- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
“Black Monday” is coming in the NFL. That day of the football season when coaches, general managers and more are handed the one gift no one asks for for the holidays: A pink slip.
We cannot prevent the inevitable, but we can start thinking about some of those jobs that are going to be open come January. There are a number of head coach positions available, and a few that we believe will become available when the season is over. What are these potential coaches walking into? That is what we will examine in this piece, looking at the attractiveness of each expected landing spot.
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)
With the way the Chicago Bears are finishing the 2020 season - in playoff contention, Mitchell Trubisky looking serviceable - Matt Nagy might be safe come Black Monday. If, however, the organization makes a change at the top, just how desirable is the head job in the Windy City? On the “pro” side of the ledger the Bears have a solid defense, some weapons on the offensive side of the football, and are in a division with some question marks around them. On the “con” side of the ledger, Chicago is in a pretty tough place cap-wise, they have minimal draft capital when compared with the other teams in the league, and the quarterback position remains precarious. Still, it is a head coaching job. Despite the negatives, Khalil Mack is a nice piece to have. As such, the Chicago Bears’ head coaching job is the most attractive potential landing spot for 2021. Verdict: Big overreaction. Khalil Mack is a tremendously talented player and one of the better moves that general manager Ryan Pace made in Chicago. But with the cap space, the questions about quarterback and the issues to address on both sides of the football - with minimal draft capital in place - this could be a bumpy transition. There are more attractive head coaching gigs out there, even for teams that did not sniff the playoffs in 2020.
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Events have a way of shaping our reality, and in the football writing game, a way of shaping our articles. I bring this up because at the same moment I am crafting this piece, the Detroit Lions are in the process of getting waxed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday afternoon. It’s enough to make someone view a potential NFL head coaching gig - one of just 32 such jobs on the planet - with a healthy bit of skepticism. After all, this is also an organization with Matthew Stafford in place. Yet that too is dependent upon what the next general manager decides to do with the veteran quarterback. There are also decisions to be made on wide receiver Kenny Golladay, and on how to repair a defense that is just a trainwreck at this point. Still, it is just one of 32 potential jobs, and for that reason alone, the Lions’ head coaching gig is the most attractive out there. Verdict: Big overreaction. There is a lot of work to be done in Detroit to fix the Lions, and this is not going to be an easy lift. The defense needs work at all three levels, and on offense the two best players might not be around much longer, depending on what the next GM decides to do. You are walking into a rebuilding situation that might take some time, and even if you do great work you could not be around for the payoff. Again, current events could be shaping my view but from where I sit, this looks to be a very tough task.
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)
At first blush the impending head coaching vacancy in Atlanta looks like one of, if not the, most desirable options in the head coaching ranks. With Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Matt Ryan in place there is a solid nucleus on the offensive side of the football. Defensively, the Falcons are young but talented, and with the right moves this defense could be much better than the unit we saw at the start of the 2021 season. They took the Chiefs to the end of a very competitive game before Falconing once again. But, the picture is not entirely rosy. There are decisions to be made about the futures of both Ryan and Jones in Atlanta. With a potential Top Five pick in the 2021 NFL Draft the next general manager could go the rookie quarterback route, and that could lengthen the rebuild time. Ultimately, how attractive this job is might come down to the organizational vision for both 2021 and beyond. If the plan is to retool around Ryan and Jones for one last run, you could be looking at a playoff team in 2021, and then who knows what in the years after. If the plan is to start the rebuilding process now, then you’re in for a longer haul but potentially a bigger payoff down the road. This one might come down to personal preference. Still, there is potential. That alone makes the Falcons head coaching gig the most attractive one in the NFL. Verdict: Choose your own adventure. How attractive this job is ultimately boils down to the vision of the organization. Retooling for a final run with Ryan and Jones might be desirable for some, but less so with others. Some coaches might want to come in and place their own stamp on the organization immediately, and not nibble around the edges to try and compete in the NFC in 2021 knowing that the tear down is coming. Others might love that kind of challenge. From where I sit, there are other, more attractive gigs in the league.
(Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)
As we covered in the tandem general manager piece, most of the headaches in Houston stem from a roster construction standpoint. The next Texans general manager will need to retool - if not full on rebuild - on both sides of the football with minimal draft capital and some tough decisions to make from a financial standpoint. The next head coach gets to work with Deshaun Watson. That alone makes this an attractive landing spot. As we have seen this year even with the questions in Houston, Watson is talented enough to make this roster competitive. Fixing the defense will be a huge part of the solution (so you might need to have a solid defensive background) but Watson can mask many manners of sin. The Houston Texans’ head coaching job is the most attractive opportunity available. Verdict: Minimal overreaction. There might be a more ideal landing spot or two available, but it is hard to beat landing in Houston to coach Watson and the Texans. The defense is a big issue - meaning that yes you might either need a defensive background or have a perfect coordinator in mind to poach - but Watson can paper over most mistakes on that side of the football. The division might be tough for the first few years, even with Jacksonville likely a year or two away, but still, having an elite quarterback in place makes this an attractive destination.
