Now that the NFL regular season has concluded the NFL’s head coaching carousel can begin. Within the past few days, multiple head coaching vacancies have opened up around the league. Before Week 18 there were two head coaching positions available. Now there are seven head coaching vacancies currently open.
Over the next couple of days, teams will interview multiple candidates to fill those positions. There are a large group of candidates that could potentially fill the league’s head coaching vacancies. Here are some names that will receive consideration and could land an NFL head coaching job for the 2022 season.
Favorites to Land Jobs
Eric Bieniemy: Offensive Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
Many believe that Eric Bieniemy was robbed of an NFL head coaching job past two seasons season. The former NFL running back became the Chiefs offensive coordinator in Patrick Mahomes’ first season as a starter. In that season Mahomes tied the record for second-most touchdown passes in a season and won league MVP. The following season The combo of Mahomes and Bieniemy helped lead Kansas City to a Super Bowl last season. Even after an inconsistent year from the Chiefs offense Bieniemy is considered one of the best offensive coordinators in the league and could land a head coaching job. Bieniemy interviewed for every head coaching vacancy last offseason.
Best Fits: Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears
Brian Daboll: Offensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills
There was no bigger shock last offseason than Brian Daboll not landing a head coaching job following last season. The Bills offensive coordinator is getting credit for turning Josh Allen from a small school quarterback with cannon and accuracy problems to one of the league’s most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks and MVP candidate in back-to-back seasons. Daboll is from the Bill Belichick and Nick Saban coaching trees which executives around the league have viewed as a major plus in other candidates in the past. The only knock on Daboll over the last couple of seasons is Buffalo’s inability to effectively run the ball consistently over the last two seasons. He interviewed for both the Los Angeles Chargers and New York Jets last offseason.
Best Fits: Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears
Kellen Moore: Offensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
The offensive coordinator who made the biggest push to becoming a head coaching candidate this season was Dallas Cowboys’ offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. The former Boise State quarterback has been Dallas’ offensive coordinator since 2019. Moore was retained on Dallas’ staff even after they made the decision to replace Jason Garrett with Mike McCarthy.
The Cowboys’ offense may have cooled off later in the season, but they were extremely productive this season. Dak Prescott broke the franchise record for passing touchdowns in a single season with 37. Dallas also had both a 1,000-yard receiver and rusher in CeeDee Lamb and Ezekiel Elliott. Tight end Dalton Schultz become the second tight end in Cowboys history to have 800+ receiving yards in a season. Those accolades are largely credited to Moore and his ability to feature multiple players for his offense week to week. He has already interviewed for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears jobs.
Best Fits: Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears
Byron Leftwich: Offensive Coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It was only a matter of time until Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich became a head coaching candidate. It is not rare for an offensive coordinator that works with Tom Brady to be considered a head coaching candidate. Leftwich isn’t just a head coaching candidate because of his work with Brady. He has done a great job over the last three seasons getting outstanding production from his offensive weapons whether it was Jameis Winston or Tom Brady on offense. He has not gotten overwhelmed with the number of stars on this offense and has schemed a very balanced offensive attack keeping the Buccaneer’s stars happy. His playcalling was a large part of why the Buccaneers’ offense played so well during their Super Bowl run last season. Head coach Bruce Arians believes that his offensive coordinator is head coaching material and was stunned he was not interviewed for any positions last season. Leftwich is set to interview for the Jacksonville Jaguars who drafted him in the first round of the 2003 Draft and also the Chicago Bears.
Best Fits: Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears, Las Vegas Raiders
Great Coordinators that will be considered
Nathaniel Hackett, Offensive Coordinator, Green Bay Packers
There are a lot of common football fans who may not know who Nathaniel Hackett is. But this year he became more of a household name after how Green Bay’s offense played this season. Before landing in Green Bay in 2019, Hackett was known as the offensive coordinator that coached Blake Bortes and the Jacksonville Jaguars to the AFC Championship game. Both Hackett and head coach Matt LaFleur ran bottom five offenses the season prior to their first in Green Bay. However, both have done outstanding work the past two years with this team and offense. Since they joined the team they have had a 39-10 record.
