TGIFootball: Possible Head Coaching Candidates For The Washington Redskins

TGIF*Updated (notes on Jay Gruden and deleted Bill O’Brien who is now with the Texans) 1/2 – The Washington Redskins have officially parted ways with Head Coach Mike Shanahan and now people are clamoring to know who exactly could replace him. So in today’s TGIFootball column, we’ll discuss possible coaching candidates.

If Owner Dan Snyder plans to move forward in the best way possible, he’d get a true personnel guy to be the team’s General Manager. Current GM Bruce Allen does a great job on the back-end working contracts and the cap. But Mike Shanahan controlled all things personnel during his tenure with the team. Getting a true GM and moving Bruce Allen up the ladder appears certain to happen. Having that type of organizational setup is something Dan Snyder has never really had. Director of Player Personnel Morocco Brown seems to be next in line for the position. He’s worked his way up from a scouting intern with the Indianapolis Colts in 2000 to his current position with Washington. Brown has had aspirations of running a team as a General Manager and is respected throughout the organization. He’s also considered an “up-and-comer” around the league and if his opportunity doesn’t come with the Washington Redskins, he’ll definitely have a shot elsewhere.

Now to the coaching candidates — here’s a short list of attributes I believe the team will look for when selecting a coach:

  • Motivator/Leader

  • Teacher

  • Small ego

  • Offensive Mind

  • West Coast Offense? Have heard they may want something different.

With QB Robert Griffin III heading into his third year as a professional football player, it is imperative that the Washington Redskins “hit” on their next Head Coach. They cannot afford to have another failed coach and stunt Griffin’s development.

Below I’ll list several coaches and provide a few notes on each. This list is subject to change and names could be added at a later date.

Adam Gase, OC, Denver Broncos

  • Very young — 35
  • Likes to pass the rock
  • Has always coached QBs/WRs
  • One year as offensive coordinator (some may consider him a co-offensive coordinator)

Overall Take: Regardless of what people say, Adam Gase is a young, rising star in the business. Yes, he has Peyton Manning at helm, who is pretty much the co-offensive coordinator. But he’s helped Peyton have probably his best season ever. And he’s had many great ones. He’s also helped develop what is probably the deepest wide receiving group in the NFL. As a young star in the making, at the very least, 2013 has shown how great Gase is at listening and adapting. You need to have little ego to work with a guy like Peyton Manning. He’s probably learned a lot. Gase certainly likes to pass the football. He also knows how to spread the field. But the Broncos had more success on the ground this season than years past. I think Gase has more upside than any current offensive coordinator in the league right now. He will be good head coach one day. But I’m not sure if the time is now and if the situation in Washington is right for him at this time.

Russ Grimm

  • Founding member of the “Hogs” and one of the Washington Redskins’ 70 greatest players.
  • Coached tight ends and offensive line early in his coaching career for the Redskins. Also coached OL for the Steelers and Arizona Cardinals.

Overall Take: Grimm was a finalist for the Pittsburgh job along with Mike Tomlin and Ken Whisenhunt after Bill Cowher resigned as head coach of the Steelers in 2007. The job ended up going to Tomlin and Grimm joined Whisenhunt in Arizona as the team’s offensive line coach. The fact he was once considered a head coaching candidate speaks volumes about what people think about his leadership skills. However, would he be right for the Redskins? Not in a head coaching role. He’s never even been an offensive coordinator. But he could return to Washington in some role to work with a guy like Ken Whisenhunt, who we’ll discuss next.   Ken Whisenhunt, OC, San Diego Chargers:

  • Has a ton of NFL experience — has coached in a couple Super Bowls
  • Adapts to talent well
  • Spent a lot of time under Bill Cowher learning about smashmouth football and good defense in Pittsburgh.
  • Believes in attacking defenses horizontally with occasional vertical shots
  • Tempo/Rhythm
  • Along with Mike McCoy, he helped resurrect Phillip Rivers’ career in San Diego

Overall Take: Ken Whisenhunt is a quality coach who has head coach written all over him. He wasn’t great at picking personnel in Arizona, but his philosophy has always been open and flexible. However, I don’t think he’d be a great fit in Washington. Although his offenses have always been about tempo and rhythm, the short horizontal throws is something I think boxes-in Robert Griffin III. Whisenhunt is a good teacher and could certainly end up a candidate. But I think they could do better than him.

Darrell Bevell, OC, Seattle Seahawks:

  • Runs a hybrid West Coast offense which consists of inside-zone running plays — setting up play action passes down-the-field.

  • Former QB coach — has worked with both Brett Farve (8 years) and Aaron Rodgers (1 year). Most recently has helped make Russell Wilson one of the league’s best young gunslingers.

