Carroll's gone, Riley's out; what now?

With Pete Carroll having confirmed his move to Seattle and Oregon State's Mike Riley announcing he'll stay in Corvallis, USC is in full search mode.

As we expected, Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher was contacted about his interest. But Sports Illustrated's Peter King reports that the uncertainty at USC has led Fisher to decline. Fisher also turned down the USC job in 2001.

Speculation is now focusing on Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio. While he has never coached in college at any level, Del Rio is a USC alum who would probably be interested in the job. His candidacy is more appealing if Jaguars assistants Dirk Koetter and Kennedy Pola follow him.

We know that Mike Garrett values coaches with pro experience, so it's no surprise that the name Herm Edwards has surfaced. Like Carroll, Edwards is a defensive coach who had several up-and-down years as an NFL head coach with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. It's unlikely that Edwards will be in the mix for an NFL head coaching job any time soon, so USC could be appealing to the San Diego State alum.

I wrote last Friday that I expected Brian Billick, Jim Fassel, Dennis Green, and Jon Gruden to receive consideration. Of that group, Fassel would be the most likely to be in the mix. Billick and Gruden probably want to stay in the NFL, and Green is somewhat unpredictable.

Mike Garrett reportedly would like Norm Chow to come back to USC. But it's possible he's thinking about Chow as an offensive coordinator for a new head coach, rather than as the actual head coach. There are also reports that Ed Orgeron would like to come back to the USC coaching staff, but he's a southern guy who is making a ton of money at Tennessee right now.

There are several names on the college level that continue to surface. Chris Petersen has done a spectacular job at Boise State, twice winning BCS bowl games. There are obvious differences between LA and Boise though, and the past two Boise State coaches to leave -- Dirk Koetter for Arizona State and Dan Hawkins for Colorado -- did not fare well. Gary Patterson has also done a terrific job at TCU, but he just signed a long-term extension, and he might not be the best fit.

Washington's Steve Sarkisian is sure to be contacted. I would still be surprised if Sarkisian left after just one year and turned his back on QB Jake Locker, but stranger things have happened.

Some think USC should reach out to Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh. But he could also view USC as a stop on his way to the NFL, and I just don't see him coming here. Mike Bellotti turned down the USC job in 2001, and he could come up again. However, Bellotti was gently nudged out the door at Oregon, and I'm not sure if USC is interested in his spread option offense. The same goes for a coach like Kyle Whittingham from Utah, who runs the spread option. Since Matt Barkley is firmly entrenched as the starting QB, the Trojans will need someone who runs an offense that suits his strengths. That being said, Bellotti could always run a different offense if he came to USC.

At this point, I think USC's top remaining choice is Del Rio. If they can't make it work with him, then I would expect either Edwards, Fassel, or Petersen to take the job. One thing we've learned about Garrett over the years though, is that you can expect the unexpected. No one saw Pete Carroll getting the job in 2001, and Kevin O'Neill was a real surprise for the basketball program. It's possible that a leading candidate is on no one's radar right now.

USC does need to act quickly though in order to avoid losing a talented class of recruits that Carroll had assembled. It would be very problematic for the Trojans if Garrett was unable to hire a coach by the end of the week.


More by Phil Wallace:
USC fires Lane Kiffin
Hollywood Park back in the picture
HBO's Real Sports highlights Chivas USA's troubles
Don't get too excited about the Lakers' cap space
How Jim Buss ruined the Lakers
Previous Native Intelligence story: The Pete Carroll Chronicles

Next Native Intelligence story: It's Kiffin!

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