With the Denver Broncos hiring Green Bay offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and the Chicago Bears hiring Colts DC Matt Eberflus as their respective new head coaches, there now will be seven openings around the National Football League.
The Fan Nation team publishers who currently have unfilled head coaching positions got together to examine the pros and cons of their respective team's head coaching allure. Below is the input from each publisher, arranged alphabetically.
— Houston enters the offseason with the third overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft and currently owns seven total picks. That number is expected to expand due to the compensation pick they will receive from the departure of wide receiver Will Fuller last offseason, plus whatever comes in return from the expected Deshaun Watson trade this offseason.
— The Texans surprisingly did impress in one defensive category last fall: takeaways. Houston finished in the top 10 with 25 total takeaways under the direction of defensive coordinator Lovie Smith. The Texans also finished ninth in interceptions with 17 after recording just three in 2020.
— There’s a young core in place to build around. Rookie quarterback Davis Mills at times looked like the second-best rookie at his position, primarily down the stretch in his second stint as a starter. Wide receiver Nico Collins and tight end Brevin Jordan are complementary pieces to standout pass catcher Brandin Cooks. Defensively, Jonathan Greenard thrived in his first season at defensive end with eight sacks. Defensive tackle Roy Lopez was one the league’s best against the run among first-year players. Nickel defender Tavierre Thomas also impressed with two interceptions and four pass breakups.
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— After watching the AFC divisional playoffs, it’s clear that if teams don’t have a Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes, they’re in trouble. The Texans have the “next up” with Watson, but the team has made it clear his time in Houston is done. GM Nick Caserio told SportsRadio 610 earlier this month that the team still plans on moving Watson before the start of next season despite the firing of David Culley. Watson currently is still under investigation for 22 civil counts of sexual misconduct and sexual assault.
— Whoever is hired will be under close watch by not just Caserio but also executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby. Easterby has been panned for his internal role with the team since arriving in 2019, but ownership and Caserio continue to stand behind him. This means he will have a say in the construction of the roster in free agency and the draft, along with building the coaching staff.
— A majority of the coaching staff seems to be set for 2022. Multiple reports have indicated that the Texans hope to promote pass-game coordinator Pep Hamilton to offensive coordinator. As of this time, Smith is expected to return as defensive coordinator and Frank Ross will return as special teams coordinator. Basically, the next head coach likely will have little to no say in the staff for at least a year.
-- Trevor Lawrence. The No. 1 overall pick didn't have the rookie season anyone expected for him to have, throwing 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, but he still flashed top-level talent and traits and it wasn't long ago that he was seen as a generational prospect. He is a moldable piece of clay for his next coach.
-- A patient owner. While Shad Khan doesn't exactly have a successful track record as an owner, he has at least shown the tendency to be patient with head coaches who don't embarrass the franchise off the field.
-- The Jaguars have 12 draft picks in 2022 and among the most available cap space in the NFL. The roster needs a major influx of talent, but the Jaguars have the draft and free agency capital to make it happen.
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-- Lack of offensive talent. The Jaguars have arguably the worst offensive roster in the NFL, their best player is coming off a torn Achilles injury, and three of their five starting offensive linemen are set to hit free agency. Considering how bad the Jaguars' offense was in 2021, there is reason to think their talent level will be worse in 2022.
-- Trent Baalke. Baalke is unlikely to be replaced in Jacksonville in 2022, so any head coach who enters the Jaguars' landscape will have to accept that the politicking and frequently combative Baalke will share the building for a year. He has gotten coaches fired quicker than that before.
-- Shad Khan. While Khan's patience as an owner is a big boost, he simply has not shown an ability to put together a working franchise at any level. The Jaguars have lost double-digit games in all but one of his seasons as owner, a reflection of his inability to find the right mix and ownership style.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
-- The Raiders are a team that isn’t rebuilding. Fresh off the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs, they have a good roster and plenty of options. Very few coaches moving to a new team have an excellent QB and the qualities mentioned above.
-- There is no state income tax in Nevada.
--You cannot overlook a passionate worldwide fan base, and this fan base cares. Often you hear coaches bemoan apathy in a fan base, and that never happens in Raider Nation, and that matters.
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-- With no GM in place, would a coach want to commit to the Raiders until they know who their boss would be?
-- We all know that coaches want to give off the air of complete confidence. But the pressure is on for a new coach taking over a 10-win team that was the fifth seed in the AFC. That fantastic fan base can turn quickly on someone with the bar already set high.
-- The Raiders locker room is wholly unified behind Rich Bisaccia. He holds the hearts of those men. So does his staff. For any coach, winning the locker room is a task. When you are a winning team, and your team has the coach they want in place, that is an uphill battle if the Raiders hire somebody else.
-- The Dolphins will enter the offseason with the most space under the salary cap (more than $70 million, per overthecap.com), giving them plenty of flexibility to upgrade the roster.
-- The Dolphins are coming off back-to-back winning seasons, going 10-6 in 2020 and 9-8 in 2021, so it's not as though there's not some talent already in place.
-- There is no state income tax in Florida and the weather is among the best in the NFL.
