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  • There’s no 30-year-old prodigy among top head coaching candidates this year, but the group of under-50s includes some accomplished assistants and hot college names
By Albert Breer
December 08, 2017

With the Giants’ moves this week, the NFL’s coaching carousel for 2018 is officially spinning—and this year everyone is looking for their own Sean McVay. There is no 30-year-old like him this time around, but there are some good young candidates to look at. So we’ll set the age limit as under 50, which means no Jim Harbaugh or Jim Schwartz, and no Nick Saban. With that cutoff in place, let’s cut down the top 10 candidates who fit the bill.

Mike Vrabel, Pat Fitzgerald, David Shaw, Josh McDaniels.
Getty Images

10. Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, who interviewed with the Rams last year and has led carolina’s rebound from 2016 on his side of the ball.

9. Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Forget his Metallica tailgate look and the clown shirt—the guy has worked magic with a talent-poor New England front seven and has a brilliant mind for football.

8. Time to start thinking about ex-Raiders coach Dennis Allen. He’s pumped life into a long-awful Saints defense, quickly incorporating a raft of young stars to do it.

7. A position coach next: Philly’s John DeFillippo. Flip’s been a coordinator twice before, and as Eagles quarterbacks coach has been as important to Carson Wentz’s development as anyone on the Philly staff.

6. Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, a creative mind who had the NFL on its heels in September and October. Yes, K.C. has leveled off, but Nagy gave a glimpse of what he could do, and can lead a room.

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5. Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel. In his 14 seasons as a player, Vrabel developed a rep as a heady, dependable leader, and all of that has shown up in his four years as an NFL assistant.

4. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald. It’d take a lot for him to leave his alma mater, but if you want a guy who does more with less, this is your guy. He could be an interesting candidate for Chicago.

3. Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard. He’s coached eight NFL seasons, played five in the league, and his work now, with Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman shelved, will be watched closely.

2. Stanford coach David Shaw. He’s built an incredibly resourceful program and he’s developed a lot of NFL talent. But what goes for Fitzgerald goes for Shaw—it’ll tough to pry him from his alma mater.

1. Former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels. Over the last seven years as coordinator in New England, we’ve seen all the things that made him the McVay of 2009 when Denver hired him for his short head-coaching stint. He’s a brilliant tactician and developer of quarterbacks. And I think he’s learned from his failures, like his current boss once did.


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