Saturday, May 28, 2022

NFL coach carousel: Predicting which coaches will land in each open spot, as Giants make a splash hire

Eight teams could be looking for a new head coach in 2022 (seven for certain), making this version of the NFL silly season even crazier than in recent years. Two teams, the Las Vegas Raiders and Miami Dolphins, finished 2021 with a winning record. Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia led his team to the playoffs and it’s not yet known whether the team will retain him or move on, but if the Raiders do move on, Miami and Vegas are the top destinations available. 

The Chicago Bears have a large market and a first-round quarterback in Justin Fields heading into his second year, while the Minnesota Vikings have the offense in place to win immediately. The Denver Broncos are a quarterback away from contention while the Jacksonville Jaguars have an elite talent in Trevor Lawrence but a lot of rebuilding to do in order to compete in a talented AFC full of young, elite quarterbacks.The Houston Texans have an uncertain quarterback situation in Deshaun Watson, and a franchise that has more questions than answers after firing David Culley after one season with arguably the worst roster in the NFL. The New York Giants have been one of the worst franchises in the NFL over the last five years. 

With seven vacancies (potentially eight depending on what the Raiders do), let’s take an educated guess which team will hire which coach over the coming weeks. Some predictions will be based on the head coaching interviews with candidates already set in place and the best destination for each of the candidates. 

Some of these hires could make these franchises contenders sooner rather than later.   

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Jacksonville Jaguars: Byron Leftwich (Buccaneers OC)

The Jaguars need a coach who can work well with a young quarterback, and Leftwich feels like a good fit for a team that is in the midst of a rebuild. Leftwich has gotten the most out of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense with Jameis Winston and Tom Brady, as the Buccaneers are first in the NFL in points per game (29.8) and third in yards per game (396.1) since he became the offensive coordinator in 2019. 

Leftwich going to Jacksonville would be a reunion, as he was the No. 3 overall pick by the Jaguars in 2003 and is fourth in franchise history in passing yards and passing touchdowns. The 42-year-old is ready for his first head coaching job and working with Trevor Lawrence is a good start for turning the franchise around. A former NFL quarterback with an innovative passing attack would bring some excitement to Jacksonville. 

Houston Texans: Jonathan Gannon (Eagles DC)

This is an outside-the-box hire for the Texans, but Houston is the least attractive of all the openings once they moved on from David Culley after one season. The Texans still don’t know how the Deshaun Watson situation will play out and need to significantly rebuild a roster that was in the bottom five in points scored and points allowed (along with yards per game and yards allowed per game). 

Gannon is a young defensive mind who many teams are looking to interview (he has interview requests with three teams). The Texans need to rebuild their defense and Gannon got the most out of a Philadelphia Eagles unit that didn’t have the best talent around. Gannon had the Eagles as a top-10 defense in yards allowed and Philadelphia finished 18th in points allowed. 

The Texans take a chance on a young coach who had respect from his players in his one season as a coordinator, a solid teacher of the game. Gannon may be a year or two away from being a head coach, but Houston is in a rebuild anyway. 

Denver Broncos: Dan Quinn (Cowboys DC)

Quinn seems to be the coach the Broncos want to replace Vic Fangio, as he was their first candidate in their head coach search. They’ll have competition for Quinn, but he’s the candidate general manager George Paton seems to be putting all the chips on the table for. 

Quinn transformed the Cowboys defense from 28th in points allowed to seventh and improved their takeaway number from 23 to 34 (most in the NFL). He’s responsible for making Micah Parsons a defensive player of the year candidate in his rookie year and transforming Trevon Diggs into a ball-hawking cornerback. With a talented defense in Denver, the Broncos will need a defensive mind in Quinn to slow down Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert

Quinn went 43-42 in five seasons with the Falcons as their head coach, winning the NFC Championship in the 2016 season. He’ll get his second shot in Denver. 

New York Giants: Brian Flores (former Dolphins HC)

Flores is arguably the biggest name on the market and Giants owner John Mara reportedly has “great respect” for the former Dolphins coach. The Giants have yet to interview Flores (they’re still searching for a general manager), but New York needs a significant culture change in the locker room.

Flores had his issues in Miami, from coaching changes to his handling of Tua Tagovailoa — but he is the only head coach to start a season 1-7 and finish with a winning record (2021). The Dolphins went 24-25 in his three seasons, with two winning campaigns. Flores went 24-18 in his final 42 games as a head coach.

