The 2023 NFL season flew by but the 2024 NFL offseason is off to a slow start, with the possibility of some big names holding up coaching movement. Until freshly minted national champion Jim Harbaugh and six-time Super Bowl champ Bill Belichick figure out their situations, we could be in a bit of a holding pattern.
As such, we currently have seven openings in the NFL, a surprisingly small number for just a few days after the regular season ended.
Things will probably change and we’ll see more jobs open up, but for now we can only rank what’s available. There are two distinct classes as well, with four teams slotting into the top tier, all very, very close with each other and one more job way down at the bottom.
Let’s rank and discuss. Send your complaints, suggestions and angry words to me on Twitter/X @WillBrinson.
With the surprising Pete Carroll news —and transitioning to an advisory role in Seattle — the Seahawks job leapfrogs the Commanders gig for me. This is a 9-8 team with a ton of talent on the roster and a chance to be a playoff/Super Bowl contender with just a few moves.
Quarterback is a long-term “problem” technically, depending on what the current crop of free agent (or employed?!) coaches thinks about Geno Smith and Drew Lock. But the Seahawks used the Russell Wilson trade to completely retool their organization and restock with talent on both sides of the ball.
John Schneider is as good a GM as it comes in the NFL. There are young pieces on the offensive line and a sick trio of wide receivers in DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Kenneth Walker III and Zach Charbonnet round out a really stacked offense. Defensively, there’s plenty there, too, especially with the way young guys like Devon Witherspoon and Boye Mafe developed this year.
The biggest downside might be the obvious coaching candidate for the gig: Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Quinn took the Falcons to the Super Bowl in his first run as a head coach. Atlanta hired him because of his work as Carroll’s defensive coordinator. He’s crushed it in Dallas and has been patient waiting for his next opportunity. He would make the transition in Seattle borderline seamless. Both Mike Vrabel and, dare I say, Bill Belichick would be fascinating candidates for this gig if they were interested as well.
For nearly 25 years, Dan Snyder made the Washington job a disastrous one. He would attract big name candidates, because coaching in Washington was a BIG DEAL. This was one of the biggest franchises in the NFL for several decades and Snyder made it almost untouchable. Enter Josh Harris, who has done a great job simply by doing the opposite of Dan Snyder. To wit: Harris didn’t fire Ron Rivera during his first season as owner and handled the entire situation with aplomb. Then he nabs Bob Myers and Rick Spielman to become part of his search committee and there’s hope again in Washington. Things can change (David Tepper seemed like a good owner early) but for now the Commanders top this list because there’s a new, seemingly patient owner in charge and a clear commitment to win while upending the poisonous culture that’s pervaded the beltway for years.
Washington has the No. 2 overall pick, which doesn’t hurt either. (Maybe they can draft Drake Maye, pair him with Sam Howell, hire Mack Brown and guarantee themselves eight wins a year just like the Tar Heels!) Trading away Chase Young and Montez Sweat midseason isn’t great, but it boosts the draft capital for the incoming coaching staff and by avoiding handing out contracts to former first-round picks, and clears up plenty of salary-cap space.
There’s an opportunity to land a franchise quarterback here, with potentially strong ownership, a fantastic fanbase dying for quality football and a new stadium potentially on deck. The Washington job is back to being wildly attractive.
Two words: Justin Herbert. It’s amazing what a difference a superstar, franchise quarterback makes when ranking potential job openings, because the Chargers would be way down the list without Herbert. I’d actually put the Chargers fourth if they didn’t have Herbert, primarily because of concerns about ownership and management. A caveat applies here if the Chargers land someone like Jim Harbaugh or Bill Belichick, because carrying that kind of gravitas into the building changes the power dynamic between ownership and the coaching staff/front office. But go read John Spanos bio on the Chargers website — the owner’s son essentially lauds himself for the Chargers rise to prominence (which is quite the claim; also maybe update it and stop bragging about hiring Tom Telesco and Brandon Staley?).
I’m extremely worried about the front office/coaching staff dynamic here based on that situation, but Herbert’s skillset could overcome all issues with the right coaching hire. The Chargers also have some roster issues to deal with. While there’s ton of talent on both sides of the ball, it’s quietly aging and bloated from a contractual standpoint. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams aren’t really guaranteed to be on the roster and Khalil Mack/Joey Bosa are not exactly spring chickens either. Austin Ekeler’s return is certainly in question as well … there’s just a little more uncertainty with this roster than you might think glancing at the depth chart.
