A Look at Potential Head Coaches for the Cuse

With the end being near, lets take a look at some of the names for the next SU Head Coach that fans have tossed out around the water cooler.


The coaching carousel continues to pick up steam here in central New York with each missed tackle, botched block and embarrassing loss SU suffers. Athletic Director Dr. Daryl Gross stood staunchly behind his hand-picked coach, Greg Robinson, but has lately indicated that his patience (and that of SU football fans) is wearing thin. Rumors have been abundant for months as to who the next man to take the reins of Syracuse's football program will be. While nothing is certain in college football nowadays, you can feel pretty safe taking it to the bank that SU will have a new head coach in 2009. Dozens of names have been thrown out there and it seems that every day there's a new soup du jour. So let's take a look at what Daryl Gross hopefully has invested his efforts in recently: figuring out who the next head coach should be at SU.

This article won't cover every single name that's been thrown out there, but will address some of the more high-profile candidates (in no particular order) and the likely possibilities.

1. Lane Kiffin (unemployed) – Kiffin was recently fired from his post as the Oakland Raiders' head coach, despite the fact that his team seemed to show increased vigor recently, pushing the unbeaten Bills to the extreme. Before his head coaching stint in the NFL, he served as the offensive coordinator for USC (a link to Dr. Gross) and shepherded one of the nation's most prolific offensive attacks.

Pros: At just 33, Kiffin is a young, energetic possibility. He did a superb job recruiting at USC, garnering the nation's #1 recruiting class in each of his three years as recruiting coordinator. If SU is able to hire Kiffin, there is a slight possibility they may also get his father, Monte, to serve as defensive coordinator.

Cons: Kiffin has been on the West Coast for most of his career, working with superior talent and facilities. He has not proven that he can build a program up, something that the Orange desperately need. Kiffin may also find recruiting to the cold and dreary confines of Syracuse a bit more difficult than his previous endeavors. It is most likely just a pipe dream for Syracuse fans to get Kiffin, as there will likely be more lucrative job openings (see: Washington and Tennessee). Kiffin has no ties to the Northeast, but would make an immediate splash amongst SU fans if hired.

2. Lloyd Carr (not currently coaching, involved with Michigan athletic department) – Carr retired from the Michigan post in 2007. One of the main reasons for this was his inability to beat archrival Ohio State in his last few years at the school. Carr, however, was able to recruit effectively and led Michigan to a national title and a 122-40 record in his thirteen years at the school. His presence on the SU campus during the weekend of the Pitt game has been a hotly-contested topic lately. While this is mere rumor, it has been confirmed that he did visit Mike Hart's parents (in Nedrow) that weekend (most likely just to check in on how Hart's been faring in the NFL).

Pros:He has an extensive amount of head coaching experience, with thirteen years at Michigan. He does not run any gimmick offenses that will require outstanding recruits and athletes. Carr is a big-name coach who would bring instant credibility to the SU football program and catch many recruits' eyes.

Cons:Carr has few Northeast ties, having spent his entire coaching career in the states of Michigan and Illinois. However, he did recruit former Onondaga tailback Mike Hart to the Big Blue. Carr has always been able to work with top-notch facilities and a rabid fan base. At Syracuse, that would not be the case with Syracuse being a ‘frozen tundra' in the winter and an aging Carrier Dome (that many feel is outdated) as the football stadium.

3. Mitch Browning(Current SU offensive coordinator) – Browning has been one of the bright spots on the Orange. While the offense still has plenty of room for improvement, the playbook has been gradually opened more and more (see: Pitt game, 3rd down passing). Browning previously served as offensive coordinator at Minnesota and coached the team to its top-five single season outputs in program history. Behind backs like Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber III, Minnesota finished in the top 35 nationally in offense for seven straight years.

Pros:He has had success with his offenses and is becoming more respected around Syracuse. His year of being the offensive coordinator here would prove invaluable, as he would already know the system and be able to go out and comb the Northeast for more high-quality recruits.

Cons:He has no head coaching experience and would need a strong support staff of coaches around him to shore up the defense. Other than his year here, Browning has few Northeast ties and is not a big-name hire that would grab potential recruits' eyes.

4. Turner Gill(Current University of Buffalo head coach) – Gill spent much of his earlier years at various assistant positions with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He served under Tom Osborne and was hired to take over the reins at Buffalo in 2006. Gill was a prolific college player who can empathize with the players. Another interesting note on Gill is that as one of the only African American candidates in SU's coaching search, the SU athletic department couldn't pick a better time for good publicity by hiring him soon after the release of "The Express."

Pros:Gill was lauded as one of the nation's top recruiters in the past decade and has supplemented that with head coaching experience at UB (a MAC school). He has become acclimated to competing on a different playing field, with not the same resources or recruits as everyone else and he has been able to rebuild the Bulls' program. Earlier this year, the Bulls hung around with a top-5 team (Missouri) for nearly three quarters. Before the Gill era, that would have been unheard of.