Not only has Aaron Rodgers been an MVP candidate in back-to-back seasons, but Green Bay’s offense has also produced multiple stars on offense including Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, and Robert Tonyan who are all among the best in the league at their positions. That is excluding A.J. Dillon who has a case to be the best change of pace back in the league not named Kareem Hunt. Dillon could easily start at running back for about a third of the teams around the league.
This could potentially be the “last dance” for Green Bay. That would mean there is a chance Green Bay loses one of if not both Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. Hackett could try to take advantage of the fact that he coaches one of the more talented offenses in the league and land try to land a head coaching opportunity before he is potentially tasked with the seemingly impossible that is coaching up Jordan Love to play to the level of his predecessors, Aaron Rodgers and Brett Farve. It is unlikely lightning will strike three times in Green Bay and Hackett will be blamed for Loves faults. As great as Matt LeFleur and his staff has been over the last three seasons this may be the most opportune time to jump ship in Green Bay. A team that hires Hackett could be viewed as a favorite to land Rodgers in a trade because of Rodgers’ familiarity and success with his playbook.
Hackett already has some experience interviewing for head coaching positions in the past. Last year he interviewed for Atlanta’s head coaching vacancy. It was reported that before his interview with the Falcons last year reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers called the team and told them to hire Hackett.
Best Fit: Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins
Matt Eberflus: Defensive Coordinator, Indianapolis Colts
One coordinator who deserves more attention and respect from NFL media as a head coaching candidate is Matt Eberflus. When Frank Reich hired Eberflus to become the Colts defensive coordinator he was tasked to make one of the league’s worst defenses competitive. By his first season, the Colts’ defense was middle of the pack. Now in year four Eberflus has coached this defense to be one of the best units in the league.
There are plenty of examples of players that have developed into stars under Eberflus including Darius Leonard, Kenny Moore, Bobby Okereke, and Grover Stewart. Also, Kwity Paye, Julian Blackmon, Khari Willis and Isaiah Rodgers, have been great young players for Indianapolis’ defense as well.
A team interested in developing their young defensive talent should talk to Eberflus whose track record of doing such continues to grow every season. He interviewed for the New York Jets, Houston Texans, and Los Angeles Chargers a season ago.
Best Fits: Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears
Wink Martindale: Defensive Coordinator, Baltimore Ravens
Don “Wink” Martindale has been a part of John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens coaching staff since 2012. This season the Ravens defense did struggle. However, it is hard to blame their struggles on Martindale because the team was decimated by injuries, especially in the secondary, throughout the season. But Baltimore did finish the season as one of the best teams in the league at defending against the run.
Between when Martindale took over as the Ravens defensive coordinator in 2018 and this season, Martindale’s defense has ranked in the top 10 in all categories. He has done a great job coaching up young talented players like Zadairus Smith, Matthew Judon, Marlon Humphrey, Patrick Queen, Chuck Clark, and Odafe Oweh over the past couple of seasons. Martindale is well-beloved by his players. He was interviewed for the Giants opening two seasons ago.
Best Fits: Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Chicago Bears
College Coaches with NFL Interest
These college coaches have shown the ability to lead a college program to success. In the past, College coaches who have the ability to lead programs to success can translate well to the NFL. Even after Urban Meyer’s controversial coaching tenure, teams could still look to hire a college coach for their vacancy.
Jim Harbaugh: Head Coach, Michigan
It seems that Jim Harbaugh has just concluded the best season he will have as the head coach at Michigan. He led the Wolverines to a 12-1 regular-season record and the #2 ranking in the College Football Playoffs. Michigan ran into a dominant Georgia team in the first round of the CFP and did not advance to the National Championship game. It feels like this would be the appropriate time for Harbaugh to leave his alma mater and return to the NFL.
Michigan likely won’t be able to repeat their performance from this past season any time soon. It is hard to imagine a scenario where Michigan becomes a favorite for the National Title with Alabama and Ohio State likely to improve next season. It is worth noting that prior to this past season Harbaugh’s seat was warm because many were disappointed at Michigan’s performances against Ohio State under Harbaugh.
When he was an NFL head coach Harbaugh was considered one of the best in the league. During his time with the San Fransisco 49ers, his teams were among the most dominant in the NFL. His record with the 49ers was 44-19-1 and made the playoffs every year except for one 8-8 season. Harbaugh won Coach of the Year in 2011 and appeared in the NFC Championship in three of his four seasons. He also was a Michael Crabtree catch on fourth down from becoming a Super Bowl-winning head coach.
