- Will the Bills hang onto their in-house candidate? Who will land Kyle Shanahan? Will a dark horse hire come out of nowhere?
Five coaching vacancies filled, one to go.
The Jaguars concluded their “search,” as it was, by retaining the guy who finished the season as coach: Doug Marrone, who traded in his interim job for an official one. The Broncos and the Bills both tapped their next head men: Vance Joseph and Sean McDermott, respectively. And on the same day that the Chargers announced their move to Los Angeles, the Rams hired Sean McVay as their next head coach, and the Chargers decided on Anthony Lynn. That leaves just one team still in need of a head coach, the 49ers, who also need to find a GM.
Here’s the latest on where those searches stand.
San Francisco 49ers
Interviews: Vance Joseph (hired by Denver), Anthony Lynn, Josh McDaniels, Sean McDermott (hired by Buffalo), Sean McVay (hired by L.A. Rams), Kyle Shanahan, Tom Cable (reportedly scheduled).
The 49ers also have to find a general manager after catapulting Trent Baalke along with coach Chip Kelly. As such, there are more variables at play here than in any of the aforementioned organizations. While CEO Jed York is heading up both the GM and coaching searches, it would not be out of line at all for him to wait on hiring a coach until a new GM is in place.
Most of the other names are identical to those interviewing elsewhere. One is not: current Seattle O-line coach Tom Cable. He was the Raiders’ head coach from 2008 to ’10, posting a 17–27 record, but his tenure there ended in ugly fashion—an assistant accused Cable of breaking his jaw, then multiple women alleged that Cable abused them. Purely from a football standpoint, the Seahawks’ offensive line has been arguably their most glaring weakness for several seasons now.
Still a lot to be settled here.
Should get the job: McVay. If McDaniels is waiting for a near-perfect opportunity before rejoining the head-coaching ranks, well ... this isn’t it. There is meddlesome ownership, a depleted roster and no GM in place. McVay, though, would offer the 49ers many of the same selling points on offense without the ability to make as many demands as McDaniels.
Is McVay young? Absolutely, but while the overall experience may not be there, he’s not in his current position by accident. He is seen as an exceptionally bright, rising coaching star.
Will get the job: McVay. The 49ers swung for the fences with the exciting, offensive-minded coaching hire in Chip Kelly. It blew up in their faces. This is less a headline-making hire, but McVay still would jolt a reeling franchise. Assuming San Francisco lets him have time to get his system in place, the payoffs would be there down the line.
Los Angeles Chargers
• UPDATE: The Chargers have hired Anthony Lynn
Interviews: Teryl Austin, Anthony Lynn, Sean McDermott (hired by Buffalo), Matt Patricia, Mike Smith, Dave Toub, Vance Joseph (hired by Denver).
Aside from Lynn and Toub, the link to all the rest of the names on San Diego’s list thus far is that they are defensive coordinators. Both recently fired coach Mike McCoy and his predecessor, Norv Turner, came from offensive backgrounds. Certainly, it would fit with conventional NFL wisdom if the struggling Chargers took a hard left away from their recent coaching approach.
Also of note is that Smith, to date, has interviewed with just two teams: San Diego and Jacksonville. He reportedly was rather high on the Jaguars’ list, too, before they opted to retain Marrone. Smith, the current Buccaneers DC, posted a 66–46 record as head coach of the Falcons from 2009 to ’14, with four playoff appearances and one playoff win.
Who should get the job: Patricia. The Bill Belichick head coaching tree has yet to produce a ton of NFL success (Bill O’Brien is fighting to be an exception), but that should not keep teams away from seemingly qualified candidates out of New England. Certainly, the calls for McDaniels have not stopped. And the 42-year-old Patricia, now in his fifth season as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator, deserves his shot, too. You can read more on Patricia in this story from The MMQB’s Tim Rohan, but the short version is that he’s an intelligent coach who can motivate his players.
Who will get the job: Toub. Don’t be surprised if it’s Smith—the Chargers busted with McCoy, who was getting his first shot as a head coach, so they could turn to the more experienced hand this time around. Toub, though, has more than 15 years of NFL coaching time under his belt. He would help San Diego repair its awful special-teams units, and he knows the AFC West well.
Los Angeles Rams
Interviews: John Fassel, Anthony Lynn, Harold Goodwin, Josh McDaniels, Sean McVay, Matt Patricia, Steve Wilks, Kyle Shanahan (requested), Mike Vrabel (reportedly next week), Vance Joseph (hired by Denver), Doug Marrone (hired by Jacksonville).
The Rams are casting a wide net, in hopes of finding both the right fit and someone willing to take on the challenging job ahead in L.A. Inclement weather forced them to postpone their sit-down with Shanahan, which means they may have missed the boat there—if the Falcons win this week, the earliest the Rams then could interview Shanahan by rule would be the week after the conference title games. Similarly, both McDaniels and Patricia are involved with the Patriots’ playoff run.
