Now for the unusual suspects.
Set aside the hotshot offensive gurus and vibrant young defensive minds. The Rams will talk to them, and so will every other NFL team looking for a head coach.
But Los Angeles is a different job — the spotlight, the Inglewood stadium, the expectations for No. 1 pick Jared Goff, the wealth of owner Stan Kroenke — and the Rams might need to take a more creative approach to fill their vacancy.
Don’t rule out the possibility of the Rams trading for a current NFL coach, maybe someone who’s the face of another franchise. It’s worth noting that Los Angeles doesn’t have a lot of players or draft picks to trade, and not every owner would be swayed enough by a chunk of money to give up an excellent coach.
Still, trades for coaches do happen. That’s how Jon Gruden went from Oakland to Tampa Bay, Bill Belichick went from the New York Jets to New England, and Bill Parcells went from the Patriots to the Jets.
Even great coaches have a shelf life, and players tend to tune out their message as the years pass. (That makes Belichick’s 1½-decade run of success in New England all the more impressive.)
“Al Davis and Bill Walsh were right, 10 years in one place is about enough,” said Bill Polian, a Hall of Fame personnel executive. “Because over that time, even if you re-invent yourself, you wear out your welcome. You wear on people.”
Trades can happen out of nowhere, as was the case with Gruden, so what might sound like utter fantasy football now might not be entirely ridiculous a few weeks from now.
Consider John Harbaugh, for instance. The idea Baltimore might part ways with him would send laughter echoing through the Inner Harbor. He’s one of the best coaches in the league, and if the Ravens win at Pittsburgh on Christmas, they’ll be well on their way to their seventh playoff appearance in his nine years. By all appearances, Harbaugh, General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti form an unbreakable iron triangle.
The Ravens declined comment on how much time Harbaugh has left on his current contract. The most recent news reports on the topic came in 2013 when he was extended through this season.
Possibly less of a trade longshot than Harbaugh is New Orleans Coach Sean Payton, among the best play-callers and offensive innovators in the league. He was hugely instrumental in Drew Brees taking a big step forward in his career after a nearly career-ending shoulder injury.
This off-season, the Saints re-upped Payton with a five-year extension worth about $9 million a year. A knock against him is the Saints have yet to get their defense right, and the head coach has to bear some responsibility for that. After two 7-9 seasons, the 6-8 Saints would have to win out to finish better than that.
The point is, the Rams are determined in this hunt to leave no stones unturned. That means looking beyond the obvious interviews of successful coordinators — Atlanta’s Kyle Shanahan, New England’s Josh McDaniels, Detroit’s Teryl Austin, Pittsburgh’s Todd Haley, Miami’s Vance Joseph — and exploring other avenues.
Said Rams executive Kevin Demoff, in the wake of the Jeff Fisher firing: “Both the good parts and the bad parts of going through this process in the NFL is there is no proven way to get it done.”
Nobody saw Gruden leaving Oakland until Raiders owner Al Davis, in a flurry of faxes, sold the wildly popular coach to Tampa Bay for four high draft picks (two firsts, two seconds) and $8 million in cash.
That was a much steeper price than Kansas City paid St. Louis for Dick Vermeil (a second and a third), Washington paid the Chiefs for Marty Schottenheimer (two thirds), the Patriots paid the Jets for Belichick (a first), or the Jets paid the Patriots for Parcells (a first, second and fourth, plus $300,000).
In a year when the Rams might not only have to share a city with the Chargers, but also could be competing with them for head coaches, nothing is out of bounds.