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Penn State Coaching Search: The best men for the job

With the PSU coaching search underway, we're breaking down the top candidates for hire.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday in State College, Penn State athletic director David Joyner spoke to the media and announced that a six-man search committee had been formed with the purpose of finding PSU's next head football coach. The search is expected to be completed relatively quickly ("days, not weeks"), and that seems prudent considering how close were are to National Signing Day on February 5. Plus, it's not like there aren't a host of attractive candidates who could be enticed by the new job opening.

Al Golden

Why he is the man for the job: Golden appears to have the perfect mix of Penn State blood and outside experience that would make a majority of Penn State supporters happy if he got the job. The former tight end played under Joe Paterno until 1991, when he was a senior captain. Just ten years later and Golden was a defensive coordinator under Al Groh at Virginia, and he used that as a stepping stone to get the Temple job. At Temple, Golden somewhat miraculously turned around a barren program before jumping over to Miami, where he took over a program that was troubled by the Nevin Shaprio booster scandal. Since he's only spent one year of his life in the NFL (as a player in 1992), Golden would be highly unlikely to bolt PSU for a gig in the pros.

Why he isn't the man for the job: Well, Golden wasn't particularly successful at Miami, but a lot of that could be chalked up to the NCAA's ongoing investigation related to Shaprio. Still, a little more is expected after the amazing job that Golden did at Temple. He went 6-6 in his first season at Miami in 2011, then 7-5 in 2012, and this year the Hurricanes were 9-4. However it's hard to find a real "quality" win on this season's slate. Golden's Hurricanes lost three straight games by double digits in November, which knocked the team out of the ACC Championship Game. It wasn't exactly redeeming to see the team get crushed by Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl, either.

James Franklin

Why he is the man for the job: Franklin is a Pennsylvania guy who played quarterback at East Stroudsburg University and got his first coaching job at Kutztown in 1995. Flash forward to today, and Franklin is one of the hottest coaches in football after leading historical doormat Vanderbilt to three bowl games in a row. This year, the team notched wins over SEC East rivals Tennessee and Georgia while finishing 8-4 in the regular season. As an offensive guru who worked as a coordinator for Maryland before landing his current job in Nashville, Franklin can be considered the Penn State coaching candidate who is most similar to Bill O'Brien. The good part about Franklin, though, is that he's considered more of a "college guy" who would be more likely to view PSU as a destination job.

Why he isn't the man for the job: Franklin's alleged involvement in the cover-up of a rape committed by four of his football players this summer shouldn't have any effect on his ability to get hired as the head football coach of a nationally prominent program. After all, Franklin wasn't charged with anything by the district attorney. However, the very mention of Franklin in relation to such a crime could be enough to scare Penn State away from him because of our still recent proximity to the Sandusky scandal.

Greg Schiano

Why he is the man for the job: I'm probably higher than most people are on the former Rutgers coach. Maybe that's because I'm from New Jersey and I think it would be cool if Penn State hired a New Jersey guy (Golden is also from the Garden State). Maybe it's because I'm from New Jersey and I remember better than others how lousy Rutgers was before Schiano got there. Either way, Schiano's recent stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL caused a lot of people to sour on him. His attempt to defeat the victory formation in September 2012 seemed classless and out of touch, and there were rumors this season that a lot of players didn't particularly like playing for him. Still, Schiano is a terrific defensive coach who fielded a team that was competitive this season after rookie quarterback Mike Glennon got his feet wet. Plus, Schiano was the defensive backs coach at PSU from 1991 to 1995

Why he isn't the man for the job: There is always the chance that Schiano sees a return to the NFL in his future, although his lack of success there would seem to make a return to the pro league unlikely in the short term. We also already mentioned how Schiano tends to rub people the wrong way, but the way he cared for former player Eric LeGrand after his terrifying 2010 spine injury shows that the coach does have a heart and soul. That said, David Jones of tweeted recently that PSU was no longer considering Schiano. The news caused PSU and Rutgers fans alike to sigh in relief.

