Bates, Mariucci are top candidates

Now that the Green Bay Packers have decided to part ways with Mike Sherman, there are plenty of intriguing prospects out there waiting for their next opportunity. Here is's hot list of coaching candidates and what each one brings to the table:

Jim Bates/Defensive coordinator/Green Bay Packers
Bates took a defense that was ranked 25th in the National Football League in yards allowed in 2004 to seventh this year. He is a fiery coach that players and other coaches admire. Packers general manager Ted Thompson said Monday that he plans to meet with Bates as he finds a successor to Sherman.

"Jim Bates is a fine coach," Thompson said. "He did a fine job this year. I'm sure I'm going to have a private conversation with him. Whether that leads to an interview or not remains to be seen. We'll see how that goes."

Bates served as interim coach of the Miami Dolphins for seven seasons after head coach Dave Wannstedt resigned. Three of the Dolphins' four wins that season came under Bates.

Players in Green Bay have come to admire Bates for his ability to get the most out of players.

"He was like that in Miami and he was like that here," said tight end Donald Lee, who played in Miami under Bates in 2004. "There's no question he'll make a great head coach somewhere. Hopefully, it'd be here."

Bates, who turns 60 on May 31, is under contract for two more seasons in Green Bay.

"I don't know what kind of criteria is used to make those decisions, but I do know that he does have the leadership necessary to lead the defense and be a great coach on defense," safety Mark Roman said. "Do I think he'll be a good head coach? Yes, but my criteria might be different from the organization's, so it doesn't mean very much."

Steve Mariucci/ex-head coach/Detroit
The former Packers quarterbacks coach (1992-95) was fired by the Lions in November after less than three seasons in Detroit. The Lions were 4-7 and coming off a 27-7 Thanksgiving Day loss to Atlanta before his dismissal by general manager Matt Millen.

Mariucci, an Iron Mountain, Mich., native, helped mentor Brett Favre, then served as head coach at the University of California in 1996. He was head coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 1997-02 before accepting a five-year, $25 million contract with the Lions. Mariucci has a 75-71 (.514 winning percentage) overall record as a head coach in the NFL, 72-67 (.518) in the regular season. He is 3-4 in the playoffs and advanced to the NFC Championship in his rookie season as head coach of the 49ers before falling to the Packers.

Mariucci and Favre have kept in touch throughout their careers and are good friends. This may work in favor, or against, Mariucci if Favre decides to return to play football in 2006. That's up to Packers general manager Ted Thompson.

Kirk Ferentz/University of Iowa Head Coach
He got his coaching start in the early 1980s but it was his stint with the University of Iowa under then head coach Haden Fry from 1981-1989 where Ferentz got his feet wet as the offensive line coach. After taking on his first head-coaching stint at the University of Maine from 1990-1992, he moved on to the Cleveland Browns, where he coached the offensive linemen from 1993-1995. He then got promoted to the title of assistant head coach/offensive coordinator with the club, which then became the Baltimore Ravens under head coach Bill Belichick. Ferentz then took the University of Iowa head job after the 1998 season. He has taken his team to four straight bowl games, winning the last two.

Ferentz is known as one of the brightest offensive minds and uses a progressive offensive pro style system. He has gotten a lot out of lesser talent and has great knowledge of all positions on offense, working with most of them at one time or another over his long coaching tenure on the collegiate or pro level. While his overall record at Iowa may not be that impressive, most point to where he has taken the program from where it was when he took it over and how he rebuilt it in to a much stronger program in his seven seasons.

The decision-makers at Iowa believe in him so much that they signed him to a contract extension through 2012, and he has a $400,000 longevity bonus built in to his deal that kicks in every June. He has turned down interviews with Cleveland, Atlanta, Indianapolis and Jacksonville in recent years, citing not wanting to move his family. However, because of the money that is being offered to head coaches on the pro level these days some that know him say that Ferentz might not say no this time.

While he's known as a players' coach, he has a pretty good structure set up to his program, and some compare him to Belichick in his organizational skills.

Brad Childress/Offensive Coordinator/Philadelphia
The longtime collegiate and pro assistant is known as one of the brighter offensive minds already in the league. Childress is best known on the collegiate level for his work at the University of Wisconsin from 1992-1998. During his eight-year tenure at Wisconsin, the team played in five bowl games. In 1993, the Badgers set a school record and ranked fourth in Big Ten Conference history with 455.2 yards per game. QB Darrell Bevell, RB Ron Dayne (Heisman Trophy winner), and WR Lee DeRamus all flourished under Childress' guidance.

