Before we get into the meat of this post, let's make something very clear: everyone at BN wants Rick Neuheisel to succeed. When it comes to UCLA and what it means to be a Bruin, Rick gets it. In fact, given the clueless bureaucrats and culture of football mediocrity at Morgan Center, we need Rick to succeed. Personally, I like Rick and I was excited when he was hired. I'd love to see us turn it around and for him to get us moving in the right direction. But, even though he's a fellow Bruin (as was Karl), UCLA is bigger than any one person. And, as we've said before, this is his "make-or-break" season and if he cannot meet our reasonable expectations for his fourth year in charge, a change in leadership will be warranted.
So, with that, let's talk about what happens if Rick can't fix the Bruins this season and Guerrero pulls the plug on the Neuheisel era in Westwood. If we can't muster up a winning season with a bowl appearance, UCLA will once again be looking for another head football coach for the third time in the last decade. Naturally, we at BN have some apprehension about Guerrero being the man in charge of that coaching search, given his lack of prior football experience and his past record of unsuccessful hires (Karl and Rick). In fact, we've openly questioned whether he's the right guy in charge to turn around the football program.
There are a lot of names floating out there, should Rick's seat become vacant. But, not all of those names are guys that UCLA should hire. After the jump, let's break down who is likely available for the 2012-13 season, who would be a good hire, and who we need to keep as far from Westwood as possible.First, let's talk about coaching candidates that are available but who we need to make sure Guerrero doesn't even consider:
1. Greg Robinson - Unemployed; Former Syracuse Head Coach (Career Record: 10-37)
Robinson is a former Donahue assistant, so he has UCLA ties. But he's a typical Donahue disciple: conservative, unimaginative, not the kind of hire that will fire up recruits or a fan base, especially one as depressed as UCLA's. His defenses were shredded as Rich Rod's DC in Ann Arbor and his Syracuse teams were just sorry. Or as gbruin put it earlier:
Before his college days, Robinson was DC for for the Denver Broncos in the late 90’s (and I was a season ticket holder in the South Stands). Robinson ran a very gimmicky gap control defense that had little to no room for error and was maddeningly prone to giving up numerous big plays. It was the same story every week: if a single player missed an assignment, esp near the point of attack (i.e. filled the wrong gap, missed a tackle, blitz got picked up), there was no one else available to stop the play. The defense was repeatedly burned for big yardage plays several times a game.
The weakness of his scheme was hidden somewhat by the fact that he had guys like Steve Atwater (future HOF), Alfred Williams, Bill Romanowski (I hated the freak but he does have like 4 rings), Mike Lodish (Bruin who played in like 6 Super Bowls), Neil Smith (future HOF), and several other very good players, but was mostly covered up by the fact that John Elway (HOF), Terrell Davis (HOF if not for injury), Shannon Sharpe (soon to be HOF), Rod Smith (deserves HOF), and Gary Zimmerman (HOF) and the best OL in the NFL were putting up 35+ points a game and other teams were forced to play catch up. Robinson has 2 Super Bowl rings, but it was NOT a Super Bowl worthy defense in any way.
Greg Robinson coming to Westwood would be a disaster. We do not have (and cannot ever reasonably expect to have) the talent on either side of the ball to cover up for his "bend and break several times" defense. His "success" in Denver is an illusion. His days in Syracuse tell the truth.
Yikes. Let's pass on Robinson.
2. Rich Rodriguez - Unemployed; Former Michigan and West Virginia Head Coach (Career Record: 120-84-2)
Unlike Robinson, Rich Rod at least has a winning record as a head coach. I don't need to explain in detail his disastrous tenure as the main man in Ann Arbor because, setting aside the NCAA violations, the fact that the guy stabbed his own alma mater in the back on his way out of Morgantown tells me everything I need to know about him. We don't need some snake-in-the-grass who will use UCLA as a stepping stone to something else.
3. Karl Dorrell - WR Coach, Miami Dolphins; Former UCLA Head Coach (Career Record: 35-27)
Karl is a good Bruin, a good guy, and boy does he look good in a suit (thanks Carnesale). That said, he was woefully unprepared and far too inexperienced to take the reins of the UCLA football program. Just browse through BN and you'll find thousands of reasons why Karl should not return to Westwood as a football coach. If Dan G. was dumb enough to do this, UCLA fans would probably hang Guerrero from Royce Hall.
4. Tyrone Willingham - Unemployed; Former Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington Head Coach (Career Record: 76-88-1)
Do I really need to explain why this would be a terrible hire for UCLA?
Yeah, I didn't think so.
Alright, with that, let's talk about coaches who might be good fits for UCLA if Neuheisel can't get it done this year.
