Assuming, as many are, that Michigan will be looking for a new head coach this off-season, a quick rundown on some of the possibilities. One quick note before I start ... I do not consider the possibility that a candidate will leave for an NFL head coaching job to be a negative. If we hire a coach so good that he has NFL offers after 4 years, that's great.
Pros: He wins. When he took over Oklahoma State, the Cowboys had been to 1 bowl in the post-Barry Sanders era. He led them to 3 straight. He moved on to LSU where he has won over 85% of his games through 2.5 seasons, including two straight seasons that match the best season Michigan has produced since 1997 (11-2). They are currently #1 and playing like it, the year after losing their starting QB / #1 pick in the draft Jamarcus Russell (although Matt Flynn is a very experienced replacement). He is also, to some people, the perfect blend between a true "Michigan Man" and an outsider; a Bo Schembechler assistant who is still passionate about Michigan but who is not entirely a product of one philosophy.
Cons: He's very popular with the rumor mill. Are the rumors being planted by people who don't want him at Michigan or are they honest assessments of a coach who doesn't have the character that Michigan is looking for? Rumors of impropriety are vague whispers, but tales of personal dislike of Les Miles seems a bit more common.
Outlook: I don't think we'll ever hear any official comment, but I expect Bill Martin to speak to people who have worked with Les Miles over the years (including Lloyd Carr, Gary Moeller, Cam Cameron and others). If they vouch for Miles, Miles will be on the short list. If they caution Martin, Miles's candidacy will be dropped.
Pros: He rebuilt the Iowa program in short order and had them playing like the typical, under-talented and over-achieving team that is often considered evidence of good coaching. He has a strong Michigan tie, having been hired at Iowa by current UM president Mary Sue Coleman. His philosophy at Iowa seems to be very much in line with Carr's at Michigan.
Cons: His philosophy at Iowa seems to be very much in line with Carr's at Michigan, and at a time when the fans are clamoring for "something different", Bill Martin may feel the same way. But more importantly, Iowa's star has declined of late and taken Ferentz with it. The results have been disappointing, the offense looks anemic at times and the in-game coaching strategy seems to often mirror Carr at his worst. There are also some concerns about the PR of going after another Big 10 coach.
Outlook: It will be interesting to see how far he goes. If he is on the short list, you can infer that Mary Sue Coleman is a part of this process. If not, it would appear that Martin is going his own way. Maybe too simplistic an outlook, but also maybe close to accurate. I doubt the fact that he is at another Big 10 school will deter Michigan. Michigan and Iowa both must realize that Iowa to Michigan is a step up. The possible PR hit of offering Ferentz and having him decline is minimal if Michigan recovers with a good coach.
Pros: He's one of the best coaches in the country; it's just that simple. He is getting consistently good and often elite results at a program that does not and will not ever have the recruiting or the support of the schools he is bettering. His offenses are excellent and his defenses play at least to their talent level. No one's ever had anything negative to say about Cal's ethics.
Cons: There's no indication he would be interested. Michigan would be putting a lot of faith in the power of 100 years of excellence to lure a coach away from a program that is (short-term) at least on equal footing.
Outlook: Uphill battle, but even if there's little to no chance he would be interested, Michigan would be crazy to not at least ask.
Pros: He has done a remarkable job of resurrecting a Rutgers program that died shortly after registering its first win in 1869. Everyone who waches them play seems to agree that Rutgers is a well coached team. Schiano has shown ability with both recruiting and Xs and Os. His recruiting ties to both NJ and Florida would be a boon for a program in a state that doesn't produce the most 1-A talent.
Cons: None, really. He doesn't have the track record of near BCS title caliber teams that Tedford and Miles do, but that's not really a con, more the lack of a positive.
Outlook: He has to be on the short list. He will leave Rutgers eventually (Rutgers simply does not have the money or fan support to sustain Schiano's improvements), and he has a great chance to be the next Joe Paterno or Bo Schembechler somewhere.
Pros: Has had significant success at lower tier schools, compiling an excellent record at D-II Grand Valley State before rebuilding a sinking Central Michigan program. Is off to a good start at Cincinnati. Generally regarded as a good game day coach.
Cons: He has a thin 1-A resume, with only 3 full years. He has no experience (not even as an assistant) at a top tier 1-A program.
Outlook: It would be a mistake to compare him to Urban Meyer, whose success at Bowling Green and Utah was not just impressive but remarkable. Still, his resume is intriguing. I expect him to be on the "long list", not the short list. He is, to some extent, the football equivalent of the Beilein hire that Martin made for basketball, but the Michigan football program is much higher profile than the basketball program and can chase proven coaches first.
