Now that the Buffalo Bills have settled matters in the front office, their search for a new head coach has begun in earnest. Russ Brandon, the newly appointed team president and CEO, told radio station WGR 550 that he and three companions - GM Buddy Nix, Assistant GM Doug Whaley and Senior VP of Football Administration Jim Overdorf - will board a flight to Arizona to begin conducting interviews.
There are three candidates in that area - all current or former members of the Arizona Cardinals' coaching staff - that have been linked to Buffalo's head coaching vacancy. Those three men are:
- Ken Whisenhunt: He was fired as head coach on Monday after Arizona's 4-0 start melted down into a 5-11 finish. Whisenhunt, 50, was 45-51 in six seasons with the Cardinals, a stretch that included two post-season appearances, a 4-2 playoff record and an appearance in Super Bowl XLIII. In his last three seasons, however, the Cardinals were just 18-30 overall. Whisenhunt is thought to be well-regarded by Brandon.
- Ray Horton: Unlike Whisenhunt, Horton still has a job in Arizona as the defensive coordinator; the entire defensive staff was retained. Horton, 52, is a candidate to replace Whisenhunt as the Cardinals' head coach. He's been Arizona's defensive coordinator for two years, and like Whisenhunt himself is a former member of the Pittsburgh Steelers' coaching staff (defensive backs).
- Russ Grimm: The third Cardinals coach linked to the job is also the most loosely linked, as only one unconfirmed report has emerged connecting Grimm to Buffalo. He has previously been a Bills coaching candidate and turned down the opportunity. Whisenhunt's assistant head coach and offensive line coach was fired on Monday, as well; Grimm has no head coaching experience (like Horton), but the 53-year-old has been coaching NFL blockers (tight ends and lines) for 20 years.
The Bills have also been linked to three more coaching candidates - and one of them may be easy to interview while they're on this little trip to Arizona. The names of the other three men:
- Mike McCoy: The 40-year-old offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos is on a bye week before his team begins its playoff run, and is reported to be a head coaching candidate in Arizona (as well as Chicago). It's not yet known if Buffalo has received permission to interview McCoy, but Adam Schefter reports that they have requested it. McCoy, a long-time assistant under John Fox with no head coaching experience, is one of the hottest names on the market thanks to the adaptability he displayed in 2011 in designing a playoff-caliber offense around Tim Tebow.
- Doug Marrone: The lone college coach linked to Buffalo at this point, Marrone, 48, has spent the past four seasons as the head coach at Syracuse. He's 25-25 in that time frame, having won bowl games in two of those four seasons after inheriting a 3-9 outfit vacated by Greg Robinson. Prior to his run at Syracuse, Marrone spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator for Sean Payton with the New Orleans Saints. Marrone will reportedly interview for the job, though the logistics of an Arizona trip indicate that the interview may not take place for a few days.
- Hue Jackson: Currently an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals, Jackson, 47, is much more well-known for his one-year stint as head coach of the 8-8 Oakland Raiders. He's also had stints as a play-caller in Washington and Atlanta, as well as a four-year run doing so at California and USC in the 1990s. Though no word of an interview has surfaced - due chiefly to the fact that Jackson can't schedule interviews until next week, after Cincinnati's first playoff game - he has been reliably linked to Buffalo's opening.
One man linked to Buffalo's job in one direction is former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith, who has reportedly expressed interest in working in Buffalo because of the team's significant talent on defense. The Bills, however, have not yet been reported as having any interest in Smith for the opening, an important note largely being glossed over.