NFL Head Coach Tracker: Latest news, rumors and candidates for vacancies

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NFL Head Coach Tracker: Latest news, rumors and candidates originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The NFL season is still in full swing, but that doesn’t mean some teams aren’t already thinking about their next head coach.

Franchises traditionally wait until the day after the season -- often dubbed “Black Monday” -- to fire their coaches. Several teams got a jump on the hiring process last year by firing their coach mid-season, though, including the Houston Texans (Bill O’Brien), Detroit Lions (Matt Patricia) and Atlanta Falcons (Dan Quinn).

Through Week 11 of the 2021 season, we’ve still yet to see a head coach get fired. Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was relieved of his duties following Week 11, and that could be a sign of things to come.

Here’s everything you need to know about the confirmed and potential NFL head coaching vacancies:

How many NFL teams are looking for a head coach?

Technically… none. For now.

All 32 teams have a head coach, and only one currently has the “interim” tag. Las Vegas Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia replaced Jon Gruden when the latter resigned following a problematic email scandal. Each of the other 31 teams currently have a permanent head coach, though some obviously have more job security than others.

What NFL teams are expected to hire new coaches in 2022?

The aforementioned Raiders are likely to be in the market for a new coach, barring an unforeseen playoff run by Bisaccia. After employing just nine head coaches in the first 35 years of franchise history, the Raiders have burned through 14 coaches in the last 27 years. No Raiders coach has lasted longer than four seasons since Art Shell in the early 1990s.

The Chicago Bears are also expected to have a vacancy, as Matt Nagy’s job security has been a topic of conversation dating back to last season. Nagy is in the midst of his fourth season in Chicago, and he’s never finished with a losing record. The Bears have regressed each season, though, winning 12 games in 2018 before going 8-8 in 2019 and 2020. Unless the team makes a significant playoff run or Justin Fields starts playing like a superstar, it’s likely that Chicago moves on from the 43-year-old Nagy.

There aren’t many guarantees beyond Las Vegas and Chicago. Three potential openings include the Denver Broncos, New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings.

Vic Fangio, 63, has yet to lead Denver to a winning record as he works through his third season. The Broncos’ roster is strong at most positions outside of quarterback, and it’s nearly impossible to win in the NFL without a good signal caller. If the Broncos don’t make the playoffs this season, it’s easy to envision general manager George Paton wanting to hire his own coach.

The Giants hired Joe Judge away from the New England Patriots before the 2020 season, but he’s yet to reach expectations. New York was 6-10 in a weak division last year, and it doesn’t look any better in 2021. Judge might’ve bought himself some time after firing Garrett, but the franchise could just decide to completely clean house with Judge and general manager Dave Gettleman on the outs.

Mike Zimmer is in his eighth season with the Vikings, having led them to the playoffs three times and never finishing with fewer than seven wins in a season. Minnesota is once again just hanging around in the wild card picture this season, and that’s been the story since 2017. The Vikings are mired in mediocrity and their 65-year-old head coach could face the consequences.

Several other teams could shock the NFL landscape with a head coaching change in 2022. Do the Jacksonville Jaguars pull the plug on the Urban Meyer experiment after one bad year? Will the Seattle Seahawks move on from Pete Carroll to appease Russell Wilson? Could the Miami Dolphins swap out Brian Flores after the team regressed this season? Is Mike McCarthy’s job safe with the Dallas Cowboys if they don’t make the Super Bowl? There are plenty of questions and not enough answers at this point in the process.

Who are the best offensive coordinators in the NFL? 

In recent years, the trend across the NFL has been to hire top offensive coordinators as head coaches. Arthur Smith (Falcons), Nick Sirianni (Eagles) and Kevin Stefanski (Browns) are all recent examples of that. So, which offensive coordinators could be head coaching candidates in 2022? Let’s take a look.

Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots: McDaniels has been a head coach before and is a perennial candidate. His work with rookie QB Mac Jones this year is proving that he wasn’t just a product of Tom Brady.

Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs: Every year people wonder how Bieniemy isn’t hired as a head coach, so maybe this will finally be his chance. He’s been the Chiefs’ OC since Patrick Mahomes took over in 2018, and we all know how that’s gone.

Nathaniel Hackett, Green Bay Packers: As the Jaguars’ OC from 2016 to 2018, Hackett got a Blake Bortles-led team within a few plays of making the Super Bowl. Then, he helped get Aaron Rodgers another MVP. The 41-year-old Hackett has a bright future.

Joe Brady, Carolina Panthers: Brady’s meteoric rise from LSU passing game coordinator to Panthers OC could soon lead to a head coaching gig. Just 32 years old, Brady is respected across the league and will be a head coach before long.

Brian Daboll, Buffalo Bills: Daboll has already coached under Bill Belichick and Nick Saban in his career. Since joining Buffalo in 2018, he’s helped Josh Allen transform from a turnover-prone rookie to a potential MVP candidate.

Kellen Moore, Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones’ only way to keep Moore this offseason might be to promote him to head coach. The 33-year-old Moore retired from the NFL in 2017 and has quickly become a hot head coaching candidate after three seasons as the Cowboys’ OC.

Byron Leftwich, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Serving as the Bucs’ OC since 2019, Leftwich has seen the highest of highs (Super Bowl in 2020) and lowest of lows (Jameis Winston led the league in INTs in 2019). He could get his shot after another impressive season.

Kevin O’Connell, Los Angeles Rams: It’s almost a rite of passage -- to become an NFL head coach, you must be a former Sean McVay assistant. O’Connell could be the latest in a long line of coaches despite this only being his second season as the Rams’ OC.

Greg Roman, Baltimore Ravens: Roman, 49, isn’t the young, hot-shot candidate that some owners may want. Still, he’s done wonders for Lamar Jackson since taking over play-calling duties in 2019. Baltimore’s offense transformed as soon as Roman stepped in.

Which NFL defensive coach will be a head coaching candidate in 2022?

The practice of hiring offensive minds wasn’t utilized throughout the league in 2021, as the New York Jets (Robert Saleh) and Los Angeles Chargers (Brandon Staley) hired top defensive coordinators. Will there be any more defensive coaches hired this season? Here’s a look at some candidates.

Todd Bowles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bowles struggled in four seasons as Jets HC, but he’s completely turned around Tampa’s defense since arriving in 2019. His gameplan in Super Bowl LV against Mahomes will go down in history as an all-time great showing.

Leslie Frazier, Buffalo Bills: Frazier was nearly hired by the Houston Texans last year, and his second chance at being a HC could be coming in 2022. He hasn’t led a team since 2013 with the Vikings, but his current Bills defense is among the best in the NFL.

Matt Eberflus, Indianapolis Colts: After interviewing for head coaching vacancies over the last two years, Eberflus figured to be a hot candidate this winter. The 51-year-old Eberflus has been the Colts’ DC since 2018 after years with the Browns and Cowboys.

Dan Quinn, Dallas Cowboys: No one has rebuilt their reputation faster than Quinn. The Falcons fired him in the middle of 2020 after an 0-5 start to his sixth season as head coach. He’s transformed a Cowboys defense that was a weakness in 2020 into a strength in 2021.

Vance Joseph, Arizona Cardinals: After winning just 11 combined games in two seasons as Broncos head coach, Joseph joined the Cardinals’ staff. In three seasons with Arizona, Joseph has steadily improved the unit, and it is now a potentially Super Bowl-caliber group.

Patrick Graham, New York Giants: Graham has spent years bouncing around with the Giants, Patriots, Packers and Dolphins. Even though the Giants have underwhelmed since he took over as DC in 2020, he is well-respected across the league.

Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots: Mayo, 35, has been the Pats’ inside linebackers coach since 2019. He doesn’t have play-calling duties, but working under Belichick always helps your case. The former Pro Bowl linebacker interviewed for the Eagles’ job last year.