25% of the NFL teams are looking for a new head coach following the end of the 2018 regular season. There could be more with rumours of strife in Pittsburgh and Jay Gruden ‘waiting by the phone’ in Washington for confirmation he’ll still have a job in 2019. For the time being though, there are eight confirmed openings and here’s my ranking on which is the best, through to worst opportunity.
Number One: Cleveland Browns
For many, this is easily the most exciting opportunity, mainly for the level of young talent that the Browns now have on their roster, coupled with their vastly improved performances in 2018. For all the mistakes that the Browns ownership has made in the past, hiring John Dorsey has been a masterstroke and the new coach should be excited about working with the likes of Mayfield, Garrett, Ward, Chubb and Landry.
Key to the hiring: The Haslem’s staying out of the way of John Dorsey and letting him make the decision on who to bring in. Get it right, and the Browns could be a power in the AFC for the next 10-15 years
Number Two: Green Bay Packers
As a potential head coach, it’s probably hard not to be excited by working with one of the best quarterbacks of all time in Aaron Rodgers. I’ve berated him slightly in recent weeks on the podcast because of his attitude but there’s no doubting his talent. The roster in Green Bay isn’t terrible either and with two first round picks in 2019 & a GM willing to dip into the free agency pool then there are opportunities to bring in other quality players. The Packers also have a unique ownership structure which should give more security to a new head coach.
Key to the hiring: Finding a head coach that would instantly have the respect of Aaron Rodgers.
Number Three: New York Jets
High on the list for having what looks to be a young franchise quarterback in place in Sam Darnold. There’s some work to be done on the roster but in Jamal Adams they’ve also got a quality corner-piece on the defensive side of the ball to build around. Despite his recent outbursts about the quality of personnel on the roster, they’re not devoid of talent. Arguably, the Jets should have cleaned house and got rid of GM Mike MacCagnan as well but that hasn’t happened and he’ll now have the job of finding Todd Bowles successor.
Key to the hiring: Bringing in an offensive minded coach to get the best out of Sam Darnold. Or at least have the ability to bring in an OC who can do the same!
Number Four: Denver Broncos
The Broncos have the beginnings of another great defence and in Phillip Lindsay have uncovered a running back who can help keep that defence fresh. That might be key in the AFC West with the way that the Chiefs and Chargers are currently playing. There’s work to be done with the offensive line still and Case Keenum isn’t a QB that sets pulses running high but protect him and he’s at least serviceable behind a good running attack.
Key to the hiring: Finding a coach that’s willing to go against the fashion of playing a pass heavy offence that currently inhabits the NFL.
Number Five: Cincinnati Bengals
Not many are high on the Bengals but it’s a team that with a few tweaks I think could get good quite quickly. Dalton is famously a ‘middle of the road’ quarterback but you can do a lot worse. AJ Green is getting older but is still quality and Tyler Boyd has shown the ability to be a good No.2 receiver. Joe Mixon has quietly had a good second year and the O-Line isn’t terrible. The defence also has some good piece. Couple that with the ownership who let Marvin Lewis have 16 years at the helm and you’ve got quite a stable organisation. The downside would be playing in an AFC North division which looks to be very strong heading in to 2019.
Key to the hiring: Not hiring Hue Jackson.
Number Six: Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals had a dismal season in 2019 and whilst he only had one season in charge, I think it was the right decision to move on from Steve Wilks. GM, Steve Keim, is also lucky to still have a job given his off-season troubles in 2018 and the lack of quality on this roster. It’s going to take a good few years to rebuild this team in to one that is competitive. That could be an advantage to a head coach who, barring a disaster, is unlikely to be fired after one season. Josh Rosen didn’t have a chance to prove himself and so the jury is still out on him but I see it as a benefit to have such a young, and seemingly, talented QB on the roster. There’s also of course, the fact that the Cardinals have the No.1 draft pick in 2019.
Key to the hiring: Finding a coach who can help rebuild the roster from the bottom up and can role with the punches in what might be another difficult season in 2019.
Number Seven: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Some are higher on this role as there is talent on the roster – which is the one factor that has kept GM Jason Licht in his role. However, the decision to announce Jamies Winston as the QB for 2019 would scare me off as a head coach. Winston has some good days, but he has more average & bad days.
Key to the hiring: Getting a head coach in willing to work with Jamies Winston
Number Eight: Miami Dolphins
I thought they would get rid of Adam Gase, but I don’t think he was the biggest reason for the Dolphins lack of achievement. Actually, getting to 7-9 on the season with the level of talent on that roster should be considered quite successful. Over the past few seasons, the Dolphins have seen a lot of talent leave the organisation and it’s not been adequately replaced. The Dolphins have shifted around their front office but only the head coach has left. Whoever comes in needs to not only compete with the Patriots but also the Jets and Bills who with young quarterbacks look in a better position than the Dolphins moving forward.
Key to the hiring: Need to find a motivational coach who can quickly get a lot out of little talent.