|Spags is out for the Rams, so who's in? (Getty Images)|
On Monday morning, Steve Spagnuolo became the first NFL coach to get fired in 2012 (those jokes never get old do they?), as the Rams let him go after three years at the helm. Spags was 10-38 in that time and will be a hot candidate as a defensive coordinator, believed likely to land in either New York or Philadelphia.
The Rams also fired general manager Billy Devaney, which means they'll be approaching their coaching search in an interesting manner. Some reports indicate they might hire an established coach first and then seek out a young general manager but that doesn't necessarily mean it will go that way.
But right now we're more concerned about who will replace Spags in St. Louis. Let's run through some candidates. Feel free to leave yours in the comments or yell at us on Twitter @EyeOnNFL if you think we forgot someone.
Jeff FisherFisher's probably the top candidate for the Rams gig -- CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman reported on Monday that Fisher's a really hot name in coaching circles right now although Freeman believes the Colts (if the job opens) and the Bucs (freshly open!) are his top-two choices. Jason LaCanfora "expects" that the Rams will pursue Fisher. Fisher makes sense as a 4-3 defensive coach; Chris Long, Robert Quinn, James Laurinatis are nice pieces to build a defense around. On offense, Steven Jackson's got good run left, Sam Bradford is a stud and the Rams have the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft. So there are pieces there that might be attractive to Fisher. One concern is who he'd bring in as his offensive coordinator -- Fisher's long-time OC Mike Heimerdinger passed recently.
Jon GrudenOur own Mike Freeman recently reported that Gruden's "leaning" towards returning to the coaching ranks (Gruden continues to deny interest). There were rumors about an A.J. Smith + Gruden combo heading to St. Louis, but a lot of things have to happen to make that work. Gruden would almost certainly be interested in taking over a gig that features a prime prospect like Bradford, despite what he said about dealing Bradford and grabbing Robert Griffin III in the upcoming draft. However, the Rams are a rebuilding gig and that might represent too much risk for Gruden to leave his cushy gig at ESPN.
Jay GrudenBut if not Jon, how about Jay? But no, seriously, why not Jay? The "other Gruden" just spent a year developing Andy Dalton into a legitimate starting quarterback, he runs the West Coast offense, he'd be a nice "splash" hire for Kroenke and he's got lots of head coaching experience, albeit not at the NFL level. If the Rams aren't thinking about going with a coordinator-level guy, though, Gruden probably won't fit the mold. A lot will depend on how they approach the search.
Mike ShermanSo, this is kind of interesting, right? Sherman, the former Packers coach, was fired by Texas A&M just a few months ago ... and found out from a recruit. When that happens, you don't typically see your name go flying into a coaching search. But Cliff Saunders of 101 ESPN says Sherman is "in play" so it's out there. Sherman was an impressive 96-57 as Packers coach from 2000-2005 and is a West Coast guy -- he was Mike Holmgren's offensive coordinator in Seattle for one year before coming back to Green Bay and
Mike MularkeyAs CBS Sports Charley Casserly noted on Monday, Mularkey's drawing plenty of attention for people looking at coaches. Matt Ryan's developed into a top-flight NFL quarterback under Mularkey's watch, and the offense has been consistently, um, consistent. The Falcons offensive coordinator has already drawn interest from Jacksonville for their vacancy. Mularkey has previous head coaching experience, and though his tenure with the Bills ended after two years, he wasn't fired. Mularkey resigned amid speculation that he didn't like the way the front office was handling things, particularly with the hire of Marv Levy. Buffalo's 9-7 record in 2004 -- Mularkey's first year -- was their last winning season.
Rod Chudzinski"Chud" will be on every list that we make and with good reason: the job he did with Cam Newton in 2011 is drawing a lot of attention around NFL circles and he's considered a potential head-coaching candidate as early as next season. Given Sam Bradford's success in his rookie year, there's a good chance people in St. Louis could believe Chud could coach him back up. But the Rams may be hesitant to hire another coordinator after the failures of the last regime.
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