NFL coaching carousel: Which teams are hiring and who are the leading candidates?

On Monday night, the Philadelphia Eagles joined six other NFL teams in the search for a new head coach. As the chase for some of the brightest coaching minds in the game hots up, we take a look at the teams in need and who could fill their respective vacancies.

Three teams ended the regular season under interim head coaches – the Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans – and they were joined in the market by three more within hours of the curtain coming down on Week 17 – the New York Jets, Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Eagles moved on from Doug Pedersen on Monday, and there remains talk that Matt Nagy and Chicago could also go their separate ways.

It means there are seven head coach roles to fill. As usual, the coaching carousel means a lot of candidates are interviewing for several positions. Such is the transparency in the NFL that we even know who wants who. Let’s take a look at the state of play.

On the look-out

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are one of three teams also looking for a new general manager after an early decision to part with Thomas Dimitroff alongside head coach Dan Quinn in October after losing their first five games of the season.

Raheem Morris took over as interim coach and won four games but his hopes of landing the job full-time are likely to be scuppered by finishing the season with five straight defeats.

Quinn has found his way back into football as the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys while Atlanta’s search has taken in seven names including hot properties Joe Brady, Eric Bieniemy, Robert Saleh and Arthur Smith.

Detroit Lions

Detroit moved in November to part company with Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn – a signal that they may finally be ready to move away from attempts to recreate a Patriots dynasty in Michigan.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has been interviewed for the role after a 1-4 tenure in interim charge and all signs point to a fresh name and significant reboot that could also include quarterback Matthew Stafford moving on.

Bieniemy, Saleh and Smith have all been interviewed while experienced heads Todd Bowles and Marvin Lewis are also under consideration as the Lions look to fill two voids in the organisation.

Houston Texans

After six years Houston moved on from the Bill O’Brien era in early October after opening the season with four successive defeats. They managed just four wins from their remaining 12 games under interim head coach Romeo Crennell who has not yet been interviewed for the permanent role.

Having filled a void at GM with the hiring of highly-regarded Nick Caserio from the Patriots – it had been a role O’Brien had also occupied – they hold plenty of appeal despite having no first-round draft pick.

O’Brien traded them away to bring in players, but a team with Deshaun Watson at quarterback is a huge plus for any incoming coach. Marvin Lewis and Jim Caldwell have already been interviewed for the role.

Jacksonville Jaguars

With the first overall pick in the 2021 draft secured after a dismal 1-15 season, the Jaguars coaching role holds plenty of appeal. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence is being touted as the best college prospect since Andrew Luck and the Jaguars have needed a fresh start under center for some time.

With the No 1 pick (and a whole host more across the first three rounds), it’s no surprise that Bieniemy is on the wanted-list having worked so brilliantly with Patrick Mahomes.

However, the list of candidates to replace Doug Marrone is short, and the wait for a new GM goes on, because the job is believed to be Urban Meyer’s if he wants it. If reports are to be believed, he’ll have carte blanche over a staff, a likely say in GM too, but he’ll have to come out of retirement after a storied college coaching career.

In 2018 he stood down after six superb years in charge of Ohio State but has never coached in the NFL.

Los Angeles Chargers

When the Chargers fired Anthony Lynn at the end of the regular season it was something of a surprise as they finished the season with four straight wins and a 7-9 record.

But the manner of the defeats over Lynn’s four years, and ironically enough the success of record-setting rookie quarterback Justin Herbert probably made up ownership’s mind.

The Chargers are keen to maximise Herbert’s rich potential so offensive gurus Bieniemy, Brady and Smith have all been interviewed alongside the Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

Matt Eberflus (Indianapolis’ defensive coordinator), Brandon Staley (Rams defensive coordinator) and Saleh are all in contention too – it’s a list that underlines why the Chargers job might be the most appealing this off-season.

New York Jets

To the surprise of nobody, Adam Gase was fired at the end of the season, a 2-14 record was the franchise’s worst since 1996 and meant he registered just nine wins across his two seasons in charge. He also failed to unlock the potential of 2018 No 3 overall pick Sam Darnold at quarterback.

Joe Douglas was appointed GM last offseason and has plenty of draft capital, cap room and the No 2 overall pick so it stands to reason he would want his own man for the job and the net has been cast far and wide.

Bieniemy, Brady, Daboll, Eberflus, Saleh, Smith and Staley have all been interviewed – with reports suggesting that Saleh is first to be invited back for a second interview.

