Josh McDaniels and John Harbaugh among Green Bay Packers head coach options

Matt Jones - Editor 15:50 03/12/2018
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Pack your bags: Mike McCarthy.

It’s the end of an era at the Green Bay Packers as head coach Mike McCarthy was fired on Sunday after 13 seasons in charge.

The ‘Lambeau Leap’ is a famous phrase coined by commentators and fans alike in the NFL – the beloved, celebratory jump Packers players make into the crowd at Lambeau Field when touchdowns (and there have been many under McCarthy) are scored at home games.

But now Green Bay chiefs have made the leap by parting ways with a coach that won them a fourth Super Bowl just eight years ago after a poor start to the season.

The Packers slumped to 4-7-1 after a demoralising 20-17 defeat to the woeful Arizona Cardinals (3-9) on Sunday at Lambeau with a second straight year failing to make the post-season now almost impossible, having previously made eight straight visits under McCarthy.

It may not have been a very gracious move by Packers’ president Mark Murphy, but was perhaps necessary, with even the biggest Cheesehead accepting that things had gone stale this term.

As such, Aaron Rodgers and Co are on the search for a new coach, with the job sure to be one of the most coveted in the NFL.

Here we look at potential McCarthy replacements in Wisconsin:

JOSH McDANIELS New England Patriots offensive coordinator

Josh McDaniels

When any head coaching role becomes available in the league, it can be pretty much guaranteed McDaniels’ name will be in the frame.

And with good reason too. McDaniels is a long-time running buddy of prolific Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, with the 42-year-old one of the few staff members who has been part of every one of the Pats’ five Super Bowl wins inside the last 16 years.

McDaniels was just 25 when he joined the New England set-up in 2001 – back then simply as a lowly personnel assistant. He graduated to a defensive assistant in the 2002/03 season before becoming quarterbacks coach two seasons later.

He has already earned experience as a head coach in the NFL with Denver from 2009-10 and was with the St Louis Rams as OC and QB coach briefly before returning to the Patriots in 2012 in the same roles – guiding Brady and Belichick to two more Super Bowl titles.

McDaniels’ reputation is such that he is currently the highest paid offensive coordinator in the NFL.

With Aaron Rodgers under centre, the Packers are certainly going to pursue a head coach with an offensive background. They have had only one defensive head coach (Ray Rhodes) in the last 31 years and he only lasted a year.

When you factor in McDaniels has worked with Brady for most of his career and helped mould Jimmy Garoppolo, he would seem an ideal candidate.

And that’s even when you throw in the fact he might well have burned his chances of receiving any offers after he agreed and then reneged on a commitment to take over the Indianapolis Colts during the off-season.

JOHN DeFILIPPO Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator

    ] CARLOS GONZALEZ • cgonzalez@startribune.com – May 30, 2018, Eagan, MN, NFL, Minnesota Vikings OTA's

Despite being only 40, DeFilippo has been in the NFL in various guises for well over a decade, but it is last season’s Super Bowl that puts him very much on the Pack’s radar.

He was the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach last season – working for Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich, now the head coach of the Colts – playing a pivotal role as Philadelphia stunned the Patriots with a slick and stylish offence that relied on the run-pass options now so popular throughout the NFL.

He has earned a reputation as a creative play-caller who could create an explosive partnership with Rodgers – the league’s best quarterback.

Following the Super Bowl, DeFilippo joined the Vikings as offensive coordinator – who were one game away from a showdown with the Patriots, losing to DeFilippo and Philadelphia in last season’s AFC Championship game.

The Vikings are 6-5-1 so far this season but DeFilippo’s reputation and skills in working with starting QB Carson Wentz and then back-up Nick Foles once Wentz went down with injury last season, are still impressive.

And playing his part in out-thinking Belichick and McDaniels in an exhilarating 41-33 Super Bowl triumph over juggernauts the Patriots is sure to have the Packers thinking of calling.

ERIC BIENIEMY Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator

ERIC BIENIEMY

Bieniemy enjoyed an eight-year playing stint in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals and Eagles from 1991-99, but it’s safe to say his success in college did not translate into the pro ranks.

He finished third in the Heisman Trophy race in 1990 behind winner Ty Detmer with 1,628 yards and 17 touchdowns, but the running back racked up just 2,811 total rushing and receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in his NFL career.

But it is in coaching where he has earned a fearsome reputation – having first landed in the league with the Vikings as running backs coach in 2006.

Since then he returned to the college scene with Colorado (he was RB coach there from 2001-02) as offensive coordinator before landing back in the NFL with the Chiefs as their running backs coach from 2013-17.

He succeeded Chicago Bears-bound head coach Matt Nagy as Andy Reid’s top offensive lieutenant at Arrowhead Stadium this season and has worked wonders with second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes – who is slinging touchdowns for fun for the 10-2 Chiefs.

They lead the league in scoring under Bieniemy with 444 points – 25 more than the LA Rams – at a whopping average of 37 per game.

The 49-year-old has not been a head coach at either the college or pro level so far, so his appointment comes with risk. Head coach Reid also calls the majority of the plays at Arrowhead. But as the Chiefs have been proving this season, they are happy to balance risk with reward.

JOHN HARBAUGH Baltimore Ravens head coach

at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 2, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.

All of the coaches touted so far have either very limited head coaching experience in the NFL, or none whatsoever.

In Harbaugh, the Packers would be going a very different way. Like McCarthy at Green Bay he has been in Baltimore a long time – 10 years – and has also tasted Super Bowl success, beating his brother Jim’s San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.

The 56-year-old Ohio native is believed to be on thin ice in Baltimore though. Although still very much in the playoff hunt at 6-5 this season, Harbaugh has only seen the Ravens fly into the postseason just once since their Super Bowl triumph six years ago. They have not been beyond the regular season since 2014 and have not recorded double digit wins either, with Harbaugh believed to be on borrowed time.

But he has won 100 games since 2008 and boasts a 10-5 record in the postseason, and perhaps after a decade in the north-east, is simply in need of a change of scenery.

If he is fired by Baltimore, a former Super Bowl winner with a sharp offensive mind would surely need to be considered by the Packers. Harbaugh would, among a field of fresh-faced hopefuls, arguably be the best option should Green Bay choose to go for a solid, experienced NFL coach.

KYLE SHANAHAN San Francisco 49ers head coach

Kyle Shanahan

We’re going a little left field with this choice perhaps – especially as Shanahan would seemingly have enough on his plate right now, leading one of the worst teams in the NFL.

But, like Harbaugh at Baltimore, the 49ers hierarchy might at least be contemplating parting away with Shanahan – particularly after becoming one of just two teams mathematically out of playoff contention (along with Oakland) following this weekend’s demoralising 43-16 hammering in Seattle.

Considered one of the brightest coaching prospects in the league, the 38-year-old son of three-time Super Bowl winning coach Mike Shanahan, was handed the reins of one of the NFL’s most storied teams two years ago, but life in the Bay Area has been anything but smooth sailing.

He’s currently on his third-string quarterback this season, Nick Mullens, after former Brady understudy Garoppolo went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 3.

Up until then the relationship between quarterback and coach – they combined for five straight wins to end the 2017 season as the 49ers rallied from 0-9 to finish the season 6-10, building huge optimism ahead of 2018 – was flourishing.

Despite currently owning an 8-20 record as head coach and on course to finish fourth in NFC West for a second straight year, the 49ers would be extremely hasty in getting rid of Shanahan so soon, but his star is certainly beginning to fade.

LINCOLN RILEY Oklahoma head coach

Lincoln Riley

Outside of the NFL, Riley is the hottest coaching prospect around, with the offensive revolution he’s orchestrating at Oklahoma revered for its dynamism.

Just 35, Riley acted as a student coach for Mike Leach while playing as a quarterback for Texas Tech in 2002, before a five-year stint as offensive co-ordinator at East Carolina University.

He joined the famed Sooners’ programme in January 2015 under head coach Bob Stoops. When Stoops retired in June 2017, Riley replaced him – aged just 33 – becoming the youngest coach at college football’s highest level.

With Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield in tow, Riley led his team to the Big 12 conference championship and the 2018 Rose Bowl, where they lost to Georgia in double overtime 54-48. They boasted a 12-2 record and are 12-1 this year, with Riley this term leading his side to the Orange Bowl against Alabama at the end of December.

He won’t be going anywhere until after that date and Oklahoma will surely do everything to keep him, while both Riley and the Packers may feel he’s a little green for the NFL just yet. Having said that, Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay is just 32.

JIM HARBAUGH Michigan coach

Jim Harbaugh

John’s younger brother has been to the Super Bowl, too. His 49ers lost to his older brother’s Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII, suffering a heartbreaking 34-31 defeat.

The Packers are aware of Harbaugh’s offensive ingenuity. While in charge of San Francisco he knocked them out of the playoffs twice – including an explosive divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park on their way to that 2012 Super Bowl appearance where a certain Colin Kaepernick was on fire in orchestrating a 41-33 triumph.

But his three-year tenure in San Fran ended in acrimony with the former quarterback renowned for his fiery temperament and being difficult to work with.

Harbaugh is not easy to manage and tends to wear out his welcome quickly. He has not had the success many thought he would after returning to the college ranks with Michigan in 2015 either – failing to win any major college titles.

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