Rob Ryan made headlines Tuesday by saying, if given the chance, he'd be a better head coach than his brother, Rex. While that might be a stretch (the Ryans, we hear, dabble in hyperbole occasionally), it does beg the question: Which current assistant coach is most deserving of a head-coaching opportunity?
While Panthers quarterback Cam Newton surely deserves a bulk of the credit for his early success, the coach behind this offense might soon find himself also benefiting from the improvements of Carolina's offense. Rob Chudzinski, the Panthers' offensive coordinator, had already been an assistant discussed as a head-coaching prospect before this year, but he's now proving more than ever that he deserves a shot.
Chudzinski has never stayed idle in one place for longer than two NFL seasons, so he might not have generated the momentum necessary to gain the interest of owners around the league. But those owners should nonetheless take notice: With a rookie quarterback in place, Chudzinski's offense ranks fifth in the league in total yards (fifth in passing yards; seventh in rushing). In addition to Chudzinski's previous body of work as an assistant, his progress with Newton should be very appealing for any team in need of a coach who is also likely to have a young quarterback to mentor in 2012.
Winston Moss has been a trusted and respected assistant in Green Bay for a long time. He has the chops and mentality and has served on an excellent staff. He can pull it off.
It's only a matter of time before the game's dominant team sprouts more branches off Mike McCarthy's coaching tree, and Moss could be the first to go. At a time when many top coordinators have already made the leap in recent years and others once seen as rising, like Dirk Koetter, are having struggles on their side of the ball, Green Bay's stock keeps rising, as will that of its coaching staff.
Few people are more deserving than Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. He clearly has been one of the better defensive coordinators in the NFL for years. He's also the type of coach that players love playing for. I can't tell you the number of players who credit Zimmer for their individual and team success. In fact, Houston cornerback Jonathan Joseph, who spent most of his career with the Bengals, told me that Zimmer changed the outlook of players more than anyone with the franchise. He shoots straight and is honest with players.
Some teams have stayed away because Zimmer is considered a little rough around the edges, but so what? With his experience and relationships, he would be able to put together a crack staff and develop players. He's due a shot.
Perry Fewell is one of the most deserving head-coaching candidates. He has been an exceptional defensive coordinator at two different spots -- Buffalo and now New York -- and has the experience of serving as an interim head coach.
From a personality standpoint, Fewell has the right blend of intelligence, leadership skills and charisma to lead a group of men. He complements those traits with the tactical skills that will allow him to provide solutions to problems that might arise during slumps. That aspect should not be overlooked when evaluating candidates because players look to their leader to guide them through the rough spots. If I owned a team in need of an energetic head coach for the long haul, I would take a long look at Fewell.
Give me Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, a lesser name who's done an outstanding job with quarterbacks over the past half-decade. Whether it was managing a guy with obvious shortcomings (Derek Anderson), helping take an already good player to the next level (Philip Rivers), or harnessing a young player's otherworldly talent and pushing him to succeed immediately (Cam Newton), Chudzinski has shown adaptability and innovation as an offensive coach in three different locales.
Then, there's the work he's done across the board in developing players, be it as a coach at the University of Miami, with some of the most talented college teams of all-time, or as Antonio Gates' position coach during the tight end's entry to the NFL, as he morphed from college basketball player to one of this era's great playmakers.
Put it all together, and you have a coach who's paid his dues and deserves his shot.
Rob Ryan really needs to stop talking. Last week he fired up the Eagles and we all saw what happened when he did that to his defense. Now he says he'd be a better head coach than his brother. I really don't think an owner or a general manager is impressed with his forecasting.
Since the Cowhers and Grudens of the world prefer to stay on TV, get ready for Perry Fewell (Giants defensive coordinator), Mike Zimmer (Bengals defensive coordinator) and possibly Marty Mornhinweg (Eagles offensive coordinator) to become the hot names if Jeff Fisher decided to stay out another year.