Walking Out the Door
John Fox, Chicago
Fox’s office should be cleared out by now. Chicago didn’t really do the head coach many favors by giving up so much to move up one spot in last year’s draft so they could snag Mitchell Trubisky. The question now becomes do the Bears want to get an offensive-minded coach to make their QB feel comfortable or do they go with a defensive-minded coach and then hire an OC who can help Trubisky along?
Possible Replacements: Bill O’Brien would be that quarterback guru, if Chicago chooses that route. Maybe Jon DeFilippo from Philly would be a good fit, too. Todd Haley might be an interesting fit, also. But in a division where the Bears may want to replicate the Vikings’ success, what better way than to steal Minnesota’s DC, George Edwards.
Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay
This marriage has to end. Aside from Ben McAdoo in New York, Koetter in Tampa has yielded the most disappointing results in 2017.
Possible Replacements: Obviously, Jon Gruden will be hotly pursued. He lives in Tampa, his kid is about to be a senior in high school in Tampa, and whatever bad blood existed between Gruden and upper management when he left seems to have subsided. Let’s be clear: it’s Gruden’s if he wants it. Another top candidate would be Mike Smith, currently Tampa’s DC and former HC in Atlanta. Smith would be a decent fit, but everything depends on if ownership wants to clean house completely.
Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis
This should have happened a year ago when owner Jim Irsay brought in new GM Chris Ballard. Pagano has been on borrowed time.
Possible Replacements: Ballard’s past connections to Kansas City could lead him to hiring the Chiefs’ special teams coach, Dave Toub, or their OC Matt Nagy. My money would be on one of them. Frank Reich could be a dark horse.
Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati
It looks like Lewis wants to step down. And that’s probably best for all parties.
Possible Replacements: Reports are that Cincinnati would like to bring Hue Jackson or Jay Gruden back. Both could be on the market and both had a fair amount of success as OCs with the Bengals before. Cincy’s current defensive coordinator, Paul Guenther, should garner serious consideration.
Jim Caldwell, Detroit
The Lions appear to have gone as far as Caldwell can take them. Owner Martha Ford is on record stating her love for Jim Caldwell, but the fact that the story broke a few weeks ago detailing Caldwell’s contract extension was really only for a year is telling. Just as the Lions season seemed to be slipping away, a report breaks that Caldwell’s job may not be as safe as once thought? Hmmmm.
Possible Replacements: GM Bob Quinn needs to make his mark on this franchise. I’d expect the next head coach to have New England ties. Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia will be very highly sought after. But Bill O’Brien could be the guy Quinn quietly targets.
The New York Giants Job
Of course the Giants got ahead of the curve by firing Ben McAdoo well before things got completely out of hand in the Meadowlands. This will be a very intriguing job, especially with former Carolina GM Dave Gettleman in that same role in New York. The Giants are a team that while their salary cap doesn’t look pretty and the quarterback situation with Eli is very short-term could be a playoff team in 2018.
Possible Replacements: The name that will be the most interesting is Josh McDaniels. With all of Bill Belichick’s connections to the Giants organization, it would be fitting for his top lieutenant to leave for New York. I fully expect that to happen. But if McDaniels wants to wait and succeed Belichick in New England — if that indeed is the plan, internally — I’d expect the Giants to consider Eagles coaches Frank Reich and John DeFilippo. If they choose to go defense with their head coach, New England disciple Mike Vrabel makes a lot of sense for many of the same reasons it makes sense for McDaniels.
Should Be Inquiring About Moving Companies
Vance Joseph, Denver
I’m not sure John Elway knows who he wants to lead this team — well, aside from himself. But I do believe he lacks confidence in Vance Joseph. Not much went right this season — and most of it, quite honestly, falls on Elway. He’s got two crucial decisions to make over the next couple months: who’s his head coach and who’s his QB?
Possible Replacements: If Frank Reich has Elway’s respect, that could be a nice fit. Reich did a great job with Carson Wentz in Philadelphia. But something tells me Elway goes outside the box with this hire. I think he wants to run the Broncos like Jerry Jones does and like Al Davis did. He’s going to be looking for a good coach who’s going to let Elway “coach” from the press box.
Jack Del Rio, Oakland
This thing got ugly quickly. Del Rio is excellent as a DC, but there’s something missing for him as a head coach. Too much talent in Oakland for the team to be this bad.
Possible Replacements: Oakland likes to set the trend when it comes to hiring coaches. This time around, they might want to follow the path laid out by the Rams. I think they’ll want to pair up an offensive-minded guy with Derek Carr and let him hire a DC that can maximize the talent on that side of the ball. Frank Reich could land out west; Harold Goodwin may be a fit; Todd Haley will get consideration; Pat Shurmur has done wonders with Case Keenum; and Bill O’Brien could help reinvent Carr.
Jay Gruden, Washington
Gruden has kind of stayed under the radar as of late. But his in-game decisions have been head-scratching to say the least and a lot of times he just seems to be in over his head. If you can find someone more equipped to coach, then you let Gruden go. And I think you can find many who are more equipped.
