Should former U of L coach Bobby Petrino be considered a top candidate to return to the Cardinals' program?
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Charlie Strong is bound for Texas. If you have watched Cardinals' athletic director Tom Jurich fill the last four football head coaching vacancies at Louisville, you know several things:
Jurich works fast. He already has a list. He does not use search firms or committees. He believes personality fit is crucial. He's not afraid to hire a guy without head coaching experience.
With those guidelines in mind, Eric Crawford and I have built a list of 13 candidates, in alphabetical order. Here goes:
PROS: Dynamic leader and motivator who built a defense that ranked first in total and rushing defense this season. Popular with the players with excellent recruiting connections in Florida. Can continue what Strong started.
CONS: No head coaching experience. As a former Texas player, might join Strong in Austin. Not known for his offensive skills.
David Cutcliffe, 59, Duke head coach
PROS: Named the national coach of the year this season by many after leading the lowly Blue Devils to the ACC championship game and a bowl appearance against Texas A&M. Beloved as Peyton Manning's quarterback coach at Tennessee and also won at Ole Miss.
CONS: Seems to be great fit at Duke, where he has served as the head coach since 2008. Not the youngest guy on the list.
Tony Levine, 41, Houston head coach
PROS: Former U of L assistant coach for two seasons (plus an administrative year) under Bobby Petrino. Has coached in the NFL for the Carolina Panthers. In two seasons as the head coach at Houston, Levine has won 14 of 26 games.
CONS: Only two seasons of head coaching experience. Not known for a flashy offense. No real sizzle here.
Jim McElwain, 51, Colorado State head coach
PROS: Former John L. Smith assistant here who followed Smith to Michigan State as his assistant head coach from 2003-05. Served as the offensive coordinator for Alabama from 2008-11 when the Crimson Tide won two BCS titles.
CONS: Has a 12-14 record during two season at CSU, although the Rams improved from four victories to eight this season. Can be brusque -- he worked for Nick Saban.
Derek Mason, 43, Stanford defensive coordinator
PROS: Spirited leader of defense that led the Cardinal to the Pac-12 title while studying under head coach David Shaw. Turned down opportunities to interview at Connecticut and Army. In 2012 Mason was named a finalist for the Frank Broyles Award, which is presented to the top assistant coach in college football.
CONS: No head coaching experience and told Jon Wilner of the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News that he was "a ways away," before he would pursue a head-coaching position. Few connections in this part of the football world.
Chad Morris, 45, Clemson offensive coordinator
PROS: Developed quarterback Tajh Boyd while running the Tigers' offense that has delivered record-breaking numbers during an 11-2 season. Clemson finished in the Top 20 nationally in passing offense as well as total offense.
CONS: Texas A&M grad who worked on the high school level for 16 seasons in Texas. No college head coaching experience. Would he recruit effectively?
Pat Narduzzi, 47, Michigan State defensive coordinator
PROS: Did you watch the Spartans beat Ohio State in the Big Ten title game? How about their performance in the Rose Bowl? Know this: Michigan State ranked second to Louisville in total defense during the 2013 season, allowing 252.2 yards per game. Considered one of the top assistants in the game.
CONS: No head coaching experience. No ties to Louisville. Has not coached on the offensive side of ball since 1991. Modest recruiting ties to Florida.
Bobby Petrino, 52, Western Kentucky coach
PROS: Won 41 of 50 games during his crackling four-season run at Louisville from 2003-06, including an Orange Bowl victory. Master developer of quarterbacks. Has vocal support from former U of L guys who played for him.
CONS: Flirted with other jobs nearly every season he was here, bolting for the Atlanta Falcons not long after agreeing to a contract extension. Later walked out on the Falcons mid-season to take the job at Arkansas, where he was fired for lying about having a relationship with a woman he hired to work for the football program.
Rich Rodriguez, 50, Arizona head coach
PROS: Popularized a no-huddle version of the spread offense at West Virginia, where he won 60 of 86 games, including the Gator, Sugar and Fiesta Bowls. Has finished 8-5 in consecutive seasons at Arizona, winning back-to-back bowl games.
CONS: Was fired at Michigan in 2010 after winning only 15 of 37 games. The school admitted four major NCAA violations during Rodriguez's tenure.
Greg Schiano, 47, former Rutgers, Tampa head coach
PROS: Helped lead a football renaissance at Rutgers, finishing 68-67 and making six bowl appearances at a program considered a long-time loser. His 2006 team won 11 games and stopped Louisville from finishing undefeated. Developed multiple pros, guys like Ray Rice, while recruiting Florida and the Northeast.
CONS: Was fired as the head coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monday after winning only 11 of 32 games and dealing with a string of unhappy players. Not a media darling.
Kirby Smart, 38, Alabama defensive coordinator
PROS: Teamed with Nick Saban to put together a defense that has won BCS championships and produced multiple high NFL draft picks at Tuscaloosa. Considered a rising star who draws major love from the TV talking heads.
CONS: Primarily a defensive guy (one season coaching running backs at Georgia) without head coaching experience.
PROS: Respected by U of L athletic director Tom Jurich. Did excellent work improving the offense after taking over from Mike Sanford during the middle of the 2011 season. Worked well with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Great with the media and fans.
CONS: Finished 11-22 during three seasons as head coach at Southern Illinois from 1994-96. Some fans were critical of what they judged to be Watson's conservative play-calling during the 2013 season.
Matt Wells, 40, Utah State head coach
PROS: Former U of L quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator during 2009, Kragthorpe's final season at U of L. Played quarterback for John L. Smith at Utah State, where his first team went 9-5 and defeated Northern Illinois in a bowl game.
CONS: Only one year of head coaching experience and even a modest tie to Kragthorpe cannot help with the fan base.