Gary Kubiak's firing Friday officially opens the 2014 head-coaching derby.
The question the Houston Texans face is whether they will follow the current trend in coaching hires. Last year, eight new head coaches entered the league, and seven of them were offensive-minded. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league.
Easier offseason programs have opened the door for more college coaches to get into the NFL. Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly said he almost had more time to work with players in college than in the NFL, which limits players to 10 organized workouts in the offseason programs and has curbed hitting in training camp.
Texans owner Bob McNair won't be cheap in trying to find a new coach. He's an aggressive owner who is willing to do whatever he can to get his team to a Super Bowl. In fact, he thought this team could get there, but an 11-game losing streak has the Texans at the top of the draft and now Wade Phillips as the interim head coach replacing Kubiak.
Here are the main candidates for the job, but not in any order of probability.
Jon Gruden, ESPN analyst and former head coach of the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers
McNair wants a coach with head-coaching experience and NFL coaching experience. Since he was let go by the Buccaneers, Gruden is always a first call for any aggressive owner. It would be costly. He probably wouldn't leave ESPN for less than $8 million a year. Whoever gets the job is likely to draft a quarterback and develop him. Gruden could have his pick of the NFL draft if he's interested in this job.
Jay Gruden, offensive coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals
Jon's brother has done a great job turning Andy Dalton from a college quarterback into an NFL-playoff-caliber quarterback. He's developed one of the most talented offenses in football with great receivers and great tight ends. Dalton and Gruden are on the verge of their third consecutive trip to the playoffs. Gruden's head-coaching experience is in the Arena Football League.
Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers
Roman is a great offensive mind who has helped Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers take two consecutive trips to the NFC title game. The only thing that might not fit is that he doesn't have head-coaching experience. McNair prefers a coach who has led a team in college or in the pros.
David Shaw, head coach, Stanford Cardinal
With Kevin Sumlin signing an extension with Texas A&M and presumably off the market, Shaw is considered the hottest college head coach who might be pursued by the NFL. The problem is most people believe he'll stay at Stanford. Nevertheless, it's worth a call for McNair.
Wade Phillips, interim head coach/defensive coordinator, Houston Texans
According to a source, Phillips will discuss the possibility of being the head coach with McNair on Friday. This might be considered the unofficial first job interview that McNair gives. For this to work, Phillips will have to come up with a good offensive coach to work as a playcaller.
Lovie Smith, former head coach, Chicago Bears
Smith sat out the year without a job, but he's among the favorites for head coaches with defensive experience. His hire, though, would force a change. The Texans are a 3-4 defense. Smith is a 4-3, Cover 2 coach. Nevertheless, he's a winner and a good leader.
Mike Shanahan, head coach, Washington Redskins
"What?" you might ask. If he's let go in Washington or if he re-signs but he's asked to fire his son, Shanahan would have no problem with a quick transition in Houston. Shanahan and Kubiak run the same type of offense. Shanahan proved last year he could work with a rookie quarterback in taking Robert Griffin III to the playoffs. If the Texans are drafting a quarterback and Shanahan is available, it's an easy fit.
Ken Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator, San Diego Chargers
He'd be a strong candidate because he's won in Arizona and is great at coaching quarterbacks. His presence in San Diego has helped Philip Rivers bounce back after a couple of off seasons.
Tom Cable, assistant head coach, Seattle Seahawks
Cable is a master of working with the offensive line, and his zone-blocking scheme would be a good fit in Houston. He has head-coaching experience in Oakland.
Hue Jackson, assistant coach, Cincinnati Bengals
Like Cable, Jackson was the head coach in Oakland and does a good job of working with an offense and young quarterbacks. If McNair is looking to rebuild the offense, Jackson is a consideration.