How Will The Divisional Round Shape The NFL Coaching Landscape?

How Will The Divisional Round Shape The NFL Coaching Landscape?
Reading Time: 4 minutes.

Two weeks after the end of the season, four of the 32 teams are without a head coach. This offseason has seen seven teams transitioning under new leadership and less than half of those positions have been filled. Admittedly the Eagles Head Coach job been open for a week fewer. However the delay did cost them a true shot at coaches on their shortlist such as Robert Saleh & Arthur Smith.  

We’ve already seen 49ers DC Robert Saleh fly across the country to take the Jets top job and the Jaguars have delved into the college ranks to sign Urban Meyer to lead the revolution in Jacksonville. The latest Head Coach signing so far, Arthur Smith, might provide insight into the reason for the delay. Smith didn’t have any interviews until after the Titans 20-13 loss at home to the Ravens last weekend.

By the end of the day, four more sets of coaches will be available for interview and hiring. Let’s look at the options which could help lubricate the market.

Waiting For The Ride To Finish

The most concrete option appears to be Dan Campbell – Saints Assistant Head Coach & Tight Ends Coach – leading the Lions into the future. Campbell is the current favourite, with 12 games of experience as Head Coach of the Dolphins in 2015. However the Saints could make a run to the Super Bowl. That would not only slow the market but potentially impact Campbell’s personal ambitions.

The other hot tip is Brandon Staley. At first Staley was considered as a good candidate, though too inexperienced for a HC job this time around, much like Joe Brady at the Panthers. Now, however, he looks a possibility at the Chargers – which would be particularly beneficial as he wouldn’t even need to move. Staley has a second interview planned with the Chargers, though he also has initial interviews planned with the Texans and Eagles.

With the Rams out of the playoffs, his future should be resolved fairly quickly. One way or another, you would expect that Sean McVay needs to start recruiting a new defensive coordinator.  

Who Else Is On The Market?

Outside of Campbell and Staley, who look set to take two of the positions, wherever they are? Who would be likely to fill them?

From the pool of eight divisional round teams, there are seven other realistic candidates for Head Coach.

One of the most popular coordinators left on the market is Bills OC Brian Daboll. The veteran OC has won both Super Bowl (five times) and the college national championship as an assistant. More recently, Daboll is credited with reforming Josh Allen after his monumental statistical improvement this season. While a veteran presence with a great resume, he could be hurt by the Bills playoff success, as they advanced to their first conference championship game since 1993 on Saturday. Bills DC Leslie Frazier could be faced with the same problem. Frazier has more experience; particularly as top man having led the Vikings through the start of the teens.

Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett is another potential victim of team success so far this weekend.

We are yet to find out if Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs OC) and Todd Bowles (Bucs DC) will have another game to plan for. Bowles has somewhat resurrected his career following his struggles as Head Coach of the Jets while Bieniemy has been on the coaching radar for a few years but appears to struggle during the interview process. Bieniemy has interviews planned for all of the vacancies – and completed interviews for the three filled vacancies.

Availabilty Is The Best Ability

Two names that haven’t had as much publicity are Ravens OC & DC Gregg Roman and Don Martindale. Both were strong candidates a year ago and it was something of a shock that they were both in Baltimore for another year in 2020. Despite the lack of buzz, they have had solid years. With candidates like Daboll unavailable for at least another week and the Ravens’ playoff exit, will they be fielding calls for interviews this week?

Options Outside The Playoffs

Of course, there is no rule that the remaining four jobs must go to coaches in the playoffs. There are several outsider candidates who have no connection to the 2020 playoffs. Marvin Lewis has been out of the league since 2018 but has ties with Herm Edwards’ program at Arizona State. It will be interesting to see if he is keen to return the grind of being a head coach. At 62, you would have thought he would want to take a proven winner over the top rather than rebuild a team’s culture.

Elsewhere, Josh McDaniels is available. He was surprisingly under the radar initially but has been linked with the Eagles. The next generation of offensive guru, Joe Brady, has also had five interviews but it could prove to be a season too soon for Joe Burrow’s mentor.

This week could be the week that the coaching market firms up, even if not all the vacancies are filled. It’s likely that one move will slot everything into place – although the first three hirings have yet to do that. Teams will be keen to start their new era as soon as possible – but equally if they have someone earmarked, they will wait it out, however risky it is.

We will have to wait and see how the divisional round of the playoffs impacts up the NFL coaching landscape.

Image: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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