By Brandon Niles EBS Sports Columnist
Following an ugly Week 14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, where the Los Angeles Rams were outscored 42-14, the Rams fired head coach Jeff Fisher after nearly five years and five losing seasons. After starting the season winning three of their first four games, the Rams lost eight of the next nine under Fisher before letting him go and promoting special teams coordinator John Fassel as interim head coach.
Fisher’s resilience is actually surprising. It took the Rams nearly five seasons to fire him in a league that typically gives coaches no more than two or three seasons to prove themselves.
Sure, Fisher took the Tennessee Titans to an AFC Championship following the 1999 season, but in 22 years as a head coach, Fisher has had just six winning seasons, and has a career winning percentage of only 52 percent. For such mediocrity, it’s hard to believe he’s held a top job for so long.
Now that the Rams have moved on from Fisher, it remains to be seen if general manager Les Snead will be on the chopping block as well, but if not, he’ll lead the campaign to find a new coach to help the Rams get back into contention.
So who should Snead be looking to? While the strength of the team lies on the defensive side of the ball, the Rams need to prioritize the development of their rookie, first-round quarterback Jared Goff, so a brilliant offensive mind should be at the top of Snead’s shopping list. Here are a few of the top candidates likely to be considered:
Jim Harbaugh – The current Michigan head coach led the San Francisco 49ers to an NFC Championship only four seasons ago. Harbaugh has done a tremendous job getting Michigan back to being a superpower in college football, and the general thinking is that he’d relish the opportunity to go back to California and try his luck again as an NFL coach. Harbaugh has the offensive prowess and the high profile that should put him at the top of the list for all head coaching positions.
Kyle Shanahan – Son of long-time NFL head coach Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan has made a name for himself in recent seasons as an offensive coordinator. He’s spent the last two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, who lead the league in points scored per game this season and were seventh last year. Shanahan has held a coordinator job since 2008 and seems ready to take the next step.
Josh McDaniels – McDaniels made some questionable personnel decisions during his time as a head coach for the Denver Broncos from 2009 to 2010, but there’s no questioning his ability to coach an offense.
McDaniels was the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots during Tom Brady’s record-breaking 2007 season, and he’s returned to that role over the past five seasons. McDaniels looks ready for another chance at a head-coaching job and would likely relish the opportunity to work with Goff.
While other names will likely pop up over the next month or so as the Rams flesh out potential candidates, these should be the top three names on the list for a franchise looking to escape mediocrity. Keep an eye on how the Falcons and Patriots do in the postseason, because the Rams may not want to wait for Shanahan and McDaniels to become available before making their selection.
However, if no one is hired by mid-January, take that as a hint that one of the top coordinators for a playoff team is being heavily considered. Whoever it ends up being, the new coach will have a talented roster, a young quarterback, and a heap of expectations.
Brandon Niles is a longtime fan of football and scotch, and has been writing about sports for the past decade. He is a fantasy football scout for 4for4 Fantasy Football and is co-host of the 2 Guys Podcast.