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Ranking the Available NFL Head Coaching Jobs

Liam McKeone
Justin Herbert is looking for a new coach
Justin Herbert is looking for a new coach / James Gilbert/Getty Images
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Black Monday, the day most NFL teams decide to clean house and fire their top decision-makers, has come and gone. There are now six teams that need a new head coach. These open positions are of varying attraction to any prospective coaches looking to take on a new gig. Here is the end-all be-all of all rankings, per important sources, that judge which of these gigs is, in fact, the most attractive.

6. Detroit Lions

The Lions are not in a good position in any way. They're slated to only have $10 million in cap room next year, and that's before any potential new contract with Kenny Golladay, one of the very few talents worth keeping. Matthew Stafford is getting older and will count for $33 million against the cap if he's on the roster next year, $19 million if he's not. They need an entirely new direction and it'll take several years before they can replenish the roster with enough talent to become a postseason contender. There are pieces to work with defensively and De'Andre Swift seems like he could be very good as soon as next season, but that's about it for the positives. Whoever takes this job has a lot of work to do.

5. Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have absolutely no cap space to work with. They do have a ready-made top-10 offense with Matt Ryan throwing to Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. However, Ryan and Jones are older and may not fit the timeline of a rebuilding team if that's the direction owner Arthur Blank wants to go. There's a real chance they're both in different uniforms by September 2021, which completely changes the outlook for the organization. That uncertainty alone knocks the job down a few pegs. If they do decide to move on, the new coach has to build from the ground up with only Ridley worth keeping on the entire offense. Defensively, it's more of the same. This will be a complete rebuilding job filled with a lot of losing, even if the Falcons have all their draft picks to work with. Even if they decide to keep Ryan and Jones and attempt to win with the current core, the job will come with a short leash because Blank will expect results immediately. A tough draw either way.

4. Houston Texans

Houston has one thing these other teams do not: a superstar quarterback in the midst of his prime. Deshaun Watson led the league in passing despite losing his No. 1 receiver last offseason and missing his No. 2 in Will Fuller for the last month of the year. He's a bonafide stud. The downside is Houston owes the No. 3 overall pick to Miami and, thanks to Watson's contract, have no money to upgrade outside the draft. This is a rebuilding project with little resources to do so and a ticking clock to capitalize on Watson's prime years. All that said, many coaches would leap at the opportunity to work with a talent like Watson.

3. New York Jets

Ah, the Jets. They're finally free of Adam Gase. They'll have $68 million in cap space to play with this offseason and the No. 2 pick in the draft. They could go any number of directions, starting from scratch with Justin Fields or trading the pick and building around Sam Darnold, who is not yet a lost cause. This is a team that could transform over the offseason and isn't completely devoid of talent. It would take a lot of work to reconfigure the receiving room into something even decent and the secondary is a disaster, but Quinnen Williams, Mehki Becton, and the second pick of the 2021 draft (along with a good free agent signing or two) isn't a bad core to work with by any means. However, every other offensive linemen needs to be replaced and nobody should forget that the ancient (yet immortal!) Frank Gore led the team in rushing by a country mile. The biggest upside is that Gase was so bad that even the barest showing of competency will earn a good amount of leeway from fans and media alike. It's a multi-year rebuild effort and the QB that will lead it is still not decided upon, so it's not exactly a job that comes with a ready-made formula for success. But the standards are so hilariously low that there won't be a lot of pressure in the first two or so years. And Gase kept his job for a season and a half longer than he should've, so job security will be there.

2. Los Angeles Chargers

On the surface, the Chargers seem like the best job available. Justin Herbert is the next big thing and his receiving corps is extremely talented. There's plenty to work with defensively, and if not for Anthony Lynn's stunning incompetence at the end of games, the Chargers might've vied for a playoff spot this year. They have the No. 13 pick in the draft and will have $22 million in cap space. But the Chargers have several guys up for big extensions either this offseason or next (Hunter Henry, Trai Turner, Mike Williams, Derwin James, and Uchenna Nwosu), several of which are injury-prone, and the offensive line needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. Still, Herbert is an excellent young quarterback who can get even better and there are pieces to make for a contending team immediately. Plus, sunny Los Angeles and all that. Not too bad of a work environment.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have the rights to the No. 1 pick and therefore to Trevor Lawrence, widely hailed as the best QB to come up the college pipeline in a decade. They're also projected to have $77 million in cap space with nobody important up for a big-money extension. If the Jets can change who they are in a single offseason, the Jaguars are primed to do even more. Lawrence is really what makes this the top gig. He could be good, if not great, from Day 1 and even if he isn't, he's still a rookie and will be on a cost-controlled contract for the next four years at least. The new head coach will have a completely blank slate and the top talent of the draft to utilize; James Robinson proved he was a quality starter at running back, D.J. Chark and Lavishka Shenault are a good receiving core, and Josh Allen (the edge rusher) is shaping up to be a star. Similar to the Jets job, things have been so bad in Jacksonville in recent years that the slightest improvement will be seen as a win. But unlike the Jets job, there is a clear path to success that the new coach will have at his disposal from Day 1. Nobody else can offer that.

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