Philadelphia Eagles

Three years on from their first Super Bowl, Philadelphia Eagles fired Doug Pedersen having finished last in a terrible NFC East, but more problematically struggling to get the best out of franchise quarterback Carson Wentz.

The Eagles were hindered by injuries but their roster is in need of a reboot as the model that yielded Super Bowl success in 2017 has left a string of veterans who are on big money and struggling physically.

With the search only just underway it will be interesting to see the direction they go in – defensive minds Saleh and Bowles are the first to be invited for interviews.

In the hunt

Eric Bieniemy – Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator

Interviews – Falcons, Lions, Jaguars, Chargers, Jets, Texans

The Andy Reid coaching tree is long and rich, and Bieniemy should be the next to emerge having begun his career as running backs coach with the Chiefs in 2013.

Matt Nagy’s departure to Chicago in 2018 prompted Reid to promote the 51-year-old and the results have been spectacular – helped of course by the emergence and development of Patrick Mahomes – the league-winning and Super Bowl-winning MVP under Bieniemy’s charge.

With a first Super Bowl ring tucked away after last season, Bieniemy was interviewed for a host of positions but to the surprise of many did not take up a role.

Should another offseason go by without him stepping up, it would be a huge shock. But in working with Reid and Mahomes, Bieniemy already has a great job and the move away needs to be right.

Joe Brady – Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator

Interviews – Falcons, Texans, Chargers, Jets

Brady’s offensive pedigree has been honed over the last couple of years with a two-year stint as an offensive assistant to Sean Payton at New Orleans and a record-breaking year back in the college ranks as LSU’s passing game coordinator.

That led to NFL head coach interviews last offseason but in the end, he moved into the league as Carolina’s offensive coordinator under Matt Rhule – another to thrive in the college game.

The 31-year-old was shorn of superstar Christian McCaffrey but still managed to get four players to record more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage. The Panthers became just the fifth team in NFL history to achieve the feat.

Robert Saleh – San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator

Interviews – Falcons, Lions, Jaguars, Chargers, Jets, Eagles

Like Bieniemy, Saleh was a name on the short-list of many teams last season after leading the 49ers defense to the Super Bowl.

Another impressive body of work with a depleted San Francisco squad this year means it is likely to be Saleh who has his pick of the roles he has interviewed for.

A native of Detroit, the Lions job was long thought to be his for the taking, but a second interview request from the Jets, as well as the Eagles entering the fray, mean the chase for Saleh goes on.

Arthur Smith – Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator

Interviews – Falcons, Lions, Jets, Chargers

It would be easy to pin the Titans offense on Derrick Henry and his 3,567 rushing yards over the last two years but Arthur Smith has made them much more than just King Henry.

In two years as Tennessee offensive coordinator, Smith has led the Titans offense to new heights with the rebirth of Ryan Tannehill. The emergence of AJ Brown, Jonnu Smith and, this year, Corey Davis has made them one of the most high-powered units in the league.

But the resume of the 38-year-old Smith, whose father is the founder of FedEx, is more than just the last couple of seasons. He has learned his trade with the Titans since 2011 in various roles with the franchise. He is now poised to step up and has already interviewed for the Falcons, Lions, Chargers and Jets.

Marvin Lewis

Interviews – Jets, Texans, Lions

Lewis has been without a job since he was fired after 16 years with the Cincinnati Bengals. But with each passing year, the job he did in taking them to the playoffs in seven separate seasons and remaining competitive in a fierce AFC North makes him an intriguing prospect.

It may not excite their fans but for the Jets, Texans and Lions, franchises in need of a cultural reset as much as anything else, Lewis holds some appeal.

Also in the frame

Urban Meyer appears to be the only name from college coaching in the hunt. He is two years removed from the game at that level but his record makes him a fascinating potential appointment.

To the surprise of nobody, the Bills offensive and defensive coordinators – Brian Daboll and Leslie Frazier – are on short-lists after the Bills’ progression over the last few years while Indianapolis defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is once again in the hunt following a superb couple of years in rebuilding the Colts defense.

Todd Bowles has rebuilt his reputation as Tampa’s defensive coordinator and despite three losing seasons in four years as the Jets head coach he is on the interview list for many and the Saints staff is also ripe for picking.

Dan Campbell and Aaron Glenn have had interviews while Brandon Staley is gathering momentum.

The 38-year-old only entered the league last year as the Rams defensive coordinator, replacing Wade Phillips, and he has forged arguably the best unit in the league which has the Rams still in Super Bowl contention.

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