HomeSportsRanking NFL head-coaching vacancies: Why the Chargers and Falcons are most appealing

Ranking NFL head-coaching vacancies: Why the Chargers and Falcons are most appealing

Published on

spot_img


With seven of the 32 NFL head-coaching jobs opening per year on average, candidates for these coveted positions usually cannot be choosy. They take the jobs they can get, and live with the imperfections.

The eight current openings will appeal for different reasons to different candidates. I’ve ranked these vacancies below using three basic criteria: likelihood of winning in the first two seasons, whether winning the division is realistic and to what degree ownership flaws might be fatal. I’m not putting much weight into salary-cap space because it can be created or manipulated, and because the big challenge is finding good players, not finding the resources to sign them.

If the criteria seems a bit short-sighted, that’s because coaches, unlike general managers, frequently must win quickly to keep their jobs. There’s less standing between them and the product on the field. Blame finds them faster. Having a longer runway and some readily available resources makes for a better job.

1. Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers went all in on 2023 and failed, so there will be a roster reckoning of sorts, especially on defense. All parties, including ownership, should understand that heading into next season.

The team’s ownership, sometimes passive to a fault, hasn’t shown an ability to drive success, but the Spanos family also isn’t known for standing in the way of it. They tend to give their leaders too much runway, which can be frustrating for fans but is welcome from a candidate’s standpoint.

Mike McCoy and Anthony Lynn each lasted four seasons without winning more than one playoff game.

With seven of the 32 NFL head-coaching jobs opening per year on average, candidates for these coveted positions usually cannot be choosy. They take the jobs they can get, and live with the imperfections.

The eight current openings will appeal for different reasons to different candidates. I’ve ranked these vacancies below using three basic criteria: likelihood of winning in the first two seasons, whether winning the division is realistic and to what degree ownership flaws might be fatal. I’m not putting much weight into salary-cap space because it can be created or manipulated, and because the big challenge is finding good players, not finding the resources to sign them.

If the criteria seems a bit short-sighted, that’s because coaches, unlike general managers, frequently must win quickly to keep their jobs. There’s less standing between them and the product on the field. Blame finds them faster. Having a longer runway and some readily available resources makes for a better job.

The Chargers went all in on 2023 and failed, so there will be a roster reckoning of sorts, especially on defense. All parties, including ownership, should understand that heading into next season.

The team’s ownership, sometimes passive to a fault, hasn’t shown an ability to drive success, but the Spanos family also isn’t known for standing in the way of it. They tend to give their leaders too much runway, which can be frustrating for fans but is welcome from a candidate’s standpoint.

Mike McCoy and Anthony Lynn each lasted four seasons without winning more than one playoff game. Brandon Staley probably could have gotten a fourth season with just one playoff berth (a first-round loss) if he had finessed the situation, but that wasn’t his style.

The new coach will inherit the hardest thing to find in football: a top-tier quarterback entering his prime years.

The Chargers have a top-five statistical offense by EPA per play with Justin Herbert in the lineup since his arrival in 2020. They have a bottom-five defense by the same measure, explaining their 30-32 record with Herbert starting. Herbert has driven the offensive success; this team has not produced much of a running game or provided outstanding protection.

GO DEEPER

Which NFL QBs are carrying their teams the most? QB Betrayal Index provides the answers

Winning the AFC West, which the Chargers have not done since 2009, will remain tough with Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. That is the No. 1 factor working against the Chargers in this exercise. But Herbert’s allure is strong. This team is poised to win with the right coach and GM.

Without slighting the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers too much, the Falcons reside this high on the list partly because competing in the NFC South should remain an advantage. There is no Mahomes in the division. Atlanta was 3-3 in the NFC South this season even with a ridiculous defeat at Carolina in Week 15, and even with the worst quarterback situation in the division.

This job is open because the Falcons entered a must-win 2023 season with Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke behind center. Going 7-10 with Ridder starting 13 games and coach Arthur Smith struggling to maximize his personnel shows there’s talent on the roster.

The team holds the eighth pick in the draft and must leverage that pick into a quarterback or find a veteran alternative with upside, much the way Tampa Bay (Baker Mayfield) and Seattle (Geno Smith) did recently.