Vrabel and Wilks are both names that have not come up elsewhere as head-coaching candidates—the former is the Texans’ linebackers coach, the latter the DBs/assistant head coach in Carolina. Wilks also reportedly has been approached by Washington for its vacant defensive coordinator position.
Fassel served as interim coach this year, after the Rams let go of Jeff Fisher. He posted an 0–3 record to close the season.
Who should get the job: McDaniels. This would be perfect for where the Rams are right now: an experienced offensive coordinator and coach, with an extensive background calling plays, who would bring just enough big-name recognition to excite the fan base a bit. Los Angeles (and QB Jared Goff) needs someone capable of swapping out the boring, vanilla offense.
Who will get the job: McVay. Per the NFL Network’s Michael Silver, McVay “crushed” his interviews with both the Rams and 49ers. He would be the youngest head coach in the league, by far (he’ll turn 31 later this month), but he has been Washington’s offensive coordinator since 2014. To some extent, McVay is at the point of his career now that McDaniels was prior to taking Denver’s job.
Interviewed so far: Anthony Lynn, Harold Goodwin, Sean McDermott (hired), Kris Richard.
According to Sal Capaccio of WGR 550 radio, Bills owner Kim Pegula says she wants to conduct five or six interviews before naming a coach. That leaves a couple open spots still available. One may go to current Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, a rather hot commodity at the moment—The Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero reported that the Bills have requested permission to interview Joseph. Buffalo also interviewed current Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich back in 2015, and reportedly could do so again.
Joseph and Reich would put the Bills at six candidates, thus (if Pegula is true to her word) closing the list. Tom Coughlin’s decision to join Jacksonville as the team’s executive VP of player personnel might have been the final nudge the Bills needed to hire a first-time head coach. Coughlin was rumored to be a possibility for the Buffalo opening, but that’s obviously off the table now.
Should get the job: Lynn. His lone game as the Bills’ interim head coach was a mess: a 30–10 loss to the Jets. That hasn’t slowed down the momentum surrounding Lynn this off-season, as he has been linked to several potential openings. Lynn was instrumental this season in the Bills’ run game ascending to the top of the league, and he showed a good feel for QB (and soon-to-be free agent?) Tyrod Taylor. If Lynn returns, the Bills also ought to do whatever they can to hang onto Taylor as their QB1. Lynn offers Buffalo the best chance to keep what’s worked, like the ground attack. When several other franchises are knocking on the door asking to hire one of your coaches, it may be a good idea to hold onto him.
Will get the job: McDermott. Multiple reports are pointing toward the Carolina defensive coordinator. Hiring him would not move the Bills’ philosophies too far from where they were under Rex Ryan, but McDermott might be able to provide a more stable environment. The Bills did finish 9–7, 8–8 and 7–9 the past three seasons, respectively. Is that disappointing enough to pull the trigger on a complete revamping of the staff and roster? Probably not—GM Doug Whaley already has been assured of his spot moving forward.
Interviews: Vance Joseph, Kyle Shanahan, Dave Toub.
John Elway is not being shy about the Broncos’ process. He tweeted this after meeting with Kyle Shanahan:
We spent the morning with Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta. He's a very bright coach who's had a tremendous year and has a great future.— John Elway (@johnelway) January 7, 2017
And this after a sit-down with Dave Toub:
Just wrapped up our interview with Dave Toub in KC. He's a great coach & person who has a very impressive track record with special teams.— John Elway (@johnelway) January 6, 2017
The Broncos’ meeting with Joseph reportedly was occurring Tuesday, so their GM likely will provide a 140-character scouting report on the Dolphins’ D.C. before the day is out.
Toub, the Chiefs’ special teams coordinator, is the wild card in the current group, with Shanahan (Atlanta’s OC) and Joseph (Miami’s DC) two names surfacing seemingly everywhere that needs a new coach. The Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla speculated that Toub could wind up with the gig, in part, because he’s most like-minded to Elway and thus would make for the easiest transition if Elway wants to continue molding the franchise in his image.
Who should get the job: Shanahan. The Broncos’ defense has been its driving force the past two seasons, so Elway’s new coach should do whatever he can to keep DC Wade Phillips around a bit longer. But what Denver really needs is help on offense, especially if it plans to stick with youngsters Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch at QB. Shanahan has a proven track record of maximizing his quarterbacks’ talent through clever schemes. He’s only 37, but by all accounts he’s ready to take the next step.
A potential complication could arise if Shanahan wants to bring his father, Mike Shanahan, along as adviser. The elder Shanahan formerly served as the Broncos’ head coach, albeit before Elway took charge.
Who will get the job: Joseph. Denver tried to nab him as its defensive coordinator after the 2014 season but were rebuffed by the Bengals, for whom Joseph worked at the time. While this obviously represents a higher rung on the ladder, there obviously is respect for Joseph within the Broncos’ front office. Plus, a report already surfaced this week, from SiriusXM’s Alex Marvez, that Denver could invite former OC/ex-Chargers coach Mike McCoy back as its play-caller should Joseph get the job. That’s an outstanding possible solution to cover where Joseph is lacking in experience.