Latest Turn on the NFL Coaching Carousel

carousel 350X350This has been some week for the NFL. First, seven head coaches and six general managers are shown the door by their respective teams and now Ray Lewis has officially announced his retirement as his team prepares to face off against the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card playoffs.

Not to mention highly sought after head coaching options, offensive coordinators Dirk Koetter (Atlanta Falcons) and Josh McDaniels (New England Patriots) both signed contracts to remain with their current teams.

And it’s only Wednesday; there is still nearly half a week to go in this winter whirlwind thats lashing around the league.

Here’s the latest turn to on the coaching carousel.

Arizona Cardinals
Top Options: Ray Horton, Andy Reid, Mike McCoy

The Cardinals axed coach Ken Whisenhunt after going 45-51 in six seasons in the desert. Whisenhunt also boasted a 4-2 record in the playoffs, only three of those wins came in 2008 when the Cardinals went all the way to the Super Bowl.

On Tuesday, media outlets ran rampant with news that the Cardinals were ready to hire former-Eagles head coach Andy Reid (who also fired Monday). Those reports were turned down early this morning by the Arizona Republic, which stated the organization is still running on the tracks set down on Monday by team President Michael Bidwell.

Cardinals first looked in-house for their next head coach, interviewing defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Tuesday night. Wisenhunt brought in Horton, who he was familiar from working together in Pittsburgh, before the start of the 2011 season.

In his first season with the Cards, Horton’s defense allowed only 34 touchdowns (the fewest since 1994) and this year Arizona ranked 12th in total defense. However good a fit Horton would be as head coach, other teams have interest in the coordinator as well. Horton will also meet with Buffalo and Cleveland.

Reid, scheduled to meet with Cardinals brass on Thursday, could also be a good fit as he would be reunited with quarterback Kevin Kolb, whom he drafted in the second round of 2007 draft while with the Eagles.

Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is also in line to meet with Arizona this weekend.

Buffalo Bills
Top Options: Ken Whisenhunt, Hue Jackson, Doug Marrone

The Bills position is a very interesting one. The team is stacked with talent and is only missing a few pieces before being a serious threat in the AFC. Former coach Chan Gailey couldn’t get it done in his three seasons in upstate New York. Add in that owner Ralph Wilson, 94, has gave full control of the franchise to Chief Executive Officer Russ Brandon. It will be the dawning of a new era in Buffalo and it will start with a new head coach.

Buffalo seems to be the front-runner for former-Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt. In his six years in Arizona, Whisenhunt only had two losing seasons and had a proficient offense with Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, and Anquan Boldin. Whisenhunt has some of the building blocks to make the Buffalo offense flourish with C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, and Stevie Johnson in the fold.

As mentioned earlier, the Bills are bringing in Horton for an interview, but in looking at all the options the Bills are clearly looking for an offensive minded coach.

Hue Jackson, a Cincinnati Bengals offensive assistant, has been linked to interview with the team after the Bengals playoff rematch against the Houston Texans this weekend, a source told USA Today Sports.

Jackson was reasonably successful in his lone year as head coach with the Oakland Raiders. The team went 8-8 in 2011 and just missed the playoffs on the last day of the regular season.

With the passing of Al Davis, the owner/GM who hired him, and ownership going to his son Mark Davis, Jackson was fired by new general manager Reggie McKenzie despite posting standing ninth in total offense that year.

The wild card here for Buffalo is Doug Marrone.

An offensive line coach for the New York Jets for three years, Marrone quickly established himself as a coach to be known. In 2006, he left the Jets to become the Saints offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2008 – the beginning of the Sean Payton era.

Since 2009, he has revitalized his alma mater Syracuse’s football program — bringing them two bowl victories and this year a Big East conference championship.

Marrone has had glowing endorsements from Payton and Bill Parcells. A dark horse candidate but already coaching up in upstate New York, he might already have the inside track on the mindset it takes to win there.

Chicago Bears
Top Options: Mike McCoy, Mike Sullivan, Joe DeCamillis, Keith Armstrong

This was one of the more surprising moves this past Monday. Lovie Smith was shown the door after nine years running the team and posting a 10-win season this year, not to mention going 81-63 with a Super Bowl appearance in his tenure with the team.
The move got a harsh reaction from legendary Bears coach Mike Ditka.

The coach of the famous ‘85 Bears, Mike Ditka, spoke passionately about the move. Saying, “If Minnesota would have lost last night and the Bears were in the playoffs, this wouldn’t have happened. That’s a fact. So how stupid is it then? It really is stupid.”

Some have cited it was a move by second-year GM Phil Emery, while others contest that it was a lack of playoff appearances (three in nine years) that cost Smith the job.

Whatever it is, the search is on in Chi-town and there are a slew of reports on who they are interested in.

McCoy is a big target.

The offense has been the Achilles heel for the Bears’ as of late and need a remedy. McCoy, worked on the offensive side of the ball with the Carolina Panthers and for the past two years has been the Denver Broncos offensive coordinator — an impressive feat as he had to restructure the offense for Tim Tebow in 2011 and the next formulate an entirely new offense for Peyton Manning the following year and both years they went to the playoffs.

