The NFL is divided along lines between teams who have stability at head coach and those who do not. Of the league's 32 teams, few are set at the most important position, which is why as many as nine of them may look to make a change at the top this offseason.
Which teams will make moves, and which coaches are in positions to fill the openings?
Dividing the league between teams with head coaches who have job security—New England, Baltimore, Kansas City, San Francisco, etc.—and teams without them is an easy way to look at the league. Put more simply, which teams are set at head coach and which aren't?
Based on conversations with NFL coaches, agents and front office executives over the last few weeks, here is how the league is viewed:
New York Giants
New York Jets
The remaining 23 teams are not expected to make a coaching change this offseason.
There are, of course, surprises every hiring and firing season that can't be factored in as of now.
"The Browns can announce that Kitchens is the guy, but I don't know anyone who believes his job is safe," said one former NFL general manager who hopes to break back in. "That situation is a mess, and while ownership might not want to pay another fired head coach, something has to give."
The same goes for the New York Jets. One player told me Adam Gase has lost the respect of the locker room with his "tough guy bulls--t attitude" and the team's lack of a plan offensively. "Guys actually respect Gregg Williams," the player said. "No one respects Gase."
Owner Christopher Johnson fired Todd Bowles and the front office last offseason, though, and might not be willing to pay another coach to leave.
As owners and general managers start to look at the potential coaching crop, everyone will be chasing the groundwork already laid by the Redskins and Panthers, who got a head start by firing coaches in-season. Those two jobs couldn't be more different, though.
As one former team president explained: "You only take the Washington job if it's the only one offered to you. Otherwise, I bet we see a lot of guys use it as leverage for raises—either in their current job or on the open market."
Top coaching candidates, if given the choice between working for owner Daniel Snyder in Washington or David Tepper with the Panthers, are expected to choose the consistency and stability of new ownership in the Carolinas over the dysfunctional Redskins. The ownership model in D.C. puts the Redskins as the bottom of one coaching agent's power rankings.
"Washington would be dead last," he said when asked to rank the potential openings for his clients. "I'd say Cleveland or the Jets would be second-last because of ownership and expectations. The best job, bar none, is Dallas. If you can learn to live with Jerry [Jones], you have the biggest brand in football and a really good roster."
"Second-best, if it opens up, is Atlanta. Great stadium, really good quarterback and receiver, plus young assets across the board. Plus, [Drew] Brees has to eventually retire, and that division becomes wide-open. That's a really intriguing job."
Those are the top jobs, but who are the top candidates?
The hottest name is Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, but everyone spoken to for this story believes he will stay in Norman. "He's making $6.5 million to coach in college. He has the best QBs in the country begging to come there. Why leave?" is how the coaching agent put it, and that's tough to argue with.
After Riley, former head coach Urban Meyer is expected to take calls and has been seen making the rounds to NFL games. Baylor head coach Matt Rhule is another college head coach who will be near the top of teams' interview lists.
From the NFL, most expect recently fired coach Ron Rivera to get many calls to resurrect a franchise. The same goes for former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. Both can offer maturity, discipline and culture-building that young assistants lack. That could tip a job like Cleveland's in their favor.
Of the top assistants, everyone is watching San Francisco to see what defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and run game coordinator Mike McDaniel will do. The pair are represented by the same agent—Richmond Flowers—which would make a bidding war for their services interesting.
Other names to watch: Greg Roman (Ravens offensive coordinator), Pete Carmichael (Saints offensive coordinator), Josh McDaniels (Patriots offensive coordinator), Eric Bienemy (Chiefs offensive coordinator), Dave Toub (Chiefs special teams coordinator) and Wink Martindale (Ravens defensive coordinator).
The Scout's Report
— Utah State quarterback Jordan Love was cited for misdemeanor drug possession after officers were called when students smelled marijuana. Love was part of a group of seven people in the apartment, according to the Deseret News report.
