As the final week of the regular season approaches us, ‘Black Monday’ looms as a ominous spectre in the background. January 10th 2022 marks the annual tradition that head coaches all must dread. So what is ‘Black Monday’? This commonly refers to the first Monday after the completion of the regular NFL season. It also refers to the day in which many a Coach and GM are advised their services are no longer required by Franchise ownership.
Every year that are at least a handful of teams who feel their fortunes can be reversed by a change in the man at the helm. This year will be no different. So which teams could be on the lookout for a new figurehead and who are the potential candidates?
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the ‘Urban Meyer experience’ in Duval was not one that they will wish to repeat in a hurry. From staying in Ohio to party to trashing his staff to allegedly kicking his kicker, it was a total disaster.
Head coach candidates should, however, be wary of the lure of being the boss and heading to Florida to coach the Jags. GM Trent Baalke is likely to remain in position. His time in San Francisco started brightly but he burned bridges with his abrasive style and made some miscalculations with his coaching staff (firing Jim Harbaugh and hiring Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly). This pattern seems to have carried over into Jacksonville. Shahid Khan has already stated that Baalke, and any propsective head coach, will both report to him directly – a dynamic that does not foster a positive working environment.
The elephant in the room is also former number 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence. His rookie campaign has fallen flat to say the least. Whilst coaching and the surrounding cast have undoubtedly fed into this, Lawrence has developed some bad habits. A new head coach will need to fix things and fix it soon to salvage the situation
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders thought they were set for years to come with Jon Gruden at the helm when he signed his 10-year. $100m deal in 2018. However, this was not to be as Gruden resigned following the Washington Football email scandal earlier this season.
Despite this, and the Henry Ruggs DUI incident, causing significant distractions the Raiders are still in with a shot of making the playoffs as week 18 approaches. With Mike Mayock seeming set to stay on, a good pass rush duo in Ngakoue and Crosby, promising rookies in the secondary in Nate Hobbs and Trevon Meohrig, a decent QB in Derek Carr and offensive weapons such TE Darren Waller and RC Josh Jacbos, there is certainly pieces there that could tempt a head coach to head out to Sin City.
Head coach Matt Nagy has now been at the helm in the Windy City for 4 seasons, with the 2021 the only in which he will have obtained a losing record. However, it is the stagnation of the Bears that appears most jarring, they have regressed each season from a promising 12-4 start. Inconsistent play calling, poor game management and an underwhelming offence have proven characteristics of Nagy’s tenure.
The incumbent Chicago head coach should have 1 glaring mission – develop Justin Fields. The Bears have thrown their eggs into the former Ohio State QB’s basket and need this to pay off. Despite his obvious athletic traits, Fields has not had the opportunity to shine in 2021. Can a new head coach ingite his career?
With a record of 71-56-1 and two divisional titles and and NFC championship game in 2017, Mike Zimmer’s record with the Vikings is not to be sniffed at. However 2 losing season in a row have shown that things in Minnesota appear to have gotten stale. A change in the head coach’s seat might be best for all concerned.
Stud wide receivers in Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, as well as star running back Dalvin Cook should have any prospective head coach excited about what this team could do with this offence. Young offensive line talent such as Christian Darrisaw and Ezra Cleveland also factor into this. There is the age old question about what to do with Kirk Cousins in the background
The defence in Minnesota could do with rebuilding however. This unit struggled throughout 2021 and there is a lot of ageing players who could do with replacing. The draft and free agency could well be focused on this side of the ball.
Particularly if Aaron Rodgers were to seek pastures new, the NFC North could be there for the taking for a first year head coach with the Vikings
The Denver Broncos are expected to move on from Vic Fangio this offseason. Boasting a very talented defensive core, which ranks 3rd in the league in defensive scoring, Denver should be better than their record suggests. Throw in a decent offensive line and a collections of talented skill position players like Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant and Javonte Williams, the offence is not in bad shape either.
If, and it’s a big if, the Broncos can find a Quarterback they are a team that is ready to compete now.
Dan Quinn – Defensive Co-ordinator – Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys defensive co-ordinator Dan Quinn has rehabilitated his image in Dallas. A significant improvement in their defensive play this season, coupled with his previous head coaching experience with the Falcons in getting them to the Super Bowl, could see him given another shot.
Kellen Moore – Offensive Co-ordinator – Dallas Cowboys
Former QB Kellen More has proven during his time at Dallas that he is a dynamic play caller. Earning praise from the head coaches he has worked under, as well as current Dallas QB Dak Prescott, the 33 year old may now be keen to spread his wings and fly solo.
