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The Michigan Coaching Search: Head Coaching Candidates From the Obvious to the Crazy

Yeah. So the coaching search hasn't been going so well.

Miles is out, sort of, well, maybe not out after all. Schiano said no thanks. Paul Johnson's at Georgia Tech. Ferentz, thank god, is staying at Iowa. As Michigan's options are getting somewhat limited, it's time to turn our attention to other candidates for the Michigan head coaching position. I've broken it down into a couple of different self-explanatory categories, but there will be as many known suggestions as surprising options. There's really no way to provide an all inclusive list. Just putting this together was a pain in the butt. However, if people have suggestions or critiques, please let me know in the comments below.

The Likely Grade One Contacts

Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia University - You'd have to be a fool to overlook what Rodriguez has done in Morgantown over the past few years. West Virginia's consistent inclusion in the discussion of potential national championship contenders year in and year our is not just the result of some questionable scheduling, but of the simple fact the Mountaineers are now a national power to be reckoned with. Like it or not. You can't doubt the talent Rodriguez has assembled, nor can you doubt the quality of the names on the team.

Greatest. Names. Ever

Seeing that on television actually elicited a snort and several giggles from my wife, both of which I take as a sign Rodriguez would fit nicely in Ann Arbor. With the exception of a loss to the Wannstache, Rodriguez' coaching chops are top notch. Plus, we know he's willing to consider a move after last year's fairly public dance with Alabama's head coaching job.

Positives - Excellent recruiter. Excellent in game coach. Runs a clean program (as far as we know). Seemingly a good guy who would fit into the mantra of a "Michigan Man." Recruits awesomely, awesomely named players.

Negatives - Loss to the Wannstache with a MNC berth on the line. Seriously. That's a significant negative. His players have an uncanny ability to fumble at the worst possible times. Defensive has never been the strongest tool in the utility belt and the Mountaineers generally have to outscore their opponents to win ball games. Limited ties to the Midwest and no ties to Michigan. May benefit from coaching in a weak conference.

Verdict - He has to be one of the first coaches getting a call from Martin, at least I hope so. I don't think he's going to leave WVU, but he's a winning, young coach who would put Michigan in a position to compete for a national title just about every year. Problem is he turned down another legendary program to stay at West Virginia. I'd put him at 35% chance of coming to Ann Arbor.

Jeff Tedford, University of California - Seemingly one of everyone's favorite candidates. Tedford has turned Cal from a Pac 10 also ran to a perennial conference and BCS contender. Even though the Bears turned in a Swan Dive this season, they'll be ranked again next year. I'm somewhat lukewarm on Tedford's candidacy, but he is a decent coach who's been able to recruit decent talent to school: 1) not known for football; 2) competes against USC, UCLA, or Oregon; and 3) is relatively difficult to matriculate to. He's a good man with a respected ability to maintain order among his players, so that will fit in well with the Michigan search committee. However, 3-6 in the Pac 10 this season is somewhat troubling for a team ranked #9 going into the season. While Michigan folded like a deck of cards at the beginning and end of the season, from the Oregon game on, Cal has played like crap. Losses to Washington, Stanford and Oregon State don't look so good when you consider how talented this team is supposed to be.

Positives - Seemingly good dude. Very good recruiter despite being hamstrung by hippies and an inept administration. He has an amazing ability to turn mediocre high school quarterbacks into first round draft picks: Akili Smith (3rd overall 1999), Joey Harrington (3rd overall 2002), Kyle Boller (19th overall 2003), Aaron Rodgers (24th overall 2005). Can anyone explain that? This year's 6-6 record is his worst in 7 years at Cal where he's posted two 10 win seasons and posted a 5-1 record against Cal's big rival, Stanford.

Stupid Hippies.

Negatives - You mean besides this year? Tedford's defenses are at best, decent, and his play calling has increasingly come under scrutiny. He's a California guy, with a Cal family with no ties to Michigan. He's getting paid a boatload of money and while there are expectations, no one is expecting him to dethrone the Humanitarian and win a national championship every year. He's got it too good in Berkley.

