- John Clayton, NFL senior writer
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That’s why he likely will hire someone he knows. The easiest answer will be the hardest sell. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is a close friend of Pioli’s and would be his first-round draft choice, but Ferentz is reluctant to leave the college ranks. NFL general managers have long believed that Ferentz could be successful in the NFL because he was a former NFL offensive line coach. NFL friends and admirers have taken runs at Ferentz without success for years. Pioli may find the same resistance, so if that doesn’t work, he must have alternatives.
While this may sound strange, the next-best fit would be former Denver Broncos head coach and current St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. McDaniels failed in two seasons as an NFL head coach, mostly because he was young and was given too much personnel power. In Kansas City, Pioli picks the players. Because he and McDaniels worked with Bill Belichick in New England, the fit couldn’t be better.
When McDaniels was in Denver, one of the first things he thought about was acquiring current Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, who took over for an injured Tom Brady and had an 11-5 season in 2008. Once that story became public, though, it ruined his relationship with Jay Cutler, the Broncos’ quarterback at the time. McDaniels ended up trading Cutler to the Bears for Kyle Orton and draft picks.
Hiring McDaniels would reunite him with Cassel and give him a chance to grow the offense. It’s also not out of the question for the Chiefs to re-sign Orton, whom they picked up on a waiver claim.
Getting McDaniels also would allow Pioli to keep Romeo Crennel as his defensive coordinator.
If Pioli can’t sell a McDaniels hire, he might turn to Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien or perhaps Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable, the former Raiders head coach.
Haley was an offensive coordinator who was given a chance at his first head-coaching job. This time, odds favor Pioli hiring a man who has been a head coach before.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
4dEric D. Williams