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Penn State Coaching Search: Wishes and Best Guesses

[Update on Munchak. He's issued a strong denial of any interest in the Penn State job, as reported by the Tennesseean's Jim Wyatt: "I have a great deal of respect for PSU and I hope they find a great coach there, but I am happy where I'm at. I love my alma mater, but I have no interest in being the head coach at Penn State. I never want to leave Tennessee."]

The Mike Munchak rumors are flying today, but let's be real. These remain Wild Ass Guesses. Actual sources are practically non-existent, and while Munchak is a great candidate for many reasons, it's hard to avoid the nagging reality that he's been with the Titans/Oilers for 30 years and finally made it to the top of the organization. Would he really leave after just one year as a NFL head coach?

We've all been kicking around the various rumors and possibilities for weeks. With the announcement apparently ready to be dropped in a week or two, it's time to get everyone on the record. Who do you want to be the next head coach, and who do you predict it'll actually be? Six of your BSD writers give their opinions, but as always, please play along in the comments. Obviously, many of the entries below were written prior to the Munchak statement above.


Want: Chris Petersen. His offenses get all the headlines, but did you know that since 2007, the Boise State defense has been ranked no lower than 25th nationally? This wouldn't be the kind of hire that typically falls flat. You know, when a school goes after an "offensive guru" to lead the team, but then realizes that you need to play defense once every so often to win. Petersen can't go any further at Boise. Sure, they'll do anything to keep him there. But moving on to Penn State would compare to George S. Patton moving from horse cavalry to heavy tanks.

Expect: Tom Clements or Mike Munchak. I'm not sold on Munchak, only because he's been with the Oilers/Titans for 10x as long as he was at Penn State. There is loyalty among Nittany Lions, but what Munchak has in that NFL franchise is incredibly great. Clements would be an interesting hire, but I've not been a fan of hiring a position coach for this position. Even hiring coordinators to be head coaches isn't a guarantee, but at least they've come as close as possible to being a head coach.


Want: Mark Richt. Petersen appears to be a great coach and his Boise State teams are always well-prepared. If we were to hire him, it would be the "splash" hire that might propel the team past the scandal and to the next level. Still, it bothers me that he lacks the experience of competing in a power conference week-to-week. That's why Richt makes sense looking merely at statistics - 106-37, 7-3 in bowls, 2-1 in the BCS, 5 SEC East titles, 2 SEC titles, seven 10-win seasons in 11 years. Add to that his bonafides in the things that Penn Staters care about - family, player graduation, commitment, and the pro-style offense - and Richt is a clear choice. If Georgia hesitates, we need to make an offer.

Expect: Tom Clements. Seems to be the consensus back-up option, assuming they can't make the big time hire everyone wants due to the current climate. A smart, offensive-minded coach who could be successful by hiring the right defensive staff and flashing his Super Bowl rings and Aaron Rodgers credentials. My concern is clearly recruiting and his comfort in a college program atmosphere. He has very little collegiate experience, and none within the last 16 years. I'm not convinced that translates well, but I don't think it should necessarily preclude him from consideration.


Want: Mario Cristobal. He's young, energetic, and already has an impressive record. He's brought Florida International to back to back bowls, and has done so with garbage facilities, zero support from administration, and little from fans. With all of the resources and support available at Penn State, Cristobal would be able to show why he's one of the rising stars of the coaching profession. He also wears a shirt and tie on the sideline.

Expect: Tom Clements. In light of the information vacuum confronting us, I have no alternative but to expect the only candidate that has both interviewed, and wants the job. His record of developing QBs is impressive, but he has no head coaching experience on any level, and hasn't recruited since the early 90s. I'd be 100% on board with Clements coming on as the offensive coordinator, but as a head coach? Desperate.


Want: Jon Gruden. He has a great mind for for football, seems like a high energy guy, and comes across as a likeable guy for recruits and their families. He is a big name that would be instantly recognizable to the top recruits.

Expect: Mike Munchak. He is a safe, PSU-type hire. He brings head coaching experience as well as a strong OL background, which is definitely a good thing. But he has no college coaching experience, and might not be able to relate to the recruits who may not have heard of him.


Want: Chip Kelly. Sure, Petersen would be a hell of a grab himself, but why not make an attempt to lure the guy who is responsible for the fastest offense in college football up in Oregon? Unlike Petersen, Kelly has East Coast coaching ties, having coached for a decade and a half at Columbia, Johns Hopkins, and mainly New Hampshire. In fact, Kelly's New Hampshire ties have labeled him part of the "New Hampshire Mafia" along with Dan Mullen and former Maryland OC Gary Crowton.

Despite the fact PSU is also a Nike-affiliated school, I realize it will take an absolute miracle to entice Kelly to leave what is affectionately dubbed "Nike U" and his buddy, Phil Knight. It is fun to dream though, about PSU coming out in Nike Pro Combat unis while running that fast-break offense.

Expect: Al Golden. Yes, he signed that extension at Miami, but in this day and age, extensions don't mean squat. Golden is still very much a PSU guy and his wife supposedly has family in the State College area. Plus, he's accustomed to being tasked with cleaning up messes by now, having done so at at Temple, and now in the process of doing so at "The U." Given how virtually no info has been leaked from the searching committee, would it totally surprise you if they had actually settled on Golden a week or two ago and are simply waiting for the right moment to announce? Exactly.


Want: Chris Petersen. His teams are perpetually two steps ahead from a schematic standpoint. Give a coach like Petersen the facilities and resources at Penn State, and Ohio State vs. Penn State turns into a game the magnitude of LSU vs. Alabama within five years. Sadly, it's not in the cards for PSU and Petersen.

Expect: Larry Johnson, Sr. My original response was Clements, but why not get weird with this? There have been whispers around the program for years indicating that Tom Bradley wouldn't have been the preferred in-house candidate if Joe Paterno retired under normal circumstances. With other candidates dropping like flies, perhaps the search committee has been forced to look inside the program for its future, after all. Johnson is a dynamic recruiter and has produced numerous All-Americans and first round draft picks, while Vanderlinden has defensive coordinator and head coaching experience. Not a bad base from which to build a coaching staff. (Also, this will never, ever happen.)


Want: Chris Petersen. Proven success, doing more with less and I'm not concerned with the recent recruiting violations Boise State took on. He also brings offensive intrigue and even took a crash course in PA recruiting when he spent a year as QB coach at Pitt. He's also the only semi-realistic candidate that brings real national pop to the program if hired.

Expect: Tom Clements. He's the only one without either something valuable already in his back pocket or a very strong "rising star" label to protect. A real want for the job probably makes him the lead horse.