Breaking Down the NFL Head Coaching Openings

Head Coaching Openings

The Monday following the conclusion of the NFL season has become known as “Black Monday”. It is the day that some franchises decide to make a change at the head coaching position. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Chargers, and New York Jets all announced they would be making changes at head coach on Black Monday.  To go along with those teams, the Houston Texans, Detroit Lions, and the Atlanta Falcons had already parted ways with their head coaches during the season. This week, the Philadelphia Eagles announced they too would be in search of a new head coach. Today, we take a look at each franchise and what they are searching for in their head coaching openings.

Breaking Down the NFL Head Coaching Openings

If your franchise is searching to fill one of the head coaching openings, it means your recent history hasn’t gone very well. Each of these teams who are in the head coaching market is looking to find somebody who can get their teams back on track. The head coaching search is never easy, but the task of turning around a losing NFL franchise is even harder.

For three of these franchises, the head coach openings aren’t the only position they are looking to fill. The Lions, Falcons, and Jaguars are in search of a new general manager as well. Houston filled that position already this off-season with the hiring of Nick Caserio as their new general manager. So it appears that the Eagles, Jets, Chargers, and now Texans have a step up on the other teams in their head coaching searches.

Here is a look at each head coaching opening for each team and who we feel might be the best fit to replace their outgoing coach.

Atlanta Falcons

Former Head Coach: Dan Quinn

After starting this season 0-5, the Atlanta Falcons decided to part ways with Dan Quinn. Quinn was hired prior to the 2015 season. He achieved a regular season of 43-42 record along with a postseason record of 3-2. His biggest achievement was leading the Falcons to the Super Bowl in 2016, which they lost to the New England Patriots.

The Falcons opening does have some pluses. Quarterback Matt Ryan is an established quarterback and wide receiver Julio Jones, when healthy, is still a productive wide receiver. However, Ryan will turn 36 in May. His skill set could be on the downside of his career. Jones is still capable of producing, but injuries have hurt his production.

Defensively, the Falcons are a mess. They finished 29th in total defense. The next head coach will have a lot of work in front of him, both offensively and defensively.

Prediction: Nathaniel Hackett

A franchise with an aging quarterback coming off a down season. A top-five draft pick in this year’s draft that could land them a young talented quarterback. Sounds like a similar situation that the Green Bay Packers faced this season.

So, why not turn your head coaching attention to the Packers offensive coordinator. While Nathaniel Hackett might not call the plays for the Packers, he was an integral part in helping Aaron Rodgers to a possible third NFL MVP. Along with that, Hackett has been helping tutor the Packers 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love.

Detroit Lions

Former Head Coach:  Matt Patricia

Of all the head coaching openings, this one might be the least attractive. The Matt Patricia era in Detroit was a complete disaster. It wasn’t just his 13-29-1 record either. He approached his first, and possibly only, head coaching opportunity like he was the next Bill Belichick. The players didn’t buy it and the results showed it.

The Lions do have some good looking younger pieces on defense as well as offense. Similar to the Falcons, they will have to decide if their aging quarterback, Matthew Stafford is the man to lead their franchise.

Prediction:  Robert Saleh

When looking at the Lions head coaching search, the one thing the franchise really needs is a player’s coach. Patricia lost the locker room with his “General” approach. The Lions don’t need a pushover, but somebody that will earn the player’s respect.

Robert Saleh seems like the perfect candidate. He coordinated a solid defense for the San Francisco 49ers, and he earned the respect of his players. He would be the total opposite of what Patricia was, which should be what the Lions are looking for.

Houston Texans

Former Head Coach:  Bill O’Brien

Bill O’Brien the head coach was just above average with a total coaching record of 54-52. Bill O’Brien the general manager was downright awful.

Sadly for O’Brien, his time with the Texans will be remembered more for poor decisions as a general manager than his time as the head coach. His trade of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for running back David Johnson will go down as one of the worst in NFL history.

Still, not all of the blame can be put on O’Brien’s shoulders. Texans owner Cal McNair has shot up the list of bad owners with his poor decision making. Even his hiring of Caserio, a former New England Patriots executive, has been called into question.

Many NFL teams have tried to duplicate the “Patriots” way by hiring former Patriots cast-offs. The Lions have tried and failed, the Kansas City Chiefs tried it and failed, and so did the Denver Broncos. While franchises’ failures should scare other teams off from trying, it seems McNair has jumped on the sinking ship and is giving it a shot.

Prediction:  Brian Daboll

In our opinion, the next Texans head coach should be Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. But the chances of that happening seem pretty slim at this point.

It appears that Jim Caldwell might be getting some steam. Caldwell is a veteran coach with an offensive background. It would make sense for the Texans to hire him. That is why we believe it won’t happen.

