Tom Coughlin (Unemployed)
The 70-year old has been linked to a handful of open positions already (especially in Jacksonville) despite being out of coaching since 2015. If he did return to the sidelines, he’d bring a .531 lifetime winning percentage and two Super Bowl rings with him, as well as a reputation for being a strict disciplinarian with a stubborn focus on the little things, a personality that would fit well on a Chargers roster plagued by fourth quarter failures. Given his age, he’d likely be a short-term addition for a team looking for a quick fix. With Rivers nearing the end of his career, however, I see little wrong with grabbing a coach that can help him get to the promised land while helping groom his own eventual sideline successor. Besides, is there a better place to plan your impending retirement than the sunny shores of Southern California? I think not.
Teryl Austin (Defensive Coordinator, Detroit Lions)
Austin, 51, projects to be another of the more prominent names linked to open coaching positions this offseason. His teams in Detroit have ranked in the upper half of the NFL defensively in each of his three seasons with the Lions, and his emphasis on passing prevention could meld well with John Pagano’s more run-centric approach. Austin also brings a history with current Chargers offensive coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt, who he worked under from 2007-2009 in Arizona. No coach had more interviews last year without getting a job, and Austin has a reputation as a people person whose affability could fit well in a head coaching role where he has to sync offensive and defensive approaches seamlessly.
Sean McDermott (Defensive Coordinator, Carolina Panthers)
In six years with Carolina, McDermott has transformed the Panthers into one of the most dominant and opportunistic defenses in the league. Given Carolina’s struggles as a team this year, there’s certainly an argument to be made for McDermott to be more easily pried away from the Panthers, and his role in helping rebuild a formerly-struggling franchise could serve the Chargers well in righting the ship sooner rather than later. If nothing else, his intelligence on the defensive side of the ball could turn Bosa, Verrett, Perryman, Brown, and Co. into a true nightmare for opposing offenses.
Todd Haley (Offensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh Steelers)
Haley is another candidate with prior experience as an NFL head coach, leading the Kansas City Chiefs to a 19-26 record between 2009-2011. His work in turning Antonio Brown and an aging Ben Roethlisberger into one of the top aerial duos in the league could translate well to similar personnel in San Diego with Philip Rivers and the Chargers’ own highly-skilled possession receiver, Keenan Allen, allowing the Bolts to take another shot or two at the playoffs behind the arm of their Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback.
David Shaw (Head Coach, Stanford University)
This list would be incomplete without at least one college name joining the ranks, and Shaw fits the bill in many ways. His focus on conservative, smash-mouth football on The Farm would fit well with the Chargers’ recent shift away from an aerial attack, and his no-nonsense approach would do wonders in terms of keeping a young Bolts roster disciplined late in games. That being said, Shaw is coming off his first true down year at Stanford after playing a major role in rebuilding the program. A Cardinal alum, he may prove too tough to pry away from the college ranks to be worth pursuing.
If the Chargers needed to make a decision this week, I could count Patricia, Coughlin, and McDermott among the frontrunners for the position. Ultimately, though, there is no shortage of worthy candidates for the Chargers to consider in the coming months. With question marks still surrounding the team’s home for the 2017 season, it is likely a decision will not be made anytime soon. Once a verdict is reached regarding the team’s possible relocation, however, there is little doubt that the eyes of Bolts backers across the country will remain steadfastly focused on the team’s search for a head coach that can help turn around what has become a frustrating downward spiral for football in America’s Finest City.