Prepare For The Worst: If Terps Fail Again, Who Could The Program Turn To?

The sharply-dressed Al Golden would be one the major candidates for the Maryland job if it opened up. via assets.nydailynews.com

About a week ago, a commenter asked for a rundown of some coaches that Maryland might target if the job happened to open up next year. Considering that it's slow season, I didn't see anything else better to do on a Monday night.

After that 2-10 season last year, Ralph Friedgen needs to do something very improbable to retain his job - win 6 or 7 games. If that doesn't happen, there'll be a new AD in town and probably some new priorities, the chief of which will probably be fielding a competitive football team. If Fridge hits the road, a few potential candidates have already come to mind, ranging from NFL washouts to hot-rod college assistants. 

First things first, though: yes, James Franklin is currently Maryland's Head Coach In Waiting, but a $1mil buyout could change that. And there are a few problems to retaining him, namely a ~$8mil buyout and the fact that he's done nothing to prove he deserves a head coaching job. With that out of the way, here is a non-inclusive list of candidates you could be hearing about in the offseason if Maryland fails again, including Franklin:

*Note: before you get up in arms about being pessimistic and too critical, I'll have a much more optimistic post in the near future about why Maryland might not have this situation in the near future...as soon as I can find the reasons.*

Reaches

Brian Billick

The Super Bowl-winning former Ravens coach has moved onto broadcasting, but is still a pie-in-the-sky coaching candidate thanks to his resume and name power.

Why He Makes Sense: Billick would find recruiting Baltimore Ravens fans to be pretty darn easy. And his resume would be literally unmatchable by any other collegiate coach: "Super Bowl" is a rare bullet point. His huge name recognition would make him a killer recruiter if he put his mind to it, and he's not a terrible coach, either.

Why He Doesn't: Well, he did have that whole 5-11 debacle the year before he left. Plus, there are doubts over whether or not he'd accept a job; he said Notre Dame was the "one college job that could lure him back to coaching." (Emphasis on "one" in the previous sentence). And it has to be asked how Billick - who's never been a college coach before - would adapt to the game.

Verdict: He'd bring even more excitement than Mike Leach, but also command a lot of money and probably wouldn't even consider the position.

Al Golden

A former Virginia defensive coordinator and Penn State grad, Golden took what was perceived as the worst job in college football at Temple and turned them into a contender. Ever since, he's been a hot name in coaching, and was a candidate for the Cincinnati, Tennessee, and UCLA.

Why He Makes Sense: Turning Temple into a winning program isn't easy, but that's exactly what Golden did. That he didn't do it immediately (he suffered through three losing seasons first) indicates that the job was entirely his: the players that won were his recruits, not his predecessors (see: Fridge and Vanderlinden). The UVA history means he has local connections. Has awesome sideline attire. Charismatic guy that sells the program.

Why He Doesn't: There's speculation that he's waiting for JoePa to retire so he can return to Penn State. Even if that's not true, there'd be a very possible chance he'd end up using Maryland as a stepping stone program. Still needs to prove that he wasn't a one-season fluke. Recruiting chops are questionable; then again, it'd be tough to pull in awesome classes at Temple. He recently agreed to a five-year deal, so his buyout would be sizable.

Verdict: Golden's my favorite guy on the list, a combination of attainability and coaching ability. Then again, his Penn State connections scare me. Just make the buyout of the contract huge.

Jim Harbaugh

It's tough to find a hotter coach in the country than Jim Harbaugh. A fast-riser who took over Stanford three years ago and turned them into one of the country's darlings, Harbaugh interviewed for a job with the New York Jets and has been mentioned at high-profile college jobs, like Michigan, his alma amter.

Why He Makes Sense: He's a media favorite, a charismatic program-seller, a good recruiter, and a successful coach. Stanford's not the easiest program to win at, and he took them to eight wins and a USC beatdown. He's young (just 45) and a potential long-term fix. Has the personality and profile of a very successful coach. Pulled in back-to-back top 30 recruiting classes.

