Most Attractive Vacant NFL Head Coaching Jobs
Black Monday has passed us by, and there are currently six NFL teams looking for a new head coach. The quality of each vacancy is high enough that current coordinators and former head coaches owe it to themselves to take interviews. Only 32 NFL head coaching jobs exist, and no one is guaranteed to receive the chance to become one.
Not all jobs are equal, though. Some openings are more conducive to success, while others are unlikely to produce a winner. These factors must be considered by prospective candidates before they commit to a position.
We've ranked the six openings from worst to first, based on a macro-level view of each franchise. Factors such as ownership, job stability, roster control and flexibility and even location matter to candidates.
What are the most attractive vacant head coaching jobs in your eyes? Make sure to let me know in the comments section below.
6. San Francisco 49ers
1. Cap Space
The 49ers could free up nearly $60 million to use in free agency if they release underperforming players. They may not need to do that, as they enter the offseason with $38 million already in hand, though they're unlikely to spend that money all in one offseason.
But the cap space allows a new coach to hand-pick which players the team signs or re-signs. And there's no worry about future flexibility at this time. Alex Boone and Ian Williams are two players likely to be targeted by the next staff as must-retain individuals.
2. Moldable Roster
The positive way of saying this is a bad roster is that it is moldable. A coach who likes to get his hands dirty may want this challenge. San Francisco needs a quarterback, offensive line help and a defensive overhaul. This is a multi-year rebuild with few contractual obligations to worry about.
San Francisco rivals Miami as the best location in the NFL. Year-round beautiful weather and a new stadium will welcome potential free agents as well. While some coaches may not care about where they are, their partners are likely to prefer San Francisco to Philadelphia or Cleveland.
1. Front Office
The 49ers' front office may be as intolerable as any in the NFL. After running off Jim Harbaugh for Jim Tomsula, general manager Trent Baalke may have scared off some potential head coach candidates. Baalke is getting his third chance to hire a head coach, which doesn't happen too often.
Since Baalke is staying around, it is fair to point out that many of his draft picks have struggled. The franchise's success with rosters of years past had predecessor Scot McCloughan's hands all over it, not Baalke's. Be wary, candidates.
2. Young Roster
It's hard to win NFL games with a young roster. Factor in the likelihood of making this a younger roster with 12 draft picks this year, and there's a big need for impact players. Free agency won't make this team a contender in the next two years, so spending there isn't wise.
This team also has to compete with divisional foes Seattle and Arizona. A quality staff could develop a few of the players in place, but this is not an enviable job for anyone looking to win right away.
5. Cleveland Browns
1. Talented Roster
The Browns have missed on high-profile draft picks for a long time, but the talent in place now is not that far from being playoff-caliber. This team needs better coaching and specific upgrades. Far too often in 2015, Cleveland was simply out of position, or its best players weren't on the field, which points to bad coaching.
The selling point for the Browns revolves around a strong offensive line and workable pieces on defense. This is a young team at most positions, and its needs are clear. A strong tactician should help this team win.
2. Draft Flexibility
The No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft is a tremendous asset. Cleveland needs a quarterback, and Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch will likely be on the board for it to choose from. While neither may be named the starter right away, each has a high upside worth investing in.
Like the Titans, who have the No. 1 pick, the Browns will benefit from quality players falling into the second round. They need help at wide receiver and the defensive front seven, but fixes at those positions are realistically attainable in one draft.
After firing his third coach in three years as an owner, Jimmy Haslam has established himself as one of the worst—if not the worst—owners in the NFL. Growing pains should have been expected, but did anyone think Haslam would be worse than Randy Lerner? Unfortunately for Cleveland's faithful fans, he has been.
Haslam on Tuesday overhauled the front office into an analytical haven, hiring Paul DePodesta from the New York Mets. This is a risky move, but it could pay off. Finding a head coach willing to listen to a group of non-football people may not be easy, though.
The reality is that Haslam's next hire needs to be the last for the next five or more years. The Browns need stability, and their head coach must be convinced that he won't be canned in two years. It may be an impossible task to convince anyone of that, though, considering the toxicity of the team.
2. Potential Talent Exodus
While Cleveland is talented, it could lose a significant chunk of that talent. Joe Thomas wants out after the latest reboot, and he was nearly traded last season. Tashaun Gipson, Mitchell Schwartz and Travis Benjamin are free agents, and Alex Mack can opt out of his contract. Losing any of them could be devastating.
