We’re well past the NFL midway point, and we’ve already seen the Texans and the Falcons fire their head coaches and GMs. These were likely only the first moves of many that will be made at the end of the season. Taking a look at these jobs plus predicting openings, I’m going to rank the jobs based on what they have and give my best coaching fits for each team that may be looking for a new HC in the offseason.
#6 The Detroit Lions
Another Bill Belichick disciple is showing that it’s not just the “New England Way” that leads to success, it’s Bill. Matt Patricia came and tried to instill the same hard-nosed culture that they have up in NE, and it has not had the same results.
Carrying a career record of 10-27-1, he has not managed to win any games of meaning or even come close to a division title. That along with reports of him losing the locker room as early as the end of last season signals the end of his time in Detroit. I have this job coming in at #6 on the list due to no real promising future.
Matt Stafford can still play at a high level, but he’s 32; they have a good young WR in Golladay and a budding star in Deandre Swift. Outside of that, there isn’t much to be excited about. You paid Desmond Trufant $4.5 million whose been hurt, Trey Flowers to be a star and has underwhelmed, and you drafted a CB in the first round who has shown nothing in his rookie year. That plus being in a salary cap pinch with next year’s lowered salary cap make this job, particularly unappealing.
Top candidate choice: Robert Salah, DC, San Francisco 49ers. They love their defense in Detroit, and he can come in get the best out of the players they have acquired. While Kyle Shanahan gets the love in SF, Robert Salah has built a juggernaut on the defensive side of the ball and should be a top HC candidate this offseason.
#5 The Chicago Bears
This one is a leap of an idea in terms of the opening, but the Matt Nagy experiment should be ending. For years we blamed Mitchell Trubisky for not being able to run the offense properly; now, they traded for Nick Foles and you’re getting more of the same. If not for stellar defense, this team would not even be competitive.
Their offense is boring, they have little running success, and outside of Allen Robinson, no real threat to scare anyone. I have this ranked at five because you have no QB, a bad OL, and oh yeah, Allen Robinson is set to hit free agency this year. With the defense playing well and their hot start, they will be drafting too late to get a top-four QB and will have to hope a Kyle Trask falls to them. The drafting strategy of the GM has been questionable as well so this job just doesn’t do anything for me.
Top coaching candidate: Mike Lafluer, Passing Game Coordinator, San Francisco 49ers. Yes, the brother of Matt in GB; he would be another branch of the Shanahan tree. You’re seeing the effects of young minds being brought in everywhere (see Cincinnati); plus, anyone that helps make Jimmy G look ok has to have something going right. The Bears need a new offensive mind to bring some juice to this roster, and no typical recycled candidate seems appealing here.
#4 The Houston Texans
How the mighty have fallen. After two consecutive years of playoff appearances and a double-digit lead over the Chiefs, the Houston Texans now sit in a position for the #6 pick in the NFL Draft…..or they would except they traded it to the Miami Dolphins in the Laramy Tunsil trade. The Texans let HC/GM Bill O’ Brien run both sides of football operations and effectively ran it into the ground and himself out of a job. Next year, the new coach and GM are looking at salary cap hell.
You are paying JJ Watt top tier money who looks like a shell of himself, Brandin Cooks $12 million, and Randall Cobb eight million. Don’t forget you traded arguably the best WR in the league in Deandre Hopkins for a banged-up RB that you’re paying eight million to as well. The defense is atrocious and full of holes, and the offensive weapons need a serious upgrade. The only reason this job isn’t too lower is that you already have a young superstar QB in Deshaun Watson.
Top coaching candidate: Byron Leftwich, OC, Tampa Bay Bucs. Seen as a hot name in coaching circles you hear nothing but good things about him amongst coaches and Bruce Arians in particular who brought him to Tampa. While he might not get a job this year, he’s certainly on the radar, and being an ex QB, he might have what it takes to rescue DW and this disastrous offense.
#3 The New York Jets
What? The Jets at three? That’s correct. We know this team has been an absolute dumpster fire the past few seasons, but the owner had zero business hiring Adam Gase. This firing should be all but guaranteed, and the only reason I suspect he still has a job is to secure the #1 overall pick this year.
