Week 17 of the NFL calendar is finally here. The last games of the regular season take place this Sunday. For some, it is only the beginning; for others, it is the end. Following Week 17 is Black Monday. That is the day when teams fire coaches and GM’s. Several teams could make the news on Black Monday; the coaching carousel will come into full swing. Already, we’ve witnessed three teams fire their coaches; the carousel is already moving. Let’s examine the current state of play in the NFL coaching carousel.
The Current Openings
The Lions, Falcons, and Texans are the teams with interim head coaches. These teams began their coaching searches a while ago. Yes, they cant approach NFL coaches during the season, nevertheless these teams can do their background work on potential candidates. The incumbent interims will also be desperate to make themselves contenders for the full-time role. It’s time to assess these three teams.
The Falcons are rooted to the bottom of the NFC South. A four-game losing streak sees their record sit at 4-11. Initially, Atlanta started well under Raheem Morris. However, the early optimism disappeared as the Falcons’ troubles continued. It looks unlikely that Morris will return as the head coach next year. The team conducted interviews with former Texans GM Rick Smith plus in house candidate Anthony Robinson.
Atlanta is an offensive team; they possess a multitude of weapons on that side of the ball. Therefore it is understandable that they will look for an offensive coordinator. Matt Ryan can still play at a high level, so can Julio Jones. The pieces are there for the Falcons to be an exciting offense under a new head coach. Arthur Smith, Joe Brady, and Eric Bienemy are prime contenders for this role. Either one of these coaches will be a smart hire.
Best Fit – Arthur Smith. Smith’s demonstrated superb ability in designing an offense around a play-action run game. With Todd Gurley in the backfield, there is already scope for Smith to do the same in Atlanta. He can also relight Matt Ryan’s fire, as well as extend his career for a few more years. Smith in Atlanta is an optimum fit, for both team and himself. He can get the offense firing!
The Detroit Lions are searching for their next savior. After 50 years of terrible football, Sheila Ford is determined to change these wounded Lions’ fortunes. They’ve already conducted several interviews with potential GM candidates, plus they’ve brought back FOX analyst Chris Spielman to the organization. The Lions are crying out for a leader, a coach that can create a positive atmosphere in the locker room. There is plenty of work to be done; the Lions were humiliated last week against Tampa Bay. The roster requires major surgery, particularly on the defensive side.
It is a long process for the next incumbent. It also seems as if the Lions hierarchy is looking for a candidate with experience. Experience in leading a group of men, while creating a winning program. Coaches such as Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh, and Marvin Lewis are in the frame. Although in reality, there is only one candidate:
Best Fit – Robert Saleh. Michigan born Robert Saleh is the firm favorite for the job. Saleh grew up in Dearborn, he played at Northern Michigan, plus his coaching career began at Michigan State. The lifelong Lion fan can come home; it isn’t just the hometown connection though.
Saleh is one of the most sought after coordinators in this cycle. He’s led the 49ers defense to enjoy consecutively competitive years. Despite all the injuries the 49ers compete on defense every week. The Lions defense needs help; the energetic, intense Saleh can do that. He can also lead, which will be a huge requirement for the next Lions coach.
The Texans is another long term job. Houston does not own any picks in the first rounds of the upcoming draft. JJ Watt is nearing the end of his career, while the team holds no elite pass catcher. Paradoxically, it could be the best job. Why? Deshaun Watson.
The former Clemson man is special. Watson’s performances this year are nothing short of incredible. He is the shining emerald in the Texan’s rusty crown. Watson alone makes this an attractive proposition. Houston will surely desire an offensive mind to work with their star quarterback. In a division with an exciting young Colts team, Derrick Henry, and the Jaguars, the Texans must enhance Watson. It will almost certainly be an offensive coordinator that gets this job.
Best Fit – Eric Bienemy. Bienemy’s stellar work with Patrick Mahomes places him at the top of the list for this job. Watson is perhaps the only young quarterback who is in the Mahomes mold. Bienemy’s performances at Kansas City should guarantee him a head coaching job.
He leads by example, plus his playcalling gets the best out of the talent available to him. Bienemy can make Watson into an MVP caliber quarterback. For that reason, Houston must hire him.
The Hot Seats
It is inexplicable to think the Jets may not fire Adam Gase. He will go on Black Monday. The Jets will then look for their next head coach. With those two wins, New York is now out of Trevor Lawrence’s territory. With no Lawrence, the Jets should stick with Sam Darnold. He is more than good enough to be a starter in the NFL. They need to get him the right coach so he can develop. Luckily for them, the right man is already in the Tri-State area. Brian Daboll.
It is incredible how well Daboll developed Josh Allen at Buffalo. Allen now looks like an MVP caliber quarterback. Daboll can do the same with Sam Darnold. Hire Brian Daboll, draft Penei Sewell, and give Darnold a chance. The Jets already have their quarterback.
Doug Marrone took the Jaguars to an AFC Championship game in 2017-18. Sadly for him, that was the high point. The Jags will draft Trevor Lawrence; subsequently, they will hire a new head coach. The Jacksonville job is attractive due to the cap room plus Lawrence. Jacksonville should entice Urban Meyer to come back to Florida. Meyer can make it work with Lawrence and a potentially very young roster.
Zac Taylor’s record in Cincinnati is not good. The second-year coach is under pressure, however, back-to-back wins might save him. If the Bengals decision-makers disagree, then there is the perfect candidate already in the NFL.
Joe Brady of the Carolina Panthers is experiencing a magnificent rookie year in the NFL. He’s delivered a stellar coaching performance in Charlotte. He looks like an offensive wunderkind. Before joining Carolina, Brady was at LSU, with a young man named Joe Burrow. That season saw Brady enjoy the most remarkable season in College Football history. Burrow will come back better from his injury; if the Bengals are hell-bent on building a team around the Ohio born quarterback, they should hire Joe Brady.