Ranking Every Likely NFL Head Coach Opening This Offseason

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2020

Ranking Every Likely NFL Head Coach Opening This Offseason

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Another handful of teams will start over at head coach this offseason after a chunk of the league did so the year prior.

    Brian Flores, for one, helped reshape the Miami Dolphins, while a well-known presence in Bruce Arians couldn't right the ship in Tampa Bay.

    This season, contenders and rebuilders will be looking at guys such as Eric Bieniemy, Mike McCarthy, Marvin Lewis and many others.

    Here's a ranking of the current openings, including Dallas due to the upcoming expiration of Jason Garrett's contract and the likelihood the parties split. They're based solely on talent in place, job security and, most importantly, the potential for success.


4. Cleveland Browns

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    Gary Landers/Associated Press

    On sheer talent alone, the Cleveland Browns might be worth the headache.

    The Freddie Kitchens experiment face-planted, which is putting it nicely. Potential coaches might worry about job security after Kitchens made it through just one season, and he was one of three guys to serve in the lead role since 2016 (they combined went 14-49).

    But avoiding dramatic play-calling issues and instilling a better culture would help, which should go hand-in-hand with job security.

    It's not like the Browns don't have the talent. Baker Mayfield regressed but has obvious upside. Nick Chubb rushed for nearly 1,500 yards. Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and tight end David Njoku form a wicked pass-catching trio when healthy. The defense boasts standouts in Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward. And the front office should have about $50 million in free space, plus a top-10 pick in the 2020 draft.

    It has proved to be a volatile job, but there are enough positives to make this an attractive gig for the right candidate.

3. Carolina Panthers

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    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    It's tough to fill Ron Rivera's shoes, but it's easier when inheriting a roster brimming with talent.

    If a new head coach wants to roll with Cam Newton, that solves a number of problems. Newton, by the way, is still only 30 years old. Star running back Christian McCaffrey just joined the 1,000-1,000 club, and D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel round out what could be an explosive offense with better play-calling.

    Defense is more of a problem in Carolina after the team allowed 29.4 points per game (second-worst), but it's tough to complain about building around edge-rusher Brian Burns and a 53-sack unit (second-best). If that's the focal point of a new coach, the Panthers project to have more than $30 million in free space and another top-10 pick to use.

    Eventually, and perhaps sooner than later, the quarterback question might loom large. But promising pieces and good job security (two main coaches dating back to 2002) make Carolina perhaps the most underrated opening of this cycle.

2. New York Giants

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Perhaps the scariest thing about the New York Giants' opening isn't the roster overhaul needed to succeed but the fact that a market like the Big Apple doesn't give coaches much time to show results.

    Three coaches have tried and quickly failed to have success with the Giants since the lengthy Tom Coughlin era ended following the 2015 season. But avoiding a short tenure is simple: just win.

    That might not be as hard as it sounds now that the Giants have a potential franchise passer in place in Daniel Jones and a star running back in Saquon Barkley. The biggest hurdle is on defense, where the unit allowed 28.2 points per game (third-worst) and couldn't make something happen in the middling NFC East.

    But like a lot of these openings, the Giants have plenty of cash (about $70 million) and a top-five pick. Provided the new coach doesn't ship off top talent (Odell Beckham Jr.) or miss on a big signing (Nate Solder), some of the most important pieces and future assets are already in place.

1. Dallas Cowboys

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys' job is unmistakably pressure-filled.

    However, Jason Garrett got 10 seasons and won just two playoff games with what was often a great roster on paper. Since his contract is up in mid-January and the Cowboys are likely to look elsewhere, it gets the nod at the top of the list even though the job isn't technically vacant at this time.

    Dak Prescott, who will need a new contract, is a high-end starter under center, Ezekiel Elliott is one of the NFL's best backs, and Amari Cooper (also a free agent) is the type of talent who changed the complexion of the offense when he came aboard last season. Don't forget a strong offensive line and playmakers on defense in Jaylon Smith and DeMarcus Lawrence.

    That all makes this year's disappointing season all the more confusing, but the Cowboys might just need a new leader. Ownership is unafraid to cough up big money to retain talent, and don't forget there's a top-20 pick coming up.

    Pressure aside, there are few more attractive jobs in the NFL.


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