The immediate question on everyone's mind will be his draft stock, but barring a failed drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine, this is very unlikely to have any effect on the junior quarterback's draft positioning. At a time when Major League Baseball stopped testing for marijuana and with many states legalizing it, Love's stock would only be hurt by a failed test that would put him into the NFL's testing program.
—Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello announced he will enter the transfer portal as a graduate player instead of entering the 2020 NFL draft or remaining at Stanford for his final season. Costello is the 13th Stanford player to announce the intention to transfer this season—a shocking number for a stable program under head coach David Shaw.
—Everyone wants to talk about the most underrated players in a draft class, and in conversations with scouts this week, my belief that Auburn's Derrick Brown is being criminally overlooked was met with agreement. Brown, a 6'5", 318-pound senior who I've compared to Chris Jones, has been unstoppable moving around the Auburn defensive line this season. Were it not for the dominance of Chase Young, Brown would be the clear-cut choice as the best lineman in the 2020 draft.
—There isn't an offensive tackle inside my top 10 prospects for this draft, but the depth of the group is becoming impressive. Andrew Thomas (Georgia), Jedrick Wills Jr. (Alabama), Tristan Wirfs (Iowa), Austin Jackson (USC) and Alex Leatherwood (Alabama) all have top-40 grades, with Josh Jones (Houston) and Matt Peart (UConn) right behind them. Georgia right tackle Isaiah Wilson, who declared on Tuesday, only adds to a group that could feature seven or eight immediate NFL starters.
—Two former top prep recruits—Trey Smith at Tennessee and Trey Adams at Washington—have received praise for their strong play in returning from serious injuries; blood clots for Smith and a back injury for Adams. Both are questionable as draft prospects because of these issues, though.
In talking to scouts over the last few weeks, my concerns with Adams' movement ability off the line have been echoed by pro evaluators. Many believe his medical history and the regression in his game since he hurt his back will lead him to be a late-round selection.
Smith, a massive guard with previous experience at left tackle, can return to Tennessee for his senior season, and many evaluators believe he should; he's ranked as a Day 3 player on my board, and teams have privately expressed concern about his injury history and conditioning as a future starter.
The Big Board
1. EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State
2. QB Joe Burrow, LSU
3. WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
4. CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State
5. LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
6. DL Derrick Brown, Auburn
7. EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
8. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
9. WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
10. WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
11. WR Tee Higgins, Clemson
12. DL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
13. OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia
14. OT Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama
15. LB Dylan Moses, Alabama
16. S Grant Delpit, LSU
17. RB D'Andre Swift, Georgia
18. OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
19. LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
20. EDGE Terrell Lewis, Alabama
21. CB CJ Henderson, Florida
22. CB Paulson Adebo, Stanford
23. QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
24. CB Kristian Fulton, LSU
25. WR Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado
26. WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama
27. RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
28. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
29. IOL Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin
30. RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State
31. RB Najee Harris, Alabama
32. S Xavier McKinney, Alabama
8. Four quarterbacks have accepted invites to the 2020 Reese's Senior Bowl with as many as four spots remaining open.
The confirmed quarterbacks—Jordan Love, Steven Montez (Colorado), Shea Patterson (Michigan) and Anthony Gordon (Washington State)—do not include Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts or Oregon's Justin Herbert, both of whom are expected by scouts to attend the Senior Bowl.
That leaves LSU's Joe Burrow, who likely won't make a decision until after the first round of the College Football Playoff. If the Tigers make the national title game, he'll play on January 13, and players report to Mobile just one week later (January 20). That timeline might be enough to keep Burrow from attending.
7. The Jan. 20 deadline for underclassmen to enter the NFL draft feels far away, but players are already announcing their intentions on Twitter and Instagram.
Here's an unofficial list of the players who have announced they intend to enter the draft:
- Arizona RB J.J. Taylor
- Arizona State RB Eno Benjamin
- Arkansas S Kamren Curl
- Boston College RB AJ Dillon
- Colorado WR Laviska Shenault Jr.