Byron Leftwich – Offensive Co-ordinator – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Another former QB on the list is former Jacksonville Jaguar Byron Leftwich. Having been QB coach under Bruce Arians in Arizona (as well as interim OC under Steve Wilks), Leftwich followed Arians to Tampa Bay when he came out of retirement, and won Super Bowl LV with the Bucs. Known for his work with quarterbacks in particular, teams looking for guidance for their young signal callers may come knocking at Byron’s door.
Todd Bowles – Defensive Co-ordinator– Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Again we go to Tampa Bay, this time on the defensive side of the ball and former Jets head coach Todd Bowles. His initial run in top job was unspectacular to say the least. A 10-6 season in 2015 was followed by 3 losing seasons before he was dismissed at the end of 2018. On reflection, however, a 24-40 record in a shambolic Jets organisation is not as bad as it may seem.
Having regained some of his Mojo down in Florida, Bowles could be tempted for another run as a head coach. Having just turned 58, his window of opportunity is narrowing and he might make the jump this year.
The man who would be king in Houston, Bill O’Brien. The spectacular demise, when O’Brien was given carte blanche to run the Texans from top to bottom, should not detract from O’Brien’s ability as a head coach. A 54-52 record, as well as 4 divisional titles in 6 seasons, is something that lowly franchises could only dream of.
He has somewhat rehabilitated his image working with the prolific Alabama offensive, alongside Nick Saban. Could team be tempted to give him another run? A word of caution, just don’t let him be the GM!!
Former Super Bowl winning head coach Doug Pederson may well do the rounds on the interview scene this offseason. Any head coach needy team should certainly listen to what he has to say. Pederson has proven his ability to win, and win big. Add in how he aided Carson Wentz development, at least initially, don’t be surprised if we see ‘Big Balls Doug’ prowling an NFL sideline come September.
Jim Harbaugh – Head Coach – University of Michigan
During his time in San Francisco, Harbaugh amassed a 44-19-1 record, as well as 3 conference championship and 1 Super Bowl appearance. By far the most productive head coach to come over from the college ranks over the last decade or so, could Harbaugh be tempted back into the NFL ranks?
This year he led a Michigan team into the college play-offs that noone had tipped to do so with a very talented roster. However, several key members from that team are leaving school and heading for their shot at the big time. Could Harbaugh decide to call time on the Wolverines and leave on a high?
Josh McDaniels – Offensive Co-ordinator – New England Patriots
Team may be wary of Josh McDaniels, following his daliance and then withdrawl from the Colts HC job a few years back. His short stint in Denver was sufficiently long ago that enough time had passed for this to be a non-factor
Make no mistake, McDaniels is still one of the more creative play designers in the NFL and teams could do a lot worse that consider Bill Belichick’s trusty lieutenant to aid an young Quaterback in their development
Nathaniel Hackett – Offensive Co-ordinator – Green Bay Packers
A newer name that will surely garner some head coaching interviews this offseason is Packers offensive co-ordinator, Nathaniel Hackett. Hackett was previously the QB coach and OC in Jacksonville, given the uneviable task of trying to get a tune out of Blake Bortles.
However, since arriving in Green Bay under coach Matt LaFleur, he has thrived. The Packers have continuously shown up as one of the better offences in the NFL. He had a good relationship with Aaron Rodgers also. With a wealth of experience, coming from a coaching family (his dad, Paul is a former NFL and college coach) and relative youth on his side, he cuts an interesting prospect.
Brian Daboll – Offensive Co-ordinator – Buffalo Bills
If any owners are looking for an offensive minded head coach, look no further than Bills OC Brian Daboll. His name has been bandied around as a head coaching candidate for a few years now. Having served his time as an OC in Cleveland, Miami, Kansas City and Buffalo, alongside a stop in the college ranks with Alabama, Daboll is ready to take charge of his own unit.
His work in turning Josh Allen from potential rookie bust to a $40m a year QB and in MVP discussions will not have gone unnoticed by eagle eyed GMs and owners
Eric Bienemy – Offensive Co-ordinator – Kansas City Chiefs
The forgotten man, Eric Bienemy. It seems every head coaching cycle for the past few years has seen the Chiefs OC linked with every head coach vacancy. Certainly the Chiefs have one of the leagues most explosive offences, and have done so during his tenure. However with continual rumours about how much this is Andy Reid’s offence, and how Bienemy has not interviewed well in the past, will be overlooked again for one of the big jobs?
So there you have it. I’m sure there are plenty other candidates out there who are worthy of an interview, and likely a left-field candidate being appointed to a head coaching role that I have missed. Let me know on Twitter @stuie17 or @NinetyNineyards who your head coaching candidates are, and which teams might be in the market for a new Top guy.
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