by David Elfin

Mike Shanahan has been only been gone for four days, but the list of names being mentioned as his possible replacement as the Redskins’ coach expands and shrinks, depending on the day, and sometimes even the hour.

Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, a former New England assistant, was a possibility, but he was already too far long in the process with the Houston Texans, whose job had been open for weeks.

Former Chicago coach Lovie Smith was going to interview with Washington and then he wasn’t, preferring to focus on the opening in Tampa Bay which he will apparently fill.

Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, Stanford’s David Shaw and Baylor’s Art Briles made it clear that they were going to remain at their universities.

There hasn’t been a serious indication that Bill Cowher, who won the Super Bowl with Pittsburgh in 2005 but hasn’t coached an NFL game in seven year, or Jon Gruden, who triumphed with the Buccaneers in 2002 and hasn’t coached an NFL game in five years, have any desire to leave their television gigs with CBS and ESPN, respectively.

Reportedly, Jim Caldwell, who coached Indianapolis to the Super Bowl four years ago and is now Baltimore’s offensive coordinator, will interview for the Redskins’ vacancy. That would satisfy the NFL’s Rooney Rule that mandates that teams interview minority candidates when looking for a coach. So would New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, the latest candidate who’ll reportedly interview with Washington.

Sean McDermott, whom Philadelphia fired as its defensive coordinator three years ago this month, has restored his reputation so thoroughly by running Carolina’s fierce defense that the William and Mary graduate has become a candidate to succeed Shanahan.

The only other coach known to have talked to Redskins owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen is Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Jay Gruden and Greg Roman, who fill that role for Cincinnati and San Francisco, respectively, won’t be available for interviews until their seasons are completed nor will Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. McDermott and Bevell were available this week because their teams have first-round byes.

Former Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt, ex-Miami interim coach Todd Bowles, and longtime assistant Russ Grimm, all played for the Redskins could be possibilities since Snyder and Allen, whose late father was the team’s Hall of Fame coach from 1971-77, stress the franchise’s history.

Other names being bandied about for the four NFL vacancies (Cleveland, Detroit and Minnesota in addition to Washington) include: Gus Malzahn, who’s preparing to coach Auburn in Monday’s national title game; Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly; Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, who previously was Maryland’s offensive coordinator and has been an NFL assistant; first-year coordinators Adam Gase of Denver (offense) and Dan Quinn of Seattle (defense); and Bengals running backs coach Hue Jackson, who once held that position for Snyder’s Redskins and who was Oakland’s coach in 2011.

I still believe that Snyder, having failed with former successful NFL head coaches Shanahan, Joe Gibbs and Marty Schottenheimer, standout college boss Steve Spurrier, and with neophyte Jim Zorn, should take the one route he hasn’t tried: hire a proven NFL coordinator.

Such men haven’t been fully in command, but they know how to work with large groups of pros, not a bunch of more pliant kids. Nine of the 12 coaches in the playoffs are former NFL coordinators with the exceptions being Kansas City’s Andy Reid and San Francisco’s Jim Harbugh, who had been position coaches (although the latter was also a college head coach), and Philadelphia’s Chip Kelly, who had only coached in college before this season.

Bevell, Roman and Zimmer are my top three candidates.

Bevell, a 43-year-old eighth-year coordinator (four playoff teams) and Roman, a 41-year-old third-year coordinator (three playoff teams), have gotten superb results working, respectively, with Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, mobile quarterbacks like Washington’s Robert Griffin III.

Zimmer, 57, has been a coordinator for 14 years with six of his last 11 teams making the playoffs. He’s not a hot young coach like Bevell or Roman and he wouldn’t be as sexy a choice, but the Redskins need more help on defense than on offense where Griffin, receiver Pierre Garcon, tight end Jordan Reed, running back Alfred Morris and left tackle Trent Williams are established or rising stars.

Now we keep playing the waiting game to see whom Snyder and Allen choose/who might agree to become Washington’s seventh non-interim coach in 15 years.


David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011.


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