The next head coach needs to come in strong and earn the trust of these free agents. The Browns finally developed some young studs, and rewarding them is the right plan of action. They have been hoarding cap space for this moment. It's time to use it.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
This may be the only positive when it comes to the Eagles' opening, but it is a significant one. Of all the teams with a head coaching vacancy, Philadelphia is the closest to winning its division in 2016 if it augments the roster well. The defense is as talented as any of these six teams, and this offseason will allow the team to become healthy again.
The Eagles may want to re-sign quarterback Sam Bradford if their goal is to win right away. They need a long-term starter to groom and must improve their offensive line. But those needs are easier to fill in one offseason than the needs at any other opening.
1. Front Office
While Chip Kelly struggled working with NFL players, he also lost the power struggle in Philadelphia's front office. Executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie are so closely united that any potential candidate may need to concede all personnel power. That's suboptimal for anyone but a first-time head coach.
The Eagles gave Andy Reid 13 years to succeed but then moved on from Kelly after only three. Candidates need to figure out why things fell apart to the point that Kelly was fired late on a Tuesday night before Week 17. The move said as much about the franchise as it did Kelly.
2. Cap Situation
Philadelphia's solid roster could quickly diminish this offseason if everyone wants to leave or it cannot afford to re-sign its players. Decisions must be made with a $16 million budget in mind, unless the team wants to release some veterans. Cutting Jason Peters, Mark Sanchez, Riley Cooper and DeMeco Ryans would open about $16 more million.
Even with that total there isn't much hope for a significant spending spree. Key in-house free agents include Bradford, Vinny Curry, Walter Thurmond and Cedric Thronton. Neglecting any of those players will take away from the impressive depth the Eagles have built through the draft.
Philadelphia fans and media are among the most brutal in the business. That stems from passion, which is not a negative emotion. But the next head coach cannot be thin-skinned or overly combative.
The right mix of confidence and humility is needed to handle such a high-pressure job. As an organization, Philadelphia also wants results sooner than later.
3. Tennessee Titans
1. Marcus Mariota
Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota had an excellent first season, and he may be the most attractive young quarterback a new head coach can choose from. He had 19 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a budding chemistry with Dorial Green-Beckham. Offensive coaches won't be able to work with a young tandem like this at many other openings.
2. Draft Flexibility
Owning the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and not having to worry about taking a quarterback is a tremendous positive to sell to head coaches. Tennessee can take whomever it feels is the best player to help the roster. Laremy Tunsil and Joey Bosa instantly come to mind. Either would be a strong choice.
The best values in the draft can be found at the top of each round. The Titans and Cleveland alternate the top picks in each round, so Tennessee will be able to choose from the top players who just missed being selected in the previous round. That's how a franchise can quickly replenish talent on its roster.
1. Front Office and Ownership
The Titans' front office and ownership situation is far from ideal. The death of Bud Adams also removed the job security of a new staff. New candidates cannot be confident they'll be given time to succeed. Ken Whisenhunt was fired only seven games into 2015, and while his 3-20 record was terrible, he had just begun working with Mariota.
Tennessee can spin its vacant front office as a positive in interviews. There is a chance for personnel power for stronger head coaches who are experienced handling such responsibility. Right now, though, there's no reason to trust the Titans' new management.
2. Roster Depth
Tennessee has several quality young players, but when a team goes 3-13, there's usually a lack of talent from top to bottom. The Titans fit that description. This job should be viewed as a multi-year project, but with certain pieces (Mariota) that make that process easier.
The offensive line and secondary need to be rebuilt from the ground up. Tennessee isn't good enough to force picks at these positions, though, and the best player available should always be the choice in the draft. This isn't an impossible task. It will just require time and skillful scouting.
2. Miami Dolphins
1. Building Blocks
A disappointing year by the Dolphins left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, but Miami has arguably the strongest core of players among these six teams. Defenders Ndamukong Suh and Reshad Jones are elite players at valuable positions. Defensive end Cam Wake is hurt now but expressed his desire to return in 2016.
On offense, quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been average at worst despite a horrible offensive line and coaching staff. He's joined by an elite running back in Lamar Miller and promising receivers Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker. There's a lot of young talent on offense, especially.
Wake and Miller need their contracts addressed for next year, but each can be retained if a new coach wishes. If Miller is allowed to walk in free agency, Miami has Jay Ajayi ready to go. There is a stable of talent that needs better direction and coaching than what it's received.