  • Likes a balanced attack

  • Questionable personality fit

  • Young — 43 years old

Overall Take: Bevell is a good coach and he will likely become a head coach based on what he’s done with the Seattle Seahawks. However, there has been some talk about him not having the leadership and motivational skills to lead a football team. One person told me, “some people are just great offensive coordinators and Bevell is just that.” Bevell would be a fit with the Washington Redskins, however, I’m not sure if he’s the right guy. I doubt he will be Washington’s next head coach. He has a balanced offense and likes to attack down-the-field, but his personality does not seem to be an ideal fit.


Kevin Sumlin, HC, Texas A&M:

  • Recently agreed to a contract extension

  • Air-raid, uptempo hurry-up offense

  • QBs must be able to throw the out, the fade, the dig, the flag, the hot and the flare in this offense

  • Conditioning is everything

  • Doesn’t really use a playbook

  • No NFL experience

  • 49 years old

  • Interesting Personality

Overall Take: In the NFL, Sumlin would be a boom or bust head coach. He’s a good football coach and relates to players well. He’s a character though and really someone you’d have to get a feel for personality wise. He’s like a mix between Raheem Morris and Mike Tomlin in that regard. Robert Griffin III would be good in Sumlin’s scheme. Can it consistently work on the NFL level? That’s to be seen. But the success of Chip Kelly’s offense in Philadelphia gives guys like Sumlin hope on the next level. I think he’d intrigue the Washington Redskins. However, ultimately cannot envision him leaving Texas for Washington. In fact, I’m not even certain he leaves Texas A&M at all. I’ve heard he really likes it there and his family is comfortable there.


* (Hired by the Texans) Bill O’Brien, HC, Penn State:

  • Doesn’t really have an offensive scheme. He calls it an instinctive and game planning offense.

  • He’s one of those innovative coaches with his own teaching style. He likes to teach players about defense for a few days before installing things on offense.

  • O’Brien believes up-tempo offenses are “trendy” although he’s good friends with a guy who is running it well in the NFL — Chip Kelly.

  • He’s very personnel oriented. He uses a lot of different formations and personnel groupings.

  • O’Brien is from the Bill Bilichick coaching tree — was on the Patriots’ staff from 2007-2011 coaching wide receivers, quarterbacks and spent his final year in New England as the team’s offensive coordinator.

  • Young — 44 years old

Overall Take: Unlike other top tier head coaches, the Bill Belichick coaching tree does not have a good track record. However, O’Brien could be the exception based on what he’s done at Penn State — a school crippled by NCAA Sanctions. O’Brien knows how to build his offense around what he has. He likes to utilize tight ends — had Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in New England.


*Updated 1/2 Jay Gruden, OC, Cincinnati Bengals:

  • Brother of Jon Gruden

  • Runs a West Coast offense with some spread elements

  • Outside and inside zone run game

  • Utilizes tight ends

  • Tempo

  • Has helped QB Andy Dalton have success

  • He’s a Gruden, so you know he can motivate and is fiery… although not as brash or emotional as his brother.

  • The Bengals trust his opinion with talent evaluation. They’ve done a good job adding pieces on offense.

  • Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen have some ties with Gruden and his brother

  • 46 years old

Overall Take: I think  Jay Gruden’s offense would mesh well in Washington. He’d be a good teacher for Robert Griffin III. There’s been speculation that he could bring in Hue Jackson as his offensive coordinator (although I believe he’d stay in Cincy and fill that spot). In addition to, possibly bringing in the Bengals’ Director of Player Personnel, Duke Tobin, who they really like in Cincinnati. Issue is, I’m not certain Gruden would want to come to Washington and deal with the media frenzy. I’ve heard it’s something he just doesn’t like. I certainly think the Redskins will show interest in him — several teams will. I’m just not sold on him coming to Washington.

*More – I’ve recently studied more of Jay Gruden’s work in Cincinnati and spoke to several people about Gruden as a person. While he’s not as brash as his older brother, he can be a little “loony.”


Art Briles, HC, Baylor University:

  • Innovative spread offense that makes you play the entire field. He works heavily outside the numbers to open up opportunities inside and vice versa.

  • Runs the ball more than you think. Would run the QB less than you think.
  • Briles has implemented some power and zone running concepts

  • He’s an outstanding motivator and leader

  • Is, of course, Robert Griffin III’s former college coach

  • Up-tempo offense

  • Unique teaching style — doesn’t use a playbook. Uses visuals to teach his offense. Repetitions are everything. In his practices, if mistakes are made, they keep going and work on the mistakes in the film room.

  • 58 years old

  • No NFL experience

Overall Take: Briles is older but his best years are ahead of him as a football coach. Robert Griffin III helped him put Baylor University on the map. But when he left and was drafted by the Washington Redskins — Baylor didn’t skip a beat, which has made people realize how good a coach Briles actually is. With Briles, comes offensive coordinator Phil Montgomery, who Griffin loves and really learned a lot from in regards to developing into a pure QB. I’ve also heard that he’s close to Wade Phillips and respects Baylor alum Mike Singletary — possible guys he’d like to join his staff. Briles doesn’t have any NFL experience but the thought of it has intrigued him. Contrary to what people believe, Briles has not completely shut the door on the NFL. It’ll be tough to get him away from Texas. However, the one person who can is Robert Griffin III. This, of course, will not be accepted well by many. If Briles were to become Washington’s head coach, many will believe Griffin has too much power. Although, Snyder and company could actually be the people enamored by Briles — perception is apparently everything with the Washington Redskins. I think this would work. But not only would it give more reason to question Griffin’s power, it may not be the long-term answer Washington needs.


