Admit it. Even if you aren't a Michigan State fan you have some names in mind for who you think will be the next boss on the football field in East Lansing. Heck, every single news outlet in Michigan has a list and not all of them are the same.
Do you go with an established guy with head coaching experience? Do you go with a hot young coordinator? Do you cherry pick from the NFL? Does the guy have to have MSU ties? All great questions.
To reply to a great question from TFSDN blog reader mayo170: I think MSU needs to find the right person without worrying about Joel Ferguson. He's a self-serving meddler and it is people like him, who really - IMO have no business being a part of the decision, that have led us to make hasty or even wrong decisions in the past. Did Ron Mason make a mistake the first time? Maybe, maybe not. He tried to cut past the BS and do it on his own and good old Joel got it all off to a bad start by ridiculing the choice rather than supporting it. For that, I don't blame Mason. Here and now we have a more seasoned A.D. and a President with a clue about sports as well as an understanding that Tom Izzo needs to be a part of the process. I'm sorry, but as good as MPMP (M. Peter McPherson) was as a leader, he was out to lunch when it came to helping hire a good coach.
Now, back to the search... Todd Schulz of the Lansing State Journal listed out the "traits" quite well in his take today:
- He should be relatively young and capable of pouring endless energy into the program.
- He should be a defensive guru, capable of rebuilding the porous, patchwork unit that Smith simply never got fixed.
- He should have previous coaching experience, at least as a coordinator, in a Bowl Championship Series conference.
- He should have Big Ten Conference ties.
- He should have Midwest roots and recruiting connections.
- He should have successful coaching mentors.
- He should have NFL experience.
- He should be a highly sought candidate for other vacancies.
- He should be aching for a chance to prove himself on a big-time stage.
With that, lets have a look at all the names that are accumulating on the list. Some make sense. Some are a shot in the dark. Some are there out of necessity. Some are quite entertaining and intriguing at the same time. Here is a list of all the candidates, at least per various sources around Michigan, followed by my personal take on their viability as a candidate and a 1-10 rating on "sexiness of the name" and 1-10 rating on my gut feel of the "likelihood of it happening". They are listed in the order that I would put them in if I were leading this search:
1. Butch Davis - former Miami-FLA coach with NFL experience. Will come at a high price but that price is worth it. He has fire, experience, the right ties and is the huge name that MSU really could use right now. Sexy factor = 10. Likelihood = 7
2. Greg Schiano - Rutgers Head Coach. The guy is the hottest coach at a smallish BCS conference school. Rebuilt a program from the ashes. Firey, smart, solid. More likely to head to Miami when Coker is let go at season's end. Sexy factor = 10. Likelihood = 2.
3. Ron English - Defensive Coordinator, Michigan. How great would it be to steal a guy as known, respected and with the future of English? He has Big Ten and NFL ties, and look no further than what he has done for the M defense this year for his credibility. Sexy factor = 9. Likelihood = 5.
4. Ty Willingham - Washington Head Coach. An MSU guy. Has plenty of experience. Is smart, no nonsense and knows pressure. With time I still think he would have had great sustained success at Notre Dame. Will be costly to buy him out and since he's been passed over before, will he want the gig? Sexy factor = 5. Likelihood = 7.
5. Bo Pelini - Defensive Coordinator, LSU. The guy is leading the best (statistically) defense in the nation. He's got midwest ties. He has NFL ties. Never been a head coach and has been passed over at Nebraska, Pitt and Syracuse, but is young and ready to take over a program. Meets just about all of Todd's criteria listed above (and endorsed by Todd as well :) ). Sexy factor = 5. Likelihood = 8.
6. Brian Kelly - Central Michigan Head Coach. A winner at 1-AA and now in the MAC. A great offensive mind who understands the state of Michigan. Not a ton of big experience, but a coach who will be at a big program sooner than later. Sexy factor = 5. Likelihood = 7.
7. Todd Grantham - Defensive Coordinator, Cleveland Browns. An assistant under Nick Saban at MSU. Eerie similarities to Saban and his path including same position on the same team Saban left to coach MSU. Understands the midwest and the Big Ten. Sexy factor = 4. Likelihood = 5.
8. Mark Dantonio - Cincinnati Head Coach. Has done a nice job keeping the program heading in the right direction. Also a former Saban assistant at MSU with plenty of Big Ten and midwest experience. Sexy factor = 4. Likelihood = 5.
9. Pat Shurmur - QB Coach, Philadelphia Eagles. His name came up when JLS was hired. MSU ties. Wants to lead this program. No coordinator or head coaching experience. More likely to come on board as a coordinator if a guy like Willingham or Charlie Baggett is hired and then be next in line. Sexy factor = 5. Likelihood = 7.
10. Charlie Baggett - Assistant Head Coach, Miami Dolphins. MSU experience. NFL experience. Long, long time assistant. Not going to be a coach that hangs around forever. Enough negatives that he's not been hired in the past and the big negative - too close with Ferguson for my liking. If he was the guy, I promise you that Shurmur would be his already hand-picked successor. Sexy factor = 3. Likelihood = 6.
11. Jim Harbaugh - San Diego Head Coach. Sac-religious you say? Be honest, if he's not next in line at Michigan, why not MSU? NFL experience. Doing great things at the 1-AA level. A name with an understanding of the Big Ten and what it would take to beat Michigan. Sexy factor = 6. Likelihood = 4.
12. Charlie Strong - Defensive Coordinator, Florida. In the mold of Pelini. Young, energetic, a head coach lying in wait. Sexy factor = 3. Likelihood = 4.
13. Gene Chizik - Defensive Coordinator, Texas. Bound to get a shot at some point. Could tap a market MSU hasn't - Texas. Sexy factor = 3. Likelihood = 4.
14. Jon Tenuta - Defensive Coordinator, Georgia Tech. After a while, all of the D.C.'s blend together. Sexy factor = 3. Likelihood = 3.
15. Josh McDaniels - Offensive Coordinator, New England Patriots. Young (30), coached under Saban in 1999. What are his long term aspirations? Sexy factor = 3. Likelihood = 1.
16. Steve Mariucci - former Head Coach for the Lions, 49ers and Cal Bears. Obvious reasons make him a great and a horrible candidate all at once. Sexy factor = 10. Likelihood = 1.
17. Nick Saban - Head Coach, Miami Dolphins. MSU should have never let him go. Struggling in the NFL but we all know that's where he wants to be. Sexy factor = 9. Likelihood = 1.