Miami could (and should) come calling… Meanwhile, Stoops has built a winner at Oklahoma with numerous major bowl wins and even a national title (though it should be asterisked due to the BCS shenanigans of that year). But the machine has begun to slow down in recent years with many fans enraged by an underachieving 8-5 season last year culminating in a blow out loss in the Russel Athletic Bowl at the hands of Clemson (sound familiar). Stoops also has Florida ties as he was a former assistant at UF, and his brother was an assistant at Miami. He, like Richt, would be a slam dunk hire. These are two elite coaches who soon might require a change of scenery, but odds of it occurring this year are slim. Nonetheless, if they’re available… Go get them Miami.
Once again, the odds that he comes on the market aren’t great, but he’d be a phenomenal hire and fit if he did. Miami would be a match made in heaven. His speed oriented offense maximized to get athletes on the field would be transcendent with the kind of “speed kills” type talent that flows from Miami Dade county. He propelled Oregon from solid under Mike Belloti to elite and innovating under him. Kelly knows how to build and rebuild a team’s brand while guiding them to dominance on the field. The only reason I hesitated in putting him at number 1 is some of the comments made by his former NFL players. Many have said he projects arrogance and doesn’t value players as people so much as he values their talent. Whether its true or not remains to be debated, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire… Regardless, if his experiment with full control over the Eagles results in a losing season, he could be let go (or at least be under extreme duress), and Miami and him could be the perfect match. But don’t start placing bets on him landing at the U.
3. Chuck Pagano
This is one of the most far fetched of the hires… But there is a chance, albeit a small one. It’s no secret that Pagano and the Colts front office have a relationship closer to Kennedy and Krushev than Art Briles and the spread. It seems regardless of what Indianapolis does this year (barring a Super Bowl), Pagano will be out at the end of the year. Odds are some lucky NFL team will swoop in and hire him. But there’s a chance that Pagano could pull a Jim Harbaugh and come to the old college school he cut his teeth at (he was defensive backs coach here for 5 years under Butch). Pagano doesn’t have much experience coaching in the college game, but he’s done a heck of a job overachieving with extremely flawed Colts teams. The man can flat out coach, and he’d be a welcome experienced hire here. It’s worth noting, that he’s a leukemia survivor (showing remarkable fortitude in a tough situation), so his health situation would need to be in good standing. Regardless, we don’t know how exactly he’d adjust to the college game, but he could be phenomenal.
4. Butch Davis
If not for his age and UNC’s NCAA scandal, this would be the only name on the list. Not only would it ignite the fan base, but it simply makes too much sense. He desperately wants this job, he’s succeeded wildly here in the past (and is still beloved here despite how he left), and managed to overachieve despite bad environments in North Carolina and Cleveland. He’s built a winner wherever he’s gone. He went to the playoffs with the Browns! He deserves a Presidential Medal of Freedom for that alone! Look, he builds great staffs, he builds great programs, and he builds great recruiting classes. He builds a winner. And with how desperate he is for a job, he’ll be available dirt cheap (a plus for the stingy Miami board of trustees). He’d be the perfect coach to reclaim the State of Miami, and lock it down. There are a great deal of question marks with him however. Firstly, he doesn’t offer much as a gameday coach. He’s very pedestrian in that manner, and his teams usually win off of talent and motivation, not any brilliant schematics. Secondly, (and far more concerning) the guy is old! He’s going to be 64 by 2016 which is certainly getting up there in years. Typically coaches start declining around 68. Even though he’s a pretty spry 64 year old, there would have to be a clear coach in waiting plan behind him. Thirdly, (and the reason Miami probably won’t hire him) is the UNC NCAA scandal. And that’s an absolute shame. None of it was his fault, in fact the NCAA completely cleared him of any wrongdoing whatsoever, but his reputation was stained. And coming off a dark time of sanction turmoil, Miami might not even want a hint of infraction laden reputation no matter the lack of logic behind it. Butch would be a hell of a hire and he’d come cheap, but Miami may not be bold enough to hire him. But there are times when one must take a leap of faith…
5. Charlie Strong
Which came first the chicken or the egg? Under who did success at Louisville come first with: Charlie Strong or Teddy Bridgewater? Strong’s brief tenure at Texas has been an unadulterated disaster (in large part due to the utter mess Mack Brown left behind), and has left fans wondering if the only reason he appeared to be an elite coach at Louisville was because of Teddy Bridgewater and a soft schedule. Regardless, we know for certain that there are three things the man can do: coach great defense, recruit South Florida, and get players in the NFL. And all three of those are needed desperately at the U right now. He’d come to a Miami team already with a Teddy Bridgewater equivalent in Brad Kaaya, and he’d immediately revamp this defense into something resembling an actual defense. He’d likely be able to win year one due to how his strengths and weaknesses fit in with our current roster, but the trainwreck he’s endured at Texas has sparked so many questions about his coaching that Miami might look past him… But he could easily be the perfect guy for the job just as easily as he could fail here. He can build a great defense, and he’s known for connecting with his players while being a stern disciplinarian. It could be a great fit, but if the only reason he succeeded at Louisville was because of Bridgewater… It could get ugly. I’d bet on the former due to his strong Florida connections and aggressive coaching style. It’d be a fascinating coup to pry him from Texas (boosters there are reportedly quite split on him).
(AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Thomas B. Shea, File)
6. Tom Herman
This would be an incredibly risky hire. Herman has wowed as a coordinator at Ohio State, and thus far has done a great job at Houston in his first year there. He has a national title on his resume in addition to loads of experience under one of college football’s greatest coaches- Urban Meyer. But the guy hasn’t even been a head coach for a single year yet, and has about as little experience as one could ask for. He’s an up and coming, young head coach who can recruit with the best of them and is one of College Football’s brightest offensive minds. But what if he’s simply riding other coaches’ coat tails? Urban Meyer is responsible for most of Ohio State’s offensive success, and Houston had a pretty solid roster in place when Herman took control. He could just be the benefactor of being in the right place at the right time… But then again, look at how Ohio State’s offense has tanked after his exit, and look at the mammoth leap Houston’s offense and defense has taken under his watch. He also has long been a fan of the Canes, mentioning in a Houston student publication newspaper that he modeled many aspects of his program after the U Part 2 3o for 30. He’s risky due to his low amount of experience and lack of experience truly building something entirely on his own, but he’s a young, ingenious offensive mind, and stud recruiter who’s learnt from the best. He could be the next Jim McElwain except from the Meyer coaching tree. Let’s see how he finishes his first year at Houston before making a final determination on if he’s ready for the big job.
7. Rich Rodriguez
Rich Rod is one of the most interesting figures of college football. Known for his high flying offenses, he’s achieved great success at West Virginia and Arizona, building both programs to elite peaks. He also coached Michigan for three years, and seemingly was fired too early as the team was still progressing (and Brady Hoke won ten games with Rodriguez’s players the next year). Rich Rod’s offense would be something truly special with kind of speed and swagger omnipresent in South Florida recruits. However, the questions lie in his defense… To put it simply, Rich Rod has never been able to produce a particularly good defense which often hinders his teams from crossing from excellent into greatness. Also, he’s never proved to be anywhere near an impressive recruiter (his classes often landing in the 40s range). He might be a coach who overachieves with less talent, rather than a coach who culminates the accumulation of elite talent with titles. Nonetheless, Rodriguez is a proven program builder and offensive evil genius. He’d be a stellar hire for the Canes, and restore Miami to glory quickly. The only question is if he can be lured from Arizona where the facilities are rapidly improving and he is much adored…
The Solid but not too Sexy Hires
8. Hue Jackson
Let’s get weird Miami. This is by far the most random hire physically possible, but for whatever reason, multiple reports have said that Hue Jackson has long inquired and coveted the Miami job. Jackson can coach with the best of them. He has over thirty years of experience as running back, wide recievers, and secondary coach in addition to multiple stints as offensive coordinator in both CFB and the NFL. One does wonder how he’s never been a head coach before outside of one decent year in Oakland… Quite frankly, I don’t really buy this. I don’t understand why Jackson would want to come to Miami when a great deal of NFL teams will likely be offering him head coaching jobs after his success in Cincinnati. Also, Jackson has big time USC connections as the former offensive coordinator there in the late 90s, so it seems more likely that they’d be able to pry him back to college not Miami. But still, if these reports are accurate, and Jackson wants the job… Give it to him! He’s a great offensive mind with loads of experience, great pedigree, and relative youth at only 50 years old.
9. Todd Graham
Graham is a bit of a mercenary of a coach. He seems to be coaching a different team every other year, and rebuilding that team in an impressive manner each time. He’s currently done a decent job in resurrecting the Arizona State program into two consecutive ten win seasons (though they’re struggling a tad this season). He also boasts nearly ten years of experience as a head coach and five ten win seasons under his belt. He’s a great defensive mind, and is relatively young at 50 years old. He’s a rather left field candidate with no connections to Miami or the Canes, but the guy can coach. I’m not sure he’d a perfect fit here, but I have little doubt he could elevate this program at least into relevance, perhaps even contention.