After being named the quarterbacks coach with the Eagles in 1999, Childress has worked with QB Donovan McNabb and largely has been credited with his development into one of the top players at his position. Childress, who is known for his attention to detail, got promoted to offensive coordinator in 2002 and is so highly thought of by the team that he's had his contract extended twice since the latest promotion. One of the reasons why they brought in Marty Mornhinweg as an assistant to head coach Andy Reid last season is because the team expects to lose Childress sooner rather than later.

"I do believe that Brad is one of the top assistant coaches in the National Football League," Reid said earlier this year. "He's done a great job and he's going to get rewarded for it sooner or later (with a head coaching opportunity)."

The one knock on Childress is that he doesn't call the plays on game days, but many head coaches like to call the plays in order to get a feel for the game. That shouldn't be a deterrent for a prospective employer. Reid wasn't even a coordinator with Green Bay before the Eagles hired him.

Childress interviewed for the vacant Cleveland head job earlier in 2005 and most league insiders believe he'll be on the short lists of many teams for vacant openings early next year, and he could be a very nice fit for the talent that the Packers have on the offensive side of the ball.

Gary Kubiak/Offensive Coordinator/Denver
He's in his 12th year as an assistant in the league and 11th as the club's offensive coordinator. Kubiak has learned the West Coast offense, beginning in San Francisco where he started his career in 1994 as an assistant under then offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan. The two left for Denver the following season when Shanahan became the Broncos' head coach and Kubiak was named offensive coordinator.

Kubiak is well versed in this offense and, while Shanahan essentially has final say on the plays, Kubiak is the one many credit with the development of the personnel who carry it out — especially the quarterbacks.

Kubiak, a former backup signal-caller for the team before he retired, has done a very solid job working with the quarterbacks in his tenure. Last season, Jake Plummer set a team record with 4,089 yards and he tied a team record of 27 touchdowns in a season. The running game has excelled under Kubiak as the team has posted a 1,000-yard rusher in nine out of the last 10 seasons. The receiver position also has seen success with Rod Smith posting 1,000 yards in seven out of the last nine seasons. The tight end position also has been productive with sure-fire Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe leading the way.

Kubiak is known as a well-organized individual who many believe is more than ready to become a head coach in the league. In fact, he has turned down more than one interview over the years to become a head coach. Kubiak cited needing more seasoning as a coach as to why he wasn't ready to take the next step.

On the negative side, some wonder if he has the temperament to be a head coach or is he just a perfect offensive coordinator. That's a common issue with assistants who have been at their job for an extended period of time.

Because NFL owners generally look for offensive-minded head coach candidates first, Kubiak figures to receive a lot of attention in the search for new headmen for next season, and based on his background he could be a real find.

Jim Fassel/Offensive Coordinator/Baltimore
Fassel was hired as an offensive consultant for the club in 2004 and was named offensive coordinator in 2005, taking over for Matt Cavanaugh. Before that, Fassel was the head coach of the New York Giants from 1997-2003. He got his career started on the NFL level in 1991 with the team when he coached the quarterbacks, and then the next season took over as offensive coordinator the following season. He left the club to take over as an assistant head coach and offensive coordinator with Denver from 1993-1994. It was there that QB John Elway earned MVP and AFC Player of the Year honors under Fassel's tutelage in 1993.

Fassel is known as one of the better coaches of the quarterback position in the league, which is why Ravens' head coach Brian Billick brought him in to work with Kyle Boller last season. Fassel was also credited for the turnaround in QB Kerry Collins' career as Collins was thought to be washed up before the Giants signed him.

Fassel is known as a players' coach who is good at pushing his players when they need extra motivation and he also knows when to pull back.

On the negative side, his players seemed to tune him out in his final season with the Giants. Fassel's offenses with the Giants struggled in the red zone in his last few years there, so some around the league are still wondering how he'll be able to solve that problem with another team.

The bottom line is that Fassel was very successful at one time with the Giants and took them to a Super Bowl so that cache will still hold a lot of weight with prospective employers despite the offensive woes that Baltimore is having this season.

