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Five names to know in Washington’s offensive coordinator search

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 2, 2020

Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, left, greets quarterback Dak Prescott  at the sideline in the first half of a game in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. (Ron Jenkins / AP)
Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, left, greets quarterback Dak Prescott at the sideline in the first half of a game in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. (Ron Jenkins / AP)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

SEATTLE – For Washington football fans, Offensive Coordinator Watch continues.

On Dec. 22, less than 24 hours after defeating Boise State 38-7 in the Las Vegas Bowl, Jimmy Lake made his first significant public decision as the Huskies’ head coach – choosing not to retain second-year UW offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan. In doing so, he simultaneously accepted the responsibility of making the correct hire, charting a new course for UW’s offense that could result in unprecedented success or utter incompetence.

It’s not an exaggeration to conclude that Lake’s entire tenure could ride on his hire to replace Hamdan.

So, who will he entrust with the keys to the Washington offense’s Camaro? Here are five realistic candidates to be the Huskies’ next offensive coordinator.

Kellen Moore

Offensive coordinator, Dallas Cowboys

Here’s your front-runner.

Sure, it would be coincidental if Moore – the winningest quarterback in college football history, who compiled a 50-3 record at Boise State under Chris Petersen from 2007 to 2011 – joined UW’s staff immediately after his former head coach stepped down. But despite the fact that the Cowboys’ entire staff has reportedly been fired, the intrigue surrounding Moore is undeniable.

In the 2019 regular season, Moore’s Dallas offense led the NFL in total offense (431.5 yards per game) and yards per play (6.5). The Cowboys also ranked second in offensive DVOA, second in passing offense (296.9 yards per game), second in completions of 40 yards or more (16), tied for second in third-down conversion percentage (47%), third in yards per pass attempt (8.2), fourth in yards per carry (4.8), fifth in rushing offense (134.6 yards per game) and sixth in scoring offense (27.1 points per game).

Just about any way you slice it, that’s an impressive offensive season. Add the fact that it was also Moore’s second season as a coach and first as an offensive coordinator, and it’s easy to project future profits for the 31-year-old assistant.

A Prosser, Washington, product, Moore has a keen understanding of the state and could use that to develop into a prolific recruiter.

But that’s also the potential issue. Moore has never coached on the college level. He has never recruited high school kids. It’s unclear how much of his Dallas offense could easily translate in Pac-12 play.

The familiar refrain from Hamdan’s critics was that the former Boise State quarterback lacked experience as an offensive coordinator and failed to establish himself as a game-planner and play-caller. Would hiring Moore mean potentially making the same mistakes?

Moore may ultimately be the best candidate, but he’s also a risky one.

Todd Monken

Offensive coordinator, Cleveland Browns

So you don’t want another Hamdan, right? In that case, you might want to look for someone with significant experience as an offensive coordinator and play-caller on college and NFL levels, whose offenses have found success in the Big 12 and SEC, who brings a sense of stability to the position. You might want an established product.

Maybe Monken is your guy.

The 53-year-old Wheaton, Illinois, native’s 2019 offense with the Cleveland Browns was an unmitigated disaster, but much of that blame can (and has) been assigned to recently fired head coach and play-caller Freddy Kitchens. Monken has previously served as the head coach at Southern Miss as well as the offensive coordinator with the Tampa Bay Bucs, Oklahoma State Cowboys and Eastern Michigan Eagles, and the passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach at LSU. He has the most significant coaching pedigree on this list by a wide margin.

But does that mean he’d be a fit at Washington, or even have interest in the position? We’ll all know soon enough.

Brian Lindgren

Offensive coordinator/QB coach, Oregon State

In the 2019 season, Oregon State’s offense averaged a school-record 6.0 yards per play. The Beavers’ 31.2 points per game were the second-best 12-game mark in program history. They led the nation in fewest turnovers committed (six), and quarterback Jake Luton was one of three players nationally with 25-plus touchdown passes (28) and three or fewer interceptions (three).

Now, imagine what Lindgren, the former record-setting quarterback at DeSales High School in Walla Walla, could do with Washington’s offensive athletes.

Perhaps UW fans won’t have to imagine. Lindgren also checks several other boxes when it comes to the Huskies’ vacant offensive coordinator position. He has served as an offensive coordinator for 11 consecutive seasons – at Oregon State (2018-19), Colorado (2013-17), San Jose State (2012) and Northern Arizona (2009-11). For more than a decade, he has fostered relationships and recruited in the Pac-12 footprint.

Lindgren also hails from Walla Walla, so a return to his home state may appeal to the seasoned offensive coordinator and quarterbacks. But for now, at least, he seems satisfied with his current position in Corvallis.

Rhett Lashlee

Offensive coordinator/QB coach, SMU

In its first 10-win season since receiving the death penalty in 1987, SMU ranked third in scrimmage plays of 30 yards or more (50), seventh nationally in scoring offense (41.8 points per game), ninth in total offense (489.8 yards per game), 12th in touchdown passes (35) and 13th in passing offense (309 yards per game) in 2019.

So, of course, Lashlee’s name is going to circulate in coaching circles.

And that name should not be unfamiliar. The 36-year-old SMU assistant was previously the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Samford (2011), Arkansas State (2012), Auburn (2013-16) and UConn (2017). He won an SEC championship at Auburn in 2013.

From stop to stop, Lashlee has repeatedly proved capable of engineering a prolific passing attack. But would he even consider a stop like Washington (or vice versa?) The Arkansas native has exclusively coached in the South and East, and presumably many of his recruiting ties remain there as well. Even if he’s a system fit, Lashlee may not necessarily be a cultural fit on Montlake.

Chip Long

Offensive coordinator/TE coach, Notre Dame

Long’s success as Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator and tight ends coach from 2017 to 2019 should not be understated. The 36-year-old former North Alabama tight end recovered the wreckage of a disastrous 4-8 2016 season and transformed the Irish into one of the nation’s premier rushing offenses the following year. Notre Dame also reached the College Football Playoff in 2018 and compiled 33 wins in Long’s three-season stretch, the most consistent success of the Brian Kelly era. And it only came after Kelly surrendered play-calling duties to Long and allowed the former Memphis offensive coordinator to implement his offensive system.

Long – who parted ways with Notre Dame before its Camping World Bowl win over Iowa State – has also proved a dogged recruiter, and he signed two four-star tight ends before leaving the Irish this offseason.

But, with all that said, I covered Long with the Irish in 2017, and I’d be stunned if he chose to start over with a first-year head coach and starting quarterback. He’s certainly an intriguing name who would bring an innovative, balanced offense. But he’s also the biggest long shot in this particular list.

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