10. Greg Schiano
Feeling the Deja Vu? Its 2010 all over again, and you can expect Schiano rumors to dominate this coaching search once again. Schiano is arguably the most interesting hire… He rebuilt Rutgers (rutgers?!) in stunning fashion and elevated them to a solid program. The man knows how to build a winner. He also has huge Miami ties, and has been said to be apt to take the Miami job… But his tenure at Tampa Bay was a dumpster fire, and he’s been known to alienate his players and bosses at times. Add in the fact that he’s been out of coaching more than a few years, and we have a bit of a wildcard of a candidate. He could just as easily be in the top three of this list, but there are just so many question marks about him that lead me to cautiously place him in the latter half. This could be a homerun or an utter failure of a fire with likely little in between…
11. Dan Mullen
Mullen has built a winner out of Missisipi State, and he’s done so with an explosive spread offense and violent defense. He has Florida connections (he was a Gators offensive coordinator), and he’s a young, up and coming coach who’s already proven himself to be able to reach elite levels after leading the Bulldogs to the Orange Bowl last season (something that would’ve been unheard of before he arrived there). It might be tough to lure him from Mississippi State due to what he’s building there, but he would likely take the Miami job for the prestige and better potential the program has. He’d be a more than capable hire.
12. Justin Fuente
Fuente has done an amazing job rebuilding a putrid Memphis program into legitimate national relevance. Fuente boasts some explosive offenses and program building chops to his resume, and both have been on display magnificently in his short time with the tigers. But like many the two below him on this list, he’s just too inexperienced. He spent 4 years as an assistant coach at TCU, but outside of that has never had a power 5 coaching job. Fuente is certainly an up and comer, and could be a great coach someday, but despite the BOT’s rumored wishes, this isn’t a time to roll the dice on a young non-power 5 coach with this little experience, we can’t afford the risk. We need a somewhat veteran coach who has proven he can truly win. Don’t surprised if Fuente is a big time coach someday though, he’s shown quite a bit of merit thus far.
13. Mario Cristobal
Low on our list is arguably the odds on favorite. Cristobal did a solid job of building FIU into a capable football team, and he’s a stellar recruiter with experience under the legendary Nick Saban. He too has great Miami connections as a former offensive lineman and coach. But he’s scarily like Al Golden. He rebuilt a putrid program into a decent one but not a great one, he has no true identity as a coach, and is in need of another head coaching job before taking the big one. He’s just too similar to Golden, I don’t see him being that much of an improvement. The only way he could truly succeed here is if he utilized the Dabo Swinney recipe to perfection. Take the job on a somewhat cheap salary, and back up brinks trucks to top flight coordinators and assistants to build a great all around staff with the head man acting mostly as a CEO. There’s some potential here with Cristobal, but there are just so many better options.
14. Rob Chudzinski
Talk about a throw back to the glory years. Chud was the offensive coordinator of the early 2000 euphoria filled glory years, and recruited/developed some impressive talent here. He’s since cut his teeth as an NFL coach slowly rising up the ranks before making the classic former Miami coach mistake of taking the Cleveland coaching job. He actually did a solid job there, but the turmoil of that situation led to his wrongful firing. He’s paired up with Pagano in Indianapolis since, and appears ready for a real head coaching job. He’s a fascinating candidate due to his Canes connections, NFL pedigree, and relative youth, but he’s been away from the college game for quite a while and he’s a bit of an unknown. Nobody is quite sure how fans or recruits would react to his hiring. He’s a very bland, safe choice, but he could be a decent hire. He’d have to build a great staff to succeed here, especially considering his reported indifference to recruiting. All in all, he could be solid, but he doesn’t seem to have the makings of a championship coach.
The Intriguing Sleeper Hires…
15. Lane Kiffin
Kiffin gives most college football fans gag reflex due to his horrifically botched tenures at Tennessee and USC, but he’s still an extremely young coach at 40 with loads of experience. Extremely few coaches can say they’ve been head coach of two college football blue bloods, an NFL team, and been mentored by Nick Saban before the age of 40. His resume is unparalleled. But there’s also a reason why none of those tenures where successful. Everywhere he’s gone, he’s had massively mixed results with glimmers of hope but typically failure in the end. He’s also a media relations nightmare as evidenced by his rumored relationship with a booster’s (or Nick Saban’s?) daughter and the Tennessee leaving debacle. But there’s also a scary amount of Kiffin that makes sense for Miami. He’s a spread attack guru (perfect fit for South Florida), he’s a stud recruiter, he’s young but extremely experienced, and is rumored to want the job. If I was betting on the next head coach, I’d put most of my money on Kiffin. He is a boom or bust candidate to the max, and could be a great coach. But he must demonstrate he’s learnt from his previous missteps.
