NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans will look under every possible heading as they search for their next head coach.
They can get to work early but things will really get moving come Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, the day after their 2015 season ends.
What should they look for?
Of last season’s six head coaching hires, only Denver’s Gary Kubiak came from the offensive side. The rest have defensive backgrounds: Todd Bowles with the Jets, Rex Ryan with the Bills, John Fox with the Bears, Jack Del Rio with the Raiders and Jim Tomsula with the 49ers.
If I’m the Titans, I look hardest at offensive minds from around the league who would give quarterback Marcus Mariota the best chance to develop.
A list of some guys I think could be on the list:
Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson
From ESPN Bengals reporter Coley Harvey: If Hue Jackson's phone is silent in December and January then there must be something terribly wrong with the NFL. The current Bengals offensive coordinator deserved to keep his job as Oakland's head man in 2011 following a lone season leading the Raiders to an 8-8 record. Before the Bills brought in Ryan late in the hiring process this past offseason, Jackson appeared the favorite to land their last opening. Clearly the Titans are looking for an offensive-minded coach who will be able to get along with their mobile and promising young quarterback. All you have to do is look at what he's done leading the Bengals' offense the past two seasons to know he would have real and rapid impact in Nashville. This season, Andy Dalton has hit a level of play that very few people thought existed. Jackson's patience and persistence with the quarterback has been a big reason why. Jackson also has a measure of play-call creativity his players have latched onto fully. Titans fans probably remember the touchdown pass Dalton caught in last season's game from receiver Mohamed Sanu. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has paid Jackson the ultimate compliment in recent years by saying he believes the time Jackson spent as both a position coach (running backs, defensive backs) and coordinator on his staff since his firing from Oakland will make him an even better head coach the next time he gets that chance.
Packers associate head coach/offense Tom Clements
From ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky: Aaron Rodgers credits him, perhaps more than anyone, with his development. Clements was the one who put Rodgers through all the individual quarterback drills early in his career and worked with him behind the scenes while Rodgers was sitting behind Brett Favre. Clements took over the play-calling duties from Mike McCarthy this season, but so far their offense has struggled a little bit, which may or may not be a reflection of Clements but rather the loss of Pro Bowl wide receiver Jordy Nelson.
Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan
From ESPN Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure: Kyle Shanahan is likely to be a hot-head coaching candidate, although the Falcons' offense has sputtered over the past three games, including in a 10-7 win over the Titans. But Shanahan is known for his offensive brilliance and ability to incorporate a balanced offensive attack, using an outside zone running scheme to help set up play-action passes. Redskins starter Kirk Cousins, who worked under Shanahan in Washington, had this to say: "When you look at creativity and the ability to not be predictable, I was on the Redskins with Kyle, knew the system and didn't know what was coming."
Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell
From ESPN Seahawks reporter Sheil Kapadia: He has two things going for him. One, Bevell has worked under one of the league’s best program-builders in Pete Carroll for the past five seasons. He knows about creating a culture, developing a philosophy and dealing with criticism, especially after the way last season's Super Bowl ended. Two, Bevell has shown he can work with and develop a young quarterback. Russell Wilson has gotten better every season and is currently completing a career-high 68.8 percent of his passes despite having an unconventional skill set. On the flip side, there’s a reason why Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn have gotten head coaching jobs before Bevell. The Seahawks are a defensive-minded team. Offensively, they are averaging 17.38 points per game. That ranks 28th in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. If a team hires Bevell, it will be because he has potential as a program-builder, not because he is an offensive mastermind.
Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter
From ESPN Buccaneers reporter Andrew Astleford: A proven coordinator who did strong work in Atlanta. He has helped revitalize a Bucs offense that averaged just 17.3 points per game last season. After an inconsistent start, Jameis Winston has shown steady growth under him during the past three games with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich
From ESPN Chargers reporter Eric Williams: The Chargers have the No. 1-ranked passing offense under Frank Reich's guidance, but they’ve struggled to run the football. Reich was a candidate for head coaching jobs with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets last year. He commands a room, carries himself like a head coach and has a good reputation around the league. And he's familiar with Mariota because the Chargers held a private, pre-draft workout with the rookie quarterback in Oregon. The one question I have is whether Reich is innovative enough to get the most out of someone with Mariota's unique skill set.
Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase
From ESPN Bears reporter Jeff Dickerson: Gase is sure to generate interest around the league. His stock is on the rise because of the work he's done with Jay Cutler in Chicago. Known as a coach-killer throughout his Bears career, Cutler is thriving in Gase's system. Gase is a young, accomplished offensive playcaller; the exact kind of qualities most teams look for in a head coach.