The deathwatch on Washington Coach Tyrone Willingham started from the moment he wasn't fired after last season. A brutal schedule in 2008. Poor recruiting. Finally hiring a new athletic director. A playmaking QB who is constantly injured because he's the only threat on the Husky offense. That means the speculation has been ramping up as to who Washington will pursue as the next head coach.
It's the usual game. Look for coaches and assistants with ties to the program. Played at Washington, was an assistant at Washington, and/or is from the area. Preferably, a coach with experience and who would cause a splash. One name stands out on that list immediately is Gary Pinkel, the head coach of Missouri. Pinkel was the offensive coordinator at Washington in the 80s under Don James. The Washington boosters are already dreaming of Pinkel.
The money isn't an issue as Washington has shown before that they are willing to spend for a coach. Willingham makes nearly $1.5 million. Pinkel just got a raise to put his salary at $1.85 million. It isn't clear, however, if Missouri could match what Washington would throw his way.
Whether Pinkel would choose to go to Washington is another question.
The program is a mess. The talent isn't there right now. It would be a rebuilding job. Considering Pinkel actually built Missouri to national prominence, there is a question as to whether he wants to start anew. Either way, Pinkel is looking at another pay raise after this season.
If Pinkel passed, they could consider the Missouri offensive coordinator, Dave Christensen. He was a offensive lineman for Washington and coached for a year at Washington. He is considered one of the top coordinators in the country.
But those close to Washington's program say a glamour hire is necessary should Willingham leave - someone with major-college or NFL head-coaching experience. They respect Christensen's ability, but they said he remains a relative unknown outside the Midwest.
"It's more than coaching the football team that's needed at Washington. You need to create a little bit more of a buzz. I don't know if he's the guy who would be able to do that here."
How have those "buzz" hires worked out recently for Washington? Ty Willingham has a permanent tee time waiting for him. Rick Neuheisel created the mess that created the need for Washington to hire Willingham to clean up their image. Seems like less buzz from a coach might be a good way for Washington to go.