David Shaw, HC, Stanford:

  • Simple, yet not simple offense. Gives you complex looks.

  • WIDE-OPEN scheme. You name it, he does it.

  • Lots of NFL Experience

  • Close with Bruce Allen and his wife is from just north of Baltimore

  • Friends with Chip Kelly… Not that it means anything. But he coaches in the NFC East.

  • He’s a leader, motivator and simply just a good guy

  • Young — 41 years old

Overall Take: Daivd Shaw, in my mind, is the cream of the potential coaching crop. He’s the best candidate for the Washington Redskins by a long shot. He’s in a different class. The issue is, he seems to be set on staying at Stanford. He played football at Stanford and he loves the area. It’s his dream job. I’m just not sure if Washington can lure him. But they should try — hard. He’d be exactly what the team needs. His relationship with Bruce Allen could help, maybe.


Brian Kelly, HC, Notre Dame:

  • Simple spread offense

  • Likes to attack down-the-field and utilizes tight ends

  • Passionate coach — leader

  • Touted as a QB guru, but hasn’t either had the right guy or excelled in that regard at Notre Dame.

  • 52 years old

Overall Take: I don’t really like Kelly for Washington or the NFL in general. He has a very bland offense and I don’t believe he’d be a good fit.

Aaron Kromer, OC, Chicago Bears:

  • Was the interim-interim head coach for the New Orleans Saints after the bounty scandal in 2012 for six games. He only won two games during that span, but it would have been tough for anyone to have major success in that situation.

  • His eye for Offensive Linemen and ability to mold them is equivalent to Mike Shanahan and running backs.

  • Has done a great job in Chicago with the offensive line and offense in general.

  • He respects and puts trust in his players and expects that in return

  • Even-keel, but a guy players would fight for

  • He’s another guy who has a relationship with Bruce Allen

Overall Take: In my opinion, this would be the safest route for the Washington Redskins. It’s a low risk. The scenario I have would be Kromer as head coach, Joe Lombardi (grandson of Vince Lombardi, current New Orleans Saints QB Coach) as offensive coordinator and Greg Williams as defensive coordinator. It would essentially be New Orleans East. Kromer would fix Washington’s offensive line — he has a strong track record in that regard. I’ve heard that there’s mutual interest between former Redskins and Saints defensive coordinator Greg Williams. He’s done a good job working with Jerry Gray in Tennessee. And Joe Lombardi is viewed as an up-and-comer. A couple teams showed interest in Lombardi this past off-season as a possible offensive coordinator. Kromer wouldn’t be a flashy hire. But it would be a very, very solid one. At the end of the day, everyone’s upside as a coach in Washington will be based on Robert Griffin III’s maturation and wins. I think this group would bring that.

All considered, this is how I’d rank those listed above:

1. David Shaw (He’s 100% staying at Stanford)

2. Art Briles

3. Bill O’Brien

4. Adam Gase

5. Aaron Kromer

6. Ken Whisenhunt

7. Jay Gruden

8. Darrell Bevell

9. Kevin Sumlin (He’s not leaving A&M)

10. Russ Grimm

11. Brian Kelly

Others: Bob Stoops, Greg Olson, Jim Caldwell, Mike Zimmer and Lovie Smith (if they were to go defensive minded coach), Danny Smith has been mentioned but I ultimately don’t see that happening

Ranked based on likelihood:

1. Aaron Kromer (not likely to happen, but I think if the call is made — he’d jump)

2. Art Briles

3. Bill O’Brien

4. Jay Gruden

5. Adam Gase

6. Ken Whisenhunt

7. Darrell Bevell

8. Russ Grimm

9. Brian Kelly 10. David Shaw 11. Kevin Sumlin *Jay Gruden continues to move down the list. I’m not sold on him as being a “great” head coaching prospect. I think he’s okay, but the best head coaching prospect in Cincinnati is Mike Zimmer. And it’s not close. *Aaron Kromer continues to be my sleeper. Not that I believe he will be a legit candidate, but he’s a solid plan C or D. He’d bring a good supporting cast. *News circulated about Bill O’Brien being the Texans’ top candidate. While that may be true, I’ve heard O’Brien isn’t all-in for that job and will be loaded with opportunities. The Texans know that and would like to lock him up. But O’Brien may be prudent and look at the rest of his options. I think he’d be interested in the Washington job. More may be added to this list, but I have a feeling Washington’s next head coach will be one of those guys already mentioned. Follow us: @Manny_PPI | @PlayerInsiders 

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