Like the college transfer portal, a coaching vacancy creates a multitude of potential outcomes. Some are far-fetched, others are more realistic and few are “perfect” fits. Three years after inheriting the reins of the Cal football program, head coach Justin Wilcox is shopping for a new offensive coordinator in the wake of Beau Baldwin’s imminent departure to Cal Poly.
While Baldwin’s tenure within Wilcox’s inner circle was tumultuous, the Bears’ offense is undeniably on an uptick as the 2019 year draws to a close — and that makes the task of landing an ideal replacement all the more vital to sustaining recent success.
As Cal prepares for its second bowl appearance in as many years, there are several names vying for the headset that Baldwin is set to vacate. Here are just a handful of the safe, target and dream names who are — or should be — on Wilcox’s list:
Marques Tuiasosopo — The case for “Tui” isn’t particularly strong, but it’s likely the most robust of anybody currently on Wilcox’s roster. A former NFL quarterback who had control of the Cal quarterbacks room in 2017 and 2018, the current tight ends coach is well-liked by staff and student-athletes alike. He’s also been involved on the coaching staff of four other Pac-12 programs and even earned a bowl win as an interim head coach at Washington in 2013.
Did Ross Bowers, Brandon McIlwain and Chase Garbers thrive under Tuiasosopo’s direction? That can’t be said confidently. But a quarterback coach’s success can only go as far as the offensive coordinator’s system allows it to, and Baldwin’s three-year run wasn’t rich in explosive plays. If the Bears strike out on some of the names later mentioned on this list, Tuiasosopo isn’t a disaster pick by any means.
Burl Toler III — This choice would certainly raise some eyebrows, but it’s not entirely out of the question. If Wilcox believes in Toler — a fan favorite from his days as a star receiver — enough to take the current offense to the next level, expect a search for a new wide receivers coach.
Fresh faces with a realistic shot
Brennan Marion — Virtually every Cal fanpage floated Marion’s name around the moment Baldwin’s departure was announced. The current offensive coordinator at William and Mary has ties to the Bay Area at the high school and community college levels and runs a spread-offense similar to Baldwin’s, but with greater tempo. He’s just 32 years old and has reportedly expressed interest in the Cal vacancy, meaning he’s likely on Wilcox’s radar.
Troy Taylor — It sounds like Taylor won’t consider leaving his current role as the head coach at Sacramento State, but there’s no denying his fit with the Bears should he have a change of heart. He’s one of the most accomplished Cal quarterbacks to ever put on a blue and gold uniform, and in his first season as a head coach, the Hornets (and their explosive offense) clinched their first ever Big Sky conference title. He previously spent five years as a position coach in Berkeley from 1996-2000, and would be an ideal fit for the program as it stands today.
Reaching a little farther
Jeff Banks — On one hand (or foot), Jeff Banks is a former punter and currently a special teams coordinator. He’s also currently on the staff of Alabama(!) and has been for the past two seasons after a five-year stint at Texas A&M. He was FootballScoop’s special teams coordinator of the year in 2018 and could make the leap to offensive coordinator in a new area of the country soon. This is admittedly a weird hire, but one that would undoubtedly excite just about everyone.
Brian Lindgren — This choice certainly wouldn’t be as bizarre as a Banks hire, but it would be surprising if Lindgren departed a program that offensively took a leap under his direction in 2019. As Oregon State’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Brian Lindgren transformed the Beavers’ offense from the team’s weakest link to a dynamic group with two of the more explosive playmakers in the conference. With close ties to the Bay Area and the West Coast as a whole, this hire makes a lot of sense if there is mutual interest.
Jedd Fisch — If Wilcox is seeking experience, Jedd Fisch is his man. The current Los Angeles Rams senior offensive assistant has been through it all as a widely respected assistant at the collegiate and professional levels. While a head coaching role may be the position he covets most, Fisch’s track record leads me to believe that Cal will at least consider a phone call to a guy who has everything from the New Jersey Red Dogs to the Seattle Seahawks on his resume.
Shooting for the stars
Ron Rivera — There’s only one university in the world Ron Rivera would coach at if he decided to jump ship from the NFL to the NCAA. The former Cal legend and Carolina Panthers head coach is deserving of another opportunity at the NFL level, but if he doesn’t become the next head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, perhaps Cal is in his distant future.
Tony Gonzalez — Before there was Jason Witten, Rob Gronkowski and George Kittle, there was the greatest tight end of all time. As a two-sport student-athlete during his time in Berkeley, Tony Gonzalez was unstoppable, and his reign of dominance only escalated during a 17-year NFL career that featured 14 Pro Bowl selections. In the days after his playing career ended, Gonzalez has transitioned into an analyst at Fox Sports. If Tuiasosopo were to solely become the OC, there would be an opening at tight ends coach.