Verdict - Another coach that has to get a call from Martin. He's a good coach in a very tough conference that's playing successfully against a stacked Pac-10 deck. If given the cache and recruiting weapons of Michigan, it's fairly conceivable he'd clean up. Despite this I think he's got it too good at Cal to move. I'd put him at 20% chance of coming to Ann Arbor.

Brian Kelly, University of Cincinnati - An early favorite whose name has cooled for some screwy reasons. Kelly's a proven winner at every level. He's won a national championship at the D2 level. He saved Central Michigan from falling apart and turned it into a MAC power, winning a MAC championship and the Motor City Bowl. Now at Cincinnati, he's got the Bearcats ranked in the top 25 and only has one questionable loss on his resume this year (Pitt) and posted a 34-3 beat down of Oregon State. He schemes well and his players actually seem to believe whatever the hell he's shoveling. He's at the top of my current list, but then again, who the hell am I? Kelly's biggest detriment is his mouth. He's shot it off at very inopportune times including saying some questionable things when a couple of his players at Cinci, inherited players I might add, got in trouble.

Positives - Strong recruiter with Michigan and Midwest ties. Excellent in game coach with a flare for the crazy. Will pull out some weird, weird plays from time to time just to make sure you're paying attention. Sticks up for his players and they love him for it. He's the winningest coach still on the market. If you recall, there was a D1-AA coach named Tressel who took over at Ohio State after winning a couple of lower division championships. Kelly fits that mold, and there's the added bonus of him proving he can coach and win at the D1-A level (CMU and Cinci).

Negatives - Has made no secret of his ambitions and the Michigan administration is not too keen on acting as a stepping stone for anyone, regardless of how talented they are. Kelly also has a nasty habit of not thinking when he speaks, which is also a strike against him. Were Kelly to make the jump to Michigan, it would be his fourth school in seven years.

Verdict - Kelly should be a stronger candidate than he's being regarded. Despite being one of the best available actual coaches on the market Michigan doesn't seem interested. However, the shrinking of the candidate pool is playing in his favor. I don't think his Midwest recruiting ties should be undersold. With three candidates out of the picture, his chance have to have improved. I'd put him at 33% chance of coming to Ann Arbor.

I wrote the next one before Schiano was offered and declined the job.

Greg Schiano, State University of New Jersey - Schiano has turned Rutgers into a legitimate football program. I can't overstate how friggin' impressive that is. Instead of being able to walk into New Jersey and pilfer the state's best talent, Michigan and all the other power schools now actually have to compete to recruit these kids with Schiano. He's a legitimate defensive coach, who proved himself with the Chicago Bears as an assistant and then at Miami for a year before taking the Rutgers position in 2001.

Positives - Because of Schiano, Rutgers is relevant in College Football not as a bye-week type game, but as a legitimate football team. Rutgers is historically one of the worst college football teams in history and they were a win away last year from going to a BCS bowl. There was nothing before Schiano arrived and today Rutgers is a legitimate Big East contender and is beginning to have some pull outside of their immediate region. Good recruiter. Oh yeah, he's young and in decent shape, so he'd be a lifer if he stayed.

Negatives - Other than Rutgers, there's really not a lot to go on. Two years with the Bears. One year with Miami. And then HC at Rutgers. Not the longest resume in the world. At Rutgers he's a below .500 coach in the weakest of the BCS conferences. Rutgers has been over .500 the last three years but this team, laden with seniors, laid a Michigan style egg this year when a lot was expected following a 11-2 season. His offense and defense are basically Michigan's base packages and (based on the Rutgers games I've seen) little would change on either side of the ball were he the HC.

Verdict - Schiano was the high character, high energy guy Martin and Coleman tend to love. He's a decent football coach but has no big game experience and has never coached for a fan base that expects to win every stinkin' game. The biggest problem is everyone I've talked to out east has said the same thing, he's holding out for the Penn State job. No chance of coming to Ann Arbor.

Second Tier Guys That Will Probably Get a Call

Gary Pinkel, University of Missouri - Pinkel was at Toledo for ten years and rolled up a 73-37-3 record while he was there. In 2001 he took the HC job at Missouri and over the past seven years has slowly, slowly improved the Tigers to the point that they were a win away from the national championship game. However, until this year, Pinkel was not highly thought of as a head coaching candidate for anything. He runs a decent offensive system that provided Chase Daniel a ticket to New York. However, he doesn't seem to be that great a coach. He's lost to Troy and Bowling Green, at home. But hey, we lost to Appalachian State.

