Ranking The NFL Head Coaching Openings

Dylan Price provides an overview of the 2021 NFL HC openings.

Today is a day synonymous with restarts for Multiple NFL franchises every year. This year, the Falcons, Lions, Texans, Chargers, Jaguars and Jets are all in the market for a new head coach. So, with 6 franchises now looking for head coaches, how do they fall in order of attractiveness for perspective candidates and where do the Jets rank on the list?

    1. Los Angeles Chargers

This opening is far and away the best one available. With the lock for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Quarterback Justin Herbert is coming off a season where he broke the rookie passing TD record with a line of 4,336 yards, 31 TDs, 10 INTs and a 98.3 QB rating. Herbert also has a nice weaponry group with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry (if he is resigned) and Austin Ekeler. On the defensive side of the ball, they  have Derwin James who is coming off an injury, but before that he was one of the top safeties in the NFL. They have Joey Bosa who is an elite pass rusher coming off a season where he battled injuries but still had 7.5 sacks. He also has a really talented running mate in Melvin Ingram who, if he re-signs, adds value with 49 career sacks. The secondary also has a few nice pieces– most notably, former second round pick Nasir Adderley and veteran Chris Harris Jr.

Los Angeles has the pieces to be a true contender; they also have a large market and a loyal ownership group. The Chargers need a coach who can elevate their young talent, bring game management skills that Anthony Lynn lacked and get someone who can be a mentor for Justin Herbert. This opening will likely appeal to the bulk of candidates, but this could be especially appealing to an offensive mind like Joe Brady, Eric Bieniemy or Brian Daboll. The Chargers are very close to taking the jump to contention but they need the right coach and, because they have so many pieces, they are the most attractive location for a new coach.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars

This opening is also a very attractive one. The team holds the number one selection in the draft and the right to pick the widely viewed generational quarterback, Trevor Lawerence. The team also has two really attractive offensive players in a franchise running back with James Robinson who rushed for 1,070 yards this year, 7 TDs and an average of 4.5 yards per carry, and a new number one receiver DJ Chark Jr. who had a season of 706 yards and 5 scores despite a rotation of awful quarterback play.

On the defensive side of the ball they have CJ Henderson and Josh Allen who are two cornerstone young defensive pieces. Allen has 13 sacks and 2 Forced Fumbles since being selected in the 2019 draft and is going to be looking for revenge after a rough and injury plagued 2020 campaign. CJ Henderson also battled injuries in his rookie season, but still had 36 tackles a FF, and an INT. Both pieces can be cornerstones for the next decade on the defensive side of the football. They also have a nice veteran leader in linebacker Joe Schobert which is worth noting.

The Jaguars have a plethora of draft capital and the most cap space in the league to go along with those young pieces. The only drawback is owner Shad Khan, who wants to maintain roster control. This is something that could likely push away more respected executives and lead to a less enticing general manager hire, which could, in turn, lead to a less enticing head coaching opening. This is the only real drawback for the Jags, they still are a heavily attractive opening, although it looks like Urban Meyer is the front runner to get the job.

3. Houston Texans

Houston is a unique opening. Where some of these teams like the Jets, Jags and Chargers are more on the younger side and the Lions and Falcons fall more on the older side, the Texans are smack dab in the middle. The team is in a strange place. Bill O’Brien depleted the team of most of its draft capital and made an ignorant trade when dealing one of the best receivers in the game. Since then this team has not been the same.

Despite that, they have a lot of talent. The team has three TRUE stars in DE JJ Watt, LT Laremy Tunsil and, of course, QB Deshaun Watson. Watson is one of the most talented young quarterbacks in the game slinging the rock for 4,823 yards, 33 TDs and 7 INTs. Watson is only getting better and at 25 is locked down for the long term future. Laremy Tunsil is a pro bowler and provides protection for his blindside as one of the best big men in the league. Lastly, Watt is a fiery leader who bleeds the Texans signature red, blue and white. Watt is one of the best edge rushers in the game and the face of this team.

My biggest concern for this coaching opening is that the talent is there, but they have minimal cap space and not many resources to pick up talent. The key to bringing in a better coach then say, the Jets who I view as almost a 3B right now is the general manager hire. If the team can bring in a really talented general manager who can wheel and deal and make the most of what he has and is widely respected, then this is a really prime opportunity for a coach. I believe a guy like Eric Bieniemy would do phenomenally in this organization if paired with someone like John Dorsey or Nick Caserio. There is opportunity here for a young coach to really build a contender considering they were just a year ago.