Why He Doesn't: If Michigan wants him, they'll get him; they can throw bags of money at him and it's his alma mater. Even if Rich Rodriguez holds off on his firing for another season or two, there'll always be the possibility that Maryland is a stepping-stone. He probably needs to show that he wasn't a one-hit wonder.  There's the question of whether Maryland could lure him from Stanford anyway, either on a money or prestige basis.

Verdict: Harbaugh would be one of the best hires Maryland could make, but to do it they'll need to 1) find a football centric AD, 2) throw money at him, and 3) push the potential to live near his brother, John (for one of the coolest stories in football). Still, you'd have the potential of being Kiffin'd.

Kirby Smart

Alabama's defensive coordinator and one of the highest-paid assistants in the game, Kirby Smart is a hot name for any assistant coaching position that opens up. The mastermind of Alabama's ridiculous defense, Smart is only 34 and one of the hottest names in coaching.

Why He Makes Sense: Few coaches are as energetic and smart as the young Smart. He's a defensive genius and great recruiter. Winning at Alabama is different than Maryland, but his defense was as much scheme as talent.

Why He Doesn't: Well, I'm not ever sure Maryland could pay him as much as Alabama does as an assistant. He's also only 34, which would make him the youngest head coach in the NCAA, and that may raise some eyebrows.

Verdict: Smart won't get the Alabama job anytime soon, but it's likely that Maryland would be a stepping stone for him. Still, he'll bring energy, recruiting prowess, and defensive strength to the program if Maryland can attract him.

Kevin Wilson

The offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, Wilson tutored Sam Bradford and reigned over the ultra-successful Adrian Peterson. Oklahoma's consistently been one of the most successful teams and offenses in the country, and Wilson's schemes have been a big reason why.

Why He Makes Sense: He's still young, but has been the head of one of the most successful offenses in the country for the past 8 years. Two years ago he won the Assistant Coach of the Year award, and is generally regarded as one of the most overdue coaches in the nation. Could have a connection to potential AD (and current Oklahoma AD) Joe Castiglione. A UNC grad, he has ACC connections.

Why He Doesn't: He's never been a head coach before, so there's a little risk handing the keys to him. He's not the world's greatest recruiter, even with Oklahoma to recruit to. Has never been in the area before.

Verdict: Wilson would be attainable and may stay at Maryland for awhile. He's an under-the-radar hire, and I'd prefer a guy that's been a head coach before, but he's got a great resume. Besides, Maryland's not in the position to be a chooser if he would take the job.

Back to Earth

James Franklin

An introduction is probably unnecessary. Franklin, Maryland's offensive coordinator of two-going-on-three years and Head Coach In Waiting is one of the biggest sources of controversy on the team. He joined the Terps after a few solid years at Kansas State before arriving at Maryland and turning in a decidedly average performance before being named HCIW.

Why He Makes Sense: Well, Maryland wouldn't have to pay his $1mil buyout, wouldn't piss off P.G. County, which is Franklin's specialty, and would be able to retain a supposedly good recruiter. Even if Maryland hasn't seen his products entirely yet, Franklin did pull Javarie Johnson,  Nate Clarke, David Mackall, and Titus Till. Rivals called him one of the best recruiters in the country. By all indications, the charismatic Franklin seems to be better suited to the recruiting, motivation, and sound bite-centric program CEO spot than the playcalling offensive coordinator.

Why He Doesn't: If Maryland locks themselves into his contract, the buyout shoots up from $1mil to somewhere in the neighborhood of $8mil, because his contract states he must be paid the average of all ACC coaches (the ridiculousness is obvious, especially considering he's failed so far as an OC). Maryland's offense was one of the worst in the country last year. All of the recruits he "got" fell into Maryland's lap: Johnson left Miami because he couldn't enroll early, Clarke had no other offers, Mackall was originally an unknown, and Till only had an offer from Army.

