By Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sigh of relief.
Yep, that was the innate, natural, guttural reaction right here Sunday to the news that Charlie Strong – the knee-jerk, reactionary, big-name grab suggested as “the best guy” to succeed Matt Rhule at Temple University by the masses – had accepted the offer to be head coach at South Florida.
Seriously. Just one, big … phew.
In fact, make that a double … pheeeeeew.
Sorry, but him being recognizable and known as a quality individual only would serve as the superficial trappings that could spell disaster for the Owls and any hopes that they could continue their upward trend on the college football landscape. Like a box filled with coal encased in pretty wrapping.
Yes, Strong has respect around the country and he has a resume – some of it pretty good (especially with Tedy Bridgewater as his quarterback at Louisville), some of it not so much (16-21 at Texas?!!). But the reality of this situation, what awaits the next architect along North Broad, requires something much more than an ability to teach Xs and Os and to do things the proverbial right way.
Oh, those attributes will be needed, no doubt. But so, too, will be possessing the talent to sell the Cherry & White brand to prospective recruits, assistant coaches, fans, advertisers, the Philly area media, you name it. The next guy will have to be able to burn the candle at both ends, be brilliant, resilient and committed to the cause.
With those parameters in place, Strong isn’t a fit. In fact, few are. Might as well scratch anyone off the list who has put their 50th birthday in the rear-view mirror. Or 55th at least, as Strong has. Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, whose miracle work at Rutgers a decade ago remains one of the most undertold success stories in the history of the sport, would be iffy at 50.
The current players’ choice, Owls defensive coordinator Phil Snow, 60, wouldn’t work.
If nothing else, Temple is a job that requires not only a young and enthusiastic mind, but also body. Rhule just turned 41. He infused a life into the program that, well, really never existed. Not in my lifetime, that’s for sure.
He also had the wherewithal, motivational skills, sense of timing and “touch” to turn a train wreck into an American Athletic Conference champion and Top 25 team within a span of four years.
Frankly, love the idea of Lane Kiffin, the mercurial offensive coordinator at Alabama, taking over at Temple, but with him, and even, say, Schiano, would the job even be worth considering. Just 41, he’s already been the head coach at Tennessee, Southern California and Oakland of the NFL.
For me, Temple’s top target right now is pretty obvious … and it’s a candidate who actually grates on me quite a bit, but he fits what is needed by the Owls: P.J. Fleck of Western Michigan. Like him or loathe him, the “Row the Boat” guy wins, he is relentless, tireless and he can get people to buy into a program with the slickness of a used-car salesman.
Currently prepping his undefeated Broncos for the Cotton Bowl, the 36-year-old Fleck just might be available and interested, too, even should he and WMU shake on a contract extension.
Even with that, Temple could pay more, perhaps even twice the amount, and, despite the success he has enjoyed in Kalamazoo, Mich., working in Philly and playing in the AAC would be a step up.