There are currently seven head coaching openings in the NFL: the Jaguars, Broncos, Vikings, Dolphins, Texans and Giants. That number goes to eight if you include the Raiders, who have fired general manager Mike Mayock but have not yet revealed their plans for whether they will retain interim head coach Rich Bisaccia. Which opening is the most appealing for a candidate? And what about least appealing? (Spoiler alert: This one is unanimous). Our senior NFL writers tackle these questions and more below as we wait to see who gets hired.
Which job opening is the most appealing?
Stephen Holder, senior NFL writer: I could make a case against any of these openings being a prime destination, but the top jobs don’t come open that often, right? Of the current open positions, I’d have to say Minnesota is probably the most appealing. From an ownership perspective, leadership is patient and shows deference by letting football people make the football decisions. Here’s another reality: New coaches know that making the playoffs in Year 1 is the ultimate good first impression. And the Vikings have a roster and quarterback (Kirk Cousins) who can get you to the postseason. As for whether that buys you any goodwill from the fans in Year 2, well, that’s a very different question.
Lindsay Jones, senior NFL writer: The Vikings job comes with the fewest questions. Minnesota has stable ownership that has shown patience with coaches and the front office and a willingness to invest in facilities, and at least for 2022, an answer at quarterback in Kirk Cousins. He might not be the ideal starting quarterback, but the new coach and general manager will arrive knowing they have a competent starter (or a very valuable trade chip). The Vikings also play in a winnable division. Yes, the Packers own the NFC North now, but that reign might only last as long as Aaron Rodgers’ tenure there does.
Dan Pompei, senior NFL writer: There are concerns with all of them. That’s why they have openings. But four things make a job appealing: ownership, the general manager, the quarterback and general roster strength. The Bears, Giants, Raiders and Vikings don’t know who their general managers will be. The Jaguars’ opening has been disparaged because their general manager Trent Baalke is thought of by some as difficult to work with. But the Jaguars have everything else. Shad Khan is a loyal owner who gives his team what it needs to win. He’s just made some decisions that have not worked out. If a candidate believes in Baalke, the Jaguars job is very appealing. Otherwise, the most appealing job might be the Vikings.
Sando: Minnesota and Las Vegas are in the top group from my standpoint, which is something I wrote about Monday. Denver could be in there as well, but the ownership and quarterback situations are less solidified. The Vikings and Raiders have owners with pretty good track records, viable quarterbacks who could serve as bridges or longer-term starters and some appealing roster pieces, especially in Minnesota.
Holder: Remember how utterly dominant the Deshaun Watson storyline was at times last year? Now, imagine signing up to be the face of the team and becoming the person fielding the endless stream of questions on the topic. True, the Texans might theoretically deal Watson away this spring, but it’s not as if that solves their other problems. Chief among those: The roster. It’s, well, not great. And there isn’t a proven starting quarterback in the fold, either, so that’s another problem you’ll instantly inherit. You’d also have to navigate an ownership and front-office structure that creates all kinds of questions. This is the team that allowed Bill O’Brien to trade an elite receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, for a running back (David Johnson) who averaged 3.4 yards per rush this season, plus a couple of draft picks. And there are numerous reasons to be leery about the Nick Caserio/Jack Easterby combination leading the front office and, potentially, stepping all over the toes of the eventual coaching hire. I get that there are only 32 of these jobs, but, man.
Jones: This is going to be unanimously the Texans, right? Houston has the worst overall roster among the teams with openings (at least the Jaguars have a franchise quarterback), a history of drama and dysfunction among senior leadership, weak ownership and major questions at quarterback as the team continues to try to divorce itself from Deshaun Watson. The fact that Texans fired David Culley after the Texans overachieved to reach four wins last season is also a red flag. We should assume that whoever takes this job will have some sort of history with general manager Nick Caserio or senior exec Jack Easterby, but he should still be wary.
Pompei: The Texans, hands down. There are questions about ownership and management and the quarterback. The roster is probably in the worst shape of all the teams with openings.
Sando: Houston could be a terrible fit for an established coach unfamiliar with the New England ways Nick Caserio and Jack Easterby brought to the Texans. The ownership there and in Jacksonville is concerning. I’m not sure how much better the Giants’ and Dolphins’ prospects are from a long-term standpoint, based on their ownership situations