We've reached the midway point of the 2012 regular season, and thus far we have not had any head coaching changes. As Mike Silver pointed out on Monday, several coaches, including three in the NFC East (Andy Reid, Jason Garrett and Mike Shanahan) will be coaching for their jobs over the next eight weeks.
Another round of head coaching hires will take place in January. Here's a mid-season look at the candidates who could and should be preparing for interviews:
Bruce Arians, offensive coordinator/interim head coach, Indianapolis Colts -- A longtime position coach and coordinator at the NFL level, Arians was thrust into an interim head coaching role when Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. Whether or not the 60-year-old Arians wants to pursue a head coaching career is unknown — he did "retire" from the Pittsburgh Steelers — but the Colts are 4-1 under Arians, who at the midway point of the season has to be in the discussion for Coach of the Year.
Gus Bradley, defensive coordinator, Seattle Seahawks -- The 46-year-old coached linebackers on Monte Kiffin's staff with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before he was hired by Jim Mora to coordinate the defense in 2009. With Pete Carroll also mentored by Kiffin, it was not much of a surprise when Bradley was one of two assistant coaches retained by Carroll when he took over the Seahawks in 2010. In the last three seasons, the Seahawks have built one of the NFL's most physical and multiple defenses, which Bradley deserves equal credit for. Bradley could be the in-house heir apparent for Carroll in Seattle, a set-up that didn't work out so well the last time that organization tried it (Mike Holmgren-to-Mora).
Perry Fewell, defensive coordinator, New York Giants -- Despite the 50-year-old Fewell being one of the NFL's top defensive coordinators over the last five-plus seasons, and interviewing for and not getting four openings the previous offseason, none of the seven organizations who were searching for a head coach in 2012 asked Fewell to interview. Oh well. Fewell can find solace in the Super Bowl ring he earned with the Giants last season, a memento won largely on the strength of Fewell's defense.
Ray Horton, defensive coordinator, Arizona Cardinals -- A cornerback with the Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys from 1983-92, Horton has spent the last 18 seasons working as an assistant with the Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions, Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers. Much of Horton's playing and coaching career has involved working under Pro Football Hall of Fame player and legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, which helped make Horton an appealing candidate for coordinator openings. Hired by Arizona in 2011, the lockout delayed the installation of his defense, but the Cardinals have had one of the league's top defenses since the midway point of last season. Horton, 52, was on the St. Louis Rams' interview list in January and will likely be a hot name on the interview circuit in January 2013.
Chip Kelly, head coach, University of Oregon -- Kelly, who turns 49 in late November, is 43-6 in his three-plus seasons in Eugene, leading the Ducks to a 31-2 record and three titles in the Pac-10/Pac-12 and is 1-1 in Rose Bowl appearances. The NFL came knocking after last season and Kelly nearly became the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before deciding to stay at Oregon. Kelly's up-tempo, spread offense would work at the NFL level and when a staff headed up by Bill Belichick is borrowing ideas from you, it may be time for Kelly to pledge the NFL coaching fraternity.
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Rod Marinelli, defensive coordinator, Chicago Bears -- Yes, we're aware of the dismal 10-38 record he accumulated while head coach of the Detroit Lions, including an 0-16 mark in 2008 that may have understandably soured Marinelli on ever wanting to be a head coach in the National Football League again. But there's little doubt that Marinelli was not the culprit for those lousy Lions teams because he's one hell of a coach, as evidenced by how many teams were interested in his services upon his firing from the Lions in 2009 and his own subsequent successes. Marinelli, 63, is currently coordinating the league's top defense, which through eight games, has the fourth-best defense in the history of Football Outsiders' DVOA.
Mike McCoy, offensive coordinator, Denver Broncos -- A longtime assistant under John Fox with the Carolina Panthers, McCoy branched out on his own when he became the offensive coordinator on Josh McDaniels' staff with the Broncos. Retained when Fox joined the Broncos in 2011, McCoy deserves a great deal of credit for how he adjusted the offense on the fly as the team shifted from Kyle Orton to Tim Tebow at quarterback. This season, McCoy has incorporated part of the old Indianapolis Colts offense into his own system to accommodate the arrival of Peyton Manning and the results speak for themselves. The Broncos are third in total offense and Football Outsiders' DVOA and are fourth in points scored. Some team will surely look to interview McCoy for an opening this offseason.
Dave Toub, special teams coordinator, Chicago Bears -- Perhaps because special teams coordinators need to work with players from both sides of the ball, they're being looked at more closely when head coaching vacancies open up. Toub is regarded as one of the best in the league and is reportedly earning a seven-figure salary as part of his two-year extension with the Bears. The Miami Dolphins interviewed Toub last offseason before settling on Joe Philbin for their head coaching vacancy, so it may just be a matter of time before he lands a head coaching gig of his own. Other special teams coordinators who warrant consideration for head coaching openings include Brad Seely of the San Francisco 49ers and Rich Bisaccia of the San Diego Chargers, both of whom have "assistant head coach" titles with their respective clubs. Seely was a candidate for the Indianapolis Colts' head coaching position in 2012.
Besides the potential availability of Sean Payton, other names you will hear mentioned for openings this offseason: Todd Bowles (defensive coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles), Mike Nolan (defensive coordinator, Atlanta Falcons) and Aaron Kromer (offensive line coach, New Orleans Saints).
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