Who will be the Green Bay Packers' next defensive coordinator?
It hasn't even been two weeks, but Mike McCarthy's quest to replace Bob Sanders has taken a few twists and turns, including a big one on Friday.
It was believed McCarthy's former boss in San Francisco, Mike Nolan, was the shoo-in candidate, but Nolan turned aside McCarthy's overtures to take the same post in Denver, which keeps him closer to his Bay Area home.
Easily the most-accomplished candidate available was Gregg Williams, whose interview followed Nolan's. But the prospect of building a good-enough defense to surround Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and Marques Colston in New Orleans was more appealing to Williams than doing the same thing with Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant and Greg Jennings in Green Bay.
"The biggest thing for me was the opportunity to coach someplace where they're scoring a lot of points on offense," Williams told the Times-Picayune newspaper. "I think that's a fantastic thing."
So, where does that leave McCarthy? Here are some of the prospects:
Dom Capers, New England Patriots special assistant (pictured)
Pros: According to NFL.com, Capers is interviewing for the Packers' post on Friday. Capers has spent 16 seasons as a NFL head coach or defensive coordinator, most recently as coordinator in Miami from 2006 to 2007. He was head coach of the 2-year-old Carolina Panthers who faced the Packers in the NFC title game following the 1996 regular season. Clearly, he is a good football mind because he has been asked to run the expansion Panthers and Houston Texans. And a year under Bill Belichick can't hurt.
Cons: Known mostly for running 3-4 defenses, which would require a radical change of personnel in Green Bay. During eight seasons as a head coach, Capers directed top-10 defenses in his first two seasons but never reached that lofty status again. Two of his defenses ranked 31st and another 30th. Then again, his head coaching stops were with expansion teams. In his final season in Miami, the Dolphins' defense ranked 23rd in yards and 30th in points en route to a 1-15 season. Without Capers in 2008, the Dolphins soared to 11-5 behind a defense that ranked 15th in yards and ninth in points.
Jim Haslett: Still officially the St. Louis Rams' interim head coach
Pros: Runs an aggressive defense and has experience running 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. Has been a coordinator in Pittsburgh and St. Louis, which is a plus for McCarthy, considering this is a crucial hire. Was the head coach in New Orleans for five years and was McCarthy's boss for the first four, so there is a comfort level.
Cons: Since 2000, Haslett has guided only one top-10 defense (his first season with the Saints) compared to four bottom-10 defenses.
Sean McDermott: Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach
Pros: While only 34, he's been working under esteemed Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson since 2000. During that time, the Eagles lead the NFL in sacks. Has coached secondary and linebackers in Philadelphia.
"You never know if a guy is ready, but he is a bright young coach who has done a great job for us," Johnson told the Philadelphia Inquirer's Bob Brookover, who talked to Johnson as a favor to Packer Report. "He has been with me for seven or eight years, and he is like ‘Spags' (former Eagles assistant and current Giants coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) in that he really works at the game. His name has been out there and that's good for him."
Cons: He's off-limits until after the Eagles' season has concluded, though coach Andy Reid could give permission during the break between Sunday's NFC title game and the Super Bowl in two weeks. Has never been a coordinator, so there could be some growing pains. Plus, at his young age and because he's only worked for the Eagles, there's some question if he has the connections to build a quality staff.
Dave McGinnis, Tennessee Titans assistant head coach
Pros: The well-respected McGinnis just completed his fifth season as the Titans' linebackers coach and fourth with the additional tag of assistant head coach. As coordinator in Arizona from 1996 through 2000, he helped the Cardinals reach the playoffs in 1998. Was the Cards' coach from 2000 to 2003, amassing a 17-40 record in three-plus seasons.
Cons: McGinnis could be promoted to replace new Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz as the Titans' defensive coordinator.
You may recall that, in 1999, the Bears set up a news conference to announce they had hired McGinnis as head coach. That was news to McGinnis, who hadn't agreed on a contract. He elected to stay in Arizona as coordinator.
Vic Fangio, Baltimore Ravens special assistant
Pros: Along with helping the highly successful Ravens' defense the last three seasons, Fangio was defensive coordinator for 11 seasons in Carolina, Indianapolis and Houston. Was Capers' coordinator with the expansion Panthers.
Cons: Was a finalist here in 2006, when McCarthy selected Sanders. If Ravens coordinator Rex Ryan gets one of the head coaching vacancies, he could take Fangio with him to be his coordinator. Fangio's 2005 Texans defense was the worst in the league, and his tenure in Indianapolis ended badly, too.
Keith Butler, Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach
Pros: Has worked under ageless and innovative Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, as well as defensive-minded head coaches Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin. Butler gets major credit for turning James Harrison from undrafted free agent to NFL defensive player of the year.
Cons: Like McDermott, Butler hasn't been a coordinator and might be off-limits until after the Super Bowl. Plus, Butler likely would run LeBeau's 3-4 defense, and there are serious questions about how long it would take to get the talent in place.
Tim Lewis, Carolina Panthers secondary coach
Pros: Lewis has had NFL success as a coordinator in Pittsburgh and the New York Giants. Plus, he's a former Packers cornerback.
Cons: Didn't always see eye-to-eye with his players, who thought his aggressive schemes turned conservative over time.
Jerry Gray, Washington Redskins secondary coach
Pros: The former Pro Bowl cornerback has had NFL success as a coordinator in Buffalo. If McCarthy liked Williams, he'd probably like Gray, since Gray followed Williams from Tennessee to Buffalo to Washington.
Cons: The Redskins aren't allowing their assistants to interview elsewhere. So, to get Gray, the Packers might have to part with a draft pick.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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