Brian Daboll has done an impressive job with Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills offense. Still, it isn’t a guarantee he can be the head of an NFL franchise. But the connection here, of course, is that he was once a Patriots assistant. That right there makes him the top candidate to fill the Texans head coaching position.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Former Head Coach:  Doug Marrone

It is fitting that the Jaguars follow the Texans on this list. Speaking of questionable owners, Shad Khan is giving Cal McNair a run for his money when it comes to clueless owners trying to fill head coaching openings.

During Khan’s tenure, he demoted his general manager David Caldwell and gave control to former New York Giants and Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin. When Coughlin’s tough-guy approach failed, he then gave Caldwell his job back. Then when the Jaguars 2020 season went south, he made Caldwell, the same guy he demoted, the scapegoat, and fired him. On top of that, Khan allowed Doug Marrone to be the head coach for four seasons.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Khan has come out and said he wants to have roster control. The Jaguars do have the number one overall choice in this year’s draft, meaning they will have Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence as their franchise quarterback. Still, it might not be enough to draw the attention of head coaching candidates, knowing that Khan will stick his nose in football decisions.

Prediction:  Eric Bieniemy

We don’t buy the Urban Meyer talk. Urban Meyer is a winner and there is no doubt that he wants to make sure that continues at the NFL level. We just can’t see Meyer working for an owner like Khan, especially without a general manager not in place yet.

While we question Khan’s ability to name the right head coach or even general manager, we think he might make the right call, by accident.

A lot has been written about Bieniemy not calling the plays for the Chiefs and his checkered background. Still, his work with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense is very intriguing. Matching him up with Trevor Lawrence seems like a good fit. He will need the right defensive coordinator and will need a proven general manager to work with. He will also need to have Khan keep his nose out of football decisions.

Los Angeles Chargers

Former Head Coach:  Anthony Lynn

Out of all the head coaching openings in the NFL this off-season, the Chargers are at the top of the list.

Anthony Lynn did a decent job, but he made a couple of mistakes (firing offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt in 2019 and his handling of the special teams unit this season) that did him in. He posted a 34-33 record, which includes his 1-1 playoff record. Lynn should find another head coaching job down the road.

There are several reasons that the head coaching job for the Chargers is so enticing. Their general manager Tom Telesco is highly respected among his peers and has done a nice job building the Chargers roster. One unit that Telesco did a great job building was the Chargers defense. They have a lot of talent on that side of the ball and the talent they have is very young.

But the biggest asset the Chargers have right now is their quarterback. Justin Herbert just finished his rookie season and it appears the Chargers found their franchise quarterback for seasons to come. Whoever is named the new head coach will have an up-and-coming quarterback.

Prediction:  Byron Leftwich

The pairing of Byron Leftwich and Herbert seems like a match made in heaven. Unlike with Bieniemy, Leftwich has called plays, first with the Arizona Cardinals and now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not only has Leftwich played the position in the NFL, but he has also learned under Bruce Arians and now has a year under his belt coaching Tom Brady.

New York Jets

Former Head Coach:  Adam Gase

It wasn’t a well-kept secret that Adam Gase would be out of a job at this season’s end. His hiring never seemed like a good match for the Jets. Then when the Jets hired Joe Douglas as their general manager after Gase was already in place, it seemed more like when not if, he would be fired.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Jets drafted quarterback Sam Darnold in the first round. He still is young and has a lot of tools to work with. The Jets have a young defense and could be solid if they get a coach that can keep developing them.

Prediction:  Don Martindale

Douglas spent some time as a scout with the Baltimore Ravens. So, linking the Jets to Don Martindale seems pretty obvious.

Martindale has done an excellent job as the Ravens defensive coordinator. He seems like he could help guide the Jets young defense and develop them into a solid defense. Because Martindale is a defensive coach, he will need to hire the right offensive coordinator to get the most out of Darnold. Martindale has been linked to some interesting names for his possible offensive coordinator.

Philadelphia Eagles

Former Head Coach:  Doug Pederson

Oh, how things changed since 2017. In 2017, Doug Pederson led the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory. But things declined after that, leading to the latest in the head coaching openings. He followed that up with two 9-7 seasons. This past year, the Eagles finished 4-11-1.

The biggest reason that Pederson earned his walking papers was due to the regression of quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz, a former first-round pick, was benched this season in favor of rookie Jalen Hurts. The Eagles still have a lot invested in Wentz and the next head coach will need to build Wentz’s confidence back up.

Prediction:  Arthur Smith

The top priority of the next Eagles head coach will be getting Wentz back to where he once was. Arthur Smith, the Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator, seems like the right man for the job.

Smith has done a remarkable job with getting Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill to finally play up to his potential. Tannehill washed out with the Miami Dolphins, but under Smith’s guidance with the Titans, he has developed into a productive NFL quarterback.

Even though Smith comes from a wealthy background (his Dad is Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx), he didn’t take any shortcuts to where he is at. He worked his way up to where he is now. His work ethic will be well-liked in a city like Philadelphia.

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