There are only 32 Head Coaching roles in the NFL, and all of them are coveted – some, however, are more coveted than others. Every role has its own nuances and considerations, how patient are the owners? What is the GM like? How does the roster look? Where are they against the cap? Do they have a franchise QB? We take a look at the 7, currently available, Head Coaching roles and rank them by desirability.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Let’s see – Franchise QB – check (Jameis Winston), Good young RB – check (Doug Martin), Superstar DL – check (Gerald McCoy), Pro Bowl calibre LB – check (Lavonte David). There is an awful lot to like about the roster that Lovie Smith has left behind on the Florida coast. Before the late season collapse, Tampa Bay seemingly had a good look at the playoffs this year and the consistent nature of the play of Jameis Winston was surpassing the expectations of those commentators that thought there would be a longer adjustment period to the NFL for the former Florida State Seminole. Whoever takes the role should think very hard about keeping the offensive staff in place – assuming Dirk Koetter himself isn’t promoted. For a young QB, stability is key, with few young passers able to handle adjusting both to the pro game and to new systems every year. The big task for the new coach will be to fix the defense – the team ranked 25th and 26th in scoring defense the last 2 years. A particular struggle for the team has been to create turnovers in the secondary – any time 2 LB lead the team in interceptions (Lavonte David with 3 and Kwon Alexander with 2) there is something not quite right.
Chip Kelly was not fired for his record, let’s make that clear. So any coach worried that they are dealing with an unreasonable owner who fires a coach despite a 26-21 regular season record can breathe easy. Lurie has a history of patience, Andy Reid got 14 seasons in Philly, despite the fans calling for his head on numerous occasions. Kelly also left behind a team that doesn’t lack for talent; Jason Peters, DeMarco Murray, Jason Kelce and Fletcher Cox are all Pro Bowl level players who remain under contract for 2016. The question mark comes at the QB position, yet the presence of Mark Sanchez mitigates that slightly. In this writer’s opinion, Sanchez got a bit of a bum deal (pun intended) in New York when he was hounded out despite leading the team to 2 AFC Championship games and trying to spearhead an offense that lacked talent in all areas. If he had played in a smaller media market, his reputation would perhaps more closely match his level of play. This gives the new coach a ‘bridge’ starter while trying to develop a young player should the Eagles decide not to look to bring back Sam Bradford. A coach with a reputation for QB whispering – such as Adam Gase or Hue Jackson – could have a lot of success as HC of the Eagles.
New York Giants
First – the negatives. The roster lacks talent, particularly on the defensive side of the ball and the GM hasn’t shown he is capable of restocking as this talent deficit isn’t a new phenomenon. Eli Manning is approaching the back end of his career and the backup situation is unknown with Ryan Nassib not getting a look in due to Eli’s durability. And you likely wouldn’t get to hire your own assistants because Ben McAdoo and Steve Spagnulo are pretty entrenched. The positives then – there is some talent on the offensive side of the ball, with Odell Beckham Jr among the most exciting young wideouts in football. Eli Manning should have at least a couple of years of high-level play left in him. You get to play in the putrid NFC East where 10 wins almost guarantees the division title. Lastly, you get a job that it is nigh on impossible to be fired from, given the patience and loyalty of the owners. Coughlin managed just 1 playoff trip in the last 7 (seven!) seasons and still wasn’t fired!
Time and time again, it has been proven that you cannot win in this league without a competent QB – pretty much regardless of anything else. With that in mind, any opening that comes with a ‘franchise QB’ is going to be coveted. Marcus Mariota showed this season that he has the tools to be very successful as an NFL QB and his presence on the roster can be seen to trump the fact that the rest of it, sucks. Further, the role comes with the first pick in the draft and a change to add another dynamic playmaker or even to trade down and stockpile some picks to re-inforce as many areas as you can. The Adams family (hehe!) have shown in the past that they can be fiercely loyal to their hires, holding on to Jeff Fisher for, perhaps, longer than they should have. The cherry on the cake with this position is that you get to play in the AFC South, a division that is a contender with the NFC East for the worst in football.
The weather in South Florida is fantastic. That we start with this is hardly an endorsement of the position but it could go a long way towards appeasing a coach’s wife and family should you take on the role! In truth, things aren’t all bad at the Dolphins, there is talent on the roster to counter-balance the question marks that exist around Ryan Tannehill. In Lamar Miller and Jay Ajayi, there is a strong run game and the defense, keyed by Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake, is better than it played at points last season. It is the Tannehill conundrum, though, that the new coach will need to solve first. In patches, Tannehill has shown at least the physical talent to succeed as an NFL QB – he can make all the throws and possesses enough athleticism to be a threat on the ground as well. The struggle is often in the mental part of the game and he has struggled to develop this side of his play. As a raw prospect, having played WR more than QB in college, it was to be expected that Tannehill would take time to develop the mental side of his game – the concern is that, 4 yrs into his pro career, he hasn’t yet. Anyone taking the job would need to be confident they can work with Tannehill, as the QB signed a 6yr $95 million contract last offseason and is tied to the club for the next few years at least.
San Francisco 49ers
It is a sad indictment of this once proud franchise that, just three years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, it is a toss-up between this role and the Browns job as to which is the least attractive. The roster is a mess, the QB situation is all over the place and the CEO has openly admitted he has struggled in his role. On top of this, the GM ran one of the best coaches in football out of town because of personality differences, and just fired his ‘hand-picked’ successor after less than one year in the job! On a positive note, the team has at least agreed to honour the $14 million left on Jim Tomsula’s contract, so that’s something to consider! The team mustered together 5 wins in 2015 which, to some observers, is a good return given the paucity of talent remaining on the roster following the spate of retirements prior to last season. Colin Kaepernick was terrible last year, ultimately being benched for Blaine Gabbert(!!), a player no-one is queuing up to pin their hopes on. The first task for the new HC is to decide whether or not ‘Kap’ is worth the more than $15 million that he will be guaranteed if he is on the roster on April 1st.
- Cleveland Browns
Where do we start with this role…… The owner will be employing his fourth Head Coach, his fourth General Manager and, probably, his third ‘franchise’ QB since he bought the club in 2012. As coach, you will not have control of the 53 man roster, and neither will the GM, with final say being given to the VP of Football Operations, Sashi Brown (who has limited football experience). Your best player, C Alex Mack, may be about to void the final years of his contract, becoming a free agent, and you inherit a team that, in the 17 seasons since re-joining the league, has had double digit loss seasons 13 times! The roster is terrible, vying with Tennessee for the least talented in the entire NFL. Tennessee, however, has Marcus Mariota – Cleveland has Johnny Manziel. Well, it has Manziel right now, but, given his latest antics, ‘Johnny Football’ has likely played his last snap as a Brown. Fellow former first round pick Justin Gilbert has recently admitted to missing meetings because he is a ‘hard sleeper’ and your best offensive ‘weapon’ is a 30 yr old TE called Gary! All I can say is ‘good luck’ to whoever has enough self-confidence to wade in to this mess!