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NFL Head Coach Candidates 2016 – Part 1: The Coordinators.

The January hiring season is approaching fast and, behind the scenes, GMs and owners will be starting to draw up candidate lists of potential HC replacements should their current staffs not deliver the success they require. In this, the first of two articles looking at Head Coaching candidates, we look at Coordinators across the NFL who may be ready to step up into one of the 32 most coveted jobs in football.

The Shoe-Ins

  • Adam Gase – OC, Chicago Bears

It was somewhat of a surprise that Gase failed to land a role last year and his stock has risen still further this year. It is one thing to put together a successful offense with (pre-2015!) Peyton Manning at the helm but to do so with the irascible Jay Cutler at the controls is testament to the qualities that Gase must possess. Gase has his Chicago offense over-achieving and will be at the top of the list for many teams looking for a new head man.

  • Josh McDaniels – OC, New England Patriots

New year, same story in New England with McDaniels, Belichick and Brady combining to run one of the most potent offenses in the NFL. While his first stint as a HC ended in ignomious fashion with his midseason firing by the Denver Broncos there is strong feeling in NFL circles that a more mature McDaniels is ready once again to take the reins of a franchise. Owners are likely to be more careful than the Bowlens were in giving McDaniels control of personnel decision as the choice of Tim Tebow in the first round in 2011 casts a long shadow.

  • Hue Jackson – OC, Cincinnati Bengals

It is perhaps fair to say that Hue Jackson got given short shrift in his previous stint as a HC, getting fired after just one 8-8 season with a talent poor Oakland Raiders team. A victim of a change in ownership and franchise direction Jackson landed in Cincinnati, first as Secondary Coach and Special Teams Assistant before moving to coach Running Backs then, following the hiring of Jay Gruden by the Washington Redskins, securing the OC role ahead of the 2014 season.  With the Bengals currently sitting at 8-1 and averaging over 25 points per game (5th in NFL) Jackson will get a long look from teams looking for an offensive spark.

  • Kyle Shanahan – OC, Atlanta Falcons

Being the offspring of a successful HC in the NFL can be both a blessing and a curse and this has been true for Kyle Shanahan. Lazy observers have often attributed his rise through the coaching ranks to nepotism but, now free from the shadow of his famous father, Shanahan is showing of his own credentials. Following a stint as the OC of the Cleveland Browns, Shanahan has brought his zone scheme along to the Atlanta Falcons and the teams’ previously anaemic running game has reaped the benefits. With Devonta Freeman under consideration as the Offensive Player of the Year, look for Shanahan to get due consideration for any available HC positions.

Strong Candidates

  • Vic Fangio – DC, Chicago Bears

Considered by many to have been a frontrunner for the San Francisco 49ers job last season, Fangio ended up leaving the organisation and taking the DC role with the Chicago Bears. Given the paucity of talent on the defensive side of the ball in Chicago the team has over-performed and, given the quality of defense the 49ers played under Fangio, he will get a number of interviews for head roles this offseason.

  • Sean McDermott – DC, Carolina Panthers

Despite missing his best pass rusher in both 2014 (Greg Hardy) and 2015 (Charles Johnson – now back from IR) McDermott has overseen one of the best playmaking units in the NFL as DC of the Carolina Panthers. Having fulfilled the role for the last 4 seasons the continual improvement of the unit will prompt many teams to consider whether McDermott is ready to step up to the head role.

  • Paul Guenther – DC, Cincinnati Bengals

The continued success of the Cincinnati Bengals is becoming a problem for the team as they keep losing Co-Ordinators to HC roles. Having lost both Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer in 2014, Cincinnati faces the prospect of losing both Hue Jackson and Paul Guenther in 2016. Currently in charge of the number 1 scoring defense in the NFL, Guenther will get a few calls from interested teams this offseason.  

Likely to be shortlisted

  • Matt Patricia – DC, New England Patriots

New England defenses always seem to outperform their talent level and that is testament to the coaching staff. While Bill Belichick gets much of the credit look for Patricia to get some calls this offseason.

  • Bob Sutton – DC, Kansas City Chiefs

Despite a slow start this year Suttons KC unit has steadily improved and is beginning to make plays. If the unit continues to make plays this year and propel the Chiefs back into contention, Sutton will end up on some teams shortlists.

  • Bill Musgrave – OC, Oakland Raiders

Musgrave’s Oakland Raider offense currently sits in the top 10 in the NFL in both total yardage and scoring, a position few expected it to occupy given the relative inexperience of the players. The development of David Carr, the re-emergence of Michael Crabtree and the immediate success of Amari Cooper all reflect well on Musgrave who was also the OC for the Minnesota Vikings in Adrian Petersons MVP season.

  • Ben McAdoo – OC, New York Giants

Limiting the appearances of ‘Bad Eli’ have led to the development of a potent offense in New York. While many will question the strange disappearances of Odell Beckham Jr late in games and point fingers at the playcaller, McAdoo will likely get the opportunity to interview with teams but may be a year away from stepping up.

Falling Stock

  • Teryl Austin – DC, Detroit Lions

Came close in 2015 but his Lions defense has imploded this year and been unable to overcome key personnel losses. If the Green Bay leads to a late season resurgence Austin may again be considered

  • Darryl Bevell – OC, Seattle Seahawks

The fallout from ‘the worst play-call in Superbowl history’ hurts Bevell but the reaction in the aftermath (where he appeared to blame the WR for not being strong enough to the ball) also casts doubt on his leadership skills. Coupled with the extremely poor performance of the Seattle Offense this season and Bevell is likely to field fewer calls this season than last.

Re-treads who may get calls

  • Dennis Allen – DC, New Orleans Saints

  • Eric Mangini – DC, San Francisco 49ers

  • Todd Haley – OC, Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Rob Chudzinski – OC, Indianapolis Colts

Next week we will be examining the cases of those not currently in the NFL, the ‘hot’ college candidates and the ‘retired’ coaches who could be enticed back to the league.

NFL Head Coach Candidates 2016 – Part 1: The Coordinators.

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