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Washington Coaching Target Big Board

All of the names you could reasonably think will be in UW’s crosshairs with reasons why they would or wouldn’t be a fit for the Huskies

NCAA Football: Montana at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Well that f***ing sucked.

Washington fans just went through perhaps the worst workweek in the history of the sport that didn’t involve a real world tragedy. And now there’s a coaching search to go through.

We’ve put together a list of names that have been floated about to varying degrees and come up with reasons why they should and should not get the job. A realism score of 1 means that candidate likely isn’t returning Troy Dannen’s phone call while a score of 10 means that coach would say yes on the spot. An excitement scale of 1 means you’re done with your Husky fandom if they make the hire while a 10 would result in you spontaneously arranging a celebration parade in the streets.

During the last coaching search we went through this same exercise and the coach with the highest combined realism/excitement score ended up getting the job, being a pretty good hire, and crushing all our hopes and dreams. So maybe 2.0?

We’ll make periodic updates to this list with additions and subtractions based on the most recent intelligence and/or rumor-mongering.

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QUICK NEGOTIATIONS (8-10 Realism Score)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 11 Utah at Washington Photo by Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ryan Grubb

Most Recent Role: Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach at Washington (since 2022)

Other Relevant Experience: OL Coach at Eastern Michigan (2014-16), OL Coach at Fresno State 2017-19), OC/QB Coach at Fresno State (2020-21),

Why He Might Make Sense: Washington has had a very good thing going under Kalen DeBoer. The UW offense has been among the best in the country the last two years. The play caller for those teams was Ryan Grubb. He was reportedly a candidate for several head coach jobs this cycle and would have been mentioned more prominently if UW wasn’t still very much in the middle of their season. The best chance of keeping Washington’s offense as a top-ten unit in the country is to let Grubb take over.

Why He Wouldn’t: Washington tried to hold on to the Chris Petersen era by promoting one of his star coordinators. That coach had been brought up as a potential HC candidate at other jobs and was a rising star. He was also named Jimmy Lake. Can Washington really risk handing the reins over to someone with 0 head coach experience at any level, no matter how good the offense has been?

Realism Score (how likely is it UW could make it happen): 9 out of 10

Excitement Score (how excited the fanbase would be if it did): 6 out of 10

*****

Justin Wilcox

Most Recent Role: Head Coach at California (since 2017), 36-43 record

Other Relevant Experience: Defensive Coordinator- Boise State (2006-2009), Defensive Coordinator- Tennessee (2010-2011), Defensive Coordinator- Washington (2012-2013), Defensive Coordinator- USC (2014-2015), Defensive Coordinator- Wisconsin (2016)

Why He Might Make Sense: At the end of the 2019 season Wilcox had taken a program that was 19-30 under the previous regime and gotten them to 20-18 and coming off an 8-5 season. Then no program in the country was impacted by COVID as heavily as Cal played just 4 games last year and recently became the only school to have a game cancelled this year due to the city of Berkeley. Despite that he managed to beat Oregon in 2020 and was just a few yards away from doing it again in 2021 so he has gave the Ducks some trouble. He has spent time at Washington and has recruited the West Coast for the better part of the last one and a half decades.

Why He Wouldn’t: Wilcox feels like what Washington was expecting the floor to be on Jimmy Lake. Through 7 years he never finished with a winning record in the Pac-12 despite getting to 4-5 the majority of the time. The Bears offense has just never been able to click under Wilcox and it doesn’t seem likely that’s going to change just because he’s now at Washington.

Realism Score (how likely is it UW could make it happen): 9 out of 10

Excitement Score (how excited the fanbase would be if it did): 2 out of 10

I COULD SEE IT HAPPENING (Realism Score 5-7)

Guaranteed Rate Bowl - Kansas v UNLV Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Lance Leipold

Most Recent Role: Head Coach at Kansas (since 2021), 163-60 record

Other Relevant Experience: Wisconsin-Whitewater HC (2007-14), Buffalo HC (2015-20)

Why He Might Make Sense: Washington banked that lower level success would translate when they hired multi-time NAIA national champ Kalen DeBoer. They could do the same thing by hiring Leipold who won 6 titles at UWW at the D3 level and lost in the title game one other time. He was the fastest coach ever to reach 100 victories, breaking the record held by former Husky head coach Gil Dobie. He went 9-4 this year at Kansas despite his star quarterback missing most of the year. At Kansas!

Why He Wouldn’t: It’s easy in hindsight to say that you knew Kalen DeBoer would succeed at Washington. But he made a lot of big jumps in short periods of time. Leipold has never had fewer than 4 losses per game at the FBS level in a full-length season. Yes, those schools were Buffalo and Kansas but getting traditional bottom feeders up to good isn’t the same as being able to take the team that just finished #2 in the country and keep them as a top-ten program. His offense also doesn’t seem to mesh well with UW’s current offensive personnel.

Realism Score (how likely is it UW could make it happen): 6 out of 10

Excitement Score (how excited the fanbase would be if it did): 7 out of 10

*****

Rhett Lashlee

Most Recent Role: Head Coach at SMU (since 2022) 18-9 record

Other Relevant Experience: OC/QB coach at Samford (2011), OC/QB coach at Arkansas State, OC/QB coach at Auburn (2013-16), OC/QB coach at UConn (2017), OC/QB coach at SMU (2018-19), OC/QB coach at Miami (2020-21)

Why He Might Make Sense: The Huskies want to make sure they can keep up their high powered offense once DeBoer leaves and Lashlee has a ton of experience as an OC and QB coach across levels of FBS. He has been able to get talent out of the transfer portal while the head coach at SMU and helped provide enough success that the Mustangs were able to get an ACC invite (even if it’s with basically no revenue share). They won the AAC this season and should’ve had the group of 5 NY6 spot over Liberty.

Why He Wouldn’t: Other than one rehab season at UConn, Lashlee has spent pretty much his entire career in the Southeast. He is from Arkansas, played QB there, coached in Arkansas/Alabama/Florida/Texas. SMU has gotten guys in the portal but that’s because their boosters are willing to spend a lot of money. Are Washington’s boosters going to be willing to open up their wallets for someone who isn’t Kalen DeBoer? He’s not going to have the same talent advantage with UW in the Big Ten he had this year in the American with SMU.

Realism Score (how likely is it UW could make it happen): 6 out of 10

Excitement Score (how excited the fanbase would be if it did): 6 out of 10

*****

Matt Campbell

Most Recent Role: Head Coach- Iowa State (since 2016), 87-63 record

Other Relevant Experience: Offensive Coordinator/OL Coach- Toledo (2010-11), Head Coach- Toledo (2012-15)

Why He Might Make Sense: When Washington ultimately hired Kalen DeBoer, there was talk that the Huskies would instead be able to pry away Campbell who was the much sexier name. Some of the luster has worn off of Campbell but we’re maybe finding out that he had a much harder task replacing Brock Purdy at QB than we might’ve thought. Campbell has won at least 7 games in 7 of 9 seasons at Iowa State which is a traditional bottom feeder among all power conferences and rebounded this year to go 6-3 in the Big 12. This would be an opportunity to buy low on someone who was a star in the industry 2 years ago.

Why He Wouldn’t: You say buy low, I say there’s a reason why he’s low. Campbell was being compared by some (like me) to Chris Petersen 2 years ago but he has gone 11-14 since then including a last place finish last year. His floor at Washington is probably reasonably high but it’s tough to say he has a ceiling anywhere remotely close to what the Huskies did the last 2 years when he has never won more than 9 games in a season.

Realism Score (how likely is it UW could make it happen): 6 out of 10

Excitement Score (how excited the fanbase would be if it did): 5 out of 10

*****

Chris Klieman

Most Recent Role: Head Coach at Kansas State (since 2019), 111-37 record

Other Relevant Experience: North Dakota State DC (2012-13), North Dakota State HC (2014-18)

Why He Might Make Sense: Just like with Leipold, Klieman coaches currently in the state of Kansas and has a ton of success at lower levels. He took over a dynasty at NDSU and never skipped a beat as the Bison made the FCS title game every year he was head coach and won 4 out of the 5. Having experience taking over for a good school and keeping it humming along is something the Huskies will be looking for. Once he got to Kansas State he helped coach them to a win over previously undefeated TCU in the Big 12 title game

Why He Wouldn’t: And just with like Leipold, Klieman hasn’t lost fewer than 4 games in any season as head coach at the FBS level. He at least made one New Year’s Six bowl but KSU has a much better history of success than Kansas. He’s very much a ground and pound coach that would be a complete reversal on offense from what the Huskies are currently running and we’d a ton of portal movement as players adjust.

Realism Score (how likely is it UW could make it happen): 5 out of 10

Excitement Score (how excited the fanbase would be if it did): 8 out of 10

*****

Jedd Fisch

Most Recent Role: Head Coach at Arizona since 2021 (17-22 record)

Other Relevant Experience: OC/QB coach at Minnesota (2009), QB Coach for Seattle Seahawks (2010), OC/QB coach at Miami (2011-12), OC for Jacksonville Jaguars (2013-14), QB/WR Coach at Michigan (2015-16), UCLA OC/QB Coach (2017), QB Coach for New England Patriots (2020)

Why He Might Make Sense: No coach saw their stock rise higher this year than Jedd Fisch who took Arizona from a team with a good offense and no defense to the #11 ranking in the country with a redshirt freshman quarterback. The Wildcats lost only 1 game this year in regulation and it was to the Huskies by a single touchdown. He has shown himself to be able to recruit elite talent from California and Arizona and win battles over teams like Oregon.

Why He Wouldn’t: The reason Fisch had his stock rise so meteorically is because it was so low to begin with. He had never spent more than 2 years in any place over the last 15 years before completing his 3rd season as the HC at Arizona. That includes 4 stints as an OC where he has never been able to lead a top flight offense. The Wildcats have gotten much better under Fisch but they had completely cratered under Kevin Sumlin so he started out with an extremely low bar. It feels like Fisch is at his ceiling already.

Realism Score (how likely is it UW could make it happen): 5 out of 10

Excitement Score (how excited the fanbase would be if it did): 6 out of 10

*****

Sherrone Moore

Most Recent Role: Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line Coach at Michigan (since 2021)

Other Relevant Experience: TE coach at Louisville (2012-13), TE coach at Central Michigan (2014-17), TE coach at Michigan (2018-2020)

Why He Might Make Sense: Moore helped coach Michigan to the national title over Washington, serving as interim head coach when Harbaugh was suspended at the end of the year. He was calling the shots as the Wolverines beat Ohio State and Penn State to clinch their undefeated regular season. He was responsible for creating the offensive line that won the Joe Moore award twice before the Huskies ended their streak.

Why He Wouldn’t: It’s a given that Moore won’t consider any move until he knows whether Jim Harbaugh is leaving for the NFL this year since he is pretty close to being considered the coach in waiting. And he may have been the offensive coordinator but the run-first offense he piloted was clearly the one Jim Harbaugh prefers. Do you see Washington picking a run-first oriented head coach without true head coaching experience again? Neither do I.

Realism Score (how likely is it UW could make it happen): 5 out of 10

Excitement Score (how excited the fanbase would be if it did): 6 out of 10

When You Wish Upon A Star (Realism Score 1-4)

Washington Pro Day Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Pete Carroll

Most Recent Role: Head Coach for Seattle Seahawks since 2010 (170-120 NFL record, 97-19 college record)

Other Relevant Experience: DC at NC State (1980-1982), DC for NY Jets (1990-1993), HC for NY Jets (1994), DC for SF 49ers (1995-1996), HC for New England Patriots (1997-99), HC at USC (2001-2009)

Why He Might Make Sense: He wouldn’t have to move for one. Carroll was one of the most dominant college coaches of the 21st century establishing USC as a national title winner and coaching star after star in Los Angeles. Then he left and became one of the most successful coaches in the NFL over the last decade and a half making the playoffs more than 2/3rd of the time in a league that wants parity and winning a Super Bowl. You think players in this day and age wouldn’t want to play for Pete Carroll when they can recruit anywhere they want? UW is on a rough timeline for college candidates since they are having to move so late in the year so why not look towards the NFL? Carroll ran out of L.A before the NCAA could investigate him more thoroughly but everything he was accused of back then is legal in the NIL era.

Why He Wouldn’t: How about we start with the fact that he’s 72 years old. He’s now supposedly moving into an advisory role for the Hawks but that wouldn’t stop him if he really wanted to do it. I just can’t fathom why he would choose to go back to college when everything about the job has become harder since he was last in it and he’s now 15 years older. Carroll has no idea what it takes to re-recruit his roster or deal with the college game these days and was already seeming to slip as an NFL coach. I’d love to see Pete on a sideline again in this city but this is fan fiction.

Realism Score (how likely is it UW could make it happen): 3 out of 10

Excitement Score (how excited the fanbase would be if it did): 6 out of 10

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If you’d like to submit your own realism and excitement scores, fill out the form at this link to help give us a more informed finger on the pulse on the Husky fanbase.