Black Monday came early in the NFL this season.
At least for one team it did.
The Los Angeles Rams fired head coach Jeff Fisher on Monday, a day after the team dropped to 4-9. Fisher was 31-45-1 in nearly five seasons with the team. They didn’t wait until the Monday after the final game of the season to make the move.
Now the search begins for a new lead dog in L.A. This position is going to be highly sought after. First of all, the team itself isn’t that bad. The defense has been somewhat solid. Todd Gurley is potentially a perennial Pro Bowler at running back. And then there’s quarterback Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Goff is unproven and needs to develop. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many on the list below are known for their work with quarterbacks. The Rams are also opening a brand new $2.6 billion stadium in 2019.
Outside of the team, Los Angeles offers a lot. Rub elbows with A-List celebrities, great weather and beautiful beaches nearby. Not that NFL coaches are concerned or have time for any of that.
It’s a believed Rams owner Stan Kroenke wants to make a splash with the next hire, and the names below certainly fit that description for the most part.
The list of candidates and odds below are provided by OddsShark. The Rams will certainly have others on their wish list. Whether to hire or to interview, at least. But for now, let’s take a look at the names that have been circulating around the rumor mill the most.
So keep reading to see the list, best bets and odds to replace Fisher in Los Angeles (the list goes from worst odds to best):
Current Position: Head coach of the Seattle Seahawks
NFL Head Coaching Experience: Seahawks (2010-present), Patriots (1997-1999), Jets (1994)
Outlook: Carroll is a California guy, growing up in the San Francisco area. And, of course, has ties to Los Angeles. Most famously as the head coach of USC, where he won two National Championships and four Rose Bowl games. The Trojans, however, were stripped of the 2004 BCS title. Oh well. Carroll landed on his feet in the Pacific Northwest with the Seattle Seahawks. Since 2010, his Seahawks have been to two Super Bowls, winning one of them when they crushed the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium in 2013. He’d be the huge splash the Rams are looking to make. Let’s face it, though, he’s in a great situation in Seattle and a coaching move within the same division isn’t all that common (Rex Ryan from the Jets to Bills is one). And at 65, Carroll is no spring chicken. Do you think he wants to step into a semi-rebuilding job (good defense, running back, but a young QB)? I’m not inside Carroll’s head, but I wouldn’t think so.
Current Position: NFL Analyst for FOX Sports
NFL Head Coaching Experience: St. Louis Rams (2000-2005)
Outlook: Martz won a Super Bowl with the then-St. Louis Rams in 1999 as the offensive coordinator. He took over head coaching duties the following season and made the playoffs four times, including a trip to the Super Bowl after the 2001 season. He missed two-thirds of the 2005 season after being diagnosed with a bacterial infection of the heart. Martz was fired after the season. He went on to become the offensive coordinator for the Lions, 49ers and Bears, but has been out of football since 2011. Martz’s offenses were fun to watch, no doubt. And I bet he’d love to get another shot at being a head coach considering how his last one ended. But this is not the direction the Rams need to be going in.
Current Position: Monday Night Football analyst for ESPN
NFL Head Coaching Experience: Raiders (1998-2001), Buccaneers (2002-2008)
Outlook: It’s hard to believe Gruden has been out of coaching since 2008 when he was just 45. He won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay in his first season, but was fired at the end of the ’08 season after losing four straight to end the campaign. To say Gruden landed on his feet would be an understatement. A few months later he was hired by ESPN to be the color analyst for Monday Night Football. And with a salary approaching $7 million, Gruden is the Worldwide Leader’s highest-paid employee. That number was from September 2015, so it could be more now. He makes more scratch breaking down X’s and O’s for the TV viewer than most NFL coaches get for drawing them up every Sunday for an anxious team owner and fanbase. The stress levels are probably a bit lower in the broadcast booth. Remember Gruden’s sideline meltowns? They were classic! Gruden is exactly the type of hire the Rams want to make in that market. They’ll have to blow his doors off financially, which apparently they’re willing to do (Gruden is signed with ESPN and MNF through 2021). The thing is, as mentioned above, Gruden has been out of the game since 2008. He’s probably had his pick of jobs over the course of the past eight years. Is the Rams gig the one he’s been holding out for? Or do the Rams even want somebody who hasn’t coached since Barack Obama was elected President for the first time?