Positives - Um... He's available? Pinkel runs a very good offensive system and does it with limited talent. The talent upgrade from Toledo to Missouri isn't that significant, so to compile a winning record at Missouri is an accomplishment in and of itself. He seems to be fairly adept at player development and there hasn't been a whiff of scandal at Missouri that I'm aware of. Beat Texas A&M and Tech Tech fairly handily this year.

Negatives - Lost to Troy and Bowling Green at home. In a weak Big XII North this is the first time Missouri's been a relevant player under his tenure. In a year where Kansas and Missouri were the two best teams in the Big XII for a long period of time, its hard to take too much away from a season where Nebraska's falling apart, K State was brutal (when they should've been better dammit!), and Oklahoma handled them twice. The only time his team has been above .500 in conference play was this year.

Verdict - Should be a last man standing type of contact, but because of his success this year and Midwest recruiting ties, I'm sure he'll get a phone call. His resume is underwhelming, but Michigan could probably do worse, wait, who am I kidding, they could do a lot worse. We'll see, but unless everything collapses, I can't see him ending up in Ann Arbor. I put him at a 15% chance of coming to Ann Arbor.

KC Keeler, University of Delaware - Keeler has coached the Delaware Blue Hens to a D1-AA national championship in 2003 and has the Blue Hens back in the D1-AA national Championship this year. They play Appalachian State. He runs the spread offense and form what I've seen of Delaware through ESPN's coverage of the D1-AA championships, he looks like a fairly decent coach. All the reports I've read on Keeler indicate he's a stand up guy and has ingratiated himself into the Delaware community.

Positives - Good coach. Runs the spread offense which will bring Michigan into the 21st Century. Managed to win a national championship in his second year and has his team back in the national championship game four years later. Good reputation in his community will play well with the image conscious Martin and Coleman. Prior to coaching at Delaware, Keeler compiled an 88-21-1 (.804) record and seven NCAA Division III playoff appearances. Young guy so he'd be around for a while.

Negatives - In the three years between national championship appearances the Blue Hens went 9-4, 6-5, and 5-6. Not so good. Were they the result of injuries, bad luck, or bad decisions? Has no ties to the Midwest and is only an East Coast guy. Keeler's never had to recruit at the D1 level. Ever.

Verdict -While Keeler has a strong coaching pedigree and a sterling record on his resume, he's still a bit of an unknown due to the 6-5 and 5-6 years following Delaware's national championship. As an x's and o's guy he is very deserving of a look. I put him at a 10% chance of coming to Ann Arbor.

Mike Trgovac, Defensive Coordinator of the Carolina Panthers - A long time assistant coach in the NFL and college ranks, Trgovac's name has been thrown around as a backup candidate since talk of the coach search began. Trgovac's defenses are routinely at the top of the NFL. To borrow from the Panther's website:

If a coach is evaluated by his body of work, Mike Trgovac has compiled an impressive resume since joining Carolina in 2002. During that period, the Panthers rank fifth in total yards allowed, trailing only Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Denver. They are also sixth in first downs allowed and rushing yards allowed per attempt, ninth in rushing yards allowed per game and 10th in third down efficiency.

So he's got that going for him. Which is nice. He's also a former Michigan guard who played under Schembechler. Trgovac has a second team All-American at Michigan and played in three Rose Bowls.

Positives - Michigan man. Excellent defensive coach. Knows what the job entails. Wants the job. Would take the job at a discount, money wise. Trogvac's a young guy who would be at Michigan, well, forever. He's had plenty of college assistant coaching experience (Ball State from 1986-88, Navy in 1989, Colorado State from 1990-91 and Notre Dame from 1992-94) so he's familiar with the recruiting game.

Negatives - Has never been a head coach anywhere. Trgovac's resume is solely composed of assistant coaching positions. Had Weis not fallen on his face this year, Trgovac's chances might have been better. But there are legitimate concerns regarding anyone taking his first head coaching at one of the nation's preeminent football programs. He hasn't been in the recruiting game in over ten years.

