You might remember that, last year, Commanders fans found out in early January that Scott Turner had been fired, but the decision to hire Eric Bieniemy to replace him wasn’t publicly known until February 18th — more than a month later and 5 days after the Chiefs won the Super Bowl.
The rules on interviewing and hiring coaches are fairly complex, and have changed in each of the past two offseasons (2023 and 2024).
The current rules
Teams cannot hold initial interviews with candidates employed by teams participating in the AFC and NFC championship games until the end of the employer team’s season.
A second face-to-face interview is not allowed until Jan. 29.
A candidate’s employer team may not voluntarily grant permission for exceptions to these rules.
- [From] Jan. 29 through Feb. 4 (the bye week between conference championships and the Super Bowl), second interviews, either in-person or virtual, are allowed with head coach candidates employed by teams in the Super Bowl. The team(s) conducting the interviews must notify the employer team(s).
- Contact with head coach candidates in the Super Bowl is not allowed from Feb. 4 to Feb. 12, the day after the Super Bowl.
- Additionally, no contract, contract announcement or contract agreement is permitted until after the end of the employer team’s season.
The list of head coaching candidates that Washington is considering is believed to include coaches who are currently on the coaching staffs of the Lions, Texans and Ravens, all of whom are currently alive in the playoffs.
Of course, in the AFC playoffs, the Texans and the Ravens play each other on Saturday, so the candidate(s) (Lions OC Bobby Slowik; Ravens DC Mike Macdonald; Ravens Ass. head coach & DL coach Anthony Weaver) from the losing team will be immediately available for personal interview while the candidate(s) from the winning team will remain (for the moment) unavailable for personal interview.
In the NFC playoffs, Ben Johnson, OC of the Lions, and Aaron Glenn, DC of the Lions, will be facing off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday. If the Lions lose, then they can be interviewed right away, but if not, then their availability will be delayed until after the conference championship game.
If any of these candidates end up coaching in the Super Bowl, Commanders fans could end up waiting until mid-February to find out who the next coach will be — though, by that time, it will likely be obvious who Josh Harris and Adam Peters are waiting for.
Flow-on effect to coordinators
In a situation where the Commanders’ top target (or targets) are still coaching in the conference championship games or the Super Bowl, the Commanders front office is going to have to help work behind the scenes to create commitments with coordinators and position coaches. Many of those candidates have been interviewing virtually this week, and will be getting offers from teams next week and the week after (if they aren’t coaching a playoff team). Of course, any candidate for a head coaching position who is getting serious consideration will already be in contact with the key people he wants to bring with him to Washington, so this is probably not as strongly impacted as it might seem.
Through the circle fast and slow
Overall, the league’s rules on interviewing and hiring of coaches set up a situation where, if Washington’s top choice is coaching a team that is out of the playoffs by Saturday or Sunday night, then the Commanders could be wrapping up the coaching search and announcing a decision as soon as Wednesday or Friday next week.
On the other hand, if one or more of Washington’s top targets is coaching on a team that progresses to the Super Bowl, which will be played on February 11th, it could be February 12th or later before the Commanders are able to announce the identity of the team’s new head coach and get busy filling out the rest of the coaching staff.
Obviously, impatient fans may possibly be rewarded with a quick announcement within a week, but they should also prepare to have their patience tested by the new NFL rules on interviewing and hiring coaches.