Hot take, but I’d listen to anyone saying the Falcons should be the NUMBER ONE JOB here. This is a team that’s got yet another top-10 pick after going 7-10 and might just be a quarterback away from taking over the NFC South. Being in a bad division is a big plus, because winning 10 games is a mortal lock for a division title in the NFC South these days. Offensively there are weapons for a QB too: Kyle Pitts, Drake London and Bijan Robinson along with a pretty decent and secured offensive line could turn someone like Justin Fields or Kirk Cousins or Jayden Daniels into a dynamic signal caller pretty quickly.
There’s some stability in Atlanta despite a lack of significant winning. Arthur Blank’s given his coaches plenty of chances to win, with Mike Smith getting seven years, Dan Quinn getting six and Arthur Smith getting three years of seven wins before being let go. You won’t get run out of town too quickly if you’re keeping your head above water in Atlanta. I actually think it’s possible external interest in this job potentially expedited Smith’s departure.
This defense was really good last year. If it maintains and the Falcons find a quality offensive coach and a quarterback, there’s some serious upside here for Atlanta.
This situation feels like it may be somewhat limited to a handful of candidates, although that changes dramatically depending on what Mark Davis does with the also vacant general manager position.
Quarterback is also an issue here, with the Raiders’ Jimmy Garoppolo gambit failing (largely because Josh McDaniels failed). Aiden O’Connell showed some stuff in the second half, but this is clearly a team in search of the next franchise quarterback. The stadium is extremely attractive, as is the high-profile nature of the team now that it’s in Las Vegas.
There have been several changes for the Raiders in the last five years at head coach but you can certainly argue extenuating circumstances — Jon Gruden was going to get as long as he wanted in Las Vegas before an email scandal forced him out. And McDaniels simply tried to create Patriots West and likely froze out Davis while attempting taking control of the organization a la Bill Belichick. In other words, the next Raiders coach will be given some leeway, particularly if they’re a big name. Looking at you, Jim Harbaugh.
Antonio Pierce certainly complicates matters. The interim coach is beloved in the locker room and by the fanbase, so the Raiders have to be a little careful about recreating the last situation with a big-name coach. Maxx Crosby and Davante Adams are straight-up superstars. The division is a big old problem, just like with the Chargers, except there’s no quarterback in place here yet.
The Titans surprised everyone— there are plenty of potential landing spots for him and he should find a job quickly — but there had been plenty of simmering chatter about whether Vrabel would stick around in Nashville. With Vrabel gone and Ryan Tannehill/Derrick Henry set to become free agents, this is a full-blown rebuild in Tennessee.
GM Ran Carthon, on the job for less than a full year, won a power struggle with a former AP Coach of the Year (2021) who took this team to an AFC Championship Game and had the Titans set as the No. 1 seed in the AFC at one point. Suffice to say, Carthon has Amy Adams-Strunk’s ear and wields plenty of power in this coaching search.
Because of that, I would expect to see guys from the San Francisco coaching tree (Carthon worked for Kyle Shanahan/John Lynch for years with the 49ers) identified for this job. Frank Smith and Bobby Slowik make a lot of sense right off the bat.
This is not an easy job, however. There are simply not a lot of building blocks. There’s no certainty at quarterback, where Will Levis flashed but isn’t a guarantee as a “franchise” quarterback with his second-round pedigree. DeAndre Hopkins is also likely gone. Jeffery Simmons is a star up front on the defensive side. There’s a top-10 pick available. Ownership and the front office should show a lot of patience in trying to build things back up.
*ANOTHER, BIGGER GAP*
My stance on the situation in Carolina is well documented:. Fortunately for Tepper, he has tons of money and can keep throwing cash at the problem.
Credit to the Panthers for being much more transparent and open about this coaching search than the last two. Unfortunately the remnants of the previous two regimes are still lingering. Specifically, the Panthers trading the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft to the Bears, plus D.J. Moore, plus additional picks for Bryce Young.
Young can still be a good quarterback, but having his rookie season on tape could potentially limit candidates. Additionally, it’s hard to look past Matt Rhule and Frank Reich making it roughly a combined three years between them.
It looks like Carolina is pursuing the “young offensive mind” archetype with the idea to fix Young, which isn’t a terrible idea. But this is a really, really big hire that needs to work out better — or at least longer — than the last two hires. The Panthers have no first-round pick, a ton of holes on the roster and many questions about the stability of the administration in place.