Word of mouth can go a long way

Updated: November 20, 2003, 10:24 AM ET
By Randy Mueller | ESPN NFL Insider
With the recent successes of young assistants John Fox, Mike Tice and Marvin Lewis as relatively new head coaches, look for teams to dip back into the NFL assistant pool come season's end. I'm not sure there is a magic formula that makes one guy a better choice than the other. There are, however, lots of ways to go, and the right fit for one team may not be the right fit for another.

How do these hot coordinators get identified? There are several ways. The most popular of which is word of mouth. People like to talk in this business, and owners and GMs are constantly chatting about who's next on the horizon. Some GMs even keep a log or notebook on potential head coach candidates, whether it be NFL assistants or college head coaches. It could be office habits, sideline demeanor, rapport with players, dealing with the media, etc. All the notes go in, and it all adds up.

Fox, Tice and Lewis all came from different backgrounds, but they all were identified as head-coach material. The people doing the hiring will find them. After all, our jobs and reputations are at stake, too. Sometimes the media can create the "hot list" of assistant coaches. It's scary, but true. If Jimmy Johnson had not endorsed Jack Del Rio on the Fox pregame show last season, Del Rio might not have gotten even a sniff in Jacksonville last year. I think Jack is a fine coach, but sometimes we all need a break or two along the way.