Mike Sullivan is another offensive mind working with Tampa Bay.

Sullivan worked with the New York Giants for eight years and was hailed for his successful work, with Eli Manning and Steve Smith, respectively. Under Sullivan, Manning set the franchise record in 2011 for completions and yards.

In 2009, Smith set the franchise record with catches in a year and was the first Giants wide receiver to be voted to the Pro Bowl in 41 years.

Sullivan’s first season with Tampa, this year, continued his success as his unit was ranked ninth in total offense.

DeCamillis (Dallas Cowboys) and Armstrong (Atlanta Falcons) are both special teams coaches with interviews as well. The jump from special teams coordinator to head coach is rare but Baltimore proved it can be done.

They hired John Harbaugh, a special teams coach from Philly, who has since brought them to the postseason every since his hiring in 2008.

Cleveland Browns
Top Options: Chip Kelly, Doug Marrone, Bill O’ Brien

The firing of head coach Pat Shurmer and general manager Tom Heckert wasn’t surprising. It was much like Hue Jackson’s firing in Oakland last year. A new owner, looking to have his guys in place. It’s understandable.

Despite their record of 9-23 in two seasons, the tandem didn’t do that bad…in Cleveland terms.

They had one more win this year than last year and the have brought in a lot of building blocks such as running back Trent Richardson, wide receiver Josh Gordon, and defensive linemen Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard.

New owner Jim Haslam has made it clear, that he wants a foundational coach to begin this new era in Cleveland. Which is why he is looking at the collegiate level.

Chip Kelly, Oregon’s coach, said on Tuesday, “I have no idea what the future holds, but I know we have a game tomorrow night and I’ll be there.”

Today it’s been reported by’s Ian Rapoport that Kelly will meet with Cleveland after his team plays the Fiesta Bowl. Oh, how things change in a day.

Marrone, again has big names backing him up and has had success at both levels.

O’ Brien is a long shot year. The former New England Patriots offensive coordinator, and now head coach of Penn State, hasn’t down played a return to the NFL even after making such a big commitment to the Penn State faithful to take up the team in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and subsequent passing of legendary coach Joe Paterno.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported back on Dec. 30, that O’ Brien would be open to the idea of returning to the NFL because of a failure to communicate with Penn State.

Mortensen reported that O’ Brien was told by Penn State officials that the Sandusky investigation was a criminal matter and the NCAA wouldn’t hand down any sanctions…oops.

However if O’ Brien wanted to return, it would involve a very costly contract buyout. So things don’t seem to shining too bright here but a light is on.

Kansas City Chiefs
Top Options: Andy Reid

Not a lot of options here as there is still a lot of uncertainty here. Chiefs’ CEO Clark Hunt is still deciding the fate of general manager Scott Pioli.

Yet, Reid met with the Chiefs today. Reid has other spots to hit before his tour is over but if the Chiefs walk away as the front-runner and land the free-agent coach, Pioli will most likely keep his job and get to work with the well respected Reid.

If not?

Well, Pioli could be shown the door just as former coach and Black Monday victim Romeo Crennel was.

The Chiefs also had Koetter visit Tuesday but his sticking with Atlanta shut that door quickly.

Philadelphia Eagles
Top Options: Chip Kelly, Bill O’ Brien, Mike McCoy

After a hellacious and emotional tearing two seasons both on and off the field, longtime coach Andy Reid was shown the door. But when a door closes, a window opens and Philadelphia is a big window of opportunity for a coach looking to take the reins as head honcho.

Kelly is also scheduled to visit here, which fits perfect with owner Jeffrey Lurie’s wishes to get an “innovative coach who’s ahead of the game and knows where the league is trending.”

Kelly has run one of the most explosive offenses in college football at history in his short time with the school. Since taking over in 2009, Kelly has fashioned together a 45-7. In his first year alone, he set put up the most points in the Pac-10 and the most total yards.

His spread offense is based in speed and with an offense with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and LeSean McCoy — these birds could fly.

O’ Brien has the in-state love by taking the Penn State job in the midst of catastrophe but again, a hefty buyout looms.

McCoy is another guy that fits Lurie’s “innovation” and “trending” desires as he has created two offenses for two completely different quarterbacks but had both offenses working well enough to have the team make the playoffs.

San Diego Chargers
Top Options: Bruce Arians

San Diego is in the midst of a much needed makeover. The tag-team of coach Norv Turner and  general manager A.J. Smith needed to end as they were simply not getting the job done with talented teams and they were only trending down — look at Phillip Rivers’ numbers the past two years.

Arians, showed a lot to the NFL world by taking up the Colts as head coach Chuck Pagano left to battle leukemia. Aside from being an incredible motivational force, he led the Colts to a 9-3 record.

And it should go worth noting, he didn’t give up his offensive play calling duties — remember he was hired as offensive coordinator. While calling the plays and facing adversity, Arians led Indianapolis to rank 10th in total offense. An incredible feat with such a young and raw offense.

Remember though, the Chargers also have to find a GM. The Chargers job could be the last in a long line of positions to be filled – due to the fact they have a lot of looking to do internally.

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