10 Candidates Texas Longhorns Should Consider Hiring As Head Coach
Peering Into the Texas Longhorns' Head Coach Opening
When Mack Brown finally announced that he would be stepping down from the position of head coach for the Texas Longhorns after their participation in the Alamo Bowl it seemed as if mass chaos was happening in Austin, Texas. This was not because people did not expect Brown to step down or be fired, quite to the contrary, but because they now needed to find a coach that could take the Longhorns to the heights the previous coach had.
After initial reports of Alabama head coach Nick Saban moving over to Texas dissipated in the wake of him signing a extension with the Crimson Tide, this feeling of angst for the Longhorns only heightened. The longer they wait to go out and find a top level coach the harder it appears to get as everyday coaches are moving to new teams or signing extensions to keep them put.
Still, when Texas comes running after you with offers ranging from anywhere between $5-7 million with license to recruit well anywhere in the United States, it is hard not to listen. Every coach in America could seemingly agree with this, and it has been displayed quite well by the fact that few coaches who the Longhorns are repeatedly seeking have actually said they will not make the move to Austin.
While plenty of rumors continue to abound over who exactly Texas is going after and who will be willing to make the move continue to go about, I have taken the liberty of sorting through to find the ten best, most realistic candidates for the job. The background of these ten guys varies largely in terms of their age, current occupations, and ties to the Longhorns, but they are all unified by being top notch football minds who would likely see the job as a step up from their current position.
Enjoy, and feel free to give feedback.
10. Bill O'Brien
Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien has been considered a prize candidate for head coaching gigs both in the NFL and college football ever since taking over as head coach of the Nittany Lions prior to the 2012 season. Over the last two years he has done a magical job of ensuring that Penn State is ready to play every week despite being ineligible for bowl participation through the 2015 season,and was even awarded the Paul Bryant College Football Coach of the Year Award in 2012. But despite the apparent loyalty that O'Brien feels to his current job, there have been rumblings that Texas will make a move for his services, and they will likely be willing to double the $3.28 million he made in 2013. When it is considered that the Longhorns will also offer an immediate chance to compete for BCS Bowls and National Championships, it seems hard to see how the coach would turn down an offer.
9. Art Briles
As an in-state rival as head coach of the Baylor Bears it appears likely that getting Art Briles to move to Texas would be a win on multiple fronts. First off it would likely stunt the progress that Baylor has made under Briles -- they have made a program record three straight bowl games -- and it would give the Longhorns a guy who already knows how to recruit in the state of Texas. This recruiting factor will not be taken lightly by the powers that be in Texas as the last three Heisman Trophy winners all played high school football in the state but none were heavily recruited by the Longhorns.
Oh, and if you think that Texas will be discouraged by a recent 10-year extension that Briles signed with Baylor it would be wise to think again. Money is no issue in the Longhorns' search for a head coach, and they will check on all avenues on their search.
8. Jim Harbaugh
While some will immediately discredit San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh from being linked to the Texas job, I would advise you to tread lightly. Harbaugh has reportedly never had a good relationship with 49ers general manager Trent Baalke, and after a wildly successful stint with Stanford from 2007-2010 it is hard to envision him not succeeding at Texas. To date he has brushed away all rumors linking to the Longhorns head coaching job, in turn focusing only on his commitment to the 49ers instead. If this reminds you of the tune Saban took prior to moving from the Miami Dolphins to Alabama back in 2007 you are not alone. If the money is good enough it would be hard to see Harbaugh turning down a move to Texas, even if some would see the move as a step down.
7. Jim Mora
After a couple of ill-fated stints at the NFL level it has been shown over the last two years that Jim Mora does have the skills to be a head coach but only at the college level. Mora has guided the UCLA Bruins to back-to-back nine win seasons and has turned players such as linebacker Anthony Barr and quarterback Brett Hundley from prospects into bonafide superstars. With the ability to develop talent and an engaging personality it would seem that Mora would be perfectly suited to tackle the Texas job. Whether he actually wants the job could be another issue, but it would certainly be hard to turn down what would be a substantial pay raise and an upgrade in job stature.
6. James Franklin
James Franklin has taken the Vanderbilt Commodores' football program from a laughingstock to a respectable SEC program in a mere three year stretch. Franklin has brought the Commodres to three straight bowl games -- they had never previously made two in a row -- by both recruiting efficiently and guiding his talent once it arrived. While doing this has been a great feat, there is no doubting that Texas is a huge step up from the Vanderbilt job. If the Longhorns came calling it would be impossible to envision Franklin not taking the job, although there is no telling how he would fare in the much more pressure riddled job.
5. Charlie Strong
Charlie Strong has guided Louisville back from an average level program to a perennial BCS contender over the last four years, and in the process he has turned quarterback Teddy Bridgewater into a top level NFL prospect. Previously he was an assistant coach for the Florida Gators under Urban Meyer, and despite narrowly missing out on that job he surely has the potential to coach at any university in the country. There is no doubting that Texas falls into this category, and it would be a huge step up from Louisville for Strong.. He has played down any interest in the job thus far, but that could change if a massive contract sits on the table.
4. Steve Spurrier
There is no doubting that Steve Spurrier is one of the best football coaches in the world, and he is not afraid to take on a big job. After spending nine years at South Carolina one begins to wonder whether or not his mission there will soon be coming to an end or simply if the ol' ball coach is getting tired of the gig. Either way it can be assured that Texas will at least make an inquiry into the proposition of him moving to Austin with a pay raise surely in the offing.
3. Jon Gruden
Ever since Jon Gruden was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008 and went into broadcasting with ESPN it seems every potential job at the college and pro levels has had his name connected. Anyone who has watched ESPN since this time knows that he has an incredible football mind, is tough as nails and commands respect from all people. Despite turning down many overtures in this time there have been rumblings that the former Tampa Bay boss is ready to get back into coaching, and he has admitted that he would listen to any offer from Texas. There is no doubting the Longhorns know this, and it would seem that Gruden will be on top of their list for head coaching candidates -- although they will likely have to entice him into leaving the cozy confines of Bristol, Connecticut.
2. Gus Malzahn
Gus Malzahn has only been a head coach at the college football level for two seasons, but in that time he has taken the nation by storm. In 2012 he led Arkansas State to a 9-3 record and Sun Belt Title, and then in 2013 he has led Auburn to the SEC Title and a berth in the BCS National Championship. Malzahn has championed a no-huddle, option oriented offense that seemingly can work with any players and against any defenses, including the likes of Alabama and Georgia. Despite some thought to the contrary, Texas is certainly a step up from Auburn -- even if they are in the National Championship -- and he has not flatly denied interest in the Longhorns job. If they do come calling one would have to think the coach would have to listen.
1. Mark Dantonio
Mark Dantonio is currently the coach of the Michigan State Spartans. He led the team to an impressive 12-1 record and Rose Bowl appearance during the 2013 season. This was the seventh year of success for the coach with Michigan State as he has piled up a 63-29 record and seven bowl appearances through the use of a physically imposing style of football. This style of football could surely work at any school or environment, and with the potential of recruiting in the state of Texas it would not be hard to envision an Alabama style of dominance if the coach made the move. As a native of Texas there is no doubting that Dantonio will be interested if Texas came calling, even if he has maintained the company line of not being interested in the job.