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Possible candidates to replace Petrino


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Possible candidates to replace Petrino

Alex Marvez

Maybe the Atlanta Falcons will get it right next time.

Head coach Bobby Petrino's resignation Tuesday is another Falcons embarrassment in a year full of them. Atlanta hired Petrino away from Louisville in January despite his NFL inexperience and the recent failings of ballyhooed college coaches who have tried making the transition like Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier and Butch Davis.

Petrino recently said "all his plans" were to return to Atlanta in 2008. But Petrino failed to even complete his first year as Atlanta's coach.

FOX Sports' Jay Glazer quoted one Falcons assistant as saying Petrino told his staff, "Guys I've resigned, I'm going to Arkansas. I'm sorry. I'll be talking with you guys in the future.'" And with that he turned and walked out the door. We haven't been told anything else."

Falcons owner Arthur Blank must now hire a replacement to rebuild a 3-10 team. The most pressing need is at quarterback after Michael Vick's off-season arrest and subsequent 23-month prison sentence.

Here is a breakdown of five potential candidates who may garner consideration:

# Bill Cowher: Sure, Cowher has said he wouldn't consider another coaching opportunity until at least 2009. But could mega-bucks from a desperate owner say $8 million-plus or even higher a season change his mind? Atlanta also isn't very far from Cowher's North Carolina home.

# Marty Schottenheimer: There is no better proven option for a team looking to quickly rebuild than Schottenheimer, who worked wonders earlier this decade with Washington and San Diego. For a team as damaged as the Falcons, Schottenheimer's lack of postseason success is an afterthought. But after his blow-up with A.J. Smith in San Diego, the big question is whether Schottenheimer could co-exist with General Manager Rich McKay.

# Jason Garrett: The former third-string quarterback is the NFL's hottest offensive coordinator because of his work with the Dallas Cowboys. With the Falcons likely to have a top five pick, Garrett could get to mold a promising prospect like Hawaii's Colt Brennan or Boston College's Matt Ryan. But does Garrett want to step into such a mess when more attractive options may be available down the road?

# Josh McDaniels: Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin has helped break the stereotype that young head coaches can't win in the NFL. McDaniels is only 31, but when all is said and done this season, no offensive coordinator in NFL history may have fielded a more prolific unit than he has with the Patriots.

# Mike Zimmer: Atlanta's defensive coordinator is the most likely to garner consideration. The statistics aren't pretty but a No. 5 NFL rating in third-down defense is impressive. That indicates Zimmer's unit is still playing hard despite Atlanta's offensive woes.

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