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-- The Dolphins have a major question mark at quarterback because Tua Tagovailoa hasn't shown since being taken fifth overall in the 2020 draft that he can be elite and reports have suggested owner Stephen Ross and GM Chris Grier want a coach committed to working with Tua.
-- Of all the teams looking for a head coach, the Dolphins will have by far the latest first-round pick because they traded their own No. 1 selection and have that of the 49ers, which will come no earlier than 29th overall.
-- The Dolphins have little history of success this millennium, with only two playoff appearances since 2002 and no playoff victory since the 2000 season, which is the second-longest drought in the NFL behind that of the Detroit Lions.
-- The Vikings have patient, stable ownership who gave Mike Zimmer eight seasons despite just three playoff appearances during that time. They're also very willing to spend money, as evidenced by the team's new facility and stadium, which are both among the nicest in the NFL.
-- New general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is brilliant, young, and analytics-forward. Because he doesn't come from a traditional football/scouting background, he's unlikely to meddle in any of the head coach's responsibilities and will presumably be open to roster input from the coaching side.
-- From a talent perspective, the Vikings aren't far away. The offense is loaded with weapons led by WR Justin Jefferson and RB Dalvin Cook, while the defense still has some blue-chip players in LB Eric Kendricks and S Harrison Smith. The No. 12 overall pick could be used to add another strong young piece, and there's a chance Aaron Rodgers won't be back in the division next season.
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-- The salary cap situation is a bit of a mess. Only three teams are currently further over the 2022 cap than the Vikings, who have seven veteran players combining for $137 million worth of cap hits this year.
-- Because of the financial mess and the team's mediocre play since signing him, the Vikings have a major decision to make on expensive veteran QB Kirk Cousins, who has a $45 million cap hit. Extending him would mean committing to several more years of a polarizing player with a career record of exactly. 500 as a starter, while trading him would leave Minnesota with a significant hole at the game's most important position.
-- It gets really cold in the winter. Like, really cold.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
— The new head coach will have a supportive owner and an excellent front office. Also, most of the strong assistants may remain on the coaching staff
— A coach will walk into the door with proven leadership and talent. Demario Davis, Cameron Jordan and Alvin Kamara are today's featured team leaders. Who wouldn't want Alvin Kamara as a weapon?
— The Saints have the best fan base in the entire National Football League. The Who Dat Nation will support the Saints go through good and bad times, and sell out Caesars Superdome. Also, they provide huge market numbers for broadcasts.
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— Cap Hell. A projected $74 million over the cap for 2022.
— No franchise quarterback signed to the roster. Jamies Winston will become a free agent March 16. He may return after his ACL injury in Week 8, but without Sean Payton in the building, would he consider other options?
— New Orleans will be a rebuild project and may not be immediately competitive for postseason appearances.
NEW YORK GIANTS
-- The Giants are loaded with draft capital. They will have nine picks and of those five are in the top 100. According to Tankathon, the Giants draft haul this year is the second-best (behind the Jets) in terms of value (as established by the draft-day trade chart created years ago by Jimmy Johnson). With two first-round picks (No. 5 and No. 7) and Pick No. 36 in Round 2, the Giants can fill some holes with premium talent or even trade down to rack up more draft capital for further years since the roster needs a lot of work.
-- Despite their four-win season, the Giants have some talented players around whom a new head coach can build. The defense, which has been the redeeming factor on this team, has guys such as defensive lineman Leonard Williams, edge Azeez Ojulari, safety Xavier McKinney, linebacker Jaylon Smith and corner Adoree’ Jackson. On the offensive side of the ball, the pickings are a bit slimmer, but guys like left tackle Andrew Thomas, receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones appear to be very much in the plans for the coming season.
-- They’ll have equal say in the roster-building process with the general manager. Giants team co-owner John Mara said all player personnel decisions will be up to the general manager, Joe Schoen, and the head coach. Schoen has already expressed a willingness to collaborate with whomever he hires, and while he’ll have the final say in the even of a tie, Schoen also said he’s willing to go back and re-examine things if there isn’t a consensus about how to proceed.
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-- The Giants have a bad cap situation. According to overthecap.com, they are just over $7 million in the red overall and are $19.638 million in the red in functional cap space (what’s needed to comply with the Top 51 rule). That means some deep cuts are coming which will likely result in roster holes.
-- The Giants “think” they have the answer at quarterback with Jones, but their fan base would sure feel better if they “knew” for certain that was the case. The truth is the organization hasn’t done Jones any favors by not fielding a competent offensive line and by not having a consistent system for him to work out of, but team co-owner John Mara vowed that would change moving forward. Meanwhile, all indications from Mara and Schoen point to them sticking with Jones this year at quarterback, regardless of what a new head coach might want.
-- The Giants are stuck in what many fans have named the Wilderness Years 2.0, a reference to the 15-year stretch that originally began in the mid-1960s when the Giants, once a proud and winning franchise, deteriorated so badly that even ownership back in the day found it difficult to speak to one another, let alone be in the same room. More recently, the Giants, who last won a Super Bowl in 2011, have only been to the playoffs once (in 2016) and have had just two seasons with a winning record (2012, 9-7, and 2016, 11-5). This lack of success could raise questions about the locker room needing to learn how to win, but with the right head coach, he should be able to overcome this challenge if it does exist.