Brendan’s Bits: Ranking the NFL Coaching Openings
A quarter of NFL teams are looking for new coaches this season. Unfortunately for those eight teams, the talent pool isn’t exactly huge for this hiring cycle. With some of the biggest potential movers staying put (like John Harbaugh in Baltimore) and the biggest college names staying in the CFB ranks (like Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma), if you’re not one of the best jobs available you may end up scraping the bottom of the barrel for a coach. Here’s one (subjective) ranking of the available jobs, from tantalizing to tragic.
1 – Green Bay Packers
The most interesting part of this job, by far, is the chance to work with a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. Everyone knows what Rodgers can do when he’s at his best. He was undeniably down during the 2018 season, even if his numbers looked decent in some categories, but the game-breaking abiility is still there. For years, the complaint about Green Bay has been that outside of No. 12 the roster is depleted. While the defense still needs work, an offensive-minded coach could do a lot with the Packers’ current offensive players. People like wide receiver Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones are bona fide weapons in Rodgers’ arsenal. The opportunity to work with budding stars and a legendary quarterback could (and frankly should) intrigue any coaching candidate.
2 – Cleveland Browns
There’s a legitimate argument for making the Browns the top choice on this list. They’ve got their franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield, who showed as a rookie that he has face-of-the-league potential. He’s not the only stud on the roster, either, with a handful of quality (or at least high-upside) players on both sides of the ball. That includes Myles Garrett, like Mayfield a former first-overall pick who is already taking the league by storm. There are plenty of holes that still need filling in Cleveland, but with eight picks in the first five rounds of the upcoming draft and nearly $75 million in projected cap space, the Browns can fill those holes soon. Cleveland isn’t a laughing stock anymore, and its next coach could lead them to a Valhalla (at least relative to what the Browns are used to).
3 – New York Jets
This largely comes down to how you view Sam Darnold. If you believe that his flashes of excellence from this season will become more consistent and he’ll develop nicely, this spot makes sense. However, if you’re not in Darnold’s camp and think he’ll flame out, this may seem high. Darnold is somewhat enigmatic when it comes to his projected development, but if he can reign in his turnover problems the Jets have their franchise guy. That’s what makes this job an obvious landing spot for Mike McCarthy, who did wonders for Aaron Rodgers’ development in Green Bay. Beyond the quarterback there are some nice pieces on this roster, specifically on defense with safety Jamal Adams and defensive lineman Leonard Williams.
4 – Denver Broncos
For the first time on this list we reach a team with an unfavorable situation at quarterback. Case Keenum is not a good quarterback, he’s a mediocre-at-best quarterback when he had Stephon Diggs and Adam Thielen bailing him out in Minnesota. The Broncos desperately need to find a star passer (or even slightly above average) and soon. The same can be said for the offensive line. However, the talent at the skill positions on this team is impressive. Offensively, there’s a lot of youth with a lot of potential. Rookie running backs Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman look like they could be a punishing duo for years to come, while Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton could become impact wide receivers (the former is well on his way already). That’s without even getting to the defense, which still has the likes of Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. If John Elway can return to the prominence people thought he had as a general manager early in his tenure, this opening could pull in a hot candidate.
5 – Cincinnati Bengals
These next two teams are hard to place. For Cincinnati there are questions about ownership (Mike Brown hasn’t exactly been a fantastic executive over the course of his career), but you’ve got one hall of fame-caliber player on the roster (wide receiver AJ Green), with a serviceable-at-worst starting quarterback in Andy Dalton and a few quality players on defense. Arguably the most enticing part of this job is the security that comes with it. Marvin Lewis didn’t win a single playoff game in his tenure, yet he still lasted 16 seasons. The Bengals are on the verge of needing a full rebuild, but they may not quite be there yet the chips fall correctly (Andy Dalton returning to his 2015 form being arguably the most vital component).
6 – Miami Dolphins
Miami has so many question marks surrounding its franchise. Unsurprisingly, the biggest one has to deal with the quarterback and whether or not Ryan Tannehill will be along for the long haul. With general manager Mike Tannenbaum also being reassigned in the organization, there are plenty of questions about what the new chain of command for the Dolphins will look like. An exciting young secondary led by Minkah Fitzpatrick and Xavien Howard is nice, but not necessarily enough to make this job appealing to top candidates (whoever they may be) with the other problems this roster has. Miami is below Cinicinnati in the rankings because the Dolphins are likely closer to needing a full rebuild, although the thought of reconstructing a team could be more intriguing to some coaches.
7 – Arizona Cardinals
Arizona’s roster is terrible. Larry Fitzgerald is still contributing at a high level, but he’s not a franchise cornerstone anymore. David Johnson is still potent, but building around a running back isn’t a smart decision in the modern era in the NFL. And Patrick Peterson is still balling out at cornerback, but it’s not enough to just have one standout defensive back (no disrespect meant to a rising player in Budda Baker). The point is that this roster, generally speaking, is barren. On the bright side, Josh Rosen is still young and has potential to break out with a better coaching staff supporting him, however he’s coming off of a disastrous rookie year. According to Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement metric, Rosen was the worst quarterback in the NFL by a ton this year. There’s a reason Mike McCarthy and Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Beiniemy turned down interviews with Arizona, and it doesn’t reflect well on where the organization is headed.
8 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dysfunction is probably the best word to describe where Tampa Bay is and where its headed after the 2018 season. After firing coach Dirk Koetter, the franchise made it known that Jameis Winston is still its starting quarterback and that its next coach must accept that. Yikes. It’s not like this is Green Bay, where the next Packers coach will be joining a team with a legend under center. Winston has not played well on the whole since being drafted, and his off-field problems never seem to stop. Add the other glaring problems with this roster (and there are plenty of them) and it’s hard the biggest names still available on the coaching carousel being enthused about heading to Tampa.