PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02: Head coach Chip Kelly of the Oregon Ducks covers his face after the Ducks defeat the Wisconsin Badgers 45-38 at the 98th Rose Bowl Game on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
First a tiny update on Mike Sherman: according to Roy Cummings, he's interviewing with the Bucs as I write this.
ESPN's Adam Schefter appeared on Ross Tucker's Football Today Podcast to talk about head coaching vacancies (among other things), and he had a few interesting things to say about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Most notably, he doesn't believe the Bucs will hire either Mike Sherman or Jerry Gray - but that they have some mystery candidates no one knows about.
"It's been very quiet, you brought up the two names [Jerry Gray and Mike Sherman]. I don't believe those are the two guys ultimately in the end that will be there. But they have talked about Jerry Gray, they have talked about Mike Sherman.
I believe their sights are set on different coaches at this point in time. They've been very tight-lipped about it, that's the way that Tampa Bay has always operated. And at some point there will be a candidate, a legitimate candidate that leaks out and you say "Oh that makes sense" and that'll be the guy.
And maybe they fall in love with Mike Sherman or Jerry Gray. I just think that they have a longer list of candidates than we know, a deeper list of candidates than we know and there's other candidates they really like that we don't know.
Which candidates would that be? Beats me. I would guess they'll look at some college head coaches, as they made it clear they wanted to look at all the candidates they know. So far the key word has been experience as the only rumored candidate who wasn't previously head coach is Jerry Gray, and he's had significant experience as a coordinator in the NFL.
I love me some irresponsible and completely unfounded speculation, so let's just fire off some names. If you had your pick of mystery candidates, who would you choose? Chip Kelly is a hot name, but Nike's Phil Knight is going to spend whatever it takes to keep him in Oregon. Here's another name: Boise State's Chris Petersen. Offensive head coach, has lost all of 3 games in 6 seasons (4 including one bowl game) and has won about all there is to win with Boise State.
Want some more? Les Miles. 103-38 with Oklahoma State and LSU, won a national championship and has a chance to win another one this season. Has some NFL experience as he functioned as the Cowboys' tight ends coach for three years.
Mike Gundy is a name I've heard fans suggest several times (well, twice). Has a 58-30 record with Oklahoma State, is 4-2 in Bowl games and just won the Fiesta Bowl against Andrew Luck's Stanford Cardinal. Pretty impressive, and again an offensive head coach.
Washington's Steve Sarkisian is a personal favorite of mine, despite him being extremely young and having essentially no experience. I don't know why, but he feels like a good head coach. Has managed to turn around a Washington team, won a bowl game and went to another bowl game this season.
There's Lane Kiffin, currently the head coach at USC. Did a great job as the offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll, failed as a head coach with the Raiders (but hey, it's the Raiders), then showed he was a terrible person in the way he left Tennessee and continued to rack up recruiting violations. But he's also a very good offensive football coach, and I'm pretty sure most of these coaches aren't great people - you have to be sneaky and cut-throat to make it to the top of a first-class college program.
Nick Saban is always a popular name. He didn't exactly succeed with the Dolphins, but he's had a ton of success in college football and has significant NFL experience. He wasn't even that terrible with the Dolphins, either. 9-7 and 6-10 in two season is nothing great, but it's pretty decent. Does he deserve another shot?
What about Bob Stoops? 139-34 in 13 years as a college coach, won a national championship in 2000 and has a 7-6 record in bowl games. A defensive coach, but a very successful one who consistently creates a winner.
Who else do we have? There's Nebraska's Bo Pelini, who turned around a Nebraska team that had become a disappointment into a winner again, going 39-16 in four years and winning two bowl games. There's Mark Richt, who's gone 106-37 in his head coaching career with the Georgia Bulldogs and has won 7 bowl games.
For those who don't think that college coaches do well in the NFL, well, you're wrong. At least, as far as the past two decades are concerned. There were some high-profile busts, but some of the most successful coaches in NFL history came from college. Bill Walsh, Jimmy Johnson and Tom Coughlin are some examples. Even the Bucs had a successful college head coach at some point in John McKay - although they also had Ray Perkins.
To add a few other names who aren't currently in college: Brian Billick is an offensive head coach who has had a lot of success in the NFL, but hasn't gotten a sniff in recent years. Russ Grimm was the leading candidate for the Pittsburgh Steelers job before Mike Tomlin ran away with it. Tom Clements is the Packers' QB coach and was very important to Aaron Rodgers' development. That alone should get him some looks.
Again, let me note that I don't know if the Bucs are interested in any of the names I mentioned. I just thought it was fun to use Schefter's remark to throw a whole lot of names out there. Does anyone on there intrigue you, or do you have a coach you'd like to see who hasn't been mentioned yet? Go ahead and let us know in the comments.