Russ Grimm/Offensive Line Coach/Assistant Head Coach/Pittsburgh
The former All-Pro offensive lineman started his coaching career with Washington and coached the tight ends there from 1992-1996. Grimm moved over to coach the offensive linemen with the club from 1997-2000. It was there that he started to be known as one of the better coaches of that position in the league. After 2000, he moved on to Pittsburgh and has handled coaching the linemen. Last season, he added the title of assistant head coach to his resume.

Grimm is known as a disciplinarian and is a no-nonsense coach who demands the most out of his unit. He's done an excellent job of molding some lesser-known players into quality starters over the years and has developed solid backups who have moved on to be starters elsewhere around the league. His work over the years finally got strong enough recognition last year when the Cleveland Browns interviewed him as one of their three finalists for the head-coaching job.

Grimm credits his development as a coach in part to playing under long-time offensive line coach Joe Bugel when he was with the Redskins. Bugel demands a lot out of his players, but he's known as a coach who relates well to players.

"Russ is really good with the players," Pittsburgh head coach Bill Cowher said earlier this year. "He can take a concept and talk layman's terms with them. He's very demanding, but they respect him."

One of the knocks on offensive line coaches is that they seem to only know their position well, but that's not the case, according to Cowher, when it relates to Grimm.

"For the most part, line coaches get stereotyped," Cowher said. "But Russ understands the receiver routes and the quarterback play. He knows the game a lot better than people think."

Grimm should get a lot of attention as he's pretty much gone as far as he can without getting a head-coaching job, and many around the league believe he'll get a top job sooner rather than later.

Gregg Williams/Assistant Head Coach-Defense /Washington
Williams is in his second year with the Redskins. Head coach Joe Gibbs made him one of his first hires when he took over the club and made him one of the highest paid assistant coaches in the league. Williams was formerly the head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2001-2003, and in his final season there the defense finished second in the league. Before that, Williams was the defensive coordinator with Tennessee/Houston under head coach Jeff Fisher. It was with Fisher that Williams learned the aggressive style of blitzing defense that he uses today.

Williams has done a remarkable job with the talent he has, and his defense has done a nice job of keeping the team in the game when the offense hasn't done their job — especially last season. This season, the lack of overall talent has shown, but team observers note that he's constantly challenging the starters and key backups to raise their level of play. Many who have played for him say he's a disciplinarian who won't accept less than top effort, and it's clear he will have a pretty solid scheme and get results no matter what talent he has. He's known as a very organized coach and a disciplinarian who knows what he wants out of his players and demands they give top effort.

As the head man in Buffalo, the offensive side of the ball was deemed inconsistent at best and some attribute Williams' downfall to the demise of the offense under coordinator Kevin Gilbride. While the numbers looked more attractive overall, the offense fell apart in the second half of the final season and no one could bring it back to an acceptable level. That fact went a long way in Williams being fired. Still, many around the league believe that Williams has done a good job of reviving his prospects for being a head coach so he should garner attention for the vacancies that pop up.

Others on the list of prospects
Chicago defensive coordinator Ron Rivera is of Hispanic heritage and fits the specifications of the "Rooney rule," which requires that all teams with vacancies interview at least one minority candidate.

Another top prospect in that category is Tim Lewis, defensive coordinator of the New York Giants, who was once a cornerback for Green Bay, and who turned down an interview with Detroit when it hired Mariucci. Other potential minority candidates include Cleveland offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon; Minnesota defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell; and Mike Singletary, the Hall of Fame linebacker who is San Francisco's assistant head coach.

Singletary, who only began coaching in 2003, is thought to be more a prospect down the road than this season.

The Broncos, Bears and Giants are in the playoffs, so Kubiak, Rivera and Lewis can't accept a job until after their teams are eliminated.

But all can be interviewed at their home headquarters, Kubiak and Rivera this week because Denver and Chicago have a first-round bye, and Lewis next week if the Giants beat Carolina in the first round. If New York loses, he obviously is free to interview and to take a job.

College coaches that might be interested in NFL jobs besides Ferentz include Pete Carroll of Southern California; Charlie Weis of Notre Dame; Bob Stoops of Oklahoma; and Pat Hill of Fresno State. Carroll was a head coach with the Jets and Patriots, and all but Stoops were NFL assistants.

Kansas City also appears interested in Herman Edwards, head coach of the New York Jets. Under NFL rules, the Chiefs are free to ask permission to talk to Edwards, and could be asked to give up draft picks if a deal is reached.

Note: Some of the information in this story was obtained from the Associated Press.

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