Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel and Pete Thamel, and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde react to USC’s firing of Clay Helton, and discuss who would be the best fit to lead the Trojans into the future.
DAN WETZEL: USC did not wait, did not hesitate much to fire Clay Helton. Very, very good guy, decent coach. This is southern California. You need to be a great coach, and he wasn't it. They made the move, as we pretty much predicted on Sunday. You kind of have to.
The schedule sets up where someone can win a bunch of games here, and you don't want to risk it on the guy you've been trying to get rid of four years. So, who is going to get the job?
PETE THAMEL: My hunch in analyzing this-- in analyzing this search is that you could-- you can really crunch it down to five candidates. I did-- I did 10 on-- I did 10 on Yahoo. I would think James Franklin has to be a top target. Luke Fickell, who obviously Mike Bohn hired at Cincinnati-- Mike Bohn is now the USC AD-- would be right in the thick of the conversation.
I think Bill O'Brien, whose name I didn't see on some other lists, is going to be a viable name that gets vetted heavily at USC. I think the-- USC has always been infatuated with professional sports experience. Remember they hired Henry Bibby for no good reason in basketball and then fired-- I think they followed up with Kevin O'Neill, if I'm right.
So, like, there is, in that pro market, always, like, a little bit of an affinity for that. I think Bill O'Brien is a very intriguing and real name there. Matt Campbell, certainly we know it'd be hard for him to leave that [? aims ?] tap. But with the league change at Iowa State and he has this just awesome crew of veteran players who all returned for this season, I would think he starts to begin to explore other possibilities. You know, he'd be a really-- he'd be a really intriguing fit there.
And I think, you know, there is some intrigue to PJ Fleck, just coming in with a Pete Carroll-like jolt and really putting the emphasis on recruiting and dominating the West Coast. I think the notion of Mario Cristobal-- obviously he's got Oregon likely headed towards the playoff, right? I do think there are some impediments there, especially Oregon's winning. Because if you're going to the playoff, the coaches are unhirable. It's that simple, because of the timeline.
If James Franklin has Penn State going to the playoff, they're not-- that would make it-- that would make him almost an untenable hire as well. But I think there's-- there's things working against Cristobal that would make that-- that would make that more difficult than the first five I just-- I just mentioned. And then we could banter around later, but I think Chris Petersen would get a knock on the door, more so than Bob Stoops.
PAT FORDE: You know, I would be perfectly fine with either Franklin or Fickell, and I would be OK with Bill O'Brien, too. You mentioned him. I mean, I really think Bill O'Brien has another great chapter of coaching in him, just waiting for the right chance and the right spot. You know, I-- he-- he did well at Penn State under tough circumstances. He really saved that program from cratering.
And then he did well-- you know, relatively well in the NFL. I mean, the Texans were in the playoffs. He was not a great personnel guy, but I don't hold that against him. I don't look at him and say, that guy can't be a college coach because of the-- he got fired with the Texans. So, I mean, I love those three.
Now, I mean, I've always had a spot in my heart for Chris Peterson. But again, I don't think he-- I don't-- I'm not sure he wants to do it, and I'm not sure that's the place for him to do it.
DAN WETZEL: Yeah. We went over this a couple weeks ago. But, yeah, Bill O'Brien in the NFL was not a bad coach.
PAT FORDE: No.
DAN WETZEL: Four playoff appearances, four division crowns in the AFC South. He won 11 and 5, 10 and 6. They were up 21-zip on the Chiefs. They blew that divisional game and everything changed. Then he traded DeAn-- he got sideways with DeAndre Hopkins, and boom, they're done. But this is-- he was an excellent NFL coach. And, you know, he got fired after going 0 and4. So a year-- a year in the Bama car wash would certainly be-- be good.
You know, I don't think you need to have LA ties. I think you need to figure out how to keep LA kids at USC. But I don't think it's a matter of-- of, you know, I'm a West Coast guy or I got this or that. USC is the tie. LA wants USC to be really good. The kids want to go there. You've just got to give them a reason to stop leaving and going somewhere else.