There are a lot of teams around the league who think a coach like Harbaugh could take them to the next level. He could help establish a winning culture and develop young talent for a team interested in seeing immediate results from their new head coach.
Best FIts: Las Vegas Raiders, Chicago Bears, New York Giants
Matt Campbell: Head Coach, Iowa State
It seems wherever Matt Campbell goes his football teams play extremely well. He turned Toledo and Iowa State into legitimate college football programs during his time as head coach at both schools. He could be the type of head coach that could change a culture of a locker room in his first season Campbell may push to reach his highest potential job this offseason and become an NFL head coach while because of his reputation as one of the best coaches in college football. Campbell already has interviewed for the New York Jets and Detroit Lions jobs in recent years. According to CBS Sports, Iowa State head football coach Matt Campbell declined an eight-year, $68.5 million contract offer from the Lions last offseason. It appears that Campell will not leave Iowa State unless the perfect opportunity is presented to him.
Best Fits: New York Giants, Las Vegas Raiders, Chicago Bears
Luke Fickell: Head Coach, Cincinnati
The darlings of the College Football season were Luke Fickell’s Cincinnati Bearcats. Throughout the year many rooted for the AAC team to make the College Football Playoffs. They achieved their goal by being the 4th ranked team in the country. But unfortunately, they had to play the Alabama Crimson Tide in the first round of the playoffs. Cincinnati will lose many of their key players like Desmond Ridder, Ahmad Gardner, Myjai Sanders, Alec Pierce, and Jerome Ford to the NFL Draft this offseason. Fickell established a great culture at Cincinnati and coached up multiple players throughout the years to play at the NFL level despite not getting the same caliber of high school recruits as many other great college football programs. Apparently, last off-season the Detroit Lions had talked to Fickell about their head coaching vacancy.
Best Fits: New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings
Former NFL Head Coaches looking for another shot
Brian Flores: Former Head Coach, Miami Dolphins
The most shocking firing of this coaching cycle to this point has to be former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores. He had a 24-25 record during his three seasons in Miami. Over the last two years, Flores had a 19-14 record. This season after starting 1-7, Flores led his team to win eight of the nine final games of the season keeping them in the playoff picture.
There is not much more the Dolphins could have asked Flores to do with the roster he was dealt with. He had average-at-best quarterback play from Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen, Tua Tagovailoa, and Jacoby Brissett over the last three seasons. The Dolphins have lacked a running game and haven’t invested the assets necessary to boost that part of the offense. Miami’s front office had done an awful job with their rebuild outside of their early picks in the 2021 draft. Their attempt to rebuild their offensive line has been terrible. Out of the five offensive linemen Miami has drafted over the last three years, Robert Hunt appears to be the only one that is playing like a starting-caliber offensive lineman.
The reports are that Flores was let go due to his relationship with the front office. Some may feel bad for Flores for being let go from a job that he was doing well. But now he has an opportunity to join an organization with a better front office and owner. Flores now leads the pack as the hottest coaching candidate this offseason. It would be shocking if he doesn’t land another job for next season.
Best Fits: Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Houston Texans
Doug Pederson: Former Head Coach, Philadelphia Eagles
Last year Doug Pederson received a large amount of blame for the Philadelphia Eagles’ awful season. It was a topic of debate how much of the team’s disfunction was because of Pederson. But the Eagles decided to move on from both Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson last offseason. It was a controversial decision because he had led them to a Super Bowl not too long ago, following the 2017-18 season. After interviewing for the Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator position last season Pederson decided to step away from football for a year.
Pederson is a great offensive mind from the Andy Reid coaching tree. He played a huge role in developing the talent on the Eagles Super Bowl roster. He built a contender deep with talent and made Carson Wentz look like an MVP caliber quarterback at his best. A lot of teams should be interested in giving Pederson the opportunity to replicate his first couple of seasons in Philadelphia for them. One team that has shown interest is the Jacksonville Jaguars who have already interviewed Pederson. The Chicago Bears are also interested in bringing in Pederson.