Possible Replacements: Washington always likes to swing for the fences with their hires. You just know Dan Snyder will be calling Bill Cowher and Jay’s brother John to gauge their interest. But Washington is not that attractive of a situation: Kirk Cousins will be gone so who’s the quarterback. Not to mention, the division looks to have gotten away from the Redskins for the foreseeable future. Maybe a Paul Guenther from Cincy or a George Edwards from Minnesota would want to cut their head coaching teeth in Washington. But let’s be honest: we all want Snyder to hire Jeff Fisher.
Bill O’Brien, Houston
I think both sides would like to part ways. I think this could be as mutual a break up as you’ll see in the NFL.
Possible Replacements: The head coach coming in to Houston must be able to (a) work with DeShaun Watson and (b) find a way to get that defense back to being one of the most tenacious units in the league. I think Jim Schwartz is the fit here. He’ll come with the defensive pedigree that helped him rebuild the Eagles defense. And the key might be that he brings OC Frank Reich or QB coach John DeFilippo with him to lead the offense. Both of those guys are young and have only proven in a small sample size that they helped in the growth of Carson Wentz — give one of them another year working as an offensive coordinator with Watson and a head coaching position might be their’s in 2019.
Mike Mularkey, Tennessee
It’s not too often we get treated to a playoff team firing their head coach. But that’s a very real possibility in Tennessee.
Possible Replacements: Jim Bob Cooter is the guy that I’d keep my eye on. The Lions OC was treated like a king in Detroit after helping bring Matthew Stafford into the fold as one of the league’s top 10 quarterbacks after the 2016 season. Some of the shine has faded, but Cooter has ties to the state; and if Jim Caldwell is gone in Detroit, then all his assistants will be looking for new jobs as well.
They’re Gone…. If This, This, and That All Happen
Bruce Arians, Arizona
A report surfaced after Christmas that Arians was opting out at season’s end. He’s since denied it, but no one would be shocked if he left. The question would be does he still want to coach in the NFL? If yes, you’d have to think more than a couple GMs would be calling Arians — the Colts might be the first ones.
Possible Replacements: This Cardinals job went from very desirable to now almost untouchable. The division is a pipe dream with the Rams and 49ers trending way up; the QB situation is not hopeful; and the team has really underachieved the last 2 years even though they have been plagued by injuries. An in-house promotion with OC Harold Goodwin might be the best way to go for the short-term. Or the Cardinals may look to pull Todd Bowles back to the franchise, where he grew as a DC before going to the Jets.
Hue Jackson, Cleveland
This Hue Jackson situation is so messed up. You’ll never ever find a coach who in 2 seasons with an organization has gone 1-30 (about to be 1-31) yet has other teams interested in his availability!!!! The Bengals are seriously interested in bringing Jackson back and reportedly will even trade a draft pick for him!!! Leave it to the Bengals and Browns to be the teams involved in this mess.
Possible Replacements: I’m so sick of hearing experts and reporters go on TV and talk about how “there are only 32 of these jobs available” and act like each organization is equally worthy of attracting a head coach. Like, who wants to really coach the Browns? If you’re a coordinator somewhere — especially in a good city and with a good franchise, why not stay put and wait another year or two? Why rush things just to go to Cleveland???!!!! I don’t know who’d take this job if it became available and I don’t even want to speculate on who might be stupid enough to do it. Maybe the league will collude against the Browns and not let them ruin another coach’s career by not allowing them to hire a head coach. We can hope at least.
Todd Bowles, Jets
Bowles deserves credit for the 2017 season. In a year where everyone thought the Jets were a 1- or 2-win team, Bowles had the Jets looking competitive for stretches this year. I don’t believe he’ll be fired, but he may want to leave if the Arizone job opens up.
Possible Replacements: I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Jets target Steve Spagnuolo from the Giants or Pat Shurmur from Minnesota.
Pete Carroll, Seattle
Here’s the crazy, nuts, no-way-this-happens hot take. But look at Seattle’s situation: (1) contracts are finally expiring so guys who have been stalwarts for the franchise during these dominant years will want to get paid and Seattle can’t pay them all; (2) guys are fighting with each other; (3) the offense — which has never been very good — is actually regressing; and (4) the division is no longer a given for them — the Rams have unseated them and the Jimmy Garoppolo Niners look to be the future. This just seems like the perfect time for Carroll to walk away before things get really ugly.
Possible Replacements: Here’s a name that isn’t getting bandied around much — in fact no college names are really garnering much talk right now: David Shaw at Stanford. He’s done wonders at Palo Alto since Jim Harbaugh left, and all the talk for the last couple years is that he has the chops to coach at the next level. Is this the year he’d want to make the jump? If the Seahawks job opens up, I can’t imagine a better spot for him (outside of the Bay Area). He’d have some re-tooling to do, but he’s proven that he can win with less in the Pac-12.
Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed, @brian22goodwin.