NFL Rumors: Latest Pre-Playoff Buzz Surrounding Head-Coaching Vacancies

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIJanuary 3, 2015

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 14:  Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz of the Buffalo Bills watches warm-ups before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 14, 2014 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

There are six head-coaching vacancies in the NFL as we head into the postseason.

A position with the Oakland Raiders has been open since the early-season firing of Dennis Allen. We all pretty much knew a job would be available with the San Francisco 49ers, due to the fallout with Jim Harbaugh. Vacancies at the Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets and Chicago Bears were all expected to some degree following their unspectacular seasons. However, Doug Marrone leaving the Buffalo Bills came out of nowhere.

While all of these teams are in need of a head coach under slightly different circumstances, they are all jockeying for position in an effort to bring the most coveted candidates in for interviews. As they continue their searches, rumors begin to accumulate around the Internet.

Here's a look at the buzz that has surfaced for a few of these teams in recent days.

Buffalo Bills

Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

Doug Marrone blindsided the Bills a bit with his unexpected departure after having the franchise seemingly headed in the right direction. Once the coach decided to opt out of his contract, Buffalo was thrown right into the thick of a search for a new skipper.

There are multiple names linked with the organization right now, but only one of them comes from within the team's ranks. Tim Graham of the The Buffalo News tweeted the possibility of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz moving into the vacancy:

Schwartz was instrumental in turning Buffalo's defense into one of the best in the league in 2014. However, he only had marginal success as head coach of the Detroit Lions from 2009 to 2013.

Graham compiled a list of the other names being mentioned in Buffalo:

The possible candidate pool includes rising assistants, Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and perhaps former New York Jets coach Rex Ryan.

The first interview will be Saturday with Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, multiple sources confirmed.

Another source told The Buffalo News the Bills have arranged a Sunday interview with San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich.

The mixture here is interesting because it contains two defensive-minded coaches and two offensive-minded coaches. Broncos coordinator Adam Gase appears to be the most highly coveted option, as he's in line to interview with several teams.

According to Graham, the Jets are also interested in Reich and have scheduled an interview.

Chicago Bears

Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

The Bears axed coach Marc Trestman after two seasons with the team for failing to get the offense on track despite having a bevy of talent on that side of the ball. According to Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune, the team is looking at a couple of coordinators for a replacement:

Gase makes complete sense in this instance. He's an offensive guru who has helped mold the Denver Broncos into one of the league's most feared juggernauts over the past two seasons. He spent the previous four years as the team's quarterbacks and wide receivers coach—two years in each role.

Adding Gase as the new head coach in Chicago would give this team a new identity on that side of the ball. The coach is said to be liked by his players—garnering an endorsement from Peyton Manning reaffirms that notion—and the end result in Denver has been nothing short of impressive.

Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, on the other hand, would take the team in a completely different direction. He was a major factor in Arizona's playoff berth, leading the team to rank fifth in scoring defense. The Bears haven't seen success on that side of the ball of late, ranking 31st in that same category, so Bowles' expertise would certainly be welcomed in the Windy City.

Oakland Raiders

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Oakland's head-coaching vacancy isn't exactly seen as an overly coveted position. However, this is a young team that appears to be improving, so the right coach—and patience within the organization—could certainly pay dividends.

While the team appears to be lower in the pecking order for some coaching candidates, ESPN's Trey Wingo tweeted that there is one former head coach who is willing to interview immediately:

Eric Mangini is an interesting option, and he kind of came out of left field. After uneventful stints with the Jets and Cleveland Browns, Mangini has acted as the 49ers' tight ends coach for the past two seasons. His success in San Francisco is questionable, as tight end Vernon Davis recorded just 26 receptions this year—his lowest total since he caught 20 during his rookie year in 2006.

Mangini isn't the only candidate the Raiders are looking at, and Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle noted the rest:

Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and 49ers tight ends coach Eric Mangini were granted permission to interview with Oakland. Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who is getting ready for a playoff game, will talk to Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and owner Mark Davis next week, according to league sources.

The Raiders are also expected to interview Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio at some point and remain curious about former Packers head coach Mike Holmgren.

Tafur also noted that interim head coach Tony Sparano will also be given an interview for the position by the team.

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