Welcome to another installment of the NFL Coaching Carousel. Like last year, there are several intriguing candidates who could be leading actors in 2023, including Sean Payton, Jim Harbaugh, DeMeco Ryans, Shane Steichen, Dan Quinn and Ben Johnson. While there is no shortage of interesting candidates, which vacancy would they choose if it were their choice?
There are currently five open head coaching jobs in the NFL. There are pros and cons that come with each. Some have their quarterbacks in place, some don’t. Some have scope and young talent, some don’t. Let’s try to rank the job openings in the NFL.
Salary cap numbers taken from Above the cap
You must be impressed how the Panthers went 6-6 after Matt Rhule was fired. That’s a big reason Steve Wilks is being considered for the full-time gig, although ultimately I think Carolina is headed in a different direction.
A few pros for the Carolina job are that the division the Panthers play in is handy at this point, and they have four picks in the first three rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft. In addition, Carolina has many young talents.
The offensive line has been improved starting in 2021 with the addition of left tackle Ikem Ekwonu, although it hurts that Brady Christensen and Austin Corbett both went down injured in the regular-season finals and DJ Moore has already been suspended going forward. I think he’s one of the most underrated wide receivers in the NFL. Carolina also has a lot of talent defensively. The Panthers have already announced that Brian Burns is a building block, Derrick Brown has had a good year, Frankie Luvu, Shaq Thompson and Brandon Smith are intriguing linebackers, and Jaycee Horn is a rising star cornerback. Of course, there are a few holes to fill, but this list isn’t bad.
As for the downsides, the Panthers currently have just over $1 million in cap space, and then there’s the quarterback issue. Sam Darnold showed some improvement in 2022, going 4-2 as a starter. But is it really the long-term answer? All in all, I like the Panthers’ job. The new leading man has a chance to compete in the NFC South right away if the right decisions are made this offseason.
What a dramatic season for the Colts. The AFC South preseason favorite finished 4-12-1, fired head coach Frank Reich and benched Matt Ryan from the off-season. Interim head coach Jeff Saturday will get an interview, but I think the Colts are hiring another coach for 2023.
As with the Panthers, this job is fascinating because of the division Indy lives in. The Houston Texans are still in a rebuild, and the Tennessee Titans may be set back in more ways than one this offseason. The Jacksonville Jaguars are on the rise, but they’re not yet Super Bowl contenders. The Colts are a better team than their record over the past few years would suggest. It’s the quarterback position that has held them back. The addition of Philip Rivers worked better than I expected even though it was only for a year, but I’m not surprised the flyers about Carson Wentz and Ryan didn’t work.
You look at some of the pieces the Colts have — Michael Pittman Jr. is a solid receiver, you’re hoping Alec Pierce makes a move in Year 2, Jonathan Taylor is a top back, Quenton Nelson is a top -Offensive lineman and defensively, the Colts have talent in Kwity Paye, DeForest Buckner and Shaquille Leonard to name a few. The Colts have $17.5 million in cap space and hold the No. 4 pick overall in the upcoming draft.
Jim Irsay’s questionable decisions have rubbed the NFL world in the wrong direction this season, but I contend the Colts are a better team than what they’ve shown. Find out the quarterback position and you’re on the right track.
I suspect the Broncos job will be attractive to some and unattractive to others. For one, they live in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, and then there’s the Russell-Wilson situation.
Wilson’s contract makes it virtually impossible to leave him this offseason. He deserves the blame for how the 2022 campaign went, but Nathaniel Hackett deserves the majority of that blame. There will be head coaching candidates who firmly believe they can get more out of Wilson in 2023. I also say that just knowing who the quarterback will be next season is a plus. Denver has $14.2 million in cap space, which ranks 19th in the NFL, and while the Broncos don’t have a top pick, they do have a late first-round player thanks to the Bradley Chubb trade.
The best is yet to come for wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, Greg Dulcich is an intriguing tight end and the defense was a top unit before finally falling apart late in the year due to injuries and having to spend most games on the field week in and week out the anemic offense. Far from being a contender, many claimed the Broncos were a franchise quarterback. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say they’re a head coach away. If I’m General Manager George Paton/Ownership, I’m looking for an offensive minded guy this offseason.
Much like the Broncos, knowing that Kyler Murray will be your moving forward quarterback is a plus. However, one has to imagine that he will miss some time in 2023 due to his cruciate ligament rupture, and then the question arises as to how good he actually is. Where would Murray be if we were quarterbacks in the power rankings?
Put simply, the Cardinals are starting over. General manager Steve Keim is gone, and DeAndre Hopkins could be, too. Arizona has work to do on both sides of the ball, but the Cardinals are the top 10 in projected cap space and hold the No. 3 pick in the upcoming draft.
I don’t see it as an incredibly attractive job since the Cardinals have never had a head coach last longer than six years in their century of existence, but Sean Payton is someone I would call with an offer of additional organizational power to expedite this reboot.
5. Houston Texans
Another year, another Texans head coach. When I look at this franchise, I see indecisiveness mixed with instability. I think last year they wanted to do a “Jeff Saturday” before the Colts did a “Jeff Saturday” in reference to Josh McCown, but they didn’t have the guts to do it. Instead, they simply promoted Lovie Smith and let him go less than a year later. I wonder how much they wanted Smith in the first place.
In my head coaching interview with the Texans, I asked General Manager Nick Caserio if I didn’t secure the No. 1 overall ranking or make the playoffs if I didn’t secure the No. 1 overall pick or make the playoffs if I didn’t secure the No. 1 overall pick after one season, I asked General Manager Nick Caserio. Then I would look at owner Cal McNair and ask if I would be fired once Caserio was gone or if I should just visit him again next year when he has his new CEO.
It could easily be argued that Houston looks appealing with its top pick and cap placement, but decision makers need to figure out what they want. The Texans have shown no patience for the remodeling they need. Maybe that will change this time.
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