Perhaps shut out of the "brand name" head coaching sweepstakes, the Carolina Panthers may turn their attention to lower-profile candidates, and in that regard will interview current New York Jets defensive coordinator Ted
Cottrell for the vacancy created by George Seifert's dismissal.
ESPN.com has learned that Carolina officials on Tuesday sought and were
granted permission to discuss their head coach job with Cottrell. It marked
the second consecutive day in which the Jets granted permission to talk to
Cottrell, who will meet with Indianapolis Colts officials by the end of this
It is not yet clear when Cottrell, 54, will huddle with Panthers ownership.
An 18-year league veteran, Cottrell moved to the Jets staff in 2001 after
spending seven years on the Buffalo Bills staff, the last three of those
seasons as defensive coordinator. His defense led the NFL this season in
takeaway/turnover differential and Cottrell was key in making a critical
switch at midseason from a "cover two" scheme to a "cover three" alignment.
That change of strategy helped shore up the New York defense against the run
and also allowed its cornerbacks to play more single-coverage schemes.
The Panthers interviewed New York Giants defensive coordinator John Fox on
Monday, and the interest now in Cottrell could signal that Carolina has
lowered its sights a bit, after beginning the head coach search by briefly
pursuing Steve Spurrier. The Panthers never got close to Spurrier, however,
and part of the reason was his demand for a landmark contract.
League sources told ESPN.com that Panthers management is now loathe to cede
total control to any head coach candidate, as the franchise did with
Seifert, and that could preclude Carolina from landing any of the big-name
coaches still in the market. The Panthers will probably contact Tony Dungy,
but the deposed Tampa Bay coach had not heard from Carolina as of Tuesday
afternoon, and it is believed he prefers the Indianapolis job if he becomes
a candidate there.
Contrary to some reports, Marty Schottenheimer is "a non-factor," according
to one team source. "The fans here wanted Spurrier," said the source. "How
do you think they'd react if we hired the guy who got fired so the Redskins
could hire Spurrier? That would be a tough sell."
There have been several conversations with the representatives for LSU coach
Nick Saban. But Saban just received an upgraded contract, one that places
him among the five highest-paid college coaches in the country, and isn't
likely to leave Baton Rouge unless the Panthers are willing to offer him
control over personnel decisions.
Carolina ownership seems intent, at least right now, on retaining key
management officials like personnel director Jack Bushofsky and director of
football operations Marty Hurney. If that is the case, the Panthers are apt
to favor a first-time head coach, one who would welcome having the current
support staff in place.
Some team officials feel that, while their new coach might not be the "big
splash" for which fans had hoped, an enthusiastic coach with a fresh
approach might win back supporters.
Cottrell entered the league in 1981 as a linebackers coach with the Kansas
City Chiefs. He spent two seasons with the New Jersey Generals of the USFL
(1984-85), then had a four-season stint with the Bills (1986-89) before
going to the Arizona Cardinals (1990-93) and then back again to the Bills
He also was on the Rutgers University staff two different times.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.