Ranking NFL’s open head-coaching jobs: Coaches, execs pick league’s gigs from least to most attractive
There’s love for Chargers’ Justin Herbert and big changes in D.C. Not so much over Mike Vrabel’s exit and the Panthers
[W]e polled six highly positioned league sources — three on the coaching side and three on the personnel side — and asked them to rank the league’s seven jobs that were open as of Thursday, with heavy consideration on team ownership, roster and salary-cap load.
1. Washington Commanders (38 points: three first-place votes, two second-place votes, one third-place vote)
Sentiment surrounding the Commanders illustrates perfectly how wary coaches and executives are about team ownership. A year ago, candidates would avoid Dan Snyder’s team at most costs. The Commanders are now the darling among top candidates, even though they haven’t produced a winning season in eight years. League sources believe Josh Harris’ new team ownership group is committed to investing in winning. They’re eager to come in contemporaneously with a new general manager rather than afterward. Harris gained further clout when he lured San Francisco 49ers assistant general manager Adam Peters to be his general manager. And while some sources favor a Chargers team with a proven top-10 quarterback, the next-best scenario to having a quarterback in place is seeing a clear path to obtaining that quarterback. Drafting No. 2 overall in a QB-rich year is gold. C.J. Stroud in Houston, anyone?
The prospect of a new team owner, general manager, head coach and quarterback all turning over within a year opens possibilities.
“If you’re taking over as the head coach and you want to instill your culture and your belief system, it’s a truly blank slate,” one coach said. “To me, that’s more important to long-term success than anything.”
This roster needs help, but the Commanders have capital thanks to their poor win-loss record and their midseason trades of edge rushers Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Receivers Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel should support a new quarterback. Defensive tackles Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen lay a foundation on defense. And no team has more 2024 salary-cap space, per Spotrac, than the Commanders — who, remember, won’t need to spend on the priciest asset of QB if they draft him as expected. Add in low expectations for early success, and league sources view Washington as a prime spot for an up-and-coming candidate to succeed in the long term. Harris will have a stadium project on his hands that buys a coach time. Early mediocrity, one coach said, will be celebrated the way Jonathan Gannon’s 4-13 Arizona Cardinals drew praise in 2023.
Quotable: “Exciting new ownership group, and it speaks volumes the fact that they were able to hire Adam Peters, who could have had any GM job he’s wanted for years now,” a polled coach said. “I think that shows you how attractive this place is.”
Bullock’s Film Room (subscription)
Evaluating how head coach candidate Ben Johnson performed in the Lions wildcard victory over the Rams
With such a diverse set of run schemes, he knew the Rams would be looking to attack the line of scrimmage to try and stop the run, which would open up passing lanes behind them. So Johnson smartly built in play-action passes on nearly all of his different run schemes to help sell those fakes.
The first play of this clip is the counter run scheme that the Lions opened the game with, which we saw in the clip above. But the key here is to notice that they started the game with this run, pulling the guard across the formation to kick out the edge defender, which is a very strong run key for defenders. Later in the game, Johnson shows a counter run again, this time to the left, but instead of handing the ball off, he uses it as a play-action fake. In the second play of this clip, we can see the right guard pulling across to the left side of the line, getting the linebacker to that side to bite up heavily. That linebacker then can’t sink back far enough into the throwing lane and Jared Goff fires a strike over his head on a dagger concept for a nice gain.
Stats to know
— McLaurin got his fourth straight 1,000-yard season, making him the first receiver in franchise history to accomplish the feat. He is currently eighth in all-time receiving yards, needing only 214 yards to pass Jerry Smith. McLaurin has averaged 1,056 yards per season in his career. If that trend continues, he will end the 2024 season behind Bobby Mitchell for sixth all-time. Hall of Famer Art Monk is the franchise leader with 12,026 yards, and as long as McLaurin continues to pump out 1,000-yard seasons, it will take him seven more seasons to surpass Monk.
— Washington’s receivers helped Sam Howell complete 388 passes, which was tied for the fourth most in the NFL last season.
Questions to answer
— What to do with the pieces around McLaurin: McLaurin isn’t going anywhere. He’s a team captain and one of the best receivers in franchise history. Plus, the team has him under contract for the next two seasons. Neither is Dotson, as he gets ready for Year 3 of his career. But there are questions about the rest of the position. For starters, Samuel is set to hit free agency after a solid season. The seven-year pro was one of the more exciting pieces of the Commanders’ offense in 2023, but the new regime might want to dip into the draft to replace him. This year features a particularly deep crop of receivers, so it could make more sense to go for a younger position rather than spend money on a multiyear deal to retain Samuel. There are also the depth players behind McLaurin, Dotson and Samuel to consider. Pringle, Crowder and Brown combined for 488 yards and two touchdowns. There’s still talent at the position, but with three players set to hit the open market, it might be time to retool.
The Washington Commanders are looking for a head coach and have interviewed at least eight candidates. Four of those candidates are from the Ravens and Lions, so Washington must wait on them.
However, the Commanders can interview other candidates this week. On Monday, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported the Commanders will interview Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn for a second time. The Commanders will also bring in Rams DC Raheem Morris for a second interview.
