The Los Angeles Rams fired Jeff Fisher on Monday after five straight losing seasons filled with nothing but underwhelming mediocrity. I’d be surprised if they’ve even had the time to pry his name plate off the door; nevertheless, they’ve already started the process of looking for his replacement.
So who’s it going to be?
The most popular name so far has been Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. There have been a few other high-profile names and a few possibilities you’d have to Google to find out who they are.
To really get a handle on which candidates the Rams will pursue, let’s back up a little bit and consider how they got into the business of looking for a new head coach in the first place.
The Rams could afford to muddle along in St. Louis. There’s too much pressure for that in Los Angeles.
It didn’t even take a full season for fans and the media to turn up the heat on Fisher’s “7 and 9 bullshit.” Along with front office infighting spilling into the public realm and a high-profile pissing contest with Eric Dickerson, it all finally cost Fisher his job.
The NFL hasn’t even been back in Los Angeles for a full season after more than two decades away, but it’s already abundantly clear that they’ve got high expectations, too high to settle for just any of the NFL’s usual bland head coaching candidates who get shoved into alleged meritocracy.
Rumors of Fisher’s eventual replacement started filtering out hours after he got canned. The names being tossed around should tell you that the Rams are probably aiming to land a big name for the job.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh made it pretty clear that he wasn’t leaving for the Rams job, or any NFL job for that matter.
Someone floated Pete Carroll’s name, conveniently overlooking the fact that he signed an extension with the Seahawks this year. He shouldn’t have had to, but Carroll shot it down anyway.
There’s Jon Gruden. THERE IS ALWAYS JON GRUDEN! Gruden was definitely going to return to the NFL sidelines in 2012, and he was even rumored as a potential Rams candidate then.
The next name on that list is McDaniels. He’s no stranger to the head coaching business. He was the Broncos head coach in 2009 and most of 2010, until he got fired 12 games into the season. He was the offensive coordinator for a disastrous Rams team in 2011, before returning to his old job as the coordinator for the New England Patriots.
His work with the Patriots since 2012 speaks for itself. The biggest question is whether he’d actually leave.
This week he gave the standard answer for coaches getting asked about another job while they’re still trying to do the one they have.
“I’ve already spoken my piece on that. I have a short week to get ready for a great opponent and I’m focused on the Broncos. I know there are a lot of things going on out there but my focus and my attention is going to stay right here in the building on the team that we have to get ready for and how we can prepare our team to play the best they can on Sunday.”
He didn’t rule out an interview with the Rams either.
Earlier in the season his name was left off a list of potential candidates, a list that included Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. At the time, he was left off because he reportedly wanted to stay in New England and be Bill Belichick’s eventual successor.
Does that mean he wouldn’t take another job? Not at all. And I suspect we haven’t heard the last of the McDaniels-Rams rumors.
A few college coaches have been mentioned as possibilities too. They all may be very competent coaches, but their resumes and name recognition are going to be hard sells in Los Angeles. Again, this isn’t a franchise willing to wait to turn things around.
Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is another coach who’s going to be a mainstay of the rumor mill this season. In fact, offensive coaches are an easy link on the rumor mill for the Rams. They invested a lot to trade up in the draft this year and get Jared Goff. They need to find a coach who won’t squander that investment.
Beyond Goff, there’s running back Todd Gurley, the team’s most marketable star. He’s done nothing in the league’s worst offense. The next coach has to be someone who can turn around that whole operation. It’s going to be hard to sell season tickets for a team that’s best known for its “middle school offense,” as Todd Gurley called it.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the Rams will seek a coach with an offensive background, something COO Kevin Demoff made clear in his press conference on Monday.
He’s got a point. Just because you hire a head coach with an offensive background, doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to develop a quarterback or turn around the offense. He’ll have other things to do. So it could be a matter of bringing in a coach with an open mind and a willingness to let someone else run the offense with a more hands-on approach, something Fisher was never willing to do.
Whoever the Rams hire, whatever his background, you can be sure they’ll be aiming to make a splash with it.