It’s approaching that magical time again: The NFL coaching carousel. With two weeks left in the season, there are only a handful of jobs we know will be open in the February, including replacing Urban Meyer’s mess in Jacksonville, and filling Jon Gruden’s homophobic, racist shoes in Las Vegas. With new NFL rules teams no longer need to wait to begin interviewing candidates. Teams can begin to look to fill positions as soon as this week, which could really shake things up down the stretch.
As obvious as the positions are that need to be filled, perhaps the most stunning part of all this is who won’t be fired this year. The Giants seem dead-set on continuing forward with Joe Judge, for some reason. The Panthers appear to be giving Matt Rhule one more year, which is also utterly mystifying. Both organizations are taking the approach of “they haven’t had enough time,” as if you need to keep eating a sandwich full of rotten ham before noticing the ham is rotten.
There’s also a possibility this season that we could see a shocker? A team suddenly in need of a coach that nobody saw coming?
Jobs that are open
We obviously know this is the big one. The Jags swung for the fences by hiring Urban Meyer just under a year ago, but it was the kind of swing where you lose control of the bat and smack yourself in the face.
To say Meyer was a disaster is an insult to disasters. There’s a waiting rockslide right now furiously writing me saying “don’t you DARE compare me to Urban Meyer.” While it might surprise you to think this job is desirable, it kind of is.
Whoever walks into the situation essentially gets a blank slate. The QB situation is more or less solved with Trevor Lawrence, even if his rookie season has been underwhelming, and there’s an opportunity to build using $71M in cap space, the second most in the NFL.
The mid-season resignation of Jon Gruden opened up a job with a team that’s already on the verge of being a playoff team. The 8-7 Raiders (at the time of writing) have almost all all the pieces they need, with a solid quarterback in Derek Carr, an emerging young running back in Josh Jacobs, and a developing defense.
There’s definitely work to be done, but the Raiders have a lot of cap space to work with and could be a good coach away from making some noise.
The job with a dead man walking
The chances Matt Nagy remains in Chicago are so slim he belongs in his own category. On paper Nagy’s resume doesn’t look that bad, but this is a man who took a talented team and found a way to make them play so far below their potential it defied belief.
Presumably GM Ryan Pace will be out the door along with Nagy, turning over the direction of the Bears to people who understand the potential of Justin Fields and can work on building around the young QB.
Two jobs that could come open
This is really a question of how long the Vikings are comfortable with mediocrity. Zimmer has been with the team since 2014, and in those seven years there’s really not a lot to show for it.
Zimmer has kept his job this long by having a tendency to get Minnesota into the playoffs every other year, offering tantalizing promise, only to then see it pulled away the next year. This will be the first year the team has had back-to-back losing seasons with Zimmer at the helm, giving ownership more than enough cause to pull the trigger.
I might be in the minority, but I like Rick Spielman as a GM. This team just needs a better in-game manager and someone who can maximize the talent on this team. Also someone ready to accept that Kirk Cousins is a stat-padding machine who can’t lead a team to a Super Bowl, making it time to change direction at QB.
Vic Fangio was a favorite to be a mid-season firing before 2021 began, but an early win-streak on the back of a solid defense saved him. Now the Broncos are a middling team, which is better than anyone expected, but perhaps not enough to justify keeping Fangio.
We’re entering the third season of Fangio’s tenure, and unless Denver wins out, it will be three losing seasons in a row. That would normally be enough to justify firing a coach, but there’s a chance he showed just enough this season to give him another year.
I’m of the opinion Denver should move on, largely because it’s difficult to see what Fangio’s vision for this team is.
One potential NFL head coaching opening that would be a surprise
There is nothing pointing to Seattle needing a new head coach, but maybe this is time for Pete Carroll to move on. The 5-11 Seahawks are a mess, and a large part of that is being bitten by the injury bug, but there’s also been ample friction between the organization and Russell Wilson.
If rumors are true and Wilson wants to move on, what’s the motivation for Carroll to stay? He’s 70 years old, he’s won a Super Bowl, there’s nothing left to really prove. I know if I was in that position I wouldn’t really want to hang around and put the work in to a rebuild, when I could chill and enjoy retirement.
This feels like a huge turning point for the Seahawks. Yes, there’s a good chance everyone makes amends and returns in 2022, but I think there’s also a possibility we see a full teardown in Seattle, and that begins with Carroll stepping down.
Who could these teams look at?
There’s no single answer for what organizations are looking for in a new head coach. Instead we have a short list of talented individuals ready to take over teams. Here are some of the guys to watch as jobs open.