Mel Tucker left for Michigan State, and now the Colorado job is open. Who are five possible coaching candidates – if it’s not Eric Bieniemy.
Eric Bieniemy isn’t going to be the next head coach for the Colorado Buffaloes … maybe.
Oh sure, if he wants the job, it’s his no matter what – the former Buff running back legend would be the dream guy for the gig – but he’s too big, too good, and he’s going to get an NFL head coaching job at some point.
It could be with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Andy Reid might say he wants to stay around and ride this out with Patrick Mahomes as the new superstar of superstars, but even if it’s just three years or so, maybe Bieniemy stays put until it’s his time to take over.
Who wants to leave the life as an NFL coach who gets to work with an all-time great quarterback who’s only 24?
However, it’s very possible that Bieniemy wants the Colorado job because he’ll 1) get a massive salary bump and 2) it could be a whole lot of fun. But let’s assume that it doesn’t happen. Who else should be on Colorado’s short list?
Here are five Colorado coaching candidates who athletic director Rick George will at least need to think about if he can’t land Bieniemy.
5. Todd Graham, Hawaii head coach
Don’t just meh this, Colorado fans. He’d be a better hire than you might think.
Here’s the best part – Arizona State is still paying for him.
ASU had to drop close to $13 million to ask Graham to leave, and it’s still dropping checks to finish out the deal. The former Sun Devil head man is only making around 800k with the Rainbow Warriors, but he hasn’t even gotten started yet, and he’s still good enough to still be a Pac-12 coach.
He’s only 55, was decent at ASU – going to four bowl games in five years with two ten-win seasons with a Pac-12 South title – and he knows how to crank up an offense.
Okay, okay, this wouldn’t be a disappointment considering Bieniemy is the dream, but Graham would win right away.
If I didn’t lose you with the idea of Todd Graham …
4. Barry Odom, Arkansas defensive coordinator
DON’T LEAVE … stay with me here.
Colorado isn’t going to be in the hunt for Urban Meyer – it’s going to have to punch its weight if it can’t get Bieniemy.
The $2.4 million buyout by Missouri isn’t at the Todd Graham level, but it’s still something. Along with that, he was a whole lot better at Missouri than he got credit for.
Yeah, he went 25-25 in his four years in Columbia, but when he had the right offensive coordinator, his offenses were explosive, his defenses were normally solid, and the teams he put together that had so many problems against the better SEC programs would do just fine in the Pac-12.
Odom improved in each of his first three years a Mizzou – going from four wins, to seven, to eight – and then the program was hit with bullspit NCAA sanctions, didn’t have a bowl game to play for, QB Kelly Bryant was banged midseason, the O died, and the team finished 6-6.
Like Graham, Odom is a better head coach than you might think. And so is …
3. Willie Taggart, Florida Atlantic head coach
You see that thing that’s happening at Oregon? Who set the wheels in motion to get that up and rolling again?
Yes, Taggart has never won a bowl game. Yes, he has never won a bowl game partly because he left WKU for USF, USF for Oregon, and Oregon for Florida State. Yes, he has never coached in a conference championship game, much less win one, and yes, his 21 games at FSU were painful.
But yes, he wasn’t handed a full cupboard from Jimbo Fisher when he took over the job. Dog his short stint in Tallahassee all you want, but 21 games isn’t enough time to work to crank up a high-end program. It just didn’t work.
Here’s the thing – get him right now on the cheap, because his stock is going to go way, way up again two years from now.
He’s stepping into a nice situation at Florida Atlantic, he’s going to win really, really big, and then he’ll be in line for a better gig than Colorado.
There’s a reason he was wanted at Oregon and Florida State – he builds programs. He might not turn Colorado into what Oregon is now, but can certainly be a difference-maker in a good time to take over the Pac-12 South.
2. Bill Napier, Louisiana head coach
There wouldn’t be a list of top head coaching possibilities without having Napier on it.
The 40-year-old is coming off an 11-win season with two Sun Belt West titles in two years, his offenses are dangerous, and he’s more than due to get one of the bigger gigs considering his resumé.
The former Arizona State offensive coordinator was also the quarterback coach for a year at Colorado State – it’s not like he’d be a fish out of water in Boulder or the Pac-12.
Like Taggart, Colorado would be getting him at a good time at a relatively solid value. If 2020 is like 2019, Napier is going to be the hot name for a bigger-time job.
And the same goes for …
1. Graham Harrell, USC offensive coordinator
Colorado is never afraid to make a bold choice and take a bit of a call when it comes to its head coaches.
Harrell might be 34, and his resumé is only as a one-year offensive coordinator at USC after doing big things for three years as the North Texas OC, but his attacks produce massive numbers.
Don’t let it be lost that the Trojan passing game was amazing – remember, the O had to deal with three different quarterbacks throughout the year – even though the season was a disappointment overall.
There might be some growing pains, and he might be a year or two away from a good Power Five job. but get him to Boulder and the passing game playmakers will flock to the school …
If Colorado doesn’t get Eric Bieniemy.