Five under-the-radar assistants who should be head-coaching candidates

It seems as though the same names are cycled through the head-coaching radar every year. We all know Jay Gruden, Mike Zimmer and Darrell Bevell, but here's a handful of coordinators around the league who deserve a better shot.
1. Pete Carmichael Jr., New Orleans Saints Offensive Coordinator
Um, hello? I haven't read any rumors or noticed any speculative tweets on my Twitter timeline about Carmichael as a head-coaching candidate. Why is this? The guy's been in New Orleans since the start of the Sean Payton Era and his coaching connection with Drew Brees dates back to the San Diego Chargers in 2002. 
Carmichael's been the Saints offensive coordinator since 2009, and yeah, Payton calls the plays, but I think it's safe to say that Carmichael knows the Payton-Brees system pretty well at this point. 
I won't insult your intelligence by providing statistics that demonstrate how prolific New Orleans' offense has been—you know. It's been perennially amazing. I guess I'm just surprised more teams apparently aren't interested in adopting New Orleans' offensive philosophy by hiring Carmichael, who, essentially can't "move up" with his current employer. 
2. Aaron Kromer, Chicago Bears Offensive Coordinator
Another Saints connection. Kromer is currently under quarterback whisperer Marc Trestman in Chicago, but he spent 2008 to 2012 in New Orleans, first as the running backs coach and then as the offensive line coach. 
He also has some—rather unique—head-coaching experience. Amidst the suspensions of Payton and linebackers coach Joe Vitt last season, Kromer took over as the interim head coach. 
Sure, he went 2-4 running the show, but with the way the Saints offense has produced and the fine campaign the Bears offense just pieced together, one could make a logical argument for Kromer as a fine head-coaching candidate. 
Oh, and like Carmichael, Kromer doesn't exactly have a lot of room to be promoted with his current employer. Trestman will be calling the offensive plays for a while with the Bears. 
3. Mike Pettine, Buffalo Bills Defensive Coordinator 
In 2012, the Bills defense was really horrible. It doesn't deserve words more descriptive words than that. With Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams, Jairus Byrd, Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin, it allowed the most rushing yards per drive and the most touchdowns per drive in the NFL. 
Then Doug Marrone was hired, who brought in Pettine—a Rex Ryan protege–to lead his defense. 
Pettine made all the difference in 2013. 
Buffalo finished first in yards allowed per drive, 11th in points per drive, 12th in touchdowns per drive and tallied 56 sacks, the second-highest total in the NFL. The run defense improved, too—up to 20th in yards allowed per drive. 
Pettine's scheme is "multiple", blitz-happy and has a track record of frustrating the living hell out of quarterbacks. 
The Bills defense wasn't perfect this season, but the massive jump in production can't be ignored. 
4. Vic Fangio, San Francisco Defensive Coordinator
I've heard about Greg Roman, the 49ers offensive coordinator, rumored to be a head-coaching candidate. What about Fangio? San Francisco's defense hasn't exactly been porous since he followed Jim Harbaugh from Stanford in 2011. 
Inheriting Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Justin and Aldon Smith must have been nice, but San Fran's defense has been in the top 4 of points allowed per drive during the three years Fangio has called the shots. 
There's really not much more to say about him in regard to this situation.
If Roman is a hot head-coaching name, Fangio should be as well.
5. Matt Patricia, New England Patriots Defensive Coordinator
Ok, it may be too soon for Patricia, who's only been the Patriots defensive coordinator for two seasons, but he's been learning defensive principles  rom Bill Belichick since 2006, when he was New England's linebackers coach, after spending two years as an offensive coaching assistant. 
Belichick is a true defensive mastermind, but is it fair to say that Patricia is just a worthless stand-in? 
Despite losing Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, New England's defense allowed the 10th-fewest points per drive in 2013. 
A season ago, it finished 12th, despite a general sentiment that it was subpar. 
He's another coordinator who doesn't have much room to move up, and he may love coaching for the Patriots, but for a team looking for a young, and presumably smart defensive coach, the 39-year-old Patricia could be a dark horse for a head-coaching gig. 

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at, Deadspin,, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.