We are far enough into the NFL season that it is now fair to start looking at head coaching changes that are likely to be made in the offseason. When you survey the landscape, it becomes clear that we could be in for a very unique coaching offseason for a couple of reasons.
Most of the jobs that could come open are not total rebuilds
Usually, the vast majority of NFL jobs that come are among the worst in the league with not much talent on the roster. However, this coming offseason is almost sure to be different. The teams with the most chatter around their coaches are Green Bay, Baltimore, Denver, Dallas and Cleveland.
The Browns have their quarterback of the future for better or worse. The Ravens have the top-ranked total defense this year. Denver is top 10 in rushing offense as well as top five in sacking opposing quarterbacks. Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers. Lastly, Jerry Jones will never let his Cowboys enter a total rebuild phase, even if they need to.
Some of these possible openings will have to go to traditional young coordinator candidates. There aren’t enough available proven winning coaches to go around. However, that’s a slippery slope. Candidates like that always seem to feel the need to make big personnel changes. None of the possible openings call for that. They all need either a different scheme, better game management on the sidelines or simply a new voice. Jobs like that are always best in the hands of proven winners with a lengthy track record, but most of those guys are already employed. This brings up the two guys that are proven winners who may be available in the offseason.
The coaching market will wait on Harbaugh and McCarthy if need be
NFL fans and media personalities have ridiculously short memories. Thus, it is hard to convince anyone that current Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and Packers head coach Mike McCarthy are elite football coaches, but that is the truth.
With each passing week, it becomes more and more apparent that both men’s message has become stale in their current positions. This is not unusual after over a decade in one spot. Think about it though. Harbaugh and McCarthy have been at it for over 10 years, have double-digit playoff wins and a Super Bowl ring each. So many people only pay attention to the greatest of the great, Harbaugh and McCarthy are not that. Still, their accomplishments put them in pretty rarified air amongst NFL head coaches past, present, and future.
If Harbaugh and/or McCarthy are indeed let go and want to continue coaching, every other team with a head coaching opening will want to talk to them. McCarthy’s offensive background should be particularly enticing to teams like Denver and Dallas that already have a defense. Other possible openings include Tampa Bay and the Jets. Those teams would also no doubt be interested in talking to one or both Super Bowl-winning head coaches.
Ever since Sean McVay turned out to be a home run hire for the Rams, NFL teams have been fixated on finding the next hotshot young coach with all the answers. Apart from McVay though, think about all the teams in the realistic Super Bowl conversation for this year. They all have coaches like Andy Reid, Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin and Sean Payton. The league can change all it wants, the veteran coaches still run it. McVay is the exception, not the rule. Experience on the sideline is still a huge key to contending for titles.
Despite their current struggles, Harbaugh and McCarthy are two names that are not overmatched coaching against the best of the best. They have proven this. Owners would much rather hire proven commodities, rather than crossing their fingers when hiring a young assistant, they just don’t come available all that often. To have two available in the same offseason is unheard of.
That is why on December 31st, the day after the regular season ends, a lot of time could very well be spent wooing two grizzled coaching veterans, rather than a bunch of virtually unknown young guns.