Mike Munchak

Why he is the man for the job: I originally didn't feel like Munchak was a front runner for the PSU head coach job, but then I saw this tweet from ESPN college football reporter Brett McMurphy. Munchak is on the reported short list because he played offensive line for Penn State from 1978 to 1981. However, he has spent his entire coaching career in the NFL with the Oilers/Titans. He also spent his entire NFL playing career with the Oilers, which means he has been with the same organization since 1982. Now that's loyalty.

Why he isn't the man for the job: Of course, Penn State would first need Munchak to bail on the only franchise he has known for his entire adult life (or get fired) for him to join his alma mater. If he's able to do that, there's a good chance Munchak would stay at PSU for a long time. It's concerning, though, that he's never had to recruit for a college program and that he was never a coordinator in the NFL. He went straight from offensive line coach to head coach in 2011 in what was then a shocking decision. Since taking over, Munchak has done a pretty good job for a coach with no franchise quarterback, but his lack of college experience and/or experience outside of the Titans franchise is troubling.

David Cutcliffe

Why he is the man for the job: If Penn State's top priority is ensuring that it holds onto Christian Hackenberg and class of 2014 quarterback commitment Michael O'Connor, then Cutcliffe is more than worthy of the university's consideration. As a mentor of both Peyton Manning (as the Tennessee offensive coordinator in the late 90s) and Eli Manning (as the Ole Miss head coach in the early 2000s), Cutcliffe can consider himself a quarterback expert whom any young signal caller would be lucky to work with. Now that he's elevated Duke from ACC laughingstock to conference title contender, Cutcliffe could see himself in line for a promotion to a school with more resources devoted to football.

Why he isn't the man for the job: Age and pedigree could both hold Cutcliffe back from getting hired by Penn State. Although he's not a threat to go to the NFL, Cutcliffe is 59 years old and at the tail end of his career. If PSU is hoping that its next coach will stick in State College for a decade or longer, Cutcliffe isn't the way to go. He also has no Pennsylvania or Big Ten experience, as Cutcliffe is from Alabama and would probably look first to the SEC if he felt the need to leave Duke.

Pat Narduzzi

Why he is the man for the job: As the defensive coordinator at Michigan State, Narduzzi has been at the head of one of the nation's best defenses for the past three seasons and he's fresh off of a brilliant campaign that ended in a Rose Bowl win on January 1. He's hot right now, and he may not remain a mere coordinator for much longer. Although Penn State's offense has reached new heights under the leadership of Bill O'Brien, the Nittany Lion defense has left much to be desired recently. It seems like a certainty that Narduzzi would restore the unit's stout reputation in short order.

Why he isn't the man for the job: While Narduzzi will likely recruit some great defensive players to Penn State or wherever he is coaching in 2014, he doesn't have any head coaching experience at any level, and that makes him a major risk. What would his staff look like? Who would the offensive coordinator be and would Narduzzi be able to recruit on that side of the ball? These questions are especially pertinent to Penn State, which has two promising quarterbacks deciding whether or not they want to continue their careers at PSU. While Narduzzi would mean a big step forward for the Nittany Lion defense, his hire would be a big risk as far as the offense and long-term stability are concerned.

Larry Johnson

Why he is the man for the job: With former linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden being recently let go, Johnson, who coaches defensive line for PSU, is the last holdover from the Joe Paterno era left on the Penn State coaching staff. He was named interim coach shortly after O'Brien stepped down, and he has a lot of support from current and former players. Johnson's familiarity with Penn State, his ability to consistently develop talented defensive lineman into NFL prospects, and his recruiting connections in the Maryland/DC/Northern Virginia region could make him a solid head coach at PSU for years to come.

Why he isn't the man for the job: Just like with Narduzzi, we have no idea what Johnson would be like as a head coach. He has no experience as a coordinator for a college program, and since he's been at Penn State for so much of his career, he hasn't got the chance to network much. That could make rounding up a staff an issue, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. In the early 90s, Johnson was a very successful high school coach in the Washington D.C. area, but after that, the only job he's had since 1996 is coaching defensive line at PSU. I love Johnson as much as the next Penn Stater, but it would seem rash to promote him all the way to head coach. It would be nice to see what he could do as a coordinator, though.

For more on the Penn State coaching search, check out Black Shoe Diaries's outstanding coverage.