Hiring another Belichick assistant may not be ideal for the Giants, but Flores seems cut from a different cloth than the others. The Giants need to rebuild the culture in order to build a winner. Players respect Flores and will appreciate his leadership. 

Minnesota Vikings: Doug Pederson (former Eagles HC)

The Vikings have not yet formally interviewed Pederson, but Minnesota is a team that could use his emotional intelligence in their building. Minnesota has an offense that can put up points, but needs to fix its defense — and Pederson will hire a veteran defensive coordinator to run and correct that unit. 

A players coach and former NFL quarterback, Peterson is the most accomplished head coach available. Pederson went 42-37-1 in his five seasons with the Eagles, winning two NFC East titles and taking the franchise to three consecutive playoff appearances — including beating the Patriots in Super Bowl 52. 

Pederson turned the Eagles around in a hurry, becoming one of just 11 head coaches to win the Super Bowl in his first two seasons as a head coach. He can turn Minnesota into a contender immediately, which is exactly what the Vikings need. 

Chicago Bears: Brian Daboll (Bills OC)

The Bears are one of the hardest teams to predict, having a grocery shopping list of head coaches they interviewed. At the end of the day, developing Justin Fields is the No. 1 priority, which makes Daboll the ideal coach for the job. 

Daboll developed Josh Allen into one of the elite quarterbacks in the game while transforming the Bills offense. Buffalo is fourth in the NFL in yards per game (389.0) and second in points per game (29.8) while Allen has completed 66.06% of his passes for 8,951 yards with 73 touchdowns to 25 interceptions (99.2 rating) while also rushing for 1,184 yards and 14 touchdowns. Allen is in the top five in passing yards and touchdowns during that stretch. 

The 46-year old Daboll gets his first opportunity to innovate his offensive schemes with a Bears offense that has young talent. If any coach can help Fields live up to his talent, it’s Daboll. 

Miami Dolphins: Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs OC) 

The Dolphins are seeking a culture change from Brian Flores and appear to be looking for a coach to continue to develop Tua Tagovailoa. While Miami hasn’t interviewed Bieniemy yet (they interviewed him in 2019 before settling on Flores), they take a chance on Bieniemy this time around. 

Bieniemy’s resume speaks for itself. The Chiefs have scored the most points per game in the NFL (30.3) since Bieniemy became the offensive coordinator in 2018, along with the most yards per game (404.2). Kansas City also has the best record in the NFL during Bieniemy’s run, going 50-15 with three conference championship game appearances and a Super Bowl title in the 2019 season. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes also has the most passing yards, passing touchdowns, and the second-highest passer rating since the start of the 2018 season. 

Coming from the Andy Reid tree, Bieniemy knows how to build a staff and can work well with a front office. He appears to be the right fit for Miami, even though the Dolphins haven’t sought him out in the early stages of their head coaching search. If the Dolphins are committed to Tagovailoa, Bieniemy seems like the coach to get the most out of him.

Miami is set to win now, giving Bieniemy an opportunity to win immediately with a good defense already in place. The offense is the unit that needs significant work, which is where Bieniemy comes in. 

Las Vegas Raiders: Jim Harbaugh (Michigan HC)

The Raiders are searching for a new general manager after firing Mike Mayock, and interim head coach Rich Bisaccia just took this team to a playoff appearance. Bisaccia may end up getting the job, but the Raiders are interviewing general manager candidates and could move on from the interim coach too. 

Vegas has a quarterback in Derek Carr and a playoff-caliber roster, making the job attractive. Owner Mark Davis paid Jon Gruden $10 million a year to be his head coach, and he’ll be looking to make a big splash. 

Enter Jim Harbaugh, who the Raiders will work diligently to get back to the NFL. Harbaugh is no stranger to success in the league, going 44-19-1 in four seasons as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers won the NFC championship in the 2012 season and reached the conference championship game for three consecutive seasons (2011 to 2013), as Harbaugh compiled a .695 win percentage in the regular season — fifth on the all-time list for coaches that have coached for four seasons. Harbaugh left for Michigan after the 49ers finished 8-8 in 2014, going 61-24 for the Wolverines and a Big Ten championship with a College Football Playoff appearance this past season — yet is 0-3 in New Year’s Six bowl games. 

Harbaugh is the winner the Raiders seek, the coach Davis will drive a Brink’s truck to in order to land him. Vegas may be the job that gets Harbaugh to leave his alma mater and return to the NFL, knowing he’ll get all the resources he wants to win immediately. 

The Raiders will court Harbaugh, and are the team in the best position to get him.

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