If you were ranking the wish list pecking order for who USC might want to hire to replace coach Pete Carroll -- and, yes, we continue to wait for an official announcement from the Seattle Seahawks -- it likely would go: 1. Oregon State's Mike Riley; 2. Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher; 3. Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio.
From the moment Bruce Feldman first reported it -- and other insiders have since backed it up -- Riley has been choice No. 1.
Riley would be an interesting hire. Combine his acumen as a talent evaluator and X's and O's skills with USC's recruiting base and national reach, and the end-result could be outstanding. His sterling reputation of a man of integrity also would go over well with the NCAA, which is investigating the Trojans' football program.
The question is whether Riley wants the job. There's a big difference between Oregon State and USC, Corvallis and LA, from expectations to lifestyle. Heck, start with traffic.
Riley has repeatedly said since he returned for his second tenure at Oregon State that he wants to retire a Beaver and he's never seemed driven by money, which he certainly could make more of with the Trojans. He's repeatedly said that his "grass is always greener" life lesson was when he left Oregon State for an ill-fated stint with the San Diego Chargers.
That doesn't mean he's not going to talk to the Trojans, but for the sake of this blog entry, let's say he doesn't want the job.
Then comes Fisher, who like Riley, USC athletic director Mike Garrett tried to hire before. But Fisher, who played at USC, has two years left on a contract that pays him $5.5 million a year, not to mention that he is a career NFL coach.
Let's say he also doesn't want the job.
What about Del Rio?
Del RioThat could be an interesting choice, starting with the fact that he might want the job.
He's a former USC linebacker and has an impressive coaching resume, particularly on defense.
On the downside, like Fisher, Del Rio is a career NFL coach. And he has three years left on a contract that will play him more than more than $15 million.
Ah, but there's also an intriguing upside. Check this out. That's Del Rio's coaching staff in Jacksonville. See the offensive coordinator and running backs coach?
If Del Rio could bring Dirk Koetter and Kennedy Pola with him to USC, that would be a major coup.
Say what you want about how things went for Koetter at Arizona State -- and things didn't go well toward the end -- but the man knows offense. Just ask current Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. When Pelini was LSU's defensive coordinator -- and a highly respected one at that-- Arizona State rolled up 560 yards in a 35-31 loss.
Koetter and quarterback Matt Barkley could make beautiful music together.
Moreover, Koetter knows the Pac-10 and the recruiting landscape of the West Coast. If Del Rio needed help finding his way around a college coaching job, Koetter obviously could offer guidance.
And USC folks surely remember Pola, also a former Trojans player and coach. He was a USC assistant from 2000-2003 and earned a reputation as an outstanding recruiter.
Del Rio also may soon be available, or at least the Jaguars might embrace a way to save themselves some money on his contract. According to Gene Frenette of the Florida Times Union, "Del Rio is expected to meet with Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver on Monday or Tuesday to discuss this past season which ended with a four-game losing streak, a 7-9 record, and many fans calling for Weaver to bring in a new coach."
You know, the last time Garrett was unable to hire his first -- or second -- choice, things seemed to work out OK for the program.