Best Fits: Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears
Jim Caldwell: Former Asst. Head Coach & Quarterback Coach, Miami Dolphins
Despite Jim Caldwell’s history of being a successful coach, he was fired twice. His first time was after the 2-14 Peyton Manning-less season after winning the division his first two years with the team. In Detroit, he was fired after his second straight 9-7 season after making the playoffs two out of his four years there. The Lions thought an upgrade to the head coach position would propel them to the next level. However, hiring Matt Patricia held them back and has resulted in the team blowing it up and beginning a major rebuild.
Caldwell was then hired by the Dolphins to be a quarterback coach, but left the team due to health reasons and was eventually let go. Now he is ready to potentially get his third NFL head coaching job. Caldwell has gotten quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford to perform at their highest levels while playing for him which would appeal to some teams in need of a quarterback guru. Caldwell has already gained interest from the Jacksonville Jaguars and interviewed for their head coaching vacancy.
Best Fits: Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins
Leslie Frazier: Asst. Head Coach & Defensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills
Last year Leslie Frazier became a hot head coaching candidate during the interview process. Frazier has become one of the most respected defensive coordinators around the league. He did not have much success as the head coach in Minnesota. But it is hard to put all that blame on him considering Christian Ponder was the team’s starting quarterback during his term with the team. Then in his final season, he bounced between Ponder, Josh Freeman, and Matt Cassel.
Frazier should be given credit for coaching a Christian Ponder lead team to the playoffs in 2012. But credit is due to Adrian Peterson’s outstanding MVP season that year as well. He has done a great job coaching the defense in Buffalo which has stars at every level and is one of the best units in the league. If Frazier is given a franchise quarterback he could redeem himself and show the league he is capable of being an NFL head coach.
Best Fits: Las Vegas Raiders, Chicago Bears, Houston Texans
Dan Quinn: Defensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
It didn’t take long for Dan Quinn to show that he should be in consideration for an NFL head coaching job. Quinn was fired from the head coach position with the Atlanta Falcons early last season. Then he was hired to replace Mike Nolan as the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator. Within one season Quinn coached this unit up from one of the league’s worst to one of the most talented units in the league.
Two of the stars on Quinn’s defense Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs became the first pair of teammates to have 10+ interceptions and 10+ sacks in the same season. Quinn has also gotten great play out of other Cowboys defenders DeMarcus Lawerence, Randy Gregory, and Jayron Kearse. There is a case that Quinn’s defense is what carried the Cowboys to the playoffs this season.
The changes Quinn has made to his coaching philosophy could attract some teams to potentially hire him for their head coaching openings. On top of his success this season in Dallas, Quinn also has a Super Bowl victory as the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawk and another Super Bowl appearance as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
Jacksonville reportedly has an interest in interviewing Quinn for their head coaching job. However, his main focus right now is being the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys.
Best Fits: Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears
Mike Zimmer: Former Head Coach, Minnesota Vikings
After spending the past eight seasons in Minnesota, Mike Zimmer was let go by the Vikings. He only had three losing seasons with the team all three the team was only one game under .500. He had a combined 72-56-1 record throughout his eight seasons with the team. He also had a 2-3 playoff record and an appearance in the NFC Championship during the 2017-18 season. His time with the team was defined by the great defense be built and sustained throughout most of his time with them.
Zimmer was a fine head coach in Minnesota but it felt like an appropriate time to move on. It appeared that Zimmer’s message was getting stale in the Vikings locker room. There was also a lot of pressure on him considering he was the longest-tenured head coach in the league without a Super Bowl victory on his resume. That should speak to how good Mike Zimmer is at coaching because most NFL coaches only last two or three years with a single team.
The team appeared to be stuck somewhere between not good enough for playoffs and just good enough to not land a high draft pick. This is because the Vikings played in an absurd amount of close games throughout the season. Minnesota played in 14 games this year that was decided by eight points or less. They also included a 12 game streak of games that the Vikings played that were decided by one score. When a streak like that occurs it the blame is placed on the coaching staff when they cannot win all or a majority of those close games. Eight of their nine losses were among those 14 one-score games.
That all being said Zimmer deserves to be a candidate for a head coaching job this season. He is a bit old-fashioned, but a great coach who can establish a culture and lift a team out of mediocrity. Teams will know what they are getting in Zimmer which is a B+ coach who can make a team a playoff contender every season after building his team (especially his defense) in his image.
