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Ranking the Current NFL Coaching Vacancies

Put yourself in Bill Belichick’s hoodie for a moment.  After 24 years coaching the New England Patriots, winning six Super Bowls, 31 playoff games, 302 regular-season games, 17 AFC East division-titles, and pretty much dominating the league in a way that hasn’t been seen since Chuck Noll's Steelers in the 70s, you find yourself suddenly unemployed – but not for long.  As the most successful head coach in NFL history, you have no shortage of potential suitors, but with so many choices, where do you start?

That’s the dilemma that Belichick faces now as he continues to pursue Don Shula’s all-time wins record.  He needs fifteen more wins – he could do that in one really, really, ridiculously fortunate season.  Or, at the pace he was on when he left New England, it could take him four more seasons.  Belichick would be 75 at the end of year four, blowing well past George Halas’ 72 years and 318 days when he coached his last game with the Chicago Bears.

You can probably infer that Belichick won’t want to wake up as a 74-year-old man and still be staring down the barrel of another three- or four-win season as he marches on toward that record.  Wherever Belichick goes, winning – and winning quickly – will be the highest priority.

Of course, Belichick isn’t unique in this sense.  No coach with options is looking for a rebuilding situation.  Rebuilding usually equal losing and losing usually equals limited job security.

There are other priorities too.  A meddling owner can sour an otherwise promising situation – just ask Frank Reich what working for David Tepper in Carolina was like.  An established QB can be very persuasive. A youthful roster and a beaucoup of draft capital can tip the scales as well.  For others, even West Coast vs. East Coast can become a factor.

So, which current NFL head coaching vacancies are the most appealing?  While there could be some discrepancies based on personal preference, there is a definitive hierarchy of desirable jobs – as well as one particular job that, and this cannot be overstated, is absolutely last on anyone’s wish list.  I’ll let you guess as to which job that is!

Without further ado, here are the 2024 NFL head coaching vacancies, ranked from most to least desirable.  Enjoy.

(Please note the Raiders and Patriots jobs were filled by Antonio Pierce and Jerod Mayo, respectively.)

#1: Los Angeles Chargers

Ownership:  Not great

State of the Roster: Alternatively injured or underperforming

QB Situation: Makes up for literally everything else

When it comes to the Chargers’ job, it’s all about Justin Herbert.  Got worries about an ownership group allergic to spending money?  Just ignore it and watch this Herbert bomb to Joshua Palmer!  Concerns about a perpetually disappointing roster?  Forget that and check out this Herbert scramble against the Steelers!  Don’t want to live on the West Coast?  Just watch Herbert rifle this ball to Gerald Everett in the smallest window imaginable!

Of all the teams with a head coaching vacancy, only the Chargers can offer a ready-made franchise QB, and that’s all it takes to make this the most coveted job available.  Nothing makes a coach’s life easier than having the most important position on the football field already filled by a stud.  Forget everything else: the Chargers have Herbert, and that’s all that matters.

#2: Seattle Seahawks

Ownership: Steady

State of the Roster: Good, but not great

QB Situation: Not ideal

The Pete Carroll firing was unexpected, given the Seahawks barely missed out on a second-consecutive playoff berth.  The roster is in pretty good shape with the exception of the QB position. Ownership, meanwhile, has stabilized under Jody Allen after a period of upheaval following the death of her brother Paul Allen in 2018.  Whichever coach takes the Seahawks job will be blessed with exceptional skill-position players, a front office with a proven track record in the draft, and a championship foundation established by Carroll and Co.  All that’s left is to find the QB…oh right, that’s the hardest part.

Despite winning Comeback Player of the Year in 2022, Geno Smith didn’t have a repeat performance in him in 2023.  Backup Drew Lock showed enough to keep his #2 spot, but his days as a full-time starter have long since passed.  Whoever the answer is for this team, he isn’t on the roster right now – and even worse, this team won’t be picking until #16, too late to secure one of the top QB prospects.  They’ll have to trade up to get in position to take one of the studs, or back to the free-agency well it is.  It’s not a perfect spot for a new head coach, but for someone who’s shown the ability to win without an outstanding QB, it could be a path to winning quickly.

#3: Atlanta Falcons

Ownership: Fine

State of the Roster: Some stars but a lot of fluff

QB Situation: Dubious

Owner Arthur Blank has a reputation for being mostly hands-off, mostly committed to winning, and mostly patient.  That’s all well and good.  The rest…is not great.

