2018 Head Coaching Candidates

I have long been an advocate for both Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy. Some would go as far as to say that I’m an apologist for both. During their tenures the Green Bay Packers have achieved nearly unmatched levels of success in the free agency era (here’s to you New England Patriots). It’s clear the Packers need a change on the defensive side of the ball, but some fans have clamoured for a full coaching staff change.

I am not sure I believe it is time to find a replacement for Mike McCarthy, and I highly doubt Mark Murphy would even consider such a proposition. However, I do think it’s worth taking a look at what other options might be out on the market.

(Author Note: I wrote a similar article last year just before the Pack “ran the table”. You can read it here: 

Possible Replacements for Mike McCarthy


There are a couple of duds on that list, but looking at the jobs that McVay, McDermitt, and Kyle Shanahan are doing makes me think it is possible for the Packers to find a coach who can supplant McCarthy.)


The Long Shots

David Shaw – Stanford

Shaw runs an NFL offense and has the kind of demeanor that can be successful long-term in the NFL. He’s both well respected and well liked by players and most football guys, so I would have the highest confidence that he could build a great staff. I’m not sure he would want to leave the college ranks, but coaching Aaron Rodgers has to be pretty tempting.

Jim Harbaugh – Michigan

Harbaugh is an offensive-minded coach who has always had highly successful defenses (make of that what you will). His passion and energy inspire teams for bursts, and then he typically wears out his welcome within 3-4 seasons. I’m not sure if he wants to see things out in Michigan, but if he wanted to go to the pros, there’s not going to be a better job this year than Green Bay’s. This would represent the “all in” approach some fans have been calling for.

Jon Gruden – Retired

Every year Gruden is reported as a candidate for a few jobs, and nothing ever comes of it. I’m not sure if he really wants to leave the booth, but coming back to Green Bay to coach the best QB on the planet has to be appealing. He was able to turn Rich Gannon into an MVP, so I can’t even imagine what he could do with Rodgers. He’d have to bring in a strong D-Coordinator to rebuild that side of the ball.

Nick Saban – Alabama

There have been reports that Saban was close to coming back to the NFL several times, but he always ended up back in Tuscaloosa. Nobody has more in common with Bill Belichick than Saban, and his schemes put playmakers into position to succeed. It would be nice to have the best D-Backs Coach in the world as the Head Coach in Green Bay, and I’m certain his staff would be one of the better ones in the NFL. It would take a huge amount of money to lure him away from the Crimson Tide, but he would be an immediate draw for many free agents.


The Offensive Coaches

Frank Reich – Philadelphia

Reich has joined Doug Pederson to lead the turnaround of the phenomenal Eagles offense. He will draw comparisons to Sean McVay because of his rapid ascension to a head coaching candidate, but Reich represents a more traditional aged coach.

Josh McDaniels – New England

McDaniels is one of the few coaches who has been able to work with Tom Brady (and also put him in his place on occasion). He was probably too young and inexperienced when he took over in Denver, but he is considered by most to be one of the best offensive minds in the game. His offense revolves around a Hall of Fame QB and a bunch of weapons who are used to their strengths. That sounds like something I’d be interested in.

Pat Shurmur – Minnesota

He’s got the family connection (his dad Fritz was the Offensive Coordinator for the 1996 Super Bowl winning team). He’s also got an offense starting Case Keenum, without their star rookie RB, at a 11-3 record.

Russ Grimm (Offensive Line) – Tennessee

Grimm is probably the least attractive of the options, but it’s difficult to deny Tennessee’s running game has been dominant since he took over the offensive line for the Titans.


The Defensive Coaches

Matt Patricia – New England

Patricia is a football genius (and a real life one too). If you want someone to fix the defense, then Patricia is your guy. He’s been able to get great results over the last few seasons using multiple fronts (and largely with draft picks and forgotten about free agents). He’s lost a little buzz because of the Patriots’ defense early season struggles, but he has the resume to be a Head Coach if he wants to leave New England.

Steve Wilks – Carolina

The Panthers defense has been good for awhile, and they’ve been able to do it with different players. Wilks only has one season as the Defensive Coordinator in Carolina, but they haven’t missed a beat since Sean McDermott left for Buffalo. He also was the Defensive Backs Coach who oversaw the development of Josh Norman and the current crop of the Panthers’ underrated secondary. He runs an aggressive, blitzing defense, but he has primarily lead a 4-3 scheme which might be a tough sell given the current personnel.

Jim Schwartz – Philadelphia

I think the Packers hiring Schwartz might break Twitter. Yes, we all remember the struggle his tenure in Detroit was. However, he has had a great deal of success with the Bills in 2014 and Philly in 2016 and 2017. Schwartz would bring the Wide 9 Defense, which would have the same personnel issues as I previously mentioned with Wilks.


While it’s pretty unlikely the Packers would make a coaching change, there are several intriguing options to consider. A change in Head Coach would also likely mean a change in General Manager. More on that next week…

Andrew Mertig is a a lifelong Packers fan and draft enthusiast. He has covered the NFL draft for radio and television stations in Green Bay. He is currently a writer for PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewmertig