Yep, we're there. Here's the names I've been kicking around in my head:
Jerry Gray - Jerry Gray, currently the Redskins secondary coach and a former defensive coordinator when Gregg Williams was in charge witht he Buffalo Bills, interviewed for the Lions job this last offseason, which means that word is out in league circles that he may have the skills to succeed as a head coach. I will admit to not knowing a lot about the man, except that he is constantly referred to as being utterly respected by everyone on the team, from players to coaches to front office.
Because I am almost always in favor of continuity, if he shows he has the management and organizational skills to be a head coach, I hope he’s given the head job and an outside coordinator is brought in for the offense. In fact I’d prefer the offensive guy be brought in at the coordinator level because expectations will naturally be unrealistically for a head coach with an offensive background.
If Gray gets the head job, current linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti can be given a crack at the defensive coordinator role. I am tired of reading about how great he is at finding weaknesses in the opponents’ offense and designing ways to exploit them – let’s give him a chance to showcase that skill. The Redskins have regularly denied other teams permission to interview Olivadotti for other roles, so it’s possible he could be a coordinator for now if he hadn’t been constantly blocked, so it’s almost like we owe him the job.
This post is about next years' coach, but incidentally I want to point out that Jerry Gray is the only option that would make a bit of sense as an interim head coach if the decision is made to get rid of Zorn while the season is still in progress.
Mike Martz – I’m surprised that I haven’t heard any media speculation about Mike Martz yet. Dan Snyder has made an honest effort to be patient with the development of the offense since 2004, and he’s probably fed up. If Snyder wants to see immediate results, this is his man. He is more likely than any other potential new coach/coordinator to increase offensive production quickly.
Now the problem is that while the better offensive production is still uncertain, increased sacks and interceptions are an absolute guarantee. So the defense will constantly be put in tight spots, especially if the turnovers and sacks are not accompanied by a proportionate increase in points. But since Martz is notorious for not prioritizing the protection of his quarterbacks, maybe he’s the best option to get some offensive results before the line is completely rebuilt, which looks like a multi-year project at this point.
One factor to consider here is that Martz has a reputation, frankly, as an arrogant jerk who no one can stand to work with. So there’s a realistic possibility he could talk his way out of town after one or two seasons and leave everything a mess.
His last two jobs (Detroit and San Francisco) have been at the coordinator level so there’s at least a possibility he could come in for the offense to go along with the Jerry Gray head coach/Olivadotti D-coordinator scenario. But given Martz’ strong personality and high profile with the media, there’s a threat the Redskins could be considered Martz’ team and the real head coach could be undermined.
[EDIT - Another factor I forgot to mention - Chris Cooley is the one and only player on offense who we can count on to be productive, and Mike Martz isn't all that interested in tight ends. I would hesitate to bring in an offensive guy who is unable or unwilling to utilize our only conistently effective player.]
Bill Cowher – The main problem with Bill Cowher is that he would transition us to a 3-4 defense, and on that side of the ball I don’t want to mess with something that works. We have invested heavily in Albert Haynesworth, who would be wasted as a simple space-eater 3-4 nose tackle. He can certainly do it, but much of his value comes from moving him around the line, working mismatches, and letting him tear up plays in the backfield. Andre Carter has been a 3-4 OLB before so that wouldn’t be much of an issue, but what about the rest of our talented front 7? London Fletcher is one of the best traditional MLBs in football – he can probably convert successfully to 3-4 inside backer, but do we want to experiment with him at this stage of his career or stick with what we know he does very well? Kedric Golston and Jeremy Jarmon have been playing very well – would their skills be transferrable to being a 3-4 end? I don’t have the football knowledge to know the answer to that, but again I don’t want to take the risk of them failing as we move them out of the roles we’ve already established they can fulfill.
And of course Cowher does nothing to help the offense – some other coordinator would have to be hired. Leaedership and the establishment of a strong culture are what Cowher is most known for. However with the Redskins the locker room and team culture are quite strong – the problem is with offensive line talent and execution on offense, and nothing about Cowher addresses those issues.
Mike Shanahan – He can certainly design an effective offense. But there are two major problems here. The first is that he will likely insist on control over personnel decisions, and that may be a deal-breaker with Snyder. And before you get excited at the prospect of a replacement for Vinny Cerrato, remember that the personnel side was always his weakness in Denver. Secondly, he would probably completely clean house and bring in his own defensive staff, and as I’ve already discussed I really want to maintain some continuity there.
Jon Gruden – The media considers Gruden the current front runner. He certainly is a dynamic personality who will keep the media entertained, but many people think his success in Tampa was because he got to ride Monte Kiffin’s elite defense. He never equaled the offensive production he got with Rich Gannon in Oakland, so it’s reasonable to think that Gannon deserves most of the credit for that. So based on track record, there’s not much reason to assume Gruden would be an offensive savior. One point in his favor is that as a purely offensive guy he might be open to the idea of keeping Gray or Olivadotti as defensive coordinator.