- Florida CB CJ Henderson
- Florida State RB Cam Akers
- Georgia OT Andrew Thomas
- Georgia OT Isaiah Wilson
- Kentucky WR Lynn Bowden Jr.
- Louisiana Tech CB Amik Robertson
- Louisville OT Mekhi Becton
- Maryland RB Javon Leake
- Maryland RB Anthony McFarland Jr.
- Miami WR Jeff Thomas
- Michigan EDGE Josh Uche
- Mississippi State CB Cameron Dantzler
- Mississippi State RB Kylin Hill
- Missouri OT Trystan Colon-Castillo
- Missouri DL Jordan Elliott
- Missouri TE Albert Okwuegbunam
- Oregon State WR Isaiah Hodgins
- Penn State EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos
- South Carolina TE Kyle Markway
- TCU WR Jalen Reagor
- Texas A&M DL Justin Madubuike
- Utah CB Jaylon Johnson
- Utah State QB Jordan Love
- Utah State LB David Woodward
- UCF WR Gabriel Davis
- Washington TE Hunter Bryant
6. Congratulations to the LSU Tigers on winning the Joe Moore Award—handed out to the best college offensive line unit each year.
LSU's starters—Saahdiq Charles, Adrian Magee, Lloyd Cushenberry III, Damien Lewis and Austin Deculus—have been fantastic all season protecting Joe Burrow and opening holes for Clyde Edwards-Helaire en route to an undefeated regular season and SEC championship.
The group of three juniors and two seniors (both guards) had stiff competition from teams like Oregon and Alabama, but the Tigers deserved it.
5. Stock Down
When Alabama junior Raekwon Davis announced last year that he would return to Tuscaloosa for his senior season, it was met with wide praise. Many believed that Davis could parlay his return into improved draft stock and become yet another Crimson Tide lineman drafted in the first round.
Davis' final season didn't reach the levels—individually or for the team—that many had expected. His stock never took the climb that was thought to be possible for him. Now, with the season over, Davis looks like more of a limited player than his early career tape showed.
Teams running a 3-4 base defense could love Davis, but his lack of explosive playmaking points to potential problems when he's asked to rush the passer.
4. Stock Up
Every team in the NFL wants an athlete at tight end who can pose mismatches for the offense with size, speed and route running. As scouts scour the nation looking for the next Travis Kelce or George Kittle, they'll be paying close attention to the son of a Hall of Famer at LSU.
Thaddeus Moss, son of NFL legend Randy Moss, is a 6'3", 250-pound athlete who is that mismatch that teams want at tight end. Unlike what you might be picturing, the younger Moss is an accomplished run-blocker and physical player over the middle of the field. This isn't a diva tight end afraid of contact but a three-down talent.
Moss, a junior, could return to LSU for another year, but he has the traits and tools to head to the NFL early.
3. Sleeper of the Week
Finding Day 3 starters is how good NFL teams are built; and in the 2020 draft, a team could get very lucky with Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill.
A 5'11", 215-pound junior who has declared for the draft, Hill has rushed for 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns this season in a breakout performance. His power, vision and burst are starting-caliber. He's also added 17 receptions this year, showing his ability as a pass-catcher.
Hill won't be a top-50 selection and might not make the top 100, but he has NFL starter traits.
2. There's plenty of debate in the scouting community over who the top running back in the 2020 class is. The contenders: Georgia's D'Andre Swift, Alabama's Najee Harris, Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins and Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor.
Each is unique and has special talents, but each also has a wart that's concerning NFL teams. Taylor has a high amount of wear-and-tear; Dobbins' 2018 season was forgettable; Harris just now broke through as a starter; and Swift has a banged-up shoulder. Each also looks like a starter on the field.
My order: Swift, Taylor, Dobbins, Harris. This echoes their ability as runners but also what they bring to the table as pass-catchers and pass protectors. But each team's individual needs for running back traits could flip this order to Taylor or Harris if they want power over speed, for example.
With five months to go until the NFL draft, a lot could change, but this is one of the conversations happening in pro scouting rooms now.
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