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2021 NFL Offseason Head Coaching Carousel Primer

Which jobs will be open and who will be chosen for them? Looking at hot coordinators, former head coaches, young up-and-comers and others who could be hired.

We are a few weeks away from the regular-season finale and the start of the playoffs, which also means we are a few weeks away from a full-throttle Black Monday the likes of which we have not seen before. As complicated as the COVID-19 pandemic has made life during the regular season, a spike in cases and holiday travel restrictions may make the coaching search even more chaotic than it has been in years past.

In terms of where things stand right now, I’ve heard some interesting things about the first round of interviews that will take place virtually before in-person interviews are allowed on Jan. 4, which means a heightened focus on the challenge of making someone’s in-person energy translate over a laptop. Might this favor younger candidates? Might this bail out coaches who struggle with that nebulous concept of commanding a room? It will almost certainly result in an increase in interviews, as teams can roll through a ton of shorter, introductory-type Zoom calls without the commitment of a full, four-hour block. In that way, it might benefit lesser-known candidates and give them a chance to establish themselves for future cycles.

One semi-interesting thing to watch: multimedia supplementation. Could coaches come armed with more than their typical arsenal, especially if the interview is all virtual? The possibilities are endless, especially for someone creative enough to show (and not tell) an owner what they would be getting. I’ve heard both sides of the coin. It could set a coach apart (if you can come across well on Zoom amid a year when everyone has tired of the video conferencing service, chances are you can translate the message to a bunch of twentysomethings). It could also distract from the hardcore, detail-oriented process that owners and their cadre of search firms, yes-men and other hangers-on are used to.

Another note of interest: Last year’s hiring cycle was weird. A collegiate coach came out (Matt Rhule), a special teams coach and total wild card was hired (Joe Judge), and two ex-coaches were also brought in for second gigs (Ron Rivera and Mike McCarthy). That means a relative glut of coordinators who may have been at the front of the line last year got passed over and remain available.

Let’s set the stage with our look at which jobs are open, which jobs might become open and which coaches may get a chance to fill those vacancies …

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OPENINGS

Current openings:

• Lions (head coach and GM)

• Falcons (head coach and GM)

• Texans (head coach and GM)

Projected additional openings:

• Chargers (head coach)

The Chargers have had one of the league’s most talented rosters for some time now, but the results have not followed. Anthony Lynn is a good coach who ran into some bad luck. Given Justin Herbert’s rise, it would not be shocking to see the team pivot in a different direction.

• Jets (head coach)

Wholesale changes are coming to the future home of Trevor Lawrence (maybe!). This will have to be one of the most carefully chosen hires in modern NFL history. An unprecedented amount of draft capital is at stake, especially if the Jets do not hold onto the pick or are moved by Lawrence to trade back.

• Jaguars (head coach and GM, which is already open)

Doug Marrone is playing out the string at this point. Though the Jaguars are playing hard, it would seem like the next era of Jacksonville football is soon to be upon us.

• Bears (head coach and GM)

The Bears have a good roster with a quarterback problem, which means it’s both a GM problem and a coaching problem. This is a good year to nab a promising young candidate, which may motivate the Bears to take their chances here.

Wild-card openings:

• Eagles

Who knows what will happen? The Eagles are not that far removed from a Super Bowl, though it feels that way. Carson Wentz has bottomed out. Their aging roster has reached its expiration date. Might it be time for a bold move to shake things up?

• Buccaneers

If the all-in Buccaneers fail to reach the playoffs this year, it would be a stunning indictment of the entire operation from the top down. Bruce Arians is also in his late 60s and has a stockpile of talented young coaches who he might want to pass the headset off to.

There could also be a general manager hire made in Washington, as the team does not have an official executive with that title. And Carolina bears watching, as Rhule inherited Marty Hurney, and it would make sense if he is able to weigh in on someone who could align the personnel side with coaching.