Best Fits: Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants
Vic Fangio: Former Head Coach, Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos made a very difficult decision a couple of days ago. They decided to let go of their head coach Vic Fangio who is considered one of the best defensive coaches in the league. Fangio went 19-30 as the head coach of the Denver Broncos. Despite the record, Fangio was a good coach. His teams rarely made unnecessary errors and were among the best in the league despite rarely having both star pass rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb on the field together.
Fangio was a victim of being in a division where he had to play Patrick Mahomes, Derek Carr, and Justin Herbert twice a year. He said it himself when he said he was lacking a “top-shelf quarterback”. Fangio has started Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, Brandon Allen, Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien, Kendall Hinton, and Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback during his tenure in Denver.
It is almost certain, barring retirement, Fangio will be hired as a defensive coordinator next season. However, it wouldn’t be crazy for a team to bring Fangio in as their potential next head coach. If a team is looking for a defensive head coach who can get great production on that side of the ball Fangio should be on their list of candidates. To ensure Fangio doesn’t repeat his three seasons in Denver the team that hires him needs to have a franchise quarterback in place.
Best Fits: New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Houston Texans
Bill O’Brien: Offensive Coordinator & Quarterbacks Coach, Alabama
There were a lot of people calling for Bill O’Brien to get fired last year in Houston. The end of his tenure justified the treatment O’Brien received from the media. That being said he should be a dark horse candidate to land an NFL head coaching job.
While O’Brien was in Houston he only had one losing season (not including his final season) and always found ways to achieve success on the offensive side of the ball when he didn’t have stability at quarterback. He also helped coach Deshaun Watson into one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. This past season he coached Alabama quarterback Bryce Young who won the Heisman trophy.
O’Brien is a fine head coach at the NFL level. He just should not also be a general manager. If a team limited O’Brien’s input on personnel decisions and keeps tabs on his relationship with players he can be a great coaching hire for a team looking to make some major offensive improvements.
Best Fits: New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins
Vance Joseph: Defensive Coordinator, Arizona Cardinals
A defensive coordinator who deserves a second opportunity to become a head coach is Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. Similar to Vic Fangio, Joseph was the head coach of the Denver Broncos and had underwhelming seasons due to the lack of a franchise quarterback. Joseph had to deal with Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, and Case Keenum as his starters in Denver. He was let go after only two seasons.
For the past two years, Joseph has been the defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals. This year the Cardinals’ defensive performance gave the team and Joseph some national attention. In the first week of the season, Arizona’s defense dominated (the eventual one seed in the AFC) Tennessee Titans in Week One. Chandler Jones had five of Arizona’s six sacks that week. Along with Jones, Arizona got great production from Isaiah Simmons, Bubba Baker, Jalen Tompson, Markus Golden, Zach Allen, and Jordan Hicks all season. J.J. Watt also played great for Arizona when he was healthy.
Joseph had the opportunity to show he is capable of being more than a defensive coordinator in Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns when he took over for Kliff Kingsbury who was out due to a positive Reserve/COVID-19 test. He led the Cardinals to a 37-14 win over the Browns.
If a team has a franchise quarterback in place they should consider hiring Joseph for their head coaching position to get the best out of their defense.
Best Fits: Miami Dolphins, Las Vegas Raiders, New York Giants
Todd Bowles, Defensive Coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After becoming the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator in 2019, Todd Bowles has retained his status as one of the most respected defensive coaches in all of football. Bowles was the head coach of the New York Jets for four seasons.
In his first season with the team, he was a win away from bringing a team led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall, Chris Ivory, and Eric Decker to the playoffs. However, Mike Maccagnan did a terrible job of giving Bowles young talent to replace these veterans. Some of the high draft picks selected by Maccagnan included Leonard Williams, Devin Smith, Darron Lee, and Christian Hackenberg.
For the second straight season, Tampa Bay’s defense under Bowles was outstanding. They are elite against the run and play pretty well defending against the pass. If paired with the right general manager Bowles has shown in Tampa Bay what he did during his tenure in Arizona that he has the ability to lead a team as a defensive coach. He cannot land in a situation where the general manager fails to give him the talent he needs to succeed.
Best Fits: Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins
Marvin Lewis, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Arizona State
During his final season as the Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis received a lot of criticism for having the job as long as he did despite his lack of playoff success and recent success. He held the job for 16 seasons and did not have a single playoff win.
