With eight head coaching jobs open this NFL offseason, there is no shortage of candidates available to fill those jobs. There will also be no shortage of scrutiny as to how they’re filled.
There is always plenty of debate over coaching hires, but there has been renewed criticism of NFL coaching hires over the past season. A report by Defector earlier this month detailed major levels of nepotism in coaching hires.
The league’s diversity was also scrutinized after Houston fired David Culley and Miami fired Brian Flores. That left Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin as the only African American coach in the league. Culley was fired after just one season, one in which the Texans mildly exceeded expectations with four wins. Flores was fired after three solid seasons coaching the Dolphins. Those firings of coaches who overachieved have led to reports that African American coaches tend to get hired much less often and, when they do get hired, teams are less patient with them.
In Flores’ case, though, don’t expect him to be without a head coaching job for long. As soon as the Dolphins fired him, he immediately became linked to openings with Houston and the New York Giants.
In addition to Flores, here are five other names to watch as the Texans, Giants, Dolphins, Jaguars, Raiders, Vikings, Broncos, and Bears look to make the right here and turn their franchises around.
Eric Bieniemy, Offensive Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
As the offensive coordinator for one of the league’s best offenses over the past five seasons, Bienemy has been rumored to be a hot commodity for some time now. He has not yet been hired, but that could – and should – change this offseason.
Bienemy is rumored to be a favorite to get the head coaching job in Minnesota, and that landing spot does make sense. Issues with quarterback Kirk Cousins aside, the Vikings have incredible offensive talent to work with, including running back Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Cousins is inconsistent, but he has proven that he can put up huge numbers at times too. Bienemy might be the exact offensive mind the team needs to take advantage of the talent the team has.
Jim Harbaugh, University of Michigan Head Coach
Would Harbaugh actually leave the University of Michigan after his best season coaching his alma mater? It seems doubtful, but the rumors are there that he would consider a return to the NFL. That could simply be Harbaugh angling for a lucrative contract extension at Michigan, but if the desire is true, there would be no shortage of NFL teams who would be interested.
Harbaugh is a former Chicago Bears quarterback. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is one of the University of Michigan’s largest donors (though Ross did say he wouldn’t lure Harbaugh away). There was also a report that Harbaugh was “intrigued” by the opening with the Giants.
Harbaugh isn’t the typical college coach making the jump to the NFL. He had a successful pro career as a player and in his stint coaching the 49ers led the team to a Super Bowl, so this wouldn’t be a repeat of Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, and some of the other successful coaches who couldn’t adapt to the NFL.
Moore has seemed like a head-coach-in-waiting since he took the Dallas offensive coordinator job. Moore is just 33 and not far removed from his playing career. He’s viewed potential-wise similarly other recently successful young coaching hires, like the Rams Sean McVay and Arizona’s Kliff Kingsbury.
Byron Leftwich, Offensive Coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
See Moore’s description above. Leftwich is also young and not far removed from playing NFL quarterback. He’s already won a Super Bowl as an offensive coordinator and it also doesn’t hurt that he’s worked with the greatest quarterback in history, Tom Brady, so he knows how to partner with a star quarterback to run an offense. Leftwich is also a former Jaguars quarterback, so he could possibly be a candidate there.
Hiring young offensive gurus seems to be the style these days, but for teams looking for a defensive-minded head coach, Frazier could be the guy. He’s helped build the Bills defense into an elite unit that completely dismantled New England’s offense in the first round of the 2022 NFL playoffs and he also has head coaching experience, leading the Vikings for three seasons. Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who took Atlanta to a Super Bowl as a head coach, Tampa Bay defensive coordinator and former Jets coach Todd Bowles, and New England linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, are also coaches working on the defensive side of the ball who should get head coaching interest.
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