Current Position: Head coach UCLA Bruins
NFL Head Coaching Experience: Falcons (2004-2006), Seahawks (2009)
Outlook: Mora is a reasonable name here as he was born in Los Angeles and currently is the head coach at UCLA. He’s had NFL coaching experience, both as a head and assistant. He made it to the NFC Championship Game in his first season, taking the Falcons to the cusp of a Super Bowl appearance in 2004 (11-5 record), but never got over .500 in any of his other three years (2 with Atlanta, 1 with Seattle). Mora is 41-24 in five years with the Bruins, but is coming off a 4-8 campaign after being ranked No. 16 in the AP Preseason Poll. Not exactly something you want on the resume. Mora is a big name and has the experience. Could the third time be the charm for Mora when it comes to NFL head coaching jobs?
Current Position: Head coach Michigan Wolverines
NFL Head Coaching Experience: 49ers (2011-2014)
Outlook: Harbaugh spent four seasons as head coach of the 49ers, making Super Bowl XLVII (a loss to the Ravens). He also brought San Francisco to two other NFC Championship Games, but left for Michigan after an 8-8 year in 2014 amid rumors of a power struggle with the front office. Either way, Harbaugh landed in one of the best college jobs you can get. And he’s turned that program around in a hurry. Harbaugh is being compensated generously for it, too. His $9 million salary would make him the highest-paid in the NFL as well. The Rams would have to pony up big money (obviously) to lure Harbaugh out of Ann Arbor and back to Cali, but there are other factors. Barring a total meltdown over the next few seasons, Harbaugh probably has the most job security of any coach in the land — college or pro. If your name isn’t Bill Belichick or Nick Saban, you probably can’t say that. Plus, there’s that alleged power struggle thing. Harbaugh is in complete control of the Wolverines’ program. No owners. No general managers. No VPs of player development. Harbaugh would be a huge get for the Rams, but it would take a contract like we’ve never seen before in football. He’ll likely be in Michigan next season. Harbaugh said it himself, telling the media he has no interest.
Current Position: Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator
NFL Head Coaching Experience: None
Outlook: Shanahan has turned the Atlanta Falcons into the most potent offense in the NFL and quarterback Matt Ryan is firmly in the MVP discussion. That likely will have appeal for Los Angeles, which needs to develop Goff. Shanahan has no head coaching experience, but his father is Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowl titles with the Denver Broncos. That lack of head coaching experience at any level is a cause for concern, but Kyle Shanahan has been an NFL assistant basically his entire adult life. He will get a shot — and deserves one — at a head coaching job. Question is, are the Rams willing to be that team who gives Shanahan his first crack? If you ask his current QB, Shanahan will do a “great job” when he gets the opportunity. That lack of full team control experience might be a concern for the Rams, but that’s why they have interviews.
Current Position: New England Patriots offensive coordinator
NFL Head Coaching Experience: Denver Broncos (2009-2010)
Outlook: McDaniels was just 33 when he was hired to be the head coach of the Denver Broncos in 2009. That year he went 8-8. Then he started 3-9 in 2010 and got canned. The following season McDaniels joined the Rams franchise as St. Louis’ offensive coordinator. That lasted just one year as he returned to the Patriots to run the offense and be Tom Brady’s quarterback (as if he needs one). And as mentioned above, the Rams certainly need a coach who can groom a quarterback. McDaniels began his NFL coaching career with the Patriots in 2001 and has been with the team for all but those three years when he was with the Broncos and Rams. He’s learned under one of the best, Bill Belichick. The longer the search for Fisher’s replacement goes on, it might be a good thing for McDaniels. The Patriots are considered favorites to win the Super Bowl and assistants on teams still in the playoffs won’t be interviewing for other coaching jobs. So if the Rams hold off on naming a coach, it could be because they’re waiting on McDaniels — or someone else still who is still, of course.
Of this list of candidates, we’d have to go with the favorite here — McDaniels. But it’s still early and the process has a way to go, so anything can — and probably will — happen.
Carroll, Martz and Mora are longshots at best. Either age, not being the right fit or just not “sexy” enough to make a splash.
Gruden and Harbaugh would have to be blown away with record-shattering contracts. And even then, their current situations might be too ideal to leave for something that isn’t. Although these NFL guys are ultra-competitive and love challenges. Harbaugh reportedly left San Francisco because of internal turmoil. But perhaps he’s still an NFL coach at heart.
Shanahan has zero head coaching experience at any level and is just 36 years old. If the Rams do indeed want to make a splashy hire, Shanahan might not exactly fit the description. But his offense would cater well to Goff.
Back to McDaniels. He doesn’t have much head coaching experience or much success at it. But he comes from the Belichick coaching tree. McDaniels probably isn’t the Rams’ top choice, but they might not be able to get their top choice. He’s can help develop Goff and his offensive mind is what the Rams need.
The Rams have not publicly said who is on their target list. So they might be going in a total different direction. But it’s probably safe to say some of these coaches listed above are on their radar.
Time will tell. But one thing is for sure, it’s going to be an interesting process.