Verdict: Maryland's biggest reason to hold onto Franklin would be to keep solid relations with the locals, if the offense comes along next year, or if recruiting picks up. Otherwise, Maryland will be locking themselves into a laughable contract (Dabo Swinney got less than a mil his first year) for a coach that has done nothing to deserve a HC spot. If it doesn't work, it could be crippling.

Mike Leach

The former Texas Tech favorite got run out of town thanks to some...interesting coaching methods combined with an unwillingness to negotiate. Now he's one of the most attractive coaches on the market.

Why He Makes Sense: He took a middling TTU program and made them a contender. He's had five 9-win seasons in the past decade, had an 11-2 season, and has by far the most exciting offense in the country thanks to his "Air Raid" style. Also has no buyout and connections to Kevin Plank and Under Armour.

Why He Doesn't: Well, he's kinda nutso. Obsessed with pirates, warned players about prayer, locked a kid in a woodshed, bit of an egomaniac...yeah, let the negative recruiting commence. About recruiting: he never had a top 25 class and by all accounts isn't a star recruiter, which would hurt the local area considering P.G. County will be upset about Franklin.

Verdict: He'll cost some cash, but he'll also instill excitement and bring some high scores and exciting football. Plus, he's a winner. That said, the craziness should make everyone think about it long and hard.

Ken Nuimatalolo

 Nuimatalolo took over at Navy for Paul Johnson, and has had more success than even Johnson had. His offensive success and reputation as a disciplinarian has made him an attractive candidate for upward mobility.

Why He Makes Sense: He's local and he's had major success at Navy, including a ten-win year with wins over Notre Dame and Missouri, with a near-win over Ohio State. His triple-option has been proven to work by Johnson at Georgia Tech, and Maryland has the personnel to run it (Devin Burns). His disciplinarian approach would make sure "losing the team" doesn't happen again.

Why He Doesn't: He's at a service academy, so there's really no history of recruiting. Plus, the triple option will always be a gamble. He wouldn't really instill much excitement into the program, at least not immediately.

Verdict: His offense would be a gamble, but Nuimatalolo has a lot of positive traits. If the pipe dreams turn down MD, then they could do a lot worse than Coach Ken.

Kevin Sumlin

This one's not as obvious, but Sumlin was rocketing up the coaching ranks when Houston was killing teams earlier in the year. If he continues on that path, the young Bob Stoops protege will be very in-demand next year.

Why He Makes Sense: Has only success at Houston: had an eight-win year his first season, followed by a ten-win season last year. Plays with an exciting, high-octane offense. Wouldn't cost a fortune. His race could help to offset the negative reaction in D.C. and P.G. that could occur after Franklin's firing (hate to bring it up, but it's a factor).

Why He Doesn't: Houston doesn't exactly have the same academic standards as Maryland. His defenses are awful. No local connections to recruit the area.

Verdict: In some ways, Sumlin would be a poor man's Leach, even if he would have certain advantages over the Captain. If Nuimatalolo's option attack doesn't fly, I wouldn't mind a successful, exciting, young guy like Sumlin.

Mike Tice

First off, there's never been any speculation anywhere else on Tice, and certainly nothing concrete; this is just me thinking out loud. But Tice, the former HC of the Minnesota Vikings and current Bears OL coach, is a Maryland alum and would likely be receptive to the job.

Why He Makes Sense: Finding an alum as HC is difficult, but Tice played QB at UMD and has a solid resume from his Minnesota days (32-33, made the playoffs). Pete Carroll, you'll remember, had an almost identical record (33-33) in the pros before taking the reigns at USC. He's a decent coach, has a big name, and likely wouldn't leave MD even if he blew up.

Why He Doesn't: He's never been a college coach at any level (assistant, coordinator, nothing), so that's obviously a gamble. And who knows, he might not be receptive at all to the stresses of the college game, recruiting particularly.

Verdict: Tice is a random choice, to be sure. But he's a lot like Billick, minus the Super Bowl thing. If Harbaugh, Golden, and Leach say no, then I wouldn't mind calling a former NFL head coach to see if he has interest. It'd certainly be an interesting - dare I say exciting - hire.

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