1. Urban Meyer - Unemployed; Former Bowling Green, Utah, and Florida Head Coach (Career Record: 104-23, 2 BCS national titles)
I didn't need to explain why Tyrone Willingham would be a bad hire, so likewise, do I really need to explain why Urban would be an amazing hire for UCLA? No, I don't, but it'll be fun, so let's do it. While we certainly have the money to chase after a high-profile, high-cost coach like Urban Meyer, there is no realistic possibility of him taking the UCLA job over other more attractive (to him) opportunities. Bear in mind that with his track record, he can essentially name the college he wants to go to (with the exception of a few schools with entrenched, national title winning coaches, like say, Texas or Penn State), so the money is on the Ohio native returning to the most obvious high-profile coaching job available: Ohio State (assuming the sanctions aren't catastrophic).
But, let's divert from reality for a second. Urban to UCLA would dramatically change not only the landscape of the Pac-12, but of the national college scene. High-profile recruits who otherwise would not have given UCLA a second thought (i.e. SEC area kids) would suddenly have UCLA on their radar for no other reason than a chance to play for Urban Meyer. It would send a signal of intent to the entire conference that the Bruins were serious about football, and wouldn't it be fun to watch him just destroy Lame Kitten and the USB Trogans?
2. Al Golden - Head Coach, Miami Hurricanes; Former Temple Head Coach (Career Record: 27-34)
If Rick does fail and Guerrero has to make a change, my favorite would be Al Golden, who was one of the finalists for Neuheisel's job (along with current Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh). I have the sinking suspicion that if the right job became available, Golden would bolt from Miami. While he's saying all the right things in public about Miami's looming major spanking by the NCAA, the undertone is clear: he is not happy that Miami never hinted at the depth of the sanctions they were facing when he came on board prior to this season. Al Golden would a solid hire, someone that we seriously considered the last coaching search, and he's made a lot more with a lot less than he'd have at UCLA (see Temple). That said, he's a Penn State guy, and if Joe Pa decides to make this season his swan song, I can't see Penn State making a serious play for Golden, and likewise, I cannot see him turning down his alma mater for UCLA.
3. Bronco Mendenhall - Head Coach, BYU Cougars (Career Record: 56-21)
Mendenhall is another name that was tossed around a lot on BN and other UCLA communities after Karl Dorrell got terminated. He'd be a solid hire and he's demonstrated he can operate in an environment with, how should I say, strict external pressures and rules. He's never had a BCS gig though and it's one thing to beat up on Mountain West opponents week-in and week-out and to face U$C, Oregon, and the other heavy hitters of the Pac-12.
4. Mike Leach - Unemployed; Former Texas Tech Head Coach (Career Record: 84-43)
Ahh, the Pirate. Also known as Class of 66's favorite coaching candidate. He's be a big splash hire, that's for sure and he'd give UCLA instant offensive credibility. It's hard to doubt a man who turned Texas Tech from some state school I'd never heard of in the middle of nowhere into an offensive machine that got national attention. Naturally, there's concerns about his off-the-field alleged transgressions and he's got a swashbucklin' personality that won't sit well with the stuffy bureaucrats in Murphy Hall. For that reason alone, there's no way I see the Donahue-infested UCLA bureaucracy ever signing off on this one.
But I threw it in so Class of 66 can dream. ;)
5. Miscellaneous: Chris Peterson, Boise State Head Coach; Kyle Whittingham, Utah Head Coach; Phil Fulmer, Former Tennessee Head Coach; and [Fill in the Blank Here]
If you start scanning available coaches, there's a lot of interesting guys at non-BCS schools (although I can't see Whittingham leaving Utah now that they're in a BCS conference), and there are a lot of former coaches who are unemployed or at jobs that barely count (ranging from Phil Fulmer, who has won it all, to scrubs like Buddy Teevens, who if we hired, I'd kill myself). Likewise, there are a lot of high-profile coordinators, both in the NFL and in the college ranks, who are probably looking for a shot, and UCLA, a BCS school in a fertile recruiting area, faced with only Lame Kitten and sanctioned U$C, isn't a bad place to take a shot at a head coaching gig.
This is the part where it opens up to all of you. If Rick can't get it done this season and turn UCLA around, who do you want Guerrero to go out and hire? Okay, bad question: we probably all want Urban Meyer. Who do you think UCLA has a realistic chance for and if you don't see your candidate on the list, feel free to chime in and add that name to the mix.
Like I said, we all want Rick to succeed. He's a solid Bruin and he's a great fit. He's running a clean program and he loves his alma mater. Now, he just needs to win. But, sentiment doesn't keep you employed. It's his put-up or shut-up season.
Fire away with your thoughts.