Verdict - Trgovac's chances of ending up back in Ann Arbor continue to improve as the field of candidates thins. I put him at a 30% chance of coming to Ann Arbor.

Coaches You'd Love to See in Ann Arbor but Will Never Leave Their Current Jobs

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech - With all the fantasies about different locked up coaches, I'm at a loss as to how Beamer's name hasn't come up. Think about it. Michigan's greatest weakness this year was special teams and defense. Beamer's specialties? Special teams and defense.

Negatives - The Vick brothers. Beamer recruited and defended these two morons despite all the problems and trouble they caused. He's not going anywhere. He's old, crotchety and stubborn, so he'd basically be Lloyd redux.

Positives - He wins. His teams are disciplined. He gets the most out of his players. Imagine what he could do recruiting in Ann Arbor rather than FBE Virginia. There's no way he leaves, but Beamer is at the top of my fantasy coaching list.

Verdict - Revered in Virginia in that "just below Jesus" kind of way that can only happen in a southern state. No chance.

Urban Meyer, University of Florida - I'm not a real big fan of Meyer, but many people seem to be. He is an excellent coach and got Utah into the BCS, turned down Notre Dame for being Notre Dame, and coached Ron Zook's team to a national championship. Not a bad resume at all. Personally, he rubbed me the wrong way last year with all the whining, complaining and campaigning for a MNC spot. I just don't think that's something a head coach should do, but then again, I'm old. I don't know who suggested he'd ever leave Florida to freeze his ass off in Michigan, but it seems to be a popular pipedream.

Positives - Gets to BCS games and wins them.

Negatives - Kind of a schmuck. Benefited from the Zooker's recruiting as much as his own coaching. No way in hell he leaves sunny FLA for the wintery plains of the Midwest.

Verdict - No chance.

Mark Richt, University of Georgia - Damn good coach. Damn good recruiter. And in a profession marked by huge egos and nasty reputations, a good human being. If you ask DawgSports Kyle and MaconDawg will tell you he walks on water, cures lepers and always knows the right time to blitz. Likewise, if you tell them you're interested in stealing their coach, they'll likely hunt you down like the dog you are. Richt is 71-19 in 7 seasons at Georgia and has built the Dawgs back into a national power. He's also been named SEC coach of the year and has guided the Dawgs to the BCS twice.

Positives - Sparkling clean history and resume. Killer recruiter. Excellent in game coach. He's 71-19 as a head coach, two SEC titles and three BCS bowl games in seven years as a head coach.

Negatives - Not really sure. He's really, really good.

Verdict - Again, little to no chance. But he's the best coach out there that might be tempted by the Michigan job. Maybe. I like Richt as a coach and as a front man for an athletic program so I'm biased. However, I'd be disappointed if Martin didn't even make a call.

Strangely Available but More Likely to Find Hari Krishna than Their Way to Ann Arbor

Bill Cowher, Former Pittsburgh Steelers Coach - Wouldn't this be awesome? Cowher's as good a coach as you'll find in football, pro or college. He's loyal, having never coached anywhere but Pittsburgh. I'm willing to bet he can recruit ("Hi. I'm Bill Cowher. This is a Super Bowl ring that I won as and NFL Head Coach, none of that assistant head coach crap. Any interest in meeting my coaches? All of them are from the NFL. Sign here."). Cohwer is currently working as an analyst for the NFL Today and seems to have plenty of time on his hands. I think he might consider the job, but there's little chance he'd take it.

Horrible Ideas, But Would Be More Fun Than a Monkey Hopped Up on Quaaludes

Mike Leach, Tech Tech - Yarrrrrrrrrrrr! Oh man, to have the pinball offense in Ann Arbor. Makes me all tingly. But defenses made out of tissue paper and a mouth that runs like a faucet will likely derail any candidacy. Still, worth a call, just for fun.

June Jones, Hawaii - See above.

John Gruden, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Yeah. Not going to happen. The Bucs are finally winning and the mind game thing he likes to play with his players won't sit well with Martin/Carr. No way they'd put together enough money to lure him here anyway.