Once the Cincinnati Bengals fell to the Houston Texans during the Wild Card round last season, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer began accepting calls for possible head coaching vacancies. Since Zimmer's defense has finished in the top-seven in four of the past five seasons, it goes without saying that Zimmer has developed interest around the league. He's even been offered the head coaching job at the University of Nebraska in 2003, but rejected it, believing he'd get the same gig in the NFL.
In the past two years, it's been the theme. He's interviewed with five teams from the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the St. Louis Rams. Last year the Cleveland Browns sat down with Zimmer.
And at one point, Zimmer's agent was told that the Browns wanted a second interview, in a pool of candidates that included Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt and even Bruce Arians, who was still the Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator at the time. In the end Chudzinski was hired. And only 11 months later, he was fired.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner gave a press conference Monday afternoon and at one point, Banner told reporters that he doubts Cleveland will interview the same coaches they considered for the head coaching vacancy last year.
Banner didn't say flat out there would be no interviews w/HC candidates from last year. Just said probably not. #OBrienWhisenhunt— Steve Doerschuk (@sdoerschukREP) December 30, 2013
Mary Kay Cabot with the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that two leading candidates are Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels; two offensive-minded coaches, which hints at the team's philosophical search. Ian Rapoport and Adam Schefter are also reporting that Cleveland has requested permission to interview Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien, this year's sexy college coach, has also been mentioned, but he was also a candidate last year.
Lastly, as long as the Bengals are in the playoffs, Zimmer is going to focus on his defense rather than preparing for possible interviews.
"I hear guys say the last couple weeks at the end of the season they're preparing their stuff for their interviews, and I'm like, I'm never doing that," Zimmer told USA TODAY Sports on Friday in his office at Paul Brown Stadium. "My job is to take these players and try to do the best we can every week. I don't even look at that until after it's done."
Assistants on playoff teams that are playing this weekend, aren't allowed to interview until Jan. 12. Coaches on bye weeks, such as Gase, McDaniels and Quinn, are allowed to interview earlier because their teams are off next week.
It appears that two major themes are developing for candidacy: Youth (if not young college coaches) and offensive-minded philosophies. While it's wrong to think so, it's why I believe that Jay Gruden will generate more interest than Zimmer.
And if you looking for another reason, ask why Zimmer would walk into such instability after watching Chudzinski get the axe after one season.