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 host of the Pack-A-Day podcast and a writer for PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewmertig

10 thoughts on “2018 Head Coaching Candidates

  1. If I were Murphy, I would go after Belichick. Brady is on his last legs there. He would have a 5-7 year window with Rodgers. Kind of a Phil Jackson type hire after he coached Jordan.

    1. Belichick is under contract. Head Coaches can’t change teams unless the previous team agrees to it (which is why HCs are sometimes traded – Jon Gruden being an example). The Patriots would never agree to that, and even if they did, the compensation would be crippling.

  2. Author misguided somewhat. My picks, which he totally failed to mention would first be Wolf right now woth a new scouting team. Next, for head coach I would consider Gruden, Cowher or Bevell. Defensive coordinator K.Green, with J. Leonard as defensive backs coach. Clean the house. Current management and coaches have had long enough. You say we’ve been successful since last superbowl? Think again and review total collapses when it counted most on both sides if the ball. Only reason we have the current success is Rodgers carrying them all. Enough of this crap staff. No change with all new blood and suffer Pack Nation. Happy holidays and enjoy the long off season now. If your satisfied, fine. I’m not.

    1. I do like Matt Patricia, but don’t fogger he was guided by Belichek.

      1. Belichick learned under Parcells. Holmgren under Bill Walsh. It doesn’t always work out, but learning from a great coach doesn’t hurt.

    2. I didn’t mention any GM Candidates (which is why Wolf isn’t mentioned) because this is only about Head Coaches.

      Of the folks you mentioned:
      Gruden – is in the article
      Cowher – said in an interview yesterday that he will not coach again
      Bevell – interesting candidate, but ultimately I didn’t like that the Seahawks offense is basically Wilson running around making plays by himself (we’ve seen that story play out before).

      I’m not sure Kevin Greene is really a serious candidate for any D-Coodinator jobs, and Jim Leonhard wouldn’t take a demotion to coach in the NFL. He’ll likely stay at Wisconsin another couple of years and then either become a college HC or got a D-Coordinator job in the NFL.

      Yes, I do believe having the 2nd most consecutive seasons making the playoffs is being successful. It’s not easy to make the playoffs. I think it’s probably time to make a change (thus why I wrote the article). That doesn’t make McCarthy a failure. If he was fired he’d have another Head Coaching job in a few weeks.

      1. Thank you. I appreciated your article with my altered views given. Thanks for the quick response back at me. Have a great holiday!

        1. Thanks for reading (and commenting). I always appreciate the feedback. Have a very happy holidays!

  3. I’ve been thinking of Harbough for quite a while as a replacement for McCarthy. He turned around the 49ers in no time and his players play hard for him. I have no doubt he could completely turn the Packers around if given the help he’d need in Free Agency. The problem will be and always has been will Thompson go get the players the Packers need in Free Agency? Andrew mentioned it and it IS a huge concern..How many years do you get out of Harbough before he implodes?

    At this point I’d be satisfied if Thompson was to step down as GM and act as a consultant. Promote Wolf to GM and let him re-tool the roster. Depending upon if Wolf wants to keep McCarthy or not lets assume he keeps McCarthy. FIRE Capers on the ride home from Detroit and hire Vic Fangio if John Fox is fired in Chicago which I think happens. If not then try to find a younger DC who actually runs a defense that wasn’t popular in 1992.

    The Vikings O-Line is ranked like the 3rd best after drafting a rookie center and adding 2 O-Linemen in FA. Protect Rodgers at ANY cost, sign a TE, 2 O-Linemen, a DE or OLB in free agency and a CB if one is available. Do ALL THAT before the draft. Then draft a WR, TE, OLB, CB, and O-Linemen in the first 4 rounds not necessarily in that order though.

  4. Fritz Shurmur was the defensive coordinator, not the offensive one as stated in the article. I’m kinda surprised nobody picked up on that considering they won the super bowl that year

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