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5 Under-The-Radar NFL Candidates For USC Coaching Job

Andrew McKagan |
October 22, 2013 | 10:10 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Hue Jackson has NFL coaching experience with teams including the Ravens, Raiders and Bengals. (Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons)
Hue Jackson has NFL coaching experience with teams including the Ravens, Raiders and Bengals. (Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons)
Unless you’re living at Parkside Residence Hall, you probably know that Lane Kiffin is out as USC’s head football coach. USC defensive line coach Ed Orgeron has taken over as the interim head coach for the remainder of this season, but now the question centers on who will take over the permanent coaching role next year.

The next head coach could very well be chosen out of the college ranks. This list below includes only potential candidates from the NFL because, love it or not, the NFL is the most popular league in America.

Here is the thought process in choosing these potential coaching candidates: 

Most of these possible candidates were chosen with the assumption that USC keeps defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, as the defense has shown flashes of brilliance this year. It would make sense for USC Athletic Director Pat Haden to look for more of an offensive-minded coach to give the coaching staff balance on each side of the ball. There are still a number of potential candidates included that fit the defensive mold, in the case that Haden decides to overhaul the entire coaching staff this offseason.

USC also doesn’t need some offensive virtuoso to revamp the entire offense to some sort of spread attack. The Trojans have the ability to attract elite high school prospects—the big, athletic offensive and defensive linemen who are rare and hard to find. USC therefore doesn’t need gimmicks or fancy spread offenses that hide weaknesses at the offensive and defensive line positions like other, smaller schools do— they can line up their big, five-star recruits and punish most teams at the line of scrimmage instead of resorting to out-scheming their opponents.

USC doesn’t need to overhaul the offense, but do they want to? Sure, the Kiffin regime was a relative disaster, but it seems as if that was more a result of Kiffin-ism rather than the X’s and O’s aspect of the team.

A pro-style offense (and basically any offense in modern football) needs a good quarterback. A history of success with quarterbacks was therefore also considered in the creation of this list. All that being said, here are five current NFL assistant and head coaches who would make for excellent hires for USC for the 2014 season and onward. Feel free to call me stupid in the comments.

Mike Sherman

Current employment: Offensive Coordinator for the Miami Dolphins

Sherman is a true veteran of the sport with experience at all levels. His recent tenure as head coach of Texas A&M (2008-11) means that he has a lot of experience recruiting for a big-time Division I school like USC. Since there is obviously no draft in college football like in the NFL, recruiting is the only way to get talented players on your team— this is why recruiting experience is so significant and valuable.

When head coach of Green Bay (2000-05), the Packers led the league in rushing yards in 2003 and passing yards in 2004. This balanced pro-style offense would be perfect for attracting big-name high school recruits to Southern California, as there would be ample opportunity for many kinds of players to put up numbers in his offense.

Sherman also has a good history with young quarterbacks, as he developed Ryan Tannehill at Texas A&M into the eighth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Sherman followed Tannehill to the Miami Dolphins, where the quarterback continues to grow and impress in just his second year.

With all that success on his résumé, what five-star quarterback wouldn’t want to come to USC?

Pep Hamilton

Current employment: Offensive Coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts

The first thing to be thought of when contemplating Hamilton is his preference of the running game. As the offensive coordinator at Stanford, Hamilton had Andrew Luck as his quarterback— and Luck played a glorified complementary role relative to the load he could have taken on considering his talent. As the offensive coordinator for the Colts, Hamilton has expanded Luck’s role more. But he still wants a strong presence on the ground, shown by the high price Indianapolis gave up in its acquisition of Trent Richardson.

Even though the offense Hamilton runs isn’t conducive to gaudy quarterback numbers, the success and production of his offenses is undeniable. Plus, Hamilton’s conservative style works perfectly with the other recruits USC is bound to get, the rare size-speed athletes in the trenches.

The best way to beat spread offenses like Oregon’s is to play exactly to Hamilton’s style— slow the game down, dominate in the trenches and limit the possessions for the other team. USC would be smart to at least investigate the hiring of this elite football mind.

Hue Jackson

Current employment: Offensive Assistant for the Cincinnati Bengals

Jackson has actually worked at USC before, as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 1997 to 2000. During that time, he mentored Carson Palmer into an elite college quarterback and first overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. Jackson’s time coaching college football and experience recruiting would definitely be beneficial should he come back to the college ranks— Jackson famously told Palmer in high school that he would turn Palmer into a number one overall pick, which he did.

The simple fact that he has mentored a Heisman Trophy winner in Palmer is impressive enough and should draw interest from top high school recruits. But the disciplinarian personality and attitude he brings to the table, shown up close on the show Hard Knocks, makes him well-suited for coaching young players. The experienced Jackson would be an excellent fit in Cardinal and Gold.

Mike Sherman has plenty of coaching experience at both the NFL and college levels. (Daniel Raifsnider/Wikimedia Commons)
Mike Sherman has plenty of coaching experience at both the NFL and college levels. (Daniel Raifsnider/Wikimedia Commons)
Bill Callahan

Current employment: Offensive Coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys

Callahan has seen it all. He coached an Oakland Raiders team in 2002 that earned a Super Bowl berth, was the head coach at Nebraska and has coordinated and coached on various other teams including the Eagles, Jets and his current role on the Cowboys.

This proven coaching veteran has valuable recruiting experience, perhaps most impressively in his recruitment at Nebraska of Ndamukong Suh, who admitted that he probably would have gone to Oregon State had it not been for Callahan.

As the Raiders’ head coach, Callahan’s offenses led the league in rushing in 2000 and passing in 2002, showing the balance and diversity of his pro-style system.

Callahan is a true professional, and even though he hasn’t been a head coach for six years, at only 56 years old there is no doubt that he has some gas left in the tank.

Greg Roman

Current employment: Offensive Coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers

As the Stanford offensive coordinator in 2009, Roman helped develop Andrew Luck into the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Then, after he followed Jim Harbaugh to the San Francisco 49ers, he helped build and coordinate one of the most diverse and dominant offenses in the NFL while developing Colin Kaepernick into one of the best young players in the league. He has college experience and also puts a heavy emphasis on offensive dominance and the power running game, which would be a perfect fit with the recruits that are available to USC every year. Roman is a brilliant offensive mind whose formation diversity on offense makes it hard on defenses to figure out even the simplest play calls. USC might want to start calling about Roman, because there is a strong possibility he will be sought after at the NFL level too.

Other names to consider:

Jack De Rio, Defensive Coordinator, Denver Broncos (too obvious to make initial list)

Norv Turner, Offensive Coordinator, Cleveland Browns

Kevin Gilbride, Offensive Coordinator, New York Giants

Tom Cable, Offensive Line/Assistant Head Coach, Seattle Seahawks

Ron Rivera, Head Coach, Carolina Panthers

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