NFL Rumors: Latest Pre-Playoff Buzz Surrounding 2022 Coaching Vacancies

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2022

NFL Rumors: Latest Pre-Playoff Buzz Surrounding 2022 Coaching Vacancies

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    Ellen Schmidt/Associated Press

    The Las Vegas Raiders will help kick off the NFL postseason Saturday in Cincinnati, where they have plenty of opportunities to make a splash and deliver of the first big upsets of the playoffs. Head coach Rich Bisaccia, who guided the team to the postseason after one of the most tumultuous seasons in NFL history, may not get to lead the silver and black beyond this run, though.

    The uncertainty surrounding the future of the Raiders coaching position is just one of the topics on the minds of NFL insiders and fans alike.

    There is the Houston Texans job, where former Dolphins coach Brian Flores just interviewed and appears to be the favorite and the X-factor that is Michigan Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh, who hovers over the coaching search process for many teams. 

    What does the future hold for the universally loved Bisaccia, will Flores get a second shot at head coaching duties and what role, if any, will Harbaugh play this offseason?

    The answers await in this collection of NFL head coaching buzz.

Rich Bisaccia Coaching for His Future in Las Vegas

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Rich Bisaccia assumed head coaching duties from Jon Gruden back in October and proceeded to guide a gritty, resilient Las Vegas Raiders team to the playoffs, riding a four-game winning streak into Saturday's game with the Cincinnati Bengals.

    ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, in an appearance on Mad Dog Sports on Sirius XM, revealed that may not be good enough for him to remove the "interim" label from his title. "I don't think that he believes that he has a chance to keep the job, which is unfortunate, because he's done a great job," he said.

    If it is possible to do better than great, Bisaccia has done it.

    He coached up a team that had proven wildly inconsistent midway through the team, got them through traumatic events that included the firing of Gruden and a tragedy involving former wideout Henry Ruggs, and brought them together to make a largely improbable push to the postseason.

    The intestinal fortitude on display by the squad, which proved its toughness in the season-ending match-up against Los Angeles, won in overtime to get to the playoffs, is reflective of a coach who scratched and clawed his way from Wayne State to the NFL and now has a shot to make some noise in a postseason no one really thinks the Raiders have a chance to do much in.

    What he did to get his team to buy into his philosophies and prepare them for a run at a Super Bowl ring is exceptional and it would behoove Mark Davis to look at retaining Bisaccia for the foreseeable future because head coaches that can get a team to respond the way the Raiders did in this 2021 season are few and far between; unicorns to NFL owners.

Brian Flores the Favorite to Land the Houston Texans Job

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Aaron Wilson of SportsTalk 790 in Houston reported the Houston Texans are targeting former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores as their top candidate. "He has a strong relationship with [general manager] Nick Caserio," he added.

    Flores went 9-8 in 2021, bringing Miami back from a 1-7 start to go 8-1 down the stretch. Unfortunately, slow starts ultimately plagued the playoff-hungry Dolphins organization, keeping them out of the postseason for each of Flores' three seasons with the team.

    This, despite consecutive winning seasons with the franchise. 

    Dan Lyons of reported deteriorating relationships with general manager Chris Grier and franchise quarterback Tua Tagovailoa added to team owner Stephen Ross' decision to let him go.

    What Flores accomplished in Miami, with a roster lacking star players at key positions, was impressive. His leadership and toughness undoubtedly helped fuel the team's seven-game win streak this season and put them in a position for a playoff spot late in the season, even if it could not capitalize on it.

    He would need to demonstrate that toughness and ability to work with a relatively bare cabinet in Houston, where the team is void of playmakers on both sides of the ball. Rookie Davis Mills showed promise at the quarterback position, though, and Brandin Cooks had a bounce-back season after a few disappointing campaigns, easing the blow of a roster lacking depth at nearly every position.

    Wilson also reported the team will look to interview Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo following New England's wild-card playoff game against Buffalo. He is one of the hottest young coaching prospects in the league and another favorite in Houston.

The Latest on Jim Harbaugh's Potential Return to the NFL

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Where there's smoke, there's fire.

    Unless there isn't.

    Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported that, despite plenty of speculation and innuendo that University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh is entertaining the idea of returning to the NFL, there have yet to be any interviews reported to the league offices.

    "As another source explained it, there are three possible explanations. First, Harbaugh is using chatter of potential NFL interest (the Raiders have been the team connected to him most prominently) to leverage a new deal with Michigan. There are indications that such conversations are currently happening. Second, he actually hasn’t interviewed with any NFL teams, yet. Third, he has interviewed but the interview happened 'off the books.'" 

    David Jesse, Rainer Sabin and Orion Song of the Detroit Free Press reported in January of 2021 that Harbaugh signed a four-year extension to stay with Michigan, but with revised pay and incentives tied to his ability to win conference titles, playoffs and a national title. Certainly, Harbaugh would be looking for more security now that he took the Wolverines to the playoffs. Leveraging a return to the NFL against Michigan would certainly indicate to Harbaugh just how valued he is by the Big 10 powerhouse.

    This could also be a scenario in which Harbaugh is merely putting feelers out there to see what opportunities exist, what the financials would look like and what pieces he would have to work with. Even if he cannot renegotiate his contract, the idea of shaping young players into superstars may be more appealing than taking a job in Miami, where quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has more questions than answers surrounding him, or Houston, where the depth isn't as strong as what he has in college.

    Or, as Floria stated, it could very easily be that Harbaugh and interested teams simply do not have any officials talks on the books, thus they would not have had anything to report to the league offices.

    Harbaugh last coached in the NFL in 2014 for the San Francisco 49ers, leading them to a 44-19-1 record and one Super Bowl appearance in his four seasons.