This was originally published in The Athletic...
A coaching search is supposed to be fun, maybe not so much for the people conducting the search, but certainly for fans of the team with the vacancy. It’s a chance to dream big, and to even get a little creative with suggestions for possible candidates.
It might make all the sense in the world for a team to hire some no-name coordinator from another team, or promote a loyal assistant from within, but for fans, it’s a hell of lot more enjoyable to kick around big names and far-fetched ideas to fill the opening, especially when we’re talking about a team conducting its first search in 16 years.
So you’ll pardon me if I’m not getting that worked up about the likes of Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, or former Broncos head man Vance Joseph, both of whom are reportedly interviewing with the Bengals this week. The former might very well be a big reason why Kansas City has the league’s most entertaining offense, and the latter might have simply been a victim of John Elway’s continued inability to find a quarterback, but frankly, neither is that much fun to talk about.
You’ll also have to pardon me for not exactly getting worked up about the prospects of former UC offensive coordinator Zac Taylor as a possibility. He might be the NFL’s next Sean McVay. But only two years after serving on Tommy Tuberville’s final staff in Clifton working with an offense that made me want to guzzle household cleaning products as I watched it, I can’t bring myself to muster much enthusiasm for a guy I probably wouldn’t recognize if he was standing over my shoulder.
And if Hue Jackson ends up being the guy, then you better keep me away from those bottles under my sink.
The Bengals probably will probably stay on brand, and not drift too far outside the proverbial box when searching for Marvin Lewis’ replacement, and unless it’s Hue, I’ll be open-minded enough to give whomever it is a chance to win me over. There are plenty of successful NFL head coaches that weren’t widely known commodities when they were hired. More than anything, I want the Bengals to hire the best and most qualified person for the gig, even if it’s someone who doesn’t evoke much immediate excitement. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun imagining what it would be like if Mike Brown either swung big, or defied convention, hiring a high-profile coach that would stir a bored fan base that’s desperate to be excited about something.
In that spirit, here’s my wishlist of un-Bengals-like coaching candidates that are a ton more fun to talk about than any of the guys they’ll probably hire…
Notre Dame’s undefeated regular season earned the Irish a College Football Playoff berth, which was used to get housed by a vastly superior Clemson team in a game that raises questions, both about whether the playoff committee chose the right teams (it did) and whether Kelly has taken his program and his “dream job” as far as he can.
BK has privately expressed his desires to one day coach in the NFL, and he did reportedly interview with the Eagles in 2013, days after after Notre Dame was whitewashed in the BCS title game by Alabama. The Buccaneers are evidently showing some interest, and it feels like, at the age of 57, if he’s ever going to jump to the pros, this might be the time.
During his three years at UC, Kelly did forge a relationship with Mike Brown. While Bearcats fans who can’t get over things that happened a long time ago would rehash nearly decade-long takes, he’d at least get people interested. Even if he wouldn’t be asked to post up at local bars begging people to come to games the way he did before his first season at UC (I saw him do this), he’s still enough of a personality to get people to at least pay attention. He has enough of an alpha personality to maybe win a clash or two with the front office and even though his last two Notre Dame teams won largely on the strengths of their defense, Kelly still has a brilliant offensive mind. If anyone could successfully challenge Andy Dalton to play better, I’ll bet it’s a guy who won a Big East title 10 years ago employing four different starting quarterbacks. Plus, if he guided the Bengals to a Super Bowl, he probably wouldn’t abandon them weeks before the game.
To read my list, go to The Athletic.