New York Jets
(Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
The next head coach of the New York Jets could be walking into a dream scenario. The Jets, as it stands at the moment, have the second-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. They could sit pat and take a quarterback if Joe Douglas and the front office believes it is time to move on from Sam Darnold. They could entertain what are sure to be a number of offers for the selection, with the opportunity to trade back and obtain a king’s ransom in return. They could even stay pat and get one of the best players in the draft. Pairing Penei Sewell with Mekhi Becton at the tackle spots? Adding Ja’Marr Chase to Denzel Mims? Imagine a 12 offensive personnel grouping with Kyle Pitts and Christopher Herndon. The possibilities are endless. Plus, according to OverTheCap.com, the Jets are in good financial position as 2021 looms. If the salary cap is indeed the rumored $175 million then New York will still have around $45 million to play with, and if the cap is higher, they’ll have even more space. This could be a very competent roster next season, or even better. Oh, and one last thing. You’ll be following in the footsteps of Adam Gase. Competence will make you a hero. The Jets have the best head coaching job soon to be available. Verdict: Minimal overreaction. There might be one landing spot slightly better, but from where I sit the Jets’ job is very attractive. The pathways to being competitive are multiple, and that often results in a team having a quick turnaround. Yes, the division might be changing given what is happening with the other three AFC East teams, but if Douglas just hits on a handful of moves, this could be a playoff-worthy roster. The big decision - what to do about Darnold - is obviously the key.
(Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)
This weekend, Mike Glennon started at quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars. A questionable decision at best, but one that head coach Doug Marrone felt that needed to be made. Perhaps, just perhaps, that is a decision that was made with Trevor Lawrence in mind. Because if the Jaguars keep losing that is what awaits, one of the best quarterback prospects to come out of the college game in recent years. Since his freshman season Lawrence has been viewed as a surefire first-overall selection, and we are just months away from that becoming a reality. But Lawrence is not the only thing going for the next Jaguars head coach. The organization has both draft capital (six picks in the first 100 selections if the draft were to happen today, including a pair of first-rounders), cap space ($50 million plus depending on the 2021 cap according to OverTheCap.com) and some talent at the offensive skill positions. Add in the fact that ownership has shown an penchant for patience over the past decade or so, and you have a mighty nice landing spot. Add it all up, and you have the most attractive head coaching job available. Verdict: No overreaction. As we mentioned in the discussion of the Jaguars’ general manager position, there is a lot to like about the future in Jacksonville. The organization has draft and cap capital, has some talent on both sides of the football, and Trevor Lawrence probably has started pricing homes in Duval County. The next head coach will walk into a rebuild but with weapons and assets at his disposal, and the Khan family has shown patience over the years. Plus, you’re living in Florida and the Jaguars have a loyal fanbase craving success. Deliver it, and you’re a god in Duval.
Los Angeles Chargers
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Anthony Lynn’s time with the Los Angeles Chargers may be running short. True, the Chargers are one of the year’s biggest NFL stories thanks to the breakout rookie campaign from quarterback Justin Herbert. However, the rookie passer’s prowess is overshadowing a continued pattern of situational breakdowns and questionable decisions. Earlier this season I used a baseball analogy to describe Lynn’s season. Hardball writers love to make the claim that a one-run loss is the manager’s fault on the diamond. A questionable decision, such as leaving a pitcher in too long, not pinch-hitting for your weakest hitter in the late innings, or something of the like is the reason a team lost. If you want to compare that to football, then perhaps one-score losses are a coach’s fault. The Chargers have nine losses this year. Seven came by just one score. This is a talented roster that the next head coach will inherit, and a team that with a few different breaks will have a winning record almost overnight. That is a pretty nice situation to walk into. The Los Angeles Chargers are the most attractive head coaching destination. Verdict: No overreaction. As we have found in both this exercise and in trying to identify the best general manager landing spots, when the quarterback issue is solved, life is a heck of a lot easier. The next Chargers head coach inherits a young quarterback who looks every bit the part of a franchise quarterback, along with talent at wide receiver, tight end, and running back on offense. They’ll also inherit a potentially devastating pass rush and talent in the secondary. A few smart moves from general manager Tom Telesco and a few breaks in 2021, and you’re in the playoffs your first year. A smooth glidepath to quick success makes this a very attractive option.