The Falcons are a lot like an East-Coast, NFC-version of the Chargers – a talented team on paper that finds ways to lose games they shouldn’t and perpetually falls short.  Three straight 7 - 10 seasons is proof positive that there’s an underlying current of mediocrity in Atlanta.  Can a new head coach flip the script?  Maybe, but getting the QB spot right will be key.

Desmond Ridder is not the answer and neither is Taylor Heinicke.  Armed with the #8 pick in the draft, the Falcons are just outside the range of one of the top QB prospects, but a bold trade up into the top five could certainly be in play.  There are some playmakers on the roster: Drake London, Kyle Pitts and Bijan Robinson are exciting players on offense, while Jessie Bates III and A.J. Terrell set the foundation for an outstanding secondary.  There are pieces to work with here, and an owner that will (probably) give a coach enough time to see his vision through.  But in the end, like so many of these jobs, it all comes down to finding that franchise QB.

#4: Washington Commanders

Ownership: Who the hell knows?

State of the Roster: Teardown

QB Situation: Muddled

Dan Snyder, inarguably the worst and most despicable owner in the NFL, is finally gone, and that’s really the best gift anyone could have given Commanders fans.  An ownership group consisting of Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris, former NBA legend Magic Johnson and a host of other partners has taken over in Snyder’s place.  The future has never looked brighter in Washington.

With that said, there’s also a big issue with the Commanders job – namely, we have absolutely no idea how ownership will behave and no idea what the roster will be in two years.  The Commanders, more than any other team in the NFL, are a blank slate.  There’s no high-paid, franchise QB, no team identity, no nothing.  In theory, that could be a good thing!  A new coach could potentially come in with the power to mold the team in his image, down to the very last detail.  Or maybe not.  No one really knows.

The mystery makes Washington extremely intriguing, if not extremely coveted.  For a coach with a strong personality, it might be the perfect place to build a program from the ground up.  For a coach who needs stability and structure, there might not be a worse fit in the league.  Fortunately, with the #3 pick in tow and nine draft picks in total, the Commanders have plenty of ammo to jump-start the rebuilding process.  This might not be the job to win early, but with a little patience (from the coach as well as ownership), this might have the most long-term potential.

#5: Tennessee Titans

Ownership: Questionable

State of the Roster: Aging and ineffective

QB Situation: Somewhat promising

The Titans are in a precarious position.  Rookie QB Will Levis played well enough to be considered as the full-time starter, but after throwing four touchdown passes in his first NFL start, Levis threw for four touchdowns in his next eight before suffering a foot injury that kept him out the rest of the year.  Their roster lacks depth and most of their best players, especially on offense, are starting to show their age.  Derrick Henry, their workhorse running back of the last six seasons and face of their franchise, has almost certainly played his last down as a Titan.  There isn’t a lot to get excited about in Tennessee, and that’s even without considering their less-than-idea ownership situation.

The only reason the Titans job is open is because Mike Vrabel was fired at the end of the year, and in case you didn’t know, Vrabel is on the short-list of top head coaching candidates this offseason.  If you were wondering why the Titans would willingly let go of a head coach universally considered to be one of the best in the business, you aren’t alone.  If you had to pick a head coach to pair with this team, you wouldn’t have to name many names before you start to wonder if Vrabel wasn’t the best fit anyway.

If Levis booms, a lot of this won’t matter.  If he busts, this could be the most unappealing job in the NFL.  The combination of impatient and seemingly-incompetent ownership, a roster littered with holes and question-marks, and an inconsistent yet promising young QB makes this one of the highest-variance jobs in the league.  The next coach in Tennessee could last less than a year, or a decade and a half.  Nobody knows – and that makes this job a tough sell.

#6: Carolina Panthers

Ownership: Abandon all hope

State of the Roster: Atrocious

QB Situation: The one modest bright spot, but it’s dimming in a hurry

Without question, the most unappealing job in the NFL right now is head coach of the Carolina Panthers, and for one simple reason: David Tepper.  In just six seasons, Tepper has quickly established the new bar for terrible ownership.  Six different head coaches have already come and gone in Charlotte and there’s no sign of that pace slowing.  Whoever takes the Panthers job will be the one most desperate to be a head coach – and no other reason whatsoever.

And while Tepper alone makes this an extremely undesirable job, he isn’t the only reason.  The Panthers roster is garbage, the front office is vacant and 2023 #1 pick Bryce Young looks like he’s on the fast-track to super bust-dom.  The next head coach in Carolina will need a plan – and crucially, time – to get the most out of Young.  Sadly, there’s no indication Tepper has the patience to see said plan through.

Maybe Tepper will see the light and give a coach room to flourish.  Then again, a meteor could crash into Earth tomorrow and kill us all before that happens.  My money’s on the meteor.

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