Every year, on the first Monday after the regular season ends, there is a flurry of activity in the NFL world. Coaches across the league are given their walking papers after a disappointing season (or seasons). Every decision announced alters the landscape of the league. Franchises attempt to completely change their trajectories with big moves. It is a time of sorrow and a time of hope.
This is when the offseason begins in earnest. The first step for numerous organizations will be to find a new person to lead them, and it is a crucial step indeed. There are more teams that need coaches than good coaches available, though. The quality of the job opening matters quite a bit.
As of Monday afternoon, there are six open positions at head coach around the NFL. The Jaguars, Raiders, Dolphins, Vikings, Broncos, and Bears all need a new head man. The Jags and Raiders have interim head coaches currently employed, but they are far from guaranteed the position -- even Rich Bisaccia in Las Vegas will need to prove to Mark Davis he deserves a shot despite leading his team to the postseason.
Let us take a look at each situation and evaluate how attractive it is to a potential new coach.
6. Miami Dolphins
Stephen Ross' decision to can Brian Flores and keep general manager Chris Grier was bizarre and should be a huge, flashing red flag for any potential candidates about how things work in that organization. Then there's the fact that Tua Tagovailoa, while serviceable, has not shown the type of flashes of being a true franchise quarterback that led to Grier picking him over Justin Herbert two years ago.
The Dolphins have some pieces defensively and Jaylen Waddle is a star, but they have a pretty weak roster otherwise and don't have a long-term answer at quarterback. In a division that contains Bill Belichick and Josh Allen, that will not be enough. When the weather is the most attractive aspect of the job posting, things aren't great.
5. Denver Broncos
The Broncos fired Vic Fangio after a few underwhelming seasons and have a decent roster to offer whoever their new head coach will be. The defense proved to be one of the league's stingiest in 2021 and all the offensive skill position players are locked down on reasonable deals for the next few years.
The problem is, the Broncos don't have a quarterback, and that is a big problem indeed. Denver went 7-10 this year and that is probably what the team's ceiling will be as long as it can't find an above-average signal-caller. Everybody loves the Broncos because "they're only a QB away" from being in contention, but as of now, that quarterback is still not in uniform, so they'll be low in all these sorts of rankings until that changes. Also, playing Patrick Mahomes twice a year sounds like it sucks.
4. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings are in a bit of a weird spot. If a coach's priority is to win as many games as possible from Day 1, there is no better job opening. Kirk Cousins may not be very good but he's also not terrible and the Justin Jefferson-Adam Thielen wide receiver combo is among the best in the league. The defense has issues but is usually good enough to keep the team in the game. On top of all that, this core will almost definitely stay together for at least one more season since Cousins' contract is fully guaranteed through 2022 and it will be nearly impossible to trade him.
But what the Vikings want to do in the long-term is unclear and they not only have to find a new coach but also a new general manager to figure out exactly how they want to proceed. There's a lot of uncertainty, probably more than most possible candidates would be comfortable with. Minnesota has talent but how long that talent will stay and how far it can take the team is still very much in question.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have easily the worst roster of any team on this list, as evidenced by their No. 1 overall selection they'll make in this year's draft. They also had (arguably) the messiest divorce with their old coach, what with the whole Urban Meyer thing. It was a dysfunctional season and owner Shad Khan apparently still plans to keep Trent Baalke, the general manager who oversaw it all. That could cause problems.
But the Jags have an answer for the most important question. Trevor Lawrence didn't have a good rookie season but showed plenty of signs that he is the generational talent that was promised. Everything is easier if a team has a good quarterback and Lawrence can get to that level and beyond very soon. Perhaps most importantly for a possible hire, the expectations are in the basement. Being better than the previous guy is not hard in this situation.
It's a gig that comes with years of near-guaranteed security and the opportunity to work with one of football's best young talents. That makes up for the fact that Jacksonville is still two, maybe three years away from being legitimately competitive.
2. Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders had their own disastrous head coach situation that had to be resolved earlier in the year (among other controversies) but have somehow rallied and will play on Wild Card weekend. That may mean this job won't be open. Rich Bisaccia has done a bang-up job of preventing the team from completely collapsing, and the fact that the Raiders are in the playoffs after losing two former first-round picks due to legal issues after losing their head coach due to a racial controversy is a damn miracle.
Vegas has a playoff roster (obviously) even if it isn't perfect. Derek Carr is steady if unspectacular most of the time. Josh Jacobs, Hunter Renfrow, and Darren Waller are all good to great players. Even in the AFC West, the Raiders can compete. Can they win a championship? That remains to be seen. But any new hire is being set up for some measure of quick success, which mattes quite a bit.
1. Chicago Bears
The Bears have finally (finally) completely cleaned house. Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace have both been fired. It leaves Chicago with a clean slate, an exciting young quarterback, and the most attractive job opening on the market. Whether or not you agree with that depends entirely upon your evaluation of Justin Fields.
For my money, I think Fields could be pretty good very quickly with someone who actually cares to design an offense around him. Nagy didn't seem terribly interested in that. As noted in the Jags section above, any possible head coaching job is infinitely more attractive if there's an answer at quarterback. The Bears' job, in particular, will appeal to a lot of candidates because ownership tends to give new hires at least three full seasons to instill their vision, so job security is top-tier. Chicago is a big-time market that comes with its cons but far more pros. And the defense still boasts names like Khalil Mack.
A steady job in a major city with a young quarterback to be developed? It's hard to find a better opportunity for any coach looking to prove themselves.