Cons:Gill has never quite been on the national stage like this and would have his work cut out with recruiting. He does not have many Northeast ties for recruiting purposes and is not the high-profile hire that many SU fans are clamoring for.

5. Chip Kelly(Current offensive coordinator for Oregon Ducks) – Kelly is serving as the Ducks' offensive coordinator for his second year. Before that, he orchestrated masterful offenses at the University of New Hampshire. He has quickly risen to the top and has indicated he would have interest in the Syracuse job should it open.

Pros:Chip Kelly is known as an offensive mastermind, having guided Oregon to records in offensive output in just his first year on the job. He has ties to the Northeast, having graduated from the University of New Hampshire and spending much of his coaching career there. At UNH, Kelly's teams put up equally impressive offensive statistics; this came at a 1-AA school where he had to work with less talent.

Cons:Kelly has never held a head coaching job and would likely need a strong supporting coaching staff to amp up SU's defense (of course who wouldn't the way they look right now). Kelly has no direct ties to Syracuse, which puts him behind a couple that I will later mention.

6. Chris Petersen(Currently head coach at Boise State) – Not long ago, Petersen was a young hotshot, no-name offensive coordinator. Now he's just a young, upstart head coach at one of the most successful non-BCS conference schools in college football. Petersen has shown no fear as head coach (see his decision to go for two with a Statue of Liberty play to beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl). Here is a candid Petersen interviewfrom a year ago.

Pros:Excels at offense, but is a more well-balanced coach than people give him credit for. Boise State has regularly finished among the top 30 in the nation in offense, defense and special teams. He is a big-name hire that would pique interest and a solid recruiter whose schemes would likely thrive in the Dome.

Cons:Petersen has few Northeast ties, having served on the West Coast for most of his life. (The one tie he does have is as quarterbacks coach at Pittsburgh in 1992 where he coached one Alex Van Pelt). Petersen has also never really had to deal with a lot of failure, so the first few years trying to rebuild SU could be very rocky for him.

7. Mark Whipple (Current assistant coach with Philadelphia Eagles) – An offensive mastermind who has shown a flair for the unorthodox, Whipple recently served as the QB coach for the Steelers, guiding Ben Roethlisberger's development. Like Chip Kelly, Whipple has also experienced success at the University of New Hampshire.

Pros:Whipple would be an off-the-wall hire and that could be what the Orange need. He defies all wisdom, logic and knowledge but his results make him a very fan-friendly guy. He has a few ties to the Northeast. He turned around the UMass program, making them Division 1-AA champs in 1998, his first year there.

Cons:Is another NFL hire what SU needs? Whipple's college experience is over a half-decade removed, and as a fifty year old, he will likely not be the best choice to recruit. He's not a big-name hire and might take a little while to go over well with the SU fan base.

8. Doug Marrone (Current offensive coordinator for the Saints) – Under Marrone's tutelage, the Saints have blossomed into one of the NFL's most prolific offenses. He has been employed under a variety of previous offensive posts, shattering records and having his teams ranked near the top in nearly every statistical category.

Pros:Marrone is a Syracuse graduate (1983-5, finished in 1991) who would resonate with the school's administration and many of the fans. In his mid-forties, Marrone is a relatively fresh face who would stir up some interest in SU football. Having a few connections in the Northeast, Marrone would likely prove to be an above-average recruiter.

Cons:Marrone has no head coaching experience to speak of and would require a mastermind at defensive coordinator for the team to show much progress. He's spent his last decade with teams with relatively few obstacles and Syracuse would be a big challenge for him; he hasn't proven that he can turn an entire program around yet.

9. Steve Addazio(Current assistant head coach at University of Florida) – Addazio has quietly strung together a very impressive résumé. He has served as offensive line coach at most of the schools he's coached at (including Syracuse) and would be a very good candidate to come in and strengthen SU in the trenches, a spot they are sorely lacking in.

Pros:Addazio has Syracuse connections, as I previously mentioned. He coached here in the mid-1990s and would bring a physical brand of football back to SU. He has many recruiting ties to the Northeast and is able to regularly garner four and five-star recruits (albeit down to the sunny campus in Gainesville). He is renowned for his passion and legendary pre-game speeches.

Cons:He has no head coaching experience to speak of and would not qualify as a big-name hire. Addazio has never had to fix a program quite like SU and thrusting him into a head coaching role in this mess might be a bit too much to ask.

A few other possibilities include Mike Locksley (current OC at Illinois), K.C. Keeler (current head coach at Delaware) and Skip Holtz (current head coach at East Carolina). For those of you in the Syracuse area, tune into SportsNight this Saturday at 8pm on WAER 88.3 FM for an interesting package on Holtz. Here's a link to listen at if you're not in the Syracuse area.

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