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Scouting GM and coaching candidates past 2009

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HC Jauron is squarely on the hot seat (Associated Press)

We here at Buffalo Rumblings have spent every spare second of our time over the past couple of months looking forward to the 2009 off-season. When it comes to the Buffalo Bills, the best a fan of the team can usually do is look forward. So, naturally, we've discussed nearly every potential free agent, draft pick and trade opportunity at great length - and rest assured that we'll continue to do just that, particularly as the action heats up here in a couple of weeks.

Most Bills fans considered 2008 a "make or break" year for the Bills. Clearly, a third straight 7-9 finish left the Bills in the "break" category, yet head coach Dick Jauron and his staff were retained for a fourth season, much to the chagrin of the vast majority of the fan base. Many folks believe that the reportedly three-year extension that Jauron signed will keep him in his current post past 2009. I consider those folks pessimists, and consider the notion false. I remain adamant that if Jauron and his Bills can't, at a very minimum, throw together a winning record in 2009, owner Ralph Wilson will pull out his dynamite and blow the whole operation apart.

I'm the type of guy that loves looking toward the future, and I also enjoy the process of scouring front office and coaching talent. I find the chemistry, relationships and inner workings of front office personnel and coaching staffs fascinating. There are always a glut of outstanding coaches and personnel men ripe for the picking, ready to run the show. Rest assured that I'll be pulling for the Bills' current regime in 2009 as hard as I've pulled for them every year. I'm not one of those fans that roots for a guy to lose just to see change. But I am a fan that likes to know more about guys that might potentially be able to turn this franchise around should the current regime fail in their second straight "make or break" season. Therefore, I've got thirteen names for y'all that I'll be paying close attention to as the 2009 season unfolds...

The One-Man Show
Bill Cowher :: CBS Analyst
- Put this name in the "duh" category. Cowher is one of four "big-name" head coaching candidates for 2010, leading a pack that includes Mike Shanahan, Mike Holmgren and Jon Gruden. Cowher's the only name in that group that I'd be comfortable employing, because all four would want a degree of personnel power, and I don't like the way the rest of these guys build teams. Keep an eye on the situation in Carolina - John Fox is on the hot seat, and without a playoff win next year, he'll likely be fired. Cowher would jump at the chance to coach in his home state. If Carolina isn't a destination, however, it's not completely out of the question to rule out a Cowher-to-Buffalo scenario.

Top NFL Personnel Men
These are four names (and I'm sure they're all familiar to you) of men ready to take over GM responsibilities for an NFL franchise. They'll be the hot names on the market next season.

Eric DeCosta :: Director of College Scouting, Baltimore Ravens
- Ozzie Newsome gets all the credit in Baltimore, but the Ravens have had an outstanding scouting department for years, and DeCosta heads it up. He's just 37 years old and has a sharp mind. He tops my list of potential GM candidates for 2010 because he's a part of an outstanding organization and has a great drafting track record.

Marc Ross :: Director of College Scouting, New York Giants
- Ross has ties to the Bills, as he was a National Scout here for three years. He's also got vast scouting experience with the Eagles and Giants. It was Ross that helped bring in a Giants rookie class that sparked a Super Bowl title for the team in 2007. He's a bit greener prospect, but he's got future GM written all over him.

Greg Gabriel :: Director of College Scouting, Chicago Bears
- In case you can't tell, I limit my GM list to guys that deal with the college game. It's ultra-important to have ties to college, because as you're all well aware, the best teams are the most consistent (good) drafters. Gabriel is from Buffalo and has been mentioned as a potential GM here on more than one occasion. He'd be a good fit, though by no means is he an elite name out there.

Chris Polian :: VP of Football Operations, Indianapolis Colts
- Polian is the heir apparent to his father, Bill Polian, in Indianapolis. The Colts have actually denied other teams the opportunity to speak with Polian about their GM openings; only one team has received permission, but the Falcons eventually went with Thomas Dimitroff as their selection. Polian's going to be a great talent evaluator and he's been around the NFL his entire life, but it's extremely unlikely that he makes it out of Indy. Still, he deserves mention on this list.

Top NFL Assistant Coaches
I've got the names of eight assistant coaches from around the league who are ready to run the on-field operations of an NFL franchise. Most of these names are recognizable, and in some cases, it's hard to figure how they haven't landed jobs to this point in their careers.

Todd Bowles :: Assistant Head Coach/Secondary, Miami Dolphins
- Any disciple of Bill Parcells is OK in my book. Bowles was nothing short of a miracle worker last season in Miami, turning a Dolphins secondary very average in talent into a cohesive, functional group. His resume isn't extensive or lengthy, but Bowles is just that type of coach - similar to guys like Mike Tomlin (Steelers) and Raheem Morris (Buccaneers) - who has a certain energy that makes him ready to jump to the top of the charts. I consider him the top assistant in the NFL in terms of head coaching worthiness.

Jason Garrett :: Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
- It's bizarre to me that NFL owners and general managers would hold Garrett's handling of the prima donna-fest in Dallas against him. Todd Haley couldn't handle TO when he was Dallas' wide receivers coach, but he's got himself a head coaching gig, doesn't he? Garrett's got a sharp mind, and he's put together some solid offenses in Dallas. He's young, too. Garrett's going to be a good head coach when he finally gets his opportunity.

Russ Grimm :: Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line, Arizona Cardinals
- With Haley bolting for the Chiefs, Grimm is a candidate to become the next offensive coordinator in Arizona. Grimm has long been mentioned as a head coaching candidate in league circles, and very nearly got the Steelers gig that eventually went to Tomlin. He's one of the older names on this list, but age generally doesn't matter. He's got the right demeanor to lead a group of men.

Leslie Frazier :: Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator, Minnesota Vikings
- He's gotten ringing endorsements from several coaches, most notably Tony Dungy and John Harbaugh. However, Frazier's redeeming qualities - calm, intelligence and likability - may strike Bills fans as a little too "Jauron". I still rate him highly, because he's got the potential to be a good head coach, particularly if he's not taking notes on game management from his current boss, Brad Childress.

Ron Meeks :: Defensive Coordinator, Carolina Panthers
- This is just another guy that's renowned for being a great teacher. It helps that he's helped a team win a championship. I don't pigeon-hole Meeks as a strictly Cover 2 coach, but he's not on the top half of my list for a reason - he's made his name working under Tony Dungy and, in reality, behind Peyton Manning. Still, there is potential here.

Ron Rivera :: Defensive Coordinator, San Diego Chargers
- I've always liked the aggressive, hard-hitting style of Rivera's defenses. That's his personality and his coaching style, too. I'm of the opinion that Rivera should have been a head coach a long time ago, but there's a growing sentiment that Rivera may have hit his coaching peak at the defensive coordinator position.

Bobby April :: Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams, Buffalo Bills
- Special Teams coaches, in general, make good head coaches because they're familiar with the skill sets and strengths/weaknesses of every guy on the team. Some of the league's best coaches, including the aforementioned Cowher and Harbaugh, were special teams coordinators themselves. There isn't a better special teams coordinator in the league right now than our very own Bobby April. He's an energetic guy that captures the attention of his players. He's definitely a name to consider - and not just for the Bills, either.

Kyle Shanahan :: Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks, Houston Texans
- Ideally, Shanahan would come with his dad's mind and without his dad's baggage. Shanahan hasn't done a lot of play-calling in Houston - Gary Kubiak has been pretty protective of those responsibilities - but that's expected to change in 2009. I like young coaches, and Shanahan is definitely that. He's an energy guy, and he's got excellent bloodlines. He might not be a candidate in 2010, but he's certainly a coach to keep an eye on.