The next quarterback should benefit from an upgraded defense (10th in EPA per play this season) and some talented pieces on offense, including Bijan Robinson, who should emerge as one of the best dual-threat backs in the league.

Owner Arthur Blank’s interest in Bill Belichick and Jim Harbaugh suggests he could be comfortable ceding significant control to a head coach. That would make the job more appealing to coaches possessing the leverage to command additional control.

The days of Seattle swinging big for power coaches such as Pete Carroll and Mike Holmgren ended this month when owner Jody Allen gave general manager John Schneider final say on personnel, plus power over the next coaching staff. That means the next coach must see the roster the way the front office sees it, as a collection of young talent primed to break out.

GO DEEPER

John Schneider’s vision for the next Seahawks coach: Culture and championship contention

Time will tell if Carroll and his staff were holding back the roster, but purely from a candidate’s perspective, if Carroll lost his job after delivering consecutive 9-8 seasons, what will constitute success for the next coach?

Carroll’s firing suggests Allen thinks Seattle is primed to make a playoff push sooner rather than later. That could be difficult with the Kyle Shanahan-coached San Francisco 49ers and the Sean McVay-coached Los Angeles Rams in the division, along with an improving Arizona team that Seattle barely held off for its only NFC West wins in 2023.

The Seahawks’ ownership, long a strength, is a question mark longer term. Allen inherited the team from her late brother, Paul, whose trust mandates that all of his assets be sold eventually. There will be no sale before 2025 because the tax implications would be punitive. After that, who knows?

The offense, 11th in EPA per play over the past two seasons, does possess talented pieces at tackle, receiver and running back, plus a better-than-advertised veteran quarterback in Smith, whose contract is reasonable. There’s a winning tradition, strong fan support and one of the best game day stadium experiences. But the bar appears set high, so the next coach must embrace a glass-half-full view of the roster.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft has strong Hall of Fame credentials based on his partnership with Bill Belichick, his role in saving the organization from a move, his outsized contributions to the league on its powerful committees and his role in counseling commissioner Roger Goodell regarding important league matters.

Despite all that, some unanswered structural/ownership questions will influence just how good the New England opportunity might become. For the past 24 years, Belichick drove all football decisions. Replacing Belichick with a first-time coach in Jerod Mayo increases the chances that a long-stifled ownership contingent might become much more active. Would that be good?

GO DEEPER

Are the Patriots about to become the Cowboys, and vice versa?

Holding the third pick in what could be a quarterback-strong 2024 draft puts the Patriots’ next coach (Mayo) in position to finally find a successor for Tom Brady. As for some of the question marks …

Do the Krafts, Robert and Jonathan, think the team should proceed with Mac Jones behind center? Why is the team in no rush to hire a general manager? Will Jonathan Kraft fill that type of role? We’ll need time to find answers to some of these questions.

In the meantime, Mayo and the Patriots will compete in a division featuring Josh Allen in Buffalo, a high-powered Miami Dolphins offense and, health permitting, a New York Jets team welcoming back Aaron Rodgers.

While Belichick probably was not holding back the Patriots, the offensive coaching in recent years invites scrutiny. It’s plausible Mayo could build a better staff on that side of the ball, producing needed gains.

GO DEEPER

Ranking NFL GM jobs: Why the Raiders top the list, and Patriots, Commanders raise questions

The Raiders do not have a viable quarterback or the best opportunity to find one in the draft, as their late-season rally under interim coach Antonio Pierce left them picking 13th in the order. That complicates efforts to compete within an AFC West division featuring Mahomes and Andy Reid in Kansas City, Herbert in Los Angeles and Sean Payton in Denver. Pierce did go 3-1 in the division, winning at Kansas City.

We’ve heard about players’ coaches. Mark Davis is a players’ owner. He loves staying connected to players past and present. It’s a huge part of what makes owning the team fulfilling for him, and it’s why this coaching job is not for everyone.

The next coach, presumed to be Pierce, must maintain strong backing from the locker room. Control-oriented coaches such as Josh McDaniels will have a tougher time surviving the lows that almost all coaches experience at some point, because Davis will be more apt to side with players than coaches in the absence of on-field results.

The right coach/GM combination likely could win with the Raiders. Davis has had a difficult time finding such a combination. His 85-122 record (.411) as owner ranks 25th among current owners and should give pause to candidates seeking the best opportunities.

