Arkansas’ Jeff Long has shown in the past that he knows how to make a splash (targeting and hiring Bobby Petrino for football and Mike Anderson for basketball). For that reason, the fact that a couple of pro coaches’ names were tossed out on the internet/grapevine over the weekend might make some amount of sense.
The site CoachingSearch.com claimed Sunday that sources had told writer Pete Roussel that ex-NFL head coach “Steve Mariucci is interested in the Arkansas head coaching job.” Also, “Yet another source tells me that New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels would be willing to talk if contacted by Long.”
Mariucci was tracked down by the better-known Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com and according to the ex-49ers and ex-Lions top man, the report was news to him:
“I just had a few phone calls from my son and few friends asking what’s going on and to be honest I hadn’t heard about (the report). It comes as a complete surprise to me.”
That said, “Mooch” — who once coached California for a season prior to his NFL stints and who is now working for NFL Network — didn’t rule the Razorbacks’ job out… or in:
“It has to be the right situation. I haven’t ruled (coaching again) out. I enjoy what I do now. If something that comes up that makes sense, but I’ve had no contact with Arkansas.”
Or it could be that like — say — Jon Gruden and his agent, Mariucci and his reps just like hearing the coach’s name tossed about in connection with high-profile jobs.
The McDaniels rumor seems a bit more far-fetched. McDaniels just returned to his old post as New England’s offensive coordinator after the Super Bowl, replacing Bill O’Brien who departed to become Penn State’s head coach. He just had a big hand in luring receiver Brandon Lloyd — who he’d worked with in Denver and St. Louis — to Foxborough.
His only head coaching experience came with the Broncos, lasted less than two years, and left his name somewhat tarnished. Like another ex-Belichick assistant named Charlie Weis, McDaniels was viewed as being a pain in the rear without delivering Belichickian results on the field. Many believe he returned to New England as some sort of unnamed coach-in-waiting for the Patriots.
Mariucci is basically a total free agent when it comes to coaching so if we had to pick him or McDaniels as being the most believable unbelievable rumor, we’d go with the former. But we think both are longshots.
Now back to Long for a second. Not only has he shown that he can make a splash, but he’s also proven that he doesn’t worry about people disliking him for raiding another team for their coach at a bad time (taking Petrino from the Atlanta Falcons midseason, for example). And that brings us to UAB head coach and ex-Arkansas O-coordinator Garrick McGee, current Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville, and current South Florida head coach Skip Holtz. All have been rumored as possibilities to pull up stakes and move to Fayetteville this spring.
Holtz denied interest in the job last week. Tuberville would most assuredly love to get out of Lubbock while the getting’s good — and don’t think he wouldn’t enjoy taking the job of a former assistant who once tried to snake his Auburn gig — but he doesn’t seem to be the kind of “wow” hire that Long needs to make. Remember, the AD’s job could be on the line depending on his hire.
At some point — once all the sex and phone records talk ends in the Petrino scandal — someone’s going to ask how Petrino was able to bend the school’s rules and quickly hire his mistress into a job in a department belonging to Long. Wait, we just did ask that didn’t we?
Again, how did Petrino manage to speed up the hiring process and put his honey in a job right under Long’s nose. If Long was giving him that much autonomy, he wound up getting burned because of it.
Long needs to please the fanbase or else some will turn on him if the UA program starts to backslide a bit. (Deny it all you like, Hog fans, but that’s how the business works. If UA starts to lose, more folks will claim that Long overreacted with Petrino and it’ll happen long before any cock crows three times.)
Tuberville and Holtz aren’t going to excite Razorback fans. Mariucci and McDaniels might.
But McGee — who’s been at UAB for just about four months — might please some Arkansas fans who want this season saved and want the school’s recruiting efforts shored up quickly. On Saturday, McGee told Al.com that he wasn’t going to directly comment on the Arkansas situation saying only:
“I really enjoy the job that I have. I trust the kids, I think they have bought into what I’m thinking about. My family loves the city and I’m not interested in talking about me or my employment with any other university.”
Meanwhile, more than one source in Fayetteville has told us that it’s looking less and less like McGee will be Long’s rapid-fire solution. Readers of this site know that this writer is of the opinion that Arkansas should tab an interim coach for 2012 and spend the next eight months looking for the absolute perfect fit for it’s head coaching position.
After all, if the school grabs someone who would be willing to walk out on his current school post-spring, wouldn’t that require bringing someone who will have just proven to be rather untrustworthy? Personally, I’d be a bit concerned about hiring someone who’d just bailed on his last program at the worst possible time.
Of course, that didn’t stop Long from hiring Petrino. Nor did Petrino’s reputation for back-stabbing ex-bosses — Louisville’s Tom Jurich, Auburn’s Tuberville, and the Falcons’ Arthur Blank.
New Arkansas linebackers coach and assistant head coach Taver Johnson has been handling the interim gig in Fayetteville during spring drills. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino — Bobby’s brother — and new defensive coordinator Paul Haynes are also possibilities for the interim spot this fall.
Over the weekend, we heard the name of running backs coach Tim Horton kicked around as a possibility quite a bit, too.
If Mariucci is available and interested it would could be a clean, big-name hire for Long (with no clue at all of how he would get along with the UA staff or players he’d inherit for the fall). If not Mariucci, we still believe the school will go the interim route and we’ll put our money on Horton for the moment.
But our feelings could change by dusk. Stay tuned.