There are going to be a flurry of firings, both in front offices and head coaching before the day is done on New Year’s Eve. Many teams will look to bring in the new year on a different footing after disappointing seasons all over the NFL. Now that Sean Payton has been locked up for another 5 years down in New Orleans, teams looking to make a splash will have to be happy with these 7 candidates. In no particular order…
The QB guru known as Chucky has enjoyed a lot of success since he joined ESPN as an analyst and eventually as a part of the MNF booth. It will be no small feat to lure Gruden from his cushy post atop ESPN’s NFL offerings, and he has made it known that he is not going to just jump at a chance to return to the NFL. He will need to be wined and dined and given an offer he can’t refuse. He won’t be as difficult to lure as another of the men on this list, but he’s probably not coming out of retirement to jump in on the Kansas City Chiefs. I would guess that teams that either have an established QB or a young QB will be teams that Gruden will consider. Of teams that COULD have head coaching openings; Carolina, Chicago, San Diego and just maybe the New York Jets.
It has been the theme every off-season since he retired from the Pittsburgh Steelers amid their huge success in the 2000’s, will this be the year that Bill Cowher comes back? League sources have consistently said it could be the most difficult candidate to lure out of his job as a game day analyst with CBS, because of his specific desires of destination. He would like to stay near his home and the only jobs that have seemed to intrigue The Chin over the years have been in Carolina and Florida. If these requirements of his are true, then the former linebacker turned 3-4 defensive maven will have Carolina and possibly Jacksonville to choose from. If not, then he can have any job that opens that he would ever want.
With the success of Jim Harbaugh in Baltimore, more teams in the NFL have become open to the idea of a Special Teams Coordinator coming right in as a first time head coach. SI’s Don Banks wrote about this in his Black Monday Primer, it’s not just Harbaugh’s success that is opening the special teams door, it is the view that Special Teams Coordinators have to communicate successfully with players from all over the team, not just their defensive, offensive or position specific duties. Toub has seen amazing success in Chicago as Special Teams Coordinator for his entire tenure, with the team ranking first in special teams, according to FootballOutsiders, 4 times. He was interviewed by the Miami Dolphins for their head coaching vacancy last off-season, but eventually signed a 2 year extension with the Bears. This won’t hold him back though as it is customary to allow any assistant to interview for a head coaching job with another team. He will almost certainly have to start at the bottom with teams like Kansas City, Tennessee or Oakland.
The defensive coordinator for the New York Giants since 2010, Perry Fewell has found success with the team and was a part of their most recent Super Bowl win. He has been the leader of a defense that has been dominating and disruptive, even if their overall rankings on FootballOutsiders don’t necessarily reflect that. The talent he has been able to use on the defensive line has been nothing short of amazing, but his work with unheralded defensive players, Chase Blackburn and the young Stevie Brown, has also been a great help to his candidacy. He was the interim-head coach for the Buffalo Bills when they fired Dick Jauron and led the team to a 3-4 record. It is only a matter of time before he gets a shot, but it probably won’t be a for one of the more desirable jobs. He may be looking at Kansas City, Oakland, Tennessee or, best case scenario, Philadelphia or Carolina.
A team that is looking to take a risk may look no further than the young, up and comer son of the legendary Mike Shanahan. With the success of the offense being run by the Redskins for RGIII, Kyle Shanahan has shown twice now that he has an innovative mind on offense and could be looked at for an opportunity where a team wants to try to find the next 15 year filler at head coach. Shanahan has worked with his father in Washington, running an offense that was successful even with Rex Grossman at QB, and became the play caller late in his tenure with the Houston Texans. After enjoying such a long run of success with Andy Reid, Philadelphia may look to hire another coach that can provide long term consistency, even if it comes with some inherent risk. Teams that may make a run at Shanahan are Kansas City, Philadelphia, Tennessee and San Diego.
That brings us to Andy Reid. This of course depends on whether or not Reid is retained as head coach in Philadelphia, which looks to be an almost impossibility at this point. However, as soon as he is given his walking papers, he may be in demand just as much as fellow ex-coaches Cowher and Gruden. Reid has sustained amazing success in Philadelphia for the majority of his tenure, missing the playoffs only 5 times in 14 years. He may have been undermined by a front office attempt to make headlines by bringing in high priced talent that never coalesced together to form a solid core. Despite this, Reid’s days in Philly are soon to be numbered and he will be a sought after replacement. All will consider him, but his best choices are definitely San Diego, Chicago, Carolina or on a VERY off chance, Detroit. When all is said and done, Reid may be the rare fired and hired before the day is over.
Finally the only coach that I consider to be worth the risk of the college to pro jump. That’s not to say he will be successful or that others won’t, but this is a high risk, high reward hire if it gets done. Chip Kelly has helped flourish the most influential version of the spread in recent years with his lightning quick tempo, no huddle spread offense. The Oregon Ducks consistently snap the ball with 20 seconds remaining on the play clock to keep the defense from being able to make substitutions. This requires a very specific type of linemen, quarterback and skill position players. If Kelly gets hired, the team that hires him could be looking at vast changes to the roster that it had the year before. This could be groundbreaking in the NFL for the spread, or as football purists would prefer, it could fall flat like most other full time uses of the spread have. But, with the success of New England and Green Bay, who employ a huge amount of spread based concepts and packages, now may be the time for a full time spread offense. After years of consistency with Reid, the Philadelphia Eagles have been linked to Kelly’s name and may be willing to take the risk. However, teams that would be ready to make the changes necessary to bring in Kelly include; Kansas City, Philadelphia, Carolina, Chicago and Oakland.
All in all, Monday is going to be a very exciting and busy day for a front office junkie like myself. I can’t wait to see who gets hired and fired. Head coaches and General Managers better be praying that their name isn’t called on Monday, because there is going to be a lot of them.