4. New York Jets

Now, this may be controversial to put the Jets at four. However, the Jets are in a fairly good position to pick their next coach. The team doesn’t have an answer to the quarterback position, but they do have the resources to get whichever quarterback the new coach prefers. The team has the second most cap space in all of football, the second pick, four firsts in the next two drafts, a bunch of mid round and second and thirds, and a few cornerstones.

Mekhi Becton and Quinnen Williams are two MONSTERS who can be fixations in the trenches for the next decade. Having both men on opposite sides of the ball gives the next coach comfort in knowing he will always have one big guy to rely on. Next to Quinnen Williams, the Jets do have a young and hungry defensive line that produced good numbers in the past two seasons. They can also add a couple pass rushers and corners in the draft that would bolster the defense even more.

On the offensive side of the ball, the new coach would inherit Sam Darnold, but have the ability to choose whether or not to trade him, and then they would have their pick of the quarterback class behind Trevor Lawerence. They also have Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder and Chris Herndon, all of which are decent weapons. The Jets do lack some of the young talent that the other teams have, but with a respectable general manager and a owner who sounds committed to finally changing the culture, maybe that can compensate for some of the talent deficiencies, considering Joe Douglas is so well liked league wide.

In the end, the Jets desperately need a CEO type of coach and that can come from anywhere, but they need a culture changer and if someone thinks they can do that with a younger team, then this is the place for them.

5. Atlanta Falcons

This is a really hard opening to get a pulse of. This is a veteran team that has grossly underperformed expectations and failed to win tight games or hold on to leads consistently. This is a losing culture that needs to be corrected immediately before it gets any worse. However, this is a team that is only a few pieces away from being a really talented bunch. This past season, Matt Ryan put up 4,581 yards, 26 TDs and 11 INTs.  Ryan is still a talented quarterback and he arguably has some of the best weaponry of his career. Here are their three top receivers’ stat lines: Calvin Ridley 1,374 yards and 9 scores, Julio Jones 771 yards and 3 TDs, Gage 786 yards and 4 TDs. Julio Jones missed half the season as well. Not only that, but Hayden Hurst also provides value as a top ten young tight end. The team has more than enough weapons.

On the defensive side of the ball, the team has some talent as well. Grady Jarrett anchored the defensive line and is heading to another pro bowl. AJ Terrell, Isaiah Oliver and Keanu Neal all provide three really talented options in the secondary as well. They also have a very underrated linebacker group in Foyesade Oluokun and Deion Jones. This team is far from void of talent.

So if talent isn’t the issue, what is? Well, the team has barely any cap space, in fact they are really straggled for cap. Their quarterback is beginning to enter the back nine of his career and Julio Jones is in his thirties now as well. The two leaders of the offense find their super bowl window closing rapidly, paired with the fact that the team has little room to maneuver with the cap, the situation is a must win one. The Falcons need a veteran head coach and someone who can come in and turn this thing around very quickly. This may not be the kind of team a young coach would want with the high expectations.

6. Detroit Lions

There is a part of me that feels bad ranking this team this low, but the franchise is directionless. When the owners fired Jim Caldwell after being in the hunt late into December and hired Matt Patricia it was because they wanted someone to bring them over the hump. Instead Matt Patricia pushed them back a few years and the roster is now less appealing than it was then. The team also lacks the large markets of a New York, Los Angeles or even Houston. Detroit needs a complete overhaul. They do have some pieces though.

Matt Stafford has been a phenomenal leader of a sinking ship for a bulk of the years now. However, with another new head coach and his best years being wasted in Detroit, could it finally be time to pull the trigger on a trade. Not only that, but with no real weapon aside from Kenny Golladay who needs to be resigned, it may be time for an offensive overhaul. Stafford can be salvaged, but at this point, a new coach may decide it is best for both parties if they start with a new quarterback.

On the defensive side of the ball, the only real young pieces worth noting are Jeff Okudah who had a very rocky rookie campaign and Romeo Okwara who the team has to make a decision on whether or not to resign considering after a 10 sack season he will likely command a decent amount of money. The team is in a really tough spot moving forward. They are salvageable, but they need a coach who can come in and take the task on a overhaul, with or without Matt Stafford. That just doesn’t sound enticing to me if I am a prospective coach.