Does anyone know who Carolina's Defensive Coordinator is and what are his credentials?.....just curious why he hasn't been mentioned as head coaching material. Carolina's defense has been amongst the league's tops the last couple of years.
The last time the Carolina Panthers went on a playoff run, they lost their defensive coordinator soon after.
Could it happen again? It's a subject the Panthers don't want to talk about much as they prepare for Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game in Chicago, but it's one that appears to have merit.
The Carolina defense under coordinator Mike Trgovac has improved steadily throughout the season and finished the regular season ranked third in the 32-team NFL in total yards allowed, and fifth in points given up. Then the defense went out in the wild-card playoff opener and shut out the New York Giants 23-0.
When there are six teams shopping for new coaches, it is performances such as those that get defensive coordinators noticed. Strong safety Mike Minter said he already has had a heart-to-heart talk with Trgovac, however.
"I told him he needs to stay here. He don't need to take no head-coaching job," said Minter, smiling. "We already lost one defensive coordinator."
That was Jack Del Rio, who left to become head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars shortly after the Panthers played in Super Bowl XXXVIII in February of 2004. The success that Del Rio has experienced since then - the Jaguars finished 11-5 in the regular season and lost in the first round of the playoffs this year - could make a hot defensive coordinator even more attractive.
Trgovac conceded that the thought of becoming a head coach has crossed his mind but isn't consuming it. He said that he thinks he's "ready to take the next step," but that his focus is all on preparing the defense for the Bears.
Pushed on the subject, Trgovac gestured toward offensive coordinator Dan Henning. Trgovac will turn 46 in February and is in his second season as an NFL coordinator. Henning, 63, is in his 27th season as a coach in the NFL - including stints as a head coach twice (Atlanta 1983-86 and San Diego 1989-91).
"There's the guy to ask (about being a head coach) right there," Trgovac said. "He's been king before. I've never been king before."
The man who could be king has some impressive credentials.
Trgovac's defense has been more successful statistically than Del Rio's was in 2003, when Trgovac served as Carolina's defensive line coach. The 2003 defense ranked eighth in the NFL in total yards allowed and 10th in points surrendered, but it did rank significantly higher in one key category. In third-down efficiency, the 2003 defense ranked eighth; this year the Panthers inexplicably ranked 27th, despite being in the top seven in every other defensive category.
Yet, Trgovac appears to have flown under the radar at this point. Minter said he thinks he knows why.
"One of the reasons why is because everybody thinks Coach (John) Fox does it," Minter said. "Here is this (former) defensive coordinator (in Fox); he comes here and all of a sudden the defense is good. A lot of people just think that's what it is."
Well, is it?
"No," Minter answered emphatically. "Trgo is the defensive coordinator. Does Coach Fox help? Yes. But it's Trgo."
Trgovac said that he isn't interested in hyping himself for a head-coaching job.
"I've always thought that if you do a good job, people will notice you," he said. "I don't self-promote myself and all that."
But as with others who took that step to the top job, Trgovac has been quietly preparing himself for the possibility for years.
"I've been very fortunate in my career," Trgovac said. "I've been around great head coaches, starting in college. Bo (Schembechler) and Lou Holtz and Earle Bruce. I've always watched those guys.
"And I've talked to Dan about it. He's been a head coach several times in college and in the pros. I'm always asking him questions like, 'How would you handle this?' If I'm with John, I'll ask him why he did something, why he made that decision."
When game day rolls around, though, Trgovac knows that most of the defensive decisions will rest with him, and that Fox trusts him to make the right calls.
"He doesn't get into the calls that I make," Trgovac said. "Sometimes he'll talk about certain situations ... but he doesn't mess with you much on game day. Sometimes, he will come up to you and say stuff. A lot of times I've already seen it, but he's making sure that I've seen it. It's the job of a head coach to do that. He doesn't leave any stone unturned."
Fox and General Manager Marty Hurney both said yesterday that no one has called the team to ask about Trgovac's availability at season's end. But if the teams looking for coaches leave no stones unturned, it seems inevitable that one or more of them will.