It appeared the Bengals were overdue for a fresh start and they brought in Los Angeles Rams quarterback coach Zac Taylor to be their head coach. It was evident after Lewis left that it was very difficult to win with that roster the way it was constructed. Lewis won the AFC North four times and had seven playoff appearances in Cincinnati.
Lewis deserves an opportunity to show the NFL that he is still capable of being a coach at that level. If he was to be land in a situation with a good owner and good general manager Lewis could be the veteran coach that could carry a team to the next level.
Best Fits: Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings
Dennis Allen, Defensive Coordinator, New Orleans Saints
Dennis Allen had an extremely underwhelming tenure with the Oakland Raiders. He had an 8-28 record before getting fired midseason in 2014. But since 2015 Allen has coached the Saints into one of the best defensive units in the league during that span.
Before Allen took over the Saints offense had been held back by their defensive play. Now it seems like every year another star play emerges in New Orleans on the defensive side of the ball. There is an absurd amount of talent on the defensive side of the ball that New Orleans has produced over the years The impressive part was that not all of them were high draft picks either. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Trey Hendrickson, Demario Davis, and David Onyemata are all players who exceeded expectations as members of Allen’s defense over the years.
He may have not been ready to be a head coach earlier in his career. But after what Allen has done in recent years he may be ready now for another opportunity. His defense almost carried New Orleans to the playoffs this season after the offense’s abysmal play all year. Also, Allen got the opportunity to be the head coach of the team in Week 14 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Allen’s defense shut out the Buccaneers in a nationally televised game that finished with a final score of 9-0.
Best Fits: Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants
Raheem Morris: Defensive Coordinator, Los Angeles Rams
Last season after Dan Quinn was let go in Atlanta, the team chose Raheem Morris to be the team’s interim head coach to finish the year. The Falcons have a 4-6 record under Morris. But the Falcons rallied behind him and played competitive football since Morris has gotten fired. They have only lost one game by over eight points.
He didn’t land a head coaching job last offseason,, but replaced Brandon Staley as the Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator. The defense took a slight step back was still one of the better units in the league. Morris’ reputation as a players coach, former head coaching experience with both Tampa Bay and Atlanta, and his association with Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams could make him a head coaching candidate once again this year.
Best Fits: Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Miami Dolphins
Josh McDaniels: Offensive Coordinator, New England Patriots
Once again New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is a head coaching candidate. This year feels a little different because this year he is a head coaching candidate for a different reason than being Tom Brady’s offensive coordinator. This season McDaniels was given rookie quarterback Mac Jones. McDaniels coached Jones to a point where he can start week one, despite being the fifth quarterback taken in the 2021 NFL Draft. Throughout the season Jones looked like the best rookie quarterback and was able to get this Patriots team to the playoffs.
It seems unlikely given the vacancies that McDaniels will leave New England to take one of these jobs. He feels like he would take over the New England Patriots head coaching job whenever Bill Belichick decides to retire. But what seemed like an outstanding position to have doesn’t feel as great with Tom Brady no longer a member of the team. McDaniels is a coach to keep an eye on because teams will try to pry him away from New England.
Best Fits: Houston Texans, Chicago Bears, New York Giants
Assistant Coaches who are likely a year away from being legitimate candidates
Bubba Ventrone: Special Teams Coordinator, Indianapolis Colts
A name that has emerged on the head coaching radar is Indianapolis Colts Special Teams Coordinator Bubba Ventrone. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissaro reported Ventrone was a potential head coaching candidate in November. Over the last couple of seasons, Ventrone’s unit has been one of the better-coached units on one of the best-coached teams in the league. His exposure on Hard Knocks has definitely worked in his favor. A team that is looking for a head coach that isn’t limited to one side of the ball could hire Ventrone hoping that one day can view Ventrone as a candidate that has the upside of a John Harbaugh. They also hope that he doesn’t end up like Joe Judge.
Best Fits: Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars
Kevin O’Connell: Offensive Coordinator, Los Angeles Rams
It seems like the next member of the Sean McVay coaching tree to land a head coaching job is Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. The former Patriots quarterback has been the Rams offensive coordinator since 2020. He has been a vital piece of one of the league’s most explosive offenses for the past two seasons. The success of Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp this season has gotten Kevin O’Connell some national attention and put him in some head coaching conversations.
