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Arizona State coaching candidates: Matt Rhule, Byron Leftwich, Dan Mullen lead options to replace Herm Edwards

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Herm Edwards was fired on Sunday just three games in his fifth season at Arizona. The mistakes that led Edwards to this point remain too ridiculous to notice.

When he was hired, Edwards was perceived as an experienced worthy alternative to inexperienced swindlers. But he hasn’t coached in college for 29 years. No problem, said athletic director Ray Anderson, Edwards’ former agent. It would be an NFL model where Herm could act as the CEO-coach. Someone else would take care of the details, like, you know, recruiting.

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Critics were told not to worry about Edwards as a recruiter. Despite not coaching in college for 29 years, Edwards will be at ASU as a frontman. It’s okay if you’re Bobby Bowden and have built the program from scratch. Another thing is to inherit the average Pac-12, which until now had no plan.

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Edwards was not bad (26-20). He probably has an ongoing offer to return to ESPN as a thoughtful grandfather analyst. But he was no match for the program at a bitter conference that ended up in a massive recruiting scandal of its own accord.

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Now, as an Arizona State fan, you must trust Anderson to lead the search for a coach. He’s already 0-1. You must also trust President Michael Crow who flipped on Edwards faster than a quick attack.

I’ve always said it’s hard to screw up in Arizona. Weather. West Coast. City of Tempe. You should be able to find 85 experienced guys who are willing to kill to play there. Yes, the last Rose Bowl at ASU was in 1997.

Here are the top candidates to lead the state of Arizona from the desert:

1. Matt Rule, coach of the Carolina Panthers: Club leader, if he’s interested. Anderson loves NFL guys (obviously). If Rule leaves the Panthers and isn’t captured by the Nebraska, it shouldn’t be a difficult decision for the state of Arizona. Baylor’s Dave Aranda is still using the leftover players from Rule who helped him win the Big 12 last season. An unsurpassed software developer would feel at home in the desert.

2. Byron Leftwich, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator: The former all-star Marshall quarterback has been leading the Bucks offensive team for the fourth year. Tom Brady loves him. Leftwich already has a Super Bowl ring. Bruce Arians said he wouldn’t have returned to the Bucs if it wasn’t for Leftwich. An underrated talent that you’d better believe Anderson has on his radar. NFL teams might be interested too.

3. Dan Mullen, ESPN Analyst: Mullen needs to recover from the Florida experience. He is on a typical TV analyst rehab tour for a year to keep his name there. Not that he needed it. The state of Arizona needs an identity. Mullen, with his offensive punches, would be such a person. Yes, he is one of a kind. Maybe more than that. But in the current structure, Mullen could win the Pac-12. Soon.

4. Todd Monken, Georgia Offensive Coordinator: Monken urgently needs a job as head coach. If only for the reason that he took quarterback Stetson Bennett and made him one of the best hitters in the country. He has a national championship ring. Monken has a lot of NFL experience recently, unlike Herm, who hadn’t coached at all since 2008 before moving to ASU. Head coach experience, and a short and unsuccessful run at Southern Miss.

5. Hugh Freese, Liberty Coach: We keep inserting Freeze’s name here. Sooner or later, the Power Five program will take off. It won’t be a big risk. Time heals all wounds of an NCAA investigation. Freeze is a brilliant attacking mind with a wealth of experience as a head coach whose past mistakes can be tested but eventually overcome by Crow.

6. Brian Harsin, Auburn Coach: Harsin could be the next coach, possibly as early as this week. We won’t bore you with failures at the Auburn. on Auburn. Harsin was a bad fit for the Plains, and it wasn’t much of his fault. He was from the very beginning. Harsin is a West Coast guy with a style and personality that suits the Southwest. I fully expect it to return to Boise State at some point unless the State of Arizona digs it up.

7. Deion Sanders, Jackson State Coach: Anderson went off the script with the hiring of Edwards. Why not throw another knuckleball? I’m not sure if Sanders’ coaching ability at the highest level matches his mouth, but I’d buy the front row to sit and watch. Arizona State is not the best program in the Pac-12, but it definitely needs a dose of adrenaline. Given that the state of Florida will most likely not be open, Sanders would be a bold choice.

8. Tom Herman, CBS Sports Network Analyst: Herman was gone too long. Okay, it’s been less than two years since he left Texas, but he still has a lot to give the college game as head coach. Remember when Herman was the hottest guy in Ohio State and Houston? There is still a lot of that energy left.

9. Mike Norvell, Florida State Coach: A month ago, Norvell was the #1 running mate to replace Edwards. Then the season kicked off with Arizona State heading south with Norvell leading 3-0 in the middle of what looks to be a Florida State turnaround. ASU was to be his fallback as the Sun Devils’ former offensive coordinator. Now it seems unreachable.

10. Justin Wilcox, trainer from California: Wilcox is a brilliant defensive mind who needs space – and budget – to grow. It’s a constant struggle in Cal, which doesn’t pay as much attention to football as it does to other programs, even at the conference. Not so in Arizona, who will pay for the right guy.

11. Rick Neuhazel, CBS Sports Network Analyst: Neuheisel, 61, lives in the Phoenix area and has a brilliant football mind with close ties to the West Coast. He doesn’t necessarily fit Anderson’s profile as a young salaried employee. We have a solution. The state of Arizona will need something unique as it will most likely go on NCAA probation. You also need to stay away. Crow is a domineering individual who instantly rushed at Edwards. Divide the kid in two and make Neuheisel the assistant coach/offensive coordinator for the new guy.


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