2. Roster Flexibility
The Dolphins are projected to be over the cap, but many underachieving veterans can be released. Miami can further open space by restructuring Suh's deal, although that isn't necessary. As much as $40 million could be freed up by trimming the fat on the roster.
The Dolphins have a young core, so free agency shouldn't be the focus right now. Adding cheap talent at key positions is the best approach.
South Beach and no state taxes are two excellent selling points to make to any coach or player. From a quality-of-life standpoint, Miami offers a unique experience many people would likely enjoy, especially this time of year. While this is more of an ancillary reason to take a job, it could be a factor for players the coach would bring in.
While Stephen Ross has really goofed up past coaching searches, he has spent money to support his team. Ross shouldn't be considered a net positive for the Dolphins, but his willingness to make big-money deals with Suh ($114 million), Tannehill ($77 million in new money), Branden Albert ($47 million) and Mike Pouncey ($44 million) shows commitment. Resources will not be not spared under Ross.
1. Power Structure
The negative of Ross is that he has created a convoluted power structure in Miami. The franchise still has strong Bill Parcells ties, and the move to make Mike Tannenbaum the new czar may turn some candidates off. It's possible everyone will report to Tannenbaum, and then he will make the final decision.
This plan may end up becoming a positive, as the structure itself has been successful elsewhere. But trusting this group of individuals right now could be difficult. High-caliber coaches may steer away from such an arrangement.
2. Roster Depth
The Dolphins haven't drafted well in a long time, and it showed as they fell to 6-10. They couldn't withstand injuries without imploding, and even before that, they weren't very good. Only a few young players flashed any potential in 2015.
A new coach may need to cycle through a lot of talent upon arrival—like Pete Carroll did in Seattle. Miami's offense has a lot of young pieces, but the defense needs impact talent and an injection of youth. Will the new boss be afforded that opportunity?
The Dolphins thought they'd be in the playoffs this season, and the fact they missed the mark may not have changed ownership's expectations. Head coaching candidates must find out if Ross and Tannenbaum are expecting short-term results with a roster that might be two years away from competing.
While Miami was patient with Joe Philbin and gave him three-plus years, it also fired him just four games into 2015. Candidates won't want that kind of embarrassment on their record.
1. New York Giants
The first thing that will attract the very best head coaching candidates to the Giants is their ownership. The Mara family is among the most powerful in the NFL, and it takes a conservative approach to running its team. John Mara and Co. do not overreact to one bad season, rather waiting for their investments to pan out over several years.
That's all a head coach could possibly want. While other teams replace head coaches after just one or two years, New York stuck with Tom Coughlin for 12 seasons. That patience paid off with two Super Bowl victories.
A new head coach must appreciate this aspect of the Giants, especially when compared to the nature of the other openings.
2. Roster Flexibility
The next coach will be able to help shape the Giants roster. New York is projected to have $34 million in cap space, and players could be cut to push that number over $40 million. While several incumbents should be retained, the new coach will have the ability to make those tough decisions.
There aren't any major free agents besides Johnathan Hankins in 2017. This is partially due to the state of the roster, but building this franchise back up in the way a coach wants is an attractive facet.
Working in New York City won't be attractive for everyone, since the spotlight is as hot as anywhere. But in general, luring free agents and other personnel should be easier because of the marketing opportunities in New York. When you win in New York, everyone knows it.
Years of subpar drafting has left the Giants' cupboard bare. They have very few impact players who can stay healthy. While there's plenty of money available to upgrade the roster, there are few in-house free agents worthy of rewarding.
This puts a big heap of pressure on a new coach to add significant talent on both sides of the ball. Yes, ownership will be patient, but the media will not be. There's an odd dynamic with Eli Manning's age and where this team is, as well.
New York gave Manning a huge extension before the season, but it wasn't necessary. Manning is now locked in through at least 2018, but he's an average quarterback who's 35 years old. A new head coach may not like that.
2. Front Office
Changes to the front office should be coming, as general manager Jerry Reese and his staff have not done well acquiring talent. The roster is the way it is directly because of them. This is an example that shows too much patience and loyalty can actually be a bad thing.
A new head coach should push for a new personnel staff of his choosing. If he gets that control, then adding people he trusts to the mix must be a top priority. Even the best coaches cannot win without talent on the field.