Newsflash: The Oakland Raiders are in the market for a head coach. Of course, ever since their humiliating dismantling at the hands of Jon Gruden and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII, the Raiders have seemingly had a revolving door of head coaches. Since that fateful game, Oakland has employed – and terminated – Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable, Hue Jackson, and Dennis Allen. That would be an astounding seven head coaches in the span of twelve years, if you're scoring at home.
With interim HC Tony Sparano –promoted after Allen's firing after 4 games into the 2014 season – widely viewed as somebody merely keeping the seat warm for whoever GM Reggie McKenzie and team owner Mark Davis elect to bring in, there has been no shortage of names connected with the forthcoming open position.
And with some big names already out there looking for work, as well as a few others who, thanks to terrible seasons by their respective teams, will be looking for employment as well, the list of potential candidates for the Raiders' head coaching position looks to get even longer.
GM, for now, Reggie McKenzie insists that he will be the one making the final call on who the next head coach of the Raiders will be, but given his own track record, that of a few very questionable draft picks, free agent signing debacles, and oh yeah, the fact that Dennis Allen was “his guy,” McKenzie actually being there to anoint the next head coach in Oakland isn't a certainty either. Especially given the fact that some of the names in contention for the job will likely require a healthy dose of GM authority over personnel decisions to acquire their services.
It's sure to be a very interesting, drama-filled offseason in Oakland...again. However, given the product they're putting on the field this season, it might just be more entertaining. With that then, here are 10 possible candidates for the Raiders' head coaching gig...
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10 Tony Sparano
Since Sparano took over for the fired Dennis Allen, the Raiders have responded well. They've been competitive in most of their games, and are a few plays away from having a couple of wins on the board. Unfortunately, the effort the team has put in since Sparano's elevation hasn't actually translated to any wins. But the team respects him and is buying into what he is selling. Despite being 0-9 as of this writing, the team has not quit on Sparano, which might count for something. Probably not enough for Davis, who desperately wants to win, to retain him in the HC capacity though.
9 Rex Ryan
It's increasingly likely that the New York Jets' very outspoken head coach, Rex Ryan – he of the foot fetish – will be looking for employment once this season wraps up. Despite taking the team to two consecutive AFC Championship games, Ryan has never been able to get over the hump in New York and bring the city a title. With his team floundering even harder, compiling a 2-8 mark on the season thus far, it's very probable that this will be Ryan's last ride in the Green and White. What he does well is defensive scheming, and the Jets usually field a very tough, very physical defense, something the Raiders desperately need. What he doesn't do well is develop QBs, and with a young QB in Derek Carr, the Raiders will need a QB guru to help develop him into an elite NFL quarterback. Rex, though always good for a sound bite, doesn't quite fit that mold.
8 Adam Gase
With all the success that the Denver Broncos' offense has had over the last few seasons, OC Adam Gase will very likely get a lot of calls as head coaching spots open up in the offseason. While it's true that he has called some terrific games and put together some amazing offensive statistics, Gase might be getting a bit too much of the credit. The Broncos offense might not be quite as lethal as it is without a certain guy wearing number 18 calling the shots on the field. While Gase's schemes are good, Peyton Manning's execution of them is even better. Still, Gase's star is on the rise and he's a terrific OC. Plus, Mark Davis would love nothing better than to take a page from his dad's playbook and stick a fork in the eye of the Denver Broncos by poaching one of their top coordinators.
7 Jim Harbaugh
The honeymoon is most definitely over between Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers. Very few people believe that Harbaugh will be back on the San Francisco sidelines in 2015, with some like 49ers legend Jerry Rice saying it's a done deal. Having built both Stanford and the 49ers into perennial contenders, Harbaugh has strong roots in the Bay Area and being able to stay in the area by simply hopping across the Bay might appeal to him. Plus, Harbaugh would bring the star and credibility factor that both Reggie McKenzie and Mark Davis desperately want/need.
6 Darrell Bevell
The offensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, Darrell Bevell, has built a solid reputation for himself. By being instrumental in the drafting and development of Russell Wilson, Bevell has a knack for tailoring an offense around the players' strengths and weaknesses. While not necessarily flashy, the Seattle offense is a highly efficient, highly productive unit. That success will likely lead to plenty of suitors for Bevell's services this offseason. The question though, will be whether or not Bevell will want to leave the Pacific Northwest.
5 Todd Bowles
With the resurgence in the desert of the Arizona Cardinals, currently the owners of the best record in the NFL, and with a defense that is blowing people up, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is going to see his name come up in connection with plenty of open HC jobs. He has some HC experience, coaching 3 games with the Miami Dolphins after the team fired Tony Sparano in 2011, and the team finished 2-1 under his watch, so he doesn't come into a job completely green. But like Bevell in Seattle, he is in a good spot with Arizona and prying him out might not be that easy. Then again, there are so few HC jobs in the NFL, he might feel the time is right. Time will tell.
4 Kevin Sumlin
Texas A&M HC Kevin Sumlin is no stranger to being courted by NFL franchises in need of a new coach. Given what he's done with A&M, helping make that program respectable again, it's no surprise. Thus far, he's declined every suitor that's come calling. But eventually, you would think that he'd be ready to make that jump to the NFL. With A&M having a down season, that time might be fast approaching. He has an innovative offensive mind and a reputation for putting up big numbers. Though he signed a 6-year deal with A&M in 2013, there's no guarantee he'll be there to the end of it if the right situation arises.
3 Tom Coughlin
Though he's had a good run with the Giants in New York, one can't escape the feeling that Coughlin's days in the Big Apple are coming to an end. With the Giants scuffling along at 3-6, and the team very likely to miss the postseason again, Coughlin will probably be the fall guy for the team's shortcomings. He's a taskmaster and a disciplinarian, but his players are incredibly loyal to him and his two Super Bowl wins prove that he's a good coach, who's able to get the best out of his team. His tough love way of running a team might be just the sort of medicine the Raiders need.
2 Mike Holmgren
Holmgren made some waves earlier this season when he appeared at Raiders HQ in Oakland to talk with Reggie McKenzie following Allen's dismissal. The speculation that he would be coaching the Raiders next season ramped up immediately and hasn't yet abated. Given his ties to McKenzie through their days in Green Bay, it's a distinct possibility – though his success without a guy named Brett Favre running the offense was rather limited. And his track record in player personnel decisions was even worse. Still, jobs are all about connections and Holmgren definitely has them in Oakland.
1 Jon Gruden
Every time the Raiders' HC job opens up, which is often, Gruden's name immediately shoots to the top of the list. That's because Gruden is connected with Oakland's last run of success in the late 90's/early 2000's. He was the coach that put them on the trajectory that got them to that ill-fated Super Bowl and as a result, Raiders fans will always carry a certain nostalgia for Chuckie. Given his recent comments about only coming back to coaching if its with the Raiders, coupled with Mark Davis' very public flirtation with Gruden, it wouldn't be surprising to see him roaming Oakland's sidelines once again. Though reports have recently surfaced suggesting that advisers close to him have told Davis to steer clear of Gruden. But Davis, like his father, is known for doing his own thing anyway and his infatuation with Gruden might outweigh any advice he receives.
Probability: Very High
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