Quinn and Morris will be busy this week, with second in-person interviews slated with multiple teams.
Is the Commanders’ current offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, the right man for the head coaching job?
Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has interviewed for the Washington Commanders’ head coaching job, so why aren’t fans taking him more seriously?
In previous seasons, Bieniemy was interviewed for more head coaching vacancies while Acting as the Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator. However, only the Commanders have shown any consideration this off-season by giving him an interview.
The hope was that in his seventeenth head coaching interview since 2019, he’d have found success that made him undeniable as a head coach candidate, but Reid received the majority of the credit for the Chiefs’ success on offense, and the Commanders weren’t a juggernaut this season with him at the helm calling plays.
Washington will need a leader who can develop a culture, and after years of helping cultivate a winning environment in Kansas City, Bieniemy is one of the winningest head coach candidates out there.
Commanders fans may not view him as the most exciting head coach hire. Still, Bieniemy might be the ma’am needed to flip this team from being a bottom dweller to a playoff contender, just like the Houston Texans accomplished with rookie head coach DeMeco Ryans.
Podcasts & videos
Grant would be ‘heartbroken, crestfallen, and gut-punched’ if the Commanders hire Dan Quinn
On video: talking about many topics with @RandyMueller_ that interest Washington. How the Commanders moves are viewed. Thoughts on the QBs in the draft— love for Daniels, not so much for Maye. more. Check out Randy on his Football GM podcast as well. https://t.co/hkLU8NWLfh— John Keim (@john_keim) January 22, 2024
Episode 745 - Ben Johnson per a report is "the favorite to land the Washington job." Analysis/discussion of a busy last few days in the #Commanders' head-coach search, including Eric Bieniemy being interviewed.— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) January 22, 2024
I also talk #ALLCAPS, Wizards, #Terps & more.https://t.co/PJShrf0L8r
NFC East links
The Athletic (paywall)
ESPN first reported the news of Rivera’s interview with the Eagles.
Would Rivera and Sirianni be a good team?
The first thing that came to mind when I heard Rivera was interviewing for the Eagles’ defensive coordinator job was, “Hmmm. A former head coach.” When I began to consider how consistent Rivera’s character was through a tenuous era in Washington’s football history, I started to believe that hiring Rivera could be a sensible move for Sirianni.
Sirianni has been used to being unapologetically himself. His personality — often a blend of bold, brash and impulsive — breathes sincerity and endears the relatively young coach to Philadelphia, his coaching staff and his players. But Sirianni also often admitted throughout the 2023 collapse that he needed to learn how to improve his composure on the sideline.
I can think of few coaches more composed than Rivera. His calm demeanor and storied defensive background as a Super Bowl-winning linebacker for the Chicago Bears would make him again an instant fit in Philly, where he was once a linebackers coach under Andy Reid from 1999 to 2003. Rivera also clearly has accumulated experience as a two-time NFL Coach of the Year, who took the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl 50, and would be valuable as a co-worker with Sirianni.
Bleeding Green Nation
The Commanders’ former head coach could be staying in the NFC East.
NFL league links
Tennessee found its guy and wasn’t about to let him leave the building.
The Titans plan to hire Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan as their head coach, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported Monday night.
Callahan had his second interview with the team Monday and he’s staying put despite having had interviews scheduled with the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers for their vacant head coaching spots, Pelissero added.
Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk and general manager Ran Carthon were looking for a coach to helm a franchise turnaround and Callahan, who’s been part of the Bengals’ about-face over the past three seasons, has been pegged for the task.
Tampa Bay’s QB-WR duo spearheaded an overachieving season, but committing long-term could be risky
Mayfield had a bounce-back year and certainly earned the opportunity to continue as Tampa’s starting quarterback, but at what cost? If you’re the Buccaneers’ front office you’re questioning whether you want to be tied to him long term after a Geno Smith-esque turnaround. Now, Baker hadn’t fallen as far as Smith, but many had written him off due to mostly inconsistent play prior to arriving in Tampa Bay. You’ve got to ask yourself if this was an anomaly or if Mayfield can be the guy over the next three to five years.
With Evans, it feels like he should be first in line to re-sign, especially since he’s been with the franchise his entire career. However, this isn’t always the case, especially once a player hits the magic mark of age 30. He’ll turn 31 in August just before the start of the 2024 campaign, but unlike Mayfield, Evans has been a model of consistency in the NFL.
Even with all those accomplishments, we know how organizations view players above 30. Evans has been one of the most underrated players of his generation playing in Tampa. He’s been outstanding the past decade, but other than his five Pro Bowl selections, there aren’t a ton of individual accolades on his resume. Having that Super Bowl helps a lot, but it feels like Evans has always been in the background of NFL wide receivers. He’s not a diva and doesn’t
However, it seems as if Evans wants Mayfield back as his QB for the long haul. That’s where this becomes a huge dilemma, especially if you aren’t completely sold on Mayfield. Signing Mayfield, 28, to an extension beyond two years could be a major risk, especially when you factor in the QB market. Some think Mayfield could jump into the $40 million per year range with this extension. Yes, it sounds absurd, but that’s where we are in 2024.