GO DEEPER

All 32 NFL owners from worst to first: The good, the bad and a few surprises

Antonio Pierce, right, with owner Mark Davis. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

It’s an exciting day in Washington with a new owner driving a franchise reset following more than two decades of embarrassment on and off the field under previous owner Dan Snyder. That said, a first-time NFL owner has hired a first-time GM, so there will be a learning curve that could give the team a better shot at success down the line, compared to right away. There is greater uncertainty in the meantime.

It’s possible the new ownership group, which seems to feature lots of potential voices, might have unrealistic expectations. Turning around an NFL franchise can take time. It’s tougher than turning the fortunes of an NBA team, notable given Commanders owner Josh Harris’ background in that league.

The next coach will inherit the second pick in the draft, delivering an opportunity to add a highly rated quarterback in the draft. That opportunity makes the job more appealing. The roster needs significant work beyond that, however.

The division features hard-charging ownership in Philadephia and Dallas, but there could be an opening for Washington if the Commanders land a top-tier quarterback with the second pick. The quarterbacks in Philadelphia and Dallas are good, but they aren’t Mahomes or Allen. There’s also the potential for coaching turnover on the Eagles and Cowboys over the next year, which could help Washington.

When the Titans fired GM Jon Robinson late in the 2022 season, it looked like a potential power play by then-coach Mike Vrabel. In retrospect, that wasn’t the case. Vrabel suffered a similar fate a year later. Owner Amy Adams Strunk was the common denominator. The next coach needs to investigate what went wrong in Tennessee, where Vrabel was cruising along as a top coach, then suddenly couldn’t win.

GO DEEPER

Why Titans fired Mike Vrabel, a story of festering slights and a lack of communication

The Titans’ roster needs a reset. The franchise needs a quarterback. The rest of the division is pulling away, including in Houston, where C.J. Stroud’s emergence introduces a potential top-tier quarterback for the Titans to defend. The new coach inherits an unproven GM in Ran Carthon, which could be good or bad — it’s difficult to know. Throw in the ownership question marks and this job looks less appealing.

The next coach in Carolina must manage an impulsive owner while also creating a successful offense around an outlier quarterback whose confidence could need rebuilding after a brutal rookie season. Working within a weaker division should help, but this job comes with flashing red warning lights.

People who have worked for Panthers owner David Tepper tend to like him. They know he cares about winning. They also have suffered from his overly impulsive decision-making and his intrusion in their areas of expertise.

GO DEEPER

What happened with the Panthers? ‘Hunger Games’ culture, backstabbing and another fired coach

They question whether Tepper’s methods work as well in the NFL as they might in the investing world that Tepper dominated as a hedge-fund manager. For example, coaches who have worked in Carolina say Tepper’s fact-finding missions in the building, which include asking members of the offensive staff about their defensive counterparts, and vice versa, can amplify divisions.

Tepper signed Frank Reich and a staff featuring big names to long-term contracts amid much fanfare last offseason. Reich lasted 11 games. By then, he had relinquished and taken back play-calling duties, operating like a coach under great pressure from above. The next coach should expect similar treatment until Tepper demonstrates otherwise.

(Top photos of, from left, Arthur Blank, Justin Herbert and Jerod Mayo: Jeffrey Brown / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images, Justin Edmonds, Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)



Source link

Latest articles

Ebon Moss-Bachrach On That Emmy Kiss, ‘Fantastic Four’ Group Chat & ‘The Bear’ Season 3

When you’re an actor with a lot going on, and particularly if they...

Russian authorities hand Navalny’s body to mother for burial

RIGA, Latvia — Russian authorities on Saturday handed the body of opposition leader...

I’m a longevity expert — these are the 4 supplements I take every day to fight aging

Health By Brooke Kato Published Feb. 24, 2024, 1:55 p.m. ET 4 supplements a day keep...

More like this

Ebon Moss-Bachrach On That Emmy Kiss, ‘Fantastic Four’ Group Chat & ‘The Bear’ Season 3

When you’re an actor with a lot going on, and particularly if they...

Russian authorities hand Navalny’s body to mother for burial

RIGA, Latvia — Russian authorities on Saturday handed the body of opposition leader...