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Mike Zimmer, Jay Gruden Are Hot Coaching Commodities

Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer are both expected to draw interest during the NFL's annual hunt for new head coaches.

Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

As the Cincinnati Bngals prepare for their final regular-season game against Baltimore, two of their assistant coaches are among those around the league getting ready for job interviews as the NFL's annual coaching carousel spins up.

For example, in Denver we’re told that offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio are each getting their ducks in a row, in the event that they are asked to interview for jobs during the upcoming bye week (if, of course, the Broncos earn a bye).

In Cincinnati, the same thing is happening with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. The earliest they’ll be available to interview, however, would be after wild-card weekend.

Both Zimmer and Gruden were in the mix after last season, with Jay reportedly turning down a pair of offers to interview out of loyalty to the Bengals for giving him his shot in the NFL. But their value has only grown as the team has come back from a four-game skid to make the playoffs for a second straight year.

Rumors of possible destinations for Zimmer and Gruden are scarce, but speculation is rampant. Zimmer is most often mentioned in connection with Dallas (should a job open there) and Kansas City, where his son is an assistant coach. Jay, meanwhile, is the subject of a great deal of fan and media buzz in Philadelphia, where Andy Reid is exiting after 14 years.

(Speaking of Reid, there was and is some thought that he could end up in Cleveland based on the presence of former Eagles executives Joe Banner and Tom Heckert in the Browns' front office. However, Muckraker Mike reports that Andy has his sights set on San Diego.)

In Philly, Gruden would have a chance to develop another young QB in Nick Foles -- or he could choose his own with a top five pick in the 2013 draft. It's a much brighter spotlight, though, and would probably be even more so given Jay's last name. The pressure to win would be immense. On the plus side, there isn't a clear-cut powerhouse team in the NFC East, so the opportunity for a quick turnaround is definitely there.

Were I Mike Zimmer, I would be extremely leery of the Kansas City gig. The team has chewed up and spit out three head coaches in the past eight years -- Dick Vermeil, Herm Edwards and Todd Haley -- and is about to eject a fourth, Romeo Crennel. The Chiefs have only had one winning season since 2007 versus four years with four or fewer wins. The QB situation is a train wreck. On the other hand, they are in the running for the first overall pick in the draft and RB Jamaal Charles is the real deal. And playing in the same division as the Chargers and Raiders shouldn't make it that hard to get back into contention, though Kansas City isn't likely to threaten the Peyton Manning-led Broncos any time soon, no matter who they hire as head coach.

Should Jay Gruden leave, I have to think that the leading candidate to replace him is already in the house: Hue Jackson. Assuming, of course, that the former Raiders head coach doesn't land a head coaching job himself. On the defensive side, only current LB coach Paul Guenther has any experience as a defensive coordinator, and that is just one year on the college level, so the Bengals would almost certainly look outside the organization if they needed to fill Zimmer's shoes.