16. Tommy Tuberville
It’s the cherry on the top that he just beat us a few weeks ago through better preparation, in game adjustments, and excellent scheming. Tuberville has been a journeyman head coach with a ton of stops under his belt, and he’s had success at each one. He has Miami experience with seven years as an assistant coach here in the 80s, and has never been hesitant to state his love of the program. He’s a well traveled, seasoned coach who even has an undefeated season under his belt at Auburn (where he got robbed of a title by the utterly stupid BCS system). And while it feels like he’s been around forever, he’s fairly young given his experience at 61 and he coaches younger than his age (just watch his sideline for one game). The problem with Tuberville is that he has a very limited ceiling (but with a very high floor). At a place like the U, you know Tuberville will consistently put up 8-9 win seasons with a solid number of 10 win seasons sprinkled in, but Tuberville isn’t the kind of coach that will ever win you a championship due to his coaching or spark a dynasty. He’s the kind of guy who could stabilize the program into a period of solid success to help restore Miami’s reputation. He may be a tad washed up, but he could still have one more rebuild left in the tank. He’s not a sexy hire, but he’s a solid one. Miami could use a stable albeit tame period of sustained success.
17. Chad Morris
This sleeper list is mostly comprised of young, up and comers, and Chad Morris sure fits the bill. He built a spectacular offense at Clemson, has experience in the ACC, and thus far, has done a solid job at SMU in his first year there. He’s a great recruiter and offensive innovator, but just like Fuente, he really doesn’t have enough seasoning as a coach. Miami isn’t really in the position to hire a learn on the job, very green coach; they need to win now to rebuild their identity. Morris is a great candidate, but just like Fuente or even Herman he may need another year or two before taking the big job.
18. Kirby Smart
How about a hotshot coordinator on one of college football’s best programs? Smart has long been targeted for head coaching jobs, but has been extremely selective, waiting for the right opportunity. If Miami came calling, it’s hard to imagine him turning it down. Smart is an intriguing choice as a fantastic defensive mind and solid recruiter with experience and pedigree under Saban. But exactly how much of their defensive success is because of Saban instead of Smart? He’s an interesting candidate who could revamp this defense spectacularly, but as I’ve said repeatedly, he doesn’t have enough experience. He needs his Cincinnati or Kentucky before coming to the U.
19. Brent Venables
Another young, hotshot defensive coordinator! Venables is basically in the same boat as Smart with great defensive chops but no head coaching experience. Venables is a little more traveled than Smart having been defensive ball coach at both Oklahoma and Clemosn, and succeeding wildly at both. Plus he’s only 44 with plenty of tread left on his tires. He too would be an interesting hire, but the Canes are better off getting a guy who has some head coaching experience.
20. Mark Stoops
And here we come to the other Stoops. The Kentucky head man has Miami connections (a DB coach here in the early 2000’s), and good experience as defensive coordinator of Arizona and Florida State. He’s currently in the process of reviving a dormant Kentucky program, and thus far, has shown credible progress (from 2-10, to 5-7, and currently to 4-1). He’s a great defensive mind with Miami connections, and experience coaching in the toughest conference of them all. But we need to first see if he succeeds in building Kentucky up. If he can get to 7-8 wins this season, he’ll absolutely be worth the look for Miami’s potential opening, but he must make a bowl to warrant a phone call. Let’s see how he does this season before making a final decision.
You’ll notice a few trends from this list in how many of these best candidates for the job were chosen:
- Experience was a major plus.
- Having a previous connection with Miami was a big plus.
- Nearly all of these coaches have a clear identity, be it a defensive guru or offensive mastermind.
- Almost all of these coaches are stud recruiters.
The reason that these specific traits were favored was not because these are the most important qualities in a head coach, but because it’s what Miami needs right now. Miami will be best off if they can find a veteran coach with good pedigree who can build a great staff, give the team a clear identity, lock down the State of Miami, slowly build and develop a program, and energize the players and fans alike. It’s a pretty tall order. So who should Miami choose? Well, simply go down the list. Those are the absolute best targets ranked objectively. The good news, is unlike many times in the past, there are a boatload of potentially great candidates going into the future. The most important aspect of the next coach will be fit and identity. Miami needs a very particular coach to win. He must be a great recruiter, he must have thick skin (the Miami media and fans are relentless), he must bring a particular skillset to the table (if you’re a spread guy-great, if you’re a 4-2-5 guru- great, just be something that gives your team identity), and he must have swagger. Luckily, there’s plenty of options, and one of those will be the right man for the job.
Just don’t mess this up Mr. James, another five years of mediocrity, and perhaps the U truly will never be back.
Offensive Coordinator Candidates (in no order):
Rhett Lashlee (the Auburn coaching staff is going to start feeling the heat soon)
Willie Taggart (if fired from USF)
James Coley (could be retained)
Sonnie Cumbie (how would he like the opportunity to call plays)
Gus Malzahn (if fired from Auburn)
Defensive Coordinator Candidates (in no order):
Mike London (if fired)
Butch Davis (longshot)
Stay tuned for more updates on Miami’s coaching search!