It’s time to predict the Head coaching class of 2022. Following the infamous ‘Black Monday‘ 8 teams have parted ways with their Head Coaches – so far. Here, we predict who will fill these NFL vacancies and shape the coaching landscape until the middle of the decade.
January may be a win or go home business in the NFL. Eight head coaches found out that spreads to the entire season. Eight. That’s right, a quarter of the league currently have vacancies for their top gig. Add to that, four GM roles across half of these teams too. With these 12 roles to fill across the NFL, this recruiting cycle will shape the sport until the middle of this decade. So, as with any hire, these teams must make sure that they make the right choice. We’ve taken a look at the candidates and where they might end up over the coming weeks. Four of these candidates were with playoff teams heading into Super Wildcard weekend. So expect more movement on the 2022 coaching class as teams are eliminated from the playoffs.
Raiders – Rich Bisaccia
The biggest no brainer on this list. No one expected Rich Bisaccia to get a head coaching role in the off-season when he replaced Jon Gruden. Instead, he has gone 7-6. Yes, an average record. However, for a first time (Interim) Head Coach without a preseason, let alone dealing with Henry Riggs and Damon Arnette, keeping the team competitive was a bonus. Bisaccia used all of his 40 years’ experience to bring the team together. He is a borderline Coach of the Year with everything that has gone on – and still he got the Raiders to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. The team are playing for him, and they won four straight must win games to make the playoffs. Let’s see what he can do with the keys to the franchise.
If the Raiders do go with someone else, expect Bisaccia to get a Head Coach role somewhere else.
Broncos – Nathaniel Hackett
Hackett has worked wonders in Green Bay, as they have won 13 games in each of the last three seasons. A buyer beware though on Hackett, as well as Byron Leftwich and Eric Bieniemy, Adam Gase was once a highly sought after Head Coach – twice. It is hard to separate the success of a superstar QB from their OC. That said, Nathaniel Hackett has got the most out of Aaron Rodgers, coaching him to at least one MVP and motivated him despite the off-season soap opera. The offence was balanced, with Jones and Dillon in the backfield. Having disposed of Vic Fangio, Denver will clearly want someone who can maximise their considerable weapons at the skill positions, and get the most out of their QB, whoever it is next year.
Dolphins – Jim Harbaugh
Someone is going to make a move for Jim Harbaugh in this coaching class. Dolphins’ owner and Michigan alum Stephen Ross has said he won’t be the man to take Harbaugh from The Big House. It’s all posturing. Would it really be a surprise if the Dolphins were working on the move in the background? Maybe the weaker Harbaugh wants to go to Florida. Miami loves a big name hire and Harbaugh wants another crack at the NFL. What better way to sell it to him than resurrecting one of the league’s most lost franchises to create a dynasty. What’s more, Harbaugh has fixed a struggling QB in the past. Alex Smith was a bust for the 49ers but created a second career after two years under Harbaugh. Tua Tagovailoa has been ok so far but a third OC and second head coach could help him to develop as a passer.
Harbaugh is successful, he builds a team. But he’s also combustible. The Dolphins have had just three playoff appearances this century and haven’t won a playoff game since 2000. Surely it is worth going all in to get Harbaugh to get success, even if it is fleeting.
Jaguars – Byron Leftwich
Leftwich is the hot candidate. It seems that the Bucs are destined to lose their OC after the playoffs. The Jags are desperate for someone to change the culture in Jacksonville. Urban Meyer couldn’t do it. He didn’t even last one year. So perhaps this isn’t the home for a rookie Head Coach. But Jacksonville has added motivation to recruit Leftwich, after drafting him seventh overall in 2003. The narrative is all set up for him to come home. That in itself isn’t a reason to go for Leftwich, but as an added bonus to signing the man everyone wants. Leftwich has been the mastermind behind Brady’s Bucs, as well as Jamies Winston’s best season in Tampa, and is highly regarded in coaching circles. Now is the time for him to get the top gig.
Texans – Brian Flores
Certainly in my view, Miami shouldn’t have fired Flores. He had built a good team. While there may have been clashes with coaches, he was an effective Head Coach. Houston needs to reinvent a winning culture and Brian Flores has a (short) proven history of it. The bigger reason though, is that Deshaun Watson appears desperate to play for him, wherever he goes. Assuming the Texans want to keep Watson, recruiting Flores is a must. Watson may be suspended for the Year, or even in jail but Flores’ credentials – and the desire for star players to play for him should not be ignored.
Bears – Brian Daboll
Matt Nagy didn’t work in Chicago. The Bears have twice drafted an exciting QB prospect who had raw talent that needed to be developed. Neither Mitch Trubisky nor Justin Fields, admittedly in year one, have been able to realise that potential. Chicago will be looking for the best coach to nurture Fields as a talent, ironically the man currently coaching Trubisky. Brian Daboll has developed Josh Allen from an inaccurate running threat to a superstar, MVP candidate. Not only that, but he has also created an unstoppable offence. The Pats, who have a strong defence, allowed 480 yards out of a possible 480. That’s a small case study but what Daboll has done with the Bills offence over the past four years is incredible.
Vikings – Kellen Moore
Kellen Moore has been on a watch list for the last couple of years as he has the key to the Cowboys offence. It was phenomenal at times last season, although it struggled later in the season and ultimately in the wildcard game. Moore is the up-and-coming coach in this coaching class and has created a juggernaut with Prescott, Elliott, Cooper and Wilson. Now he can work with Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson. The Vikings defence needs development though and Moore may need to bring in an experienced Defensive Coordinator, say Vic Fangio, as Sean McVay did with Wade Phillips at the Rams. That would take the weight off Moore as he develops as a Head Coach and make him a very exciting candidate.
Giants – Doug Pederson
The Giants have always looked for experience. They prefer seniors to juniors in the draft and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them recruit someone with experience as a Head Coach. The obvious candidate on the market, assuming they don’t win the sweepstakes for Jim Harbaugh, is Doug Pederson. The Giants saw up close the success he had in Philadelphia. He could resurrect Daniel Jones’s career but also can get a team playing. It did go stale eventually in Philadelphia, but a Super Bowl-winning head coach is worthy of a second chance. With this in mind Perderson could round out this year’s coaching class. Plus he has proven he can manage a tough media market.
Main Image: Jim Harbaugh with the Michigan Wolverines. Image from USA Today.