Pros: He has achieved with regularity at West Virginia what used to only be a once in a 5 years achievement. His offenses are fundamentally sound but also creative and make use of all the talent they have at their disposal. He has proven that he can recruit effectively. Perhaps very importantly to the UM fan base, his teams are simply fun to watch.
Cons: He already flirted with and turned down a lot of money from one elite program (Alabama) last season, making his subsequent statements that he won't be leaving West Virginia believable.
Outlook: As with Tedford, he may be unwilling to leave and it may be a worthless stab, but Martin has to make at least a phone call to Rodriguez and find out.
Pros: Harbaugh is another great compromise candidate, as a "Michigan Man" with a history outside the program whose approach is not mired in the rut that Michigan is perceived to be in. He is (was?) a fan favorite. He has a fire that would excite Michigan fans bored by Carr, even in times of success. He has a reputation for being a good Xs and Os mind, especially on offense. He had remarkable success at non-scholarship 1-AA San Diego and the results so far at Stanford are encouraging. One speculates that, with his personality and long NFL career to point to, he could be an excellent recruiter.
Cons: He is unproven at the 1-A level. He is in his first year at Stanford. He has burned a lot of bridges at Michigan with his recent comments, and that could negate his "Michigan Man" lineage. There are also Les Miles-ish rumors about Harbaugh's personal life, which coupled with his alcohol related ticketing a few years ago gives some people caution. There may also be some hesitation on Martin's part ot hire a football coach prone to making as much news for comments as Harbaugh does.
Outlook: I would be a little surprised if Harbaugh's name came up, but not shocked. It would simply mean that Martin is not thinking the way Michigan historically (supposedly) thinks.
Pros: He was at one time considered one of the best football coaches anywhere, at any level. He had tremendous success both with Oakland and early on with Tampa Bay. There is an assumption that a relatively young, Super Bowl winning coach with drive and his work ethic would be a lights out recruiter in the college game. He is a good "systemless" coach who will try to win with whatever strategy will suit his talent best. He has made some comments that indicate he may be interested in a move to the college game at some point.
Cons: His star is seriously in decline in Tampa Bay, though how much of that is his fault and how much is a lack of talent or lack of coordination with management is hard to judge. There is some concern that what makes him a good NFL coach will not translate, that his tough as nails approach will not work as well with teenage kids and that his tireless hard work can only carry him so far when the players are limited by NCAA practice regulations.
Outlook: I don't think Gruden would be interested and I don't think he is a slam dunk candidate like Jeff Tedford, for whom you prostrate yourself on the off chance that he is interested. But he would certainly be worth a call. My personal opinion - he is a damn good coach, and I don't know what's gone wrong in Tampa.
Pros: He's a Michigan Man. His NFL ties could help him assemble an excellent staff. He has had some good success as a DC in Carolina.
Cons: He has no head coaching experience, his defenses in Carolina were built in support of a head coach with a defensive pedigree (leading some to question how much was Trgovac's work) and he is not one of those hot NFL coordinators who has a reputation for genius and who is on the fast track to head coaching gigs. He is, to be honest, a candidate that would get zero consideration if he were not an ex-UM assistant.
Outlook: This is the kind of candidate Michigan should look at as a fallback and nothing more. He would be our Charlie Weis.
Mike DeBord: Bill Martin is not crazy and will not hire an unpopular assistant with a poor track record as a head coach elsewhere. The contrast between DeBord and Kelly at CMU alone should settle the issue.
Ron English: English's resume is way too thin for him to be considered for the UM head coaching position.
Tony Dungy / Bill Cowher / Andy Reid: I see no reason to think there names will ever come up, even though in my 2 am pipe dreams Tony Dungy declares he's done everything he can do in the NFL and calls Martin acquiring about the Michigan job.
Hot Coach of the Moment: Michigan can find an established, proven coach. There is no need to try to find a diamond in the rough by mining lower tier schools for one year wonders who show promise.
My List, In Order
1. Jeff Tedford
2. Greg Schiano
3. Les Miles (if the character references are good)
4. Rich Rodriguez
5. Jon Gruden
If I were to strike out on that list, not at all an unlikely scenario given that 3 of the names are names I assume beforehand would not be interested (Tedford and Gruden), I would go back to the drawing board and draw up the second list, considering Kelly, Harbaugh (if he has a strong 2007), Kirk Ferentz, Steve Sarkisian and others.