Top five coaching jobs
Back in the 2007 season, our first Winter magazine in roughly 20 years centered around a crucial offseason that saw four in-state schools bring in new head coaches: Mike Sherman, June Jones, Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin. Considering each has been very successful in his own way since that magazine came out, that stretch of days/months has to be considered one of the most critical in defining Texas football, ever.
Are we about to enter another?
There are going to be a number of high-profile jobs available this offseason, and while none should put new bodies in the college head coaching seat, each still has the opportunity to make or break a program. Here's a list of my top five, in order of importance.
1. Dallas Cowboys Head Coach
It's days like this that make what Tom Landry did in Dallas even more incredible. Once the 2010 season comes to a close this weekend, Jerry Jones and the Cowboys will once again be looking for a new head coach, their eighth in just 22 years after playing under Landry for 29. And even though Jones would never admit, he has to realize that the man he fired — Landry — is exactly the kind of man he needs back here. He needs a strong leader, one that demands respect through his actions, and one that can handle the intense scrutiny of a hungry media. The actual Xs and Os of the coaching gig are important, but the personality is the bigger factor in this case. Interim Jason Garrett, who without question has the Cowboys playing at a higher level than Wade Phillips did this year, will have a strong resume to hand to Jones once the season comes to a close. He's a worthy candidate, no question. But there won't be one slam-dunk right answer here — after all, Bill Parcells had presence and experience, and while he did upgrade the talent, he still didn't win a playoff game. Dallas needs a special individual to guide this group. And if whoever comes in doesn't succeed, it'll be time to start moving some players and building a new core. Personally — and this is just my opinion — I think Garrett will be the coach in 2011.
2. Houston Texans Head Coach
Man, this job isn't even open yet! Neither is the defensive coordinator job that everyone seems to be talking about, either. Neither Gary Kubiak nor Frank Bush have been fired this season, and while Kubiak could always return for a sixth year with owner Bob McNair's support, Bush, who is overseeing what is arguably the worst defense in NFL history, will almost assuredly be gone. Even before star LB DeMeco Ryans was lost for the year mid-season, this defense was dreadful. So why, then, if both positions are still filled, are we bringing it up? Because so many Texas coaches have been mentioned in conjunction with these two jobs were they to become available. The hottest rumor everyone has given to me is that A&M's Mike Sherman will take over in Houston. Remember, he coached there before he took the Aggie job. I find this suggestion to be exceptionally unlikely. Sherman has built the kind of team and talent pool in College Station that he wants to be successful, and with such a stellar 2011 class coming back for next year, I couldn't imagine he'd walk on a program he loves to get to one that is struggling as it is. I don't think either Kubiak or Bush will be back — but I don't see Sherman filling hat HC spot, either.
3. Texas Offensive Coordinator/Defensive Coordinator
These were the two hottest jobs on the market when the season ended, but the somewhat lukewarm names that have been mentioned in conjunction with them have all fallen through, and the luster of the positions is fading by the minute. Don't get me wrong — the Longhorns, aside from last year, have still won 10 or more games in their sleep under Mack Brown. I think they're probably still sitting in one of the best runs ever by a single program. That reputation has to be worth something. But a rather tepid market for coordinators this season makes these openings victims of bad timing, and with Oklahoma State's Dana Holgorsen already off the market, the hottest name in those ranks is unavailable. I've tried to keep my nose out of this mess all offseason ... the Longhorns, having as large a fan base as they do, is one pummeled by rumor perhaps more than any other. And the dizzying array of reports and rumors on these two openings, which, of course, have all proven to be false, have slowed to a trickle now that everyone seems to realize the same thing — trying to squeeze information out of this process is going to get you sick. Mack Brown will make a decision when he makes one, and I bet that won't be until after the bowls are all but finished.
4. Texas Tech Defensive Coordinator
This one arose suddenly during the holidays when James Willis left the program on mutual agreement with Tommy Tuberville. A&M showed how much a strong defense can point you in the right direction — the Tim DeRuyter hire has been one of the best in recent memory so far — but Tech's was one of the nation's worst in 2010. Actually, aside from a short stint with Ruffin McNeill, Tech's defense has been one of the nation's worst for more than 10 years. And honestly, if you want to talk about why this program hasn't won an outright Big 12 title during its history, that's where I'd start from. So yes, this hire is of the utmost importance. When Mike Leach was fired last season, this team went on the search for a new identity. To a certain extent, it found one in Tuberville. But on the field, it still looks adrift. This is the perfect opportunity to start a defensive tradition in Lubbock — Tuberville fielded strong defensive teams in the SEC, and building a group at Tech known for hard-hitting play that can slow opponents down would be a welcome change of pace for the fan base and a key component in winning an offensive-minded Big 12. This would not be the time to skimp, Tech. Go big for this one.
5. Temple High School Head Coach
I know Temple hasn't been a contender in years, but remember — not long ago, people would have done backflips to have this job. And with Bryce Monsen's departure this offseason, someone is going to get the oppurtunity to rebuild one of the state's great programs. Bigger names coaches have stepped down this year, leaving huge shoes to fill — Bob Shelton and George Harris, to name a few — but Temple is the most high-profile job available right now. The talent is there. The fan base is there. Now the Wildcats just need a man to pull it all together.