Continuing our look at potential Tennessee Titans head coaches, its time to turn our attention to NFL defensive coordinators. Many of these names aren't as flashy as some of the top offensive coordinator ones, but still have potential to change a franchise. Once again, feel free to add other names in the comments.
1) Sean McDermott, Carolina Panthers
Sean McDermott is leading a defense ranked second in yards against, third in points against and first in takeaways. Yet he's still a bit of a sleeper pick when most talk about potential head coaches. McDermott has only worked for two NFL teams but made the most of those opportunities, learning under the respected defensive minds of Jim Johnson in Philadelphia and Ron Rivera in Carolina. He was only the DC in Philadelphia for two seasons, both times having them finish 12th in yards against. Obviously, its his work as Panthers DC that now has him at the top of this list. Someone is going to give him a shot soon. Worth noting is that all of McDermott's experience is with a 4-3 base defense.
2) Vic Fangio, Chicago Bears
One of the biggest attractions with Fangio is his experience crafting successful 3-4 defenses. He has flown under the radar a bit this season. Before signing with Chicago this season, Fangio worked with Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco and Stanford. In his four seasons as the Niners' defensive coordinator, his team never finished lower than fifth in yards against. Unfortunately for Fangio his defense in Chicago is not nearly as impressive, but he's transitioned them to a 3-4 base and many (self included) feel he has them on the right track. Fangio has prior DC experience in Carolina, Indianapolis and Houston as well, with mixed results. His Carolina defenses statistically look good, especially considering he started with them in their expansion year. His Indy and Houston defenses fell on the lower end of the spectrum.
3) Teryl Austin, Detroit Lions
Austin was a hot name last season, but Detroit's rough start to the season has decreased some of the praise. With only two seasons as a coordinator in the NFL he remains a bit of an unknown. Is he the guy that led the Lions to the second-best defense last season, or the one that has them currently ranked 18th? There is a lot more going into those rankings than just Austin's work clearly, but it is still concerning. Austin runs a 4-3 defense in Detroit but has experience with a 3-4 from his time as a Baltimore assistant.
4) Paul Guenther, Cincinnati Bengals
This is another coordinator with only two years experience in that role. Guenther has spent the past decade in Cincinnati, working his way to his current title last season. The Bengals defense finished 22nd in yards against that year and are up this year to 15th. Much like Austin, I think Guenther will be a better candidate with another season or two of experience.
At this point there is steep drop off in the potential candidates, in my opinion. The remaining list is names to keep an eye on but are unlikely to get much interest.
5) Kris Richard, Seattle Seahawks
The last two Seattle defensive coordinators have gone on to head coaching jobs and you can bet that NFL front offices will be watching the progression of Richard. He's young (36) and spent his entire NFL coaching career in Seattle. Probably not ready for the big job just yet.
6) Ray Horton, Tennessee Titans
Horton was getting some head coaching interest prior to coming to Tennessee. That certainly has cooled after the past two disastrous seasons. He's this high on the list because I still view him as a better candidate than the ones below him. The Titans need a clean break from the Whisenhunt era and so its best that they pursue another option.
7) Leslie Frazier, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The first coordinator on this list with a prior NFL head coaching stint, but it certainly wasn't a good one. Frazier led a couple of strong defenses in Minnesota as DC before being promoted to the big gig, where he went 3-3 in his interim year. He then went 3-13, 10-6 and 5-10-1 in his three other seasons leading the Vikings. His Tampa Bay defense last year was atrocious but has improved. Its going to take several years of good coaching before someone gives him another chance.
8) Ken Norton, Jr, Oakland Raiders
Jack Del Rio pulled Norton from the Seahawks this offseason to run his defense. He was a linebackers coach his whole career prior to that move, both at USC and Seattle. Oakland's defense has made strides, but statistically are weak. He's a name to keep an eye on for the future.