Funny thing about this piece is, if I was writing it when Steve Sarkisian was still coaching the Huskies, I might have found myself putting Chris Petersen at or near the top of this list. And two years ago, it made a lot of sense. His stellar record at Boise, the culture he instilled at the program, and his overall fit with the UW vibe made perfect sense. Twenty-seven games into his Husky career and the decision still seems like a strong one, even with a 15-12 record that hardly jumps off the page.
What reasons exist for this? Generally speaking, the offense has been average at best. There are a plethora of factors in effect outside Chris Petersen's ability to coach, develop, and instill a cohesive offensive strategy that executes on game days, but the fact remains that scoring points consistently has been a problem, well, consistently.
While I believe we'll see the offense take a big step forward this year and in years to come (offense and QB play is Petersen's specialty, after all), as it stands right now, scoring points is the biggest question mark on the team. For this exercise, I'll keep Chris Petersen as the head coach, and any coach brought in, even a head coach, would still be an assistant.
My top 3 candidates to step in and have the biggest immediate impact on the Huskies are:
Current position: Head Coach, Ohio State University
In four full seasons as Ohio State's coach, Urban Meyer has lost a total of 4 games. In 6 seasons at Florida, he lost 15 games. In the 2003 and 2004 seasons at Utah, Meyer lost just two games total. It also tends to be forgotten that before coaching Utah he engineered an incredible turnaround at Bowling Green State. Going 2-9 in the 2000 season, they won 8 games in Meyer's first year in 2001. They won 9 the following year before he took the Utah job. His teams were tough as nails, and scored lots and lots of points.
An offensive-minded coach, he's also shown an ability to adapt his run-first spread option to his personnel, and with devastating effect. In his first two years at Florida with Chris Leak, he ran a more drop-back passing spread to take advantage of Leak's arm, until Tebow arrived and he transformed the offense into a run-based option attack. Running this offense he has won 3 national championships, been the first coach to take a non BCS team (Utah) to a BCS bowl game, and coached a Heisman winner in Tim Tebow.
Who would he replace? Well, the obvious choice is Jonathan Smith as the OC. However, there's no obvious dual-threat QB to run his offense, but I imagine with John "Percy Harvin" Ross, Jake Browning, and Myles Gaskin, he would coordinate a very potent attack. With Meyer it's simple: he scores loads with an innovative offense, but more importantly, he just keeps winning.
Current position: Offensive Coordinator, New England Patriots
Let's keep it interesting with a known NFL name. Now, I know his two seasons as a head coach with the Broncos were a train wreck, but he's been a major force behind Tom Brady and the Patriots' record-setting NFL offenses since he first joined the team in 2001. Other than 2 seasons with the Broncos and one with the Rams, he's been a Patriot his whole NFL career. His offense in 2007 set records for touchdowns and points, and was poised for big things in 2008. That season was close to going off the rails with Tom Brady's season-ending injury, but with McDaniels directing the Matt Cassel-led offense, the Patriots finished a very respectable 11-5.
Certainly having one of the best NFL quarterbacks of all time, Tom Brady, has helped his cause, but his offenses with the Patriots keep producing year after year. That being said, his season away from New England as an OC was pretty bad. Running the offense for the Rams in 2011, they finished with the league's worst offense, not even managing 2 TDs per game.
McDaniels feels very much like a high risk, high reward pick. With a QB who can see the field like Jake Browning, I imagine McDaniels could mold a pretty crafty passing attack, taking advantage of that vision. However, how dependent is his system on having a couple of elite talents?
Current position: Head Coach, Duke Blue Devils.
Wait, Duke plays football? Seriously, though, Cutcliffe does not get the respect he deserves for turning around Duke, and winning 6, 10, 9, and 8 games the last 4 seasons. And unlike Meyer and McDaniels, he has been able to do it without blue-chip talent at Duke. His 2012 season saw Duke end their 18-year bowl drought and set them up for a 10-win 2013 season, the school's first 10-win campaign in over 100 years of football. Consistently thought of as one of the brightest offensive minds in all of college football, he would no doubt bring offensive success to the Huskies.
His track record of developing offensive players also fits with Chris Petersen's mold. He's not plugging uber-athletes into a spread and letting them run wild (not that there's anything wrong with that; see: Meyer, Urban). He's got a more refined offensive system. Along with Mike Leach, he's got a gifted mind for passing attacks, and typically when you see his name next to an offer for a WR, you know the kid can get open and catch the ball.
It took him until his 5th season at Duke to reach at least 6 wins, but two of his former Blue Devil QBs found their ways to the NFL: Thaddeus Lewis, and Sean Renfree. Examining his record, he has coached an incredible list of future NFL quarterbacks during his time at Duke, Ole Miss, and Tennessee (in addition to Renfree and Lewis): Heath Shuler, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, and Erik Ainge. Regardless of their varying levels of professional success, getting your players into the NFL is a mark of a fantastic coach.
I'm really intrigued by Josh McDaniels, but his record away from Tom Brady and Bill Belichick scares me. Urban Meyer feels like the "just add water" solution, and would find instant success just about anywhere, with any group of players. He's shown this his entire career. Cutcliffe certainly had his fair share of bad years at Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Duke, but he has impressive offensive and program-building credentials from his various coaching stops.
I keep wanting to say Cutcliffe, because he seems like the most realistic and most natural fit. Urban Meyer I doubt at this point in his career would want to be an OC and second fiddle to Chris Petersen, but certainly is the best candidate on this list from a plug-and-play standpoint.
So there it is, folks. If I could have any coach in the country to help the Dawgs, it would be Urban Meyer. Really original pick that I'm sure no one else would have though of, right? In terms of what the Huskies most desperately need right now, and having the pick of anyone out there to fix that need, it can't be anyone else but Meyer. Tell me in the comments how crazy my arguments are, if you will.