Over the last couple of seasons, former assistants from the Sean McVay coaching tree have had more success as head coaches than any other coaching tree. Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zach Taylor is the latest example of a member of this coaching tree to have success. He led the Bengals to an AFC North title and their first playoff birth since the 2016-16 season.
O’Connell is expected to interview for the Denver Broncos job during this head coaching cycle. If he doesn’t land a job in this coaching cycle he could be a hot coaching candidate next season if Stafford and this offense plays better next season.
Best Fits: Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears
Jonathan Gannon, Defensive Coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles
A dark horse head coaching candidate is Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. This season the Philadelphia Eagles have played well on defense getting great production from their stars. They were especially outstanding defending against pass plays all year. Philadelphia’s defense played well this year surprisingly under Gannon because it was his first season as a defensive coordinator. Before his time with the Eagles, he was a defensive back coach with the Minnesota Vikings from 2014-17 then with the Indianapolis Colts from 2018-2020. Both of those teams during those periods were great at developing young defensive backs.
As a candidate, Gannon feels similar to how Brandon Staley felt last year. Despite not having a ton of experience coaching he has shown that he could eventually be a head coach in the near future.
Best Fits: Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, Las Vegas Raiders
Brian Callahan, Offensive Coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals
One coordinator this season that did not receive enough national attention was Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. His offense lit up the league this year and played a huge role in the Cincinnati Bengals playoff birth. Callahan coached up Joe Burrow to look like an MVP candidate, Joe Mixon to get voted to his first Pro Bowl, and both Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins to look like number one receivers.
Callahan was in charge of molding his young offensive players into stars and did just that. It was impressive that his stars played as well as they did so early in all their careers. According to Field Yates, Callahan’s offense was the first in NFL history to have a 4,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher, and 2 1,000-yard receivers all 25 or younger in the same season.
The Denver Broncos have requested to interview Callahan who spend six years as an assistant with the team. He could get more attention for head coaching vacancies during this cycle. But if he is not hired during this cycle he could be an interesting candidate for next year.
Best Fits: Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins
Jerod Mayo, Inside Linebackers Coach, New England Patriots
It makes a lot of NFL fans feel old to hear that former New England Patriots Pro Bowl linebacker Jerod Mayo is interviewing for head coaching opportunities. Mayo was drafted by the Patriots in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. During his career he won Defensive Rookie of the Year, is a Super Bowl champion, was voted to two Pro Bowls, and was named First-Team All-Pro in 2010. Unfortunately, Mayo’s career was cut short because of multiple consecutive injury-plagued seasons.
Now Mayo has been the Patriots inside linebacker coach since 2019, taking over for former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores. Mayo has become a well-respected coach for the Patriots early in his coaching career in that building and around the league. Mayo could very well be the next Patriots assistant coach to land a head coaching job.
Last offseason Mayo was a surprise candidate that interviewed for the Philadelphia Eagles vacancy. Now he is expected to interview for Denver’s coaching vacancy and could get more interest throughout this coaching cycle.
Best Fits: Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Chicago Bears
Mike McDaniel: Offensive Coordinator, San Francisco 49ers
The next Shanahan coaching disciple could get some interest in this coaching cycle. Once Mike LaFleur went with Robert Saleh to be the offensive coordinator of the New York Jets, Mike McDaniel became San Francisco’s full-time offensive coordinator. Prior to his promotion, he was San Francisco’s run game coordinator. His expertise in the run game played a huge role in the emergence of Elijah Mitchell and the breakout by Deebo Samuel.
San Francisco played outstanding on offense this year. Jimmy Garropolo reminded people he is a well above average quarterback when healthy. Trey Lance appears to be developing into what people thought he could be. Elijah Mitchell made the transition from sixth-round pick rookie to starting running back with ease. George Kittle was great at usual down the stretch. Also, Deebo Samuel broke out into an elite offensive weapon. Samuel transitioned from wide receiver to an offensive weapon because of how effective he was running the football.
It is hard to quantify how much credit McDaniel deserves for this offense’s success and how much it is on Kyle Shanahan. But if a team wants to mimic the Shanahan-style offense bringing in McDaniel to be their head coach could be the best way to do it.
Best Fits: Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears