In a swift conclusion to a once-star-studded coaching tenure, Jon Gruden is out as the Las Vegas Raiders head coach following the revelation he made numerous homophobic, racial, and misogynistic comments through emails. Now the franchise — that seemed to be on a verge of their first potential breakthrough campaign in Las Vegas just a few weeks ago — is left scrambling to find a new leader on the field and divvy up a vast power vacuum left behind by the disgraced former commentator and coach.
Where does owner Mark Davis go from here? That's a question that is being asked quite a bit around the league over an opening that has plenty of things going for it outside this scandal. Who wants to take on this turnaround project in Sin City come 2022? Here are 12 candidates to watch that could be the next Raiders head coach:
Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator
Bieniemy's name has surfaced with pretty much every NFL opening the past two cycles, and there's no reason to think it won't again this time around. He's a highly regarded offensive mind who can back what he says thanks to an extensive playing career as well. Who knows how he might feel about facing his mentor Andy Reid twice a year, but the Raiders will certainly view it as a pretty big positive that hiring him wins the press conference and the locker room and likely damages a division favorite significantly.
Joe Brady, Panthers offensive coordinator
Given that the franchise has not shied away from hiring up-and-coming offensive masterminds no matter their age, Brady figures to be a name that comes up quite a bit in this opening. His résumé seems enhanced even more by what's gone on at LSU after he left, and the improvement Sam Darnold has shown in Carolina might give rise to the thinking that he could help Derek Carr make the next leap in his game.
Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator
Buffalo looks like the class of the AFC in large part because of the work Daboll has put in with MVP candidate Josh Allen. He's come up the ranks learning from Bill Belichick and called plays for a national champion under Nick Saban, two résumé boxes few can tick. It feels like he's waiting for the right fit and could be tempted by what's on the roster in Vegas and the amount of control he could wield.
Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator
McDaniels had a rocky tenure in his lone head coaching gig at division rival Denver but still can put six rings on the table when interviewing, to say nothing of glowing reviews for his work with rookie Mac Jones this year. He's been picky about taking another top job but could be tempted by what he could do with the Raiders.
Kellen Moore, Cowboys offensive coordinator
The former Boise State quarterback ended his college career in Las Vegas, so why not start his head coaching career there? Moore's ability to call plays is earning rave reviews around the NFL and especially so for how flexible he is in terms of game planning. He can obviously relate well to players given his age (33) and just might be viewed by the Raiders as their version of Sean McVay.
Gus Bradley, Raiders defensive coordinator
A 14-48 stint with the Jaguars isn't the greatest line on the résumé, but Bradley has done good work this year with the Vegas defense and is one of the more popular coordinators in the league. While it was notable he wasn't given the interim gig, that could work in his favor as the franchise tries to sort out the short- and long-term future.
Todd Bowles, Buccaneers defensive coordinator
Tom Brady got all the press in Tampa's run to the title, but Bowles flipping the team's defense from one of the worst in the NFC to a top-10 unit did not go unnoticed. He's far from the fiery personality of Gruden, which is going to be viewed as a positive. His Jets head-coaching tenure (2015-18) was rocky (24-40), but actually getting that franchise to have a decent season (10-6 in 2015) is quite the accomplishment too.
Rich Bisaccia, Raiders special teams coordinator/interim coach
There were three former NFL head coaches on the Raiders staff once Gruden was shown the door, but ownership elevated Bisaccia for a reason. He's got tons of experience and has earned a ton of kudos from former players based on his coaching style and demeanor. Maybe more than anything, he's got a good runway of games with the current team to showcase what he can do. If Bisaccia leads Vegas to the playoffs, he'll get more than just an interview at the end of the year.
Former Head Coaches
Bill O'Brien, former Texans head coach
O'Brien had five seasons of at least nine wins in Houston, four division titles, and a good track record at developing quarterbacks. If the Raiders are looking for a head coach only, O'Brien could get into the mix and be able to provide a strong resume. It's pretty clear he won't have any final say on personnel matters after what happened with the Texans, but he might not be looking for it after his current rehab tour calling plays at Alabama.
Doug Pederson, former Eagles head coach
If GM Mike Mayock is given a big say in the hire, strong consideration could be given to the former Philly head coach who pushed all the right buttons in guiding the team to the Super Bowl just a few seasons ago. He is a former player who has had success at a number of spots and also brings a bit of swagger that few can match to the gig.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach
After a down 2020 season, Harbaugh is bouncing back nicely at his alma mater this year. Still, he came awfully close to getting shown the door in Ann Arbor, and perhaps this resurgence could allow both sides to find a happy way out of a unique situation. Harbaugh did fantastic work turning around the 49ers and leading them to the Super Bowl and would be the perfect "big name" candidate that ownership would go for.
Dan Mullen, Florida head coach
Mullen has been one of the best play-callers and developer of QBs at the college level for much of the past decade and is used to doing more with less talent while still getting results. He's got a plum gig in Gainesville but probably wouldn't mind not having to recruit at the level needed to win a national title — which his current fan base demands. He can be a bit of a unique personality but one who could actually fit quite nicely in Las Vegas if the franchise goes the college route.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.