This job won’t be an easy fix, and it won’t be a quick fix, but you are set up for success after the Jamal Adams trade. This should be an appealing job for a new HC. You have the first pick in the draft (Trevor Lawrence), you have a late first from Seattle where you could draft a true #1 WR to help him grow with, and pick #33 to grab a true RB or OL. You have an extra 3rd as well if you wanted to package that and go up in the second to grab someone else.
On offense, you have Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder who could be a solid two and three WR core. On defense, you have Quinnen Williams, Marcus Maye, Bradley Mcdougald, and Ashtyn Davis who are all nice pieces to build around. Cap room is also not an issue coming into the offseason, and you have the funds to spend. If you could get the owner to agree to a 2-3 year rebuild, this job has all the makings of future success.
Top coaching candidate: Eric Bieniemy, OC, Kansas City Chiefs. The hottest name in the coaching market, most people expected him to land a job this year. Teams don’t make that mistake again, and he’s scooped up and is given the keys to the kingdom starting with his pick of the litter at QB.
#2 The Jacksonville Jaguars
Three years ago, we thought we were witnessing the birth of the next great defense. You had superstar talent across the board and took the Patriots to the brink of the AFC Championship. All Doug Marrone has done since then is go 12-30 and hang out in the bottom of the AFC South. It’s his time to go and take Minshew Mania with him.
The Jaguars likely recipients of a top-three pick are in the driver’s seat to grab a new QB in the draft. You already have DJ Chark and Keelan Cole on the outside, Conley and young Shenault growing, a solid OL minus a tackle, and your future RB in James Robinson. Add a top tier QB and another weapon, and that offense have something in the making.
On defense, you have Myles Jack, and you’ve spent your last three first-round picks on Josh Allen, CJ Henderson, and K’Lavon Chaisson. Another few additions and you can go back to being competitive in your division. You have plenty of cap room and two more first-round picks this year to make some quality additions, and, with the right coach, this team should be back on its feet in no time.
Top coaching candidate: Brian Daboll, OC, Buffalo Bills. Coming into the league Josh Allen was viewed by many as too inaccurate and turnover-prone to be successful. Now he only is in the MVP conversation and leads his team atop the AFC East division. Daboll has been instrumental in designing an offense around a young QB to help him and give him the talent to help him develop. This fits a young Jags team that will likely have a new QB under center as well next year.
#1 The Atlanta Falcons
Landing at number one is the Atlanta Falcons. Overall, this is a good roster that has underachieved in consecutive seasons. It’s loaded with talent and with the right coach, should be considered amongst the favorites for the NFC South next year. Matt Ryan will be 36 at the start of next season, but he’s still getting it done at a consistent level, and since they have played themselves out of the top QB conversation, he’s here for next year at least. You have two stars WR’s on the outside, a good TE, an OL loaded with first-round picks, and a few RBs that can get the job done.
The DL is loaded with top five DT Grady Jarrett, and they took a shot on former first-round pick Dante Fowler. Deion Jones is still a rock for the middle of that defense, and around him, Foyesade Oluokun is developing into a three-down player. They have a pair of serviceable safeties and a #1 corner for years to come. On paper, there aren’t a lot of holes on this roster. Add a corner and another pass rusher, and this team should be competing for Super Bowls.
Top coaching candidate: Wink Martindale, DC, Baltimore Ravens. Yes, another DC for the Atlanta Falcons. The offense has the juice, and while he’ll likely bring his own OC to run it, they have enough talent to win games. The defense needs help. They have played badly for two years and with the talent and his coaching, another piece on defense and they could be a top 10 unit on a top tier team.
Denver Broncos: Vic Fangio is relatively new, so it’s unlikely they move on so quickly, especially with injuries they’ve had. The fact remains though that he has a losing record in his tenure, and that had better turn around next year.
Dallas Cowboys: Yes already, whether it be the HC or the DC, this team has entirely too much talent to be this bad. Mike McCarthy was off to a bad start even before Dak went down. We’re already seeing why Rodgers spoke of him the way he did, and not much has changed in his year off. If they don’t get the ball rolling soon, Jerry Jones should already be looking for his next hire.