It’s that time of the year when team owners and front offices convince themselves that they too could have a perennial playoff contender, if they just had the right guy on the sidelines. There are plenty of NFL head coach vacancies in 2022.
This year there weren’t many surprises at some of the job openings, with many league observers expecting jobs in Chicago and Denver to open up weeks ago, whilst Joe Judge and Mike Zimmer were on the hot seat, though for very different reasons.
NFL Head Coach vacancies 2022
But for the in-demand head coach candidates on the market, which job should they choose? Any job that opens up due to a dismissal of the previous incumbent is unlikely to be perfect, but are any of these positions where a new coach can make an immediate impact? Or are they likely to need to convince ownership of the need to commit to a long term rebuild?
The team may also finally have a quarterback to build around in rookie Justin Fields. The former Buckeye showed flashes of his potential as a dual threat quarterback unafraid to sling it downfield. That alone has Bears fans dreaming of a Josh Allen like leap.
On defense, there are talented pieces to build around in linebacker Roquan Smith, cornerback Jaylon Johnson and pass rushers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. A defensively minded coach may feel he can help Eddie Jackson get back to the playmaking safety he was just a few years ago.
There are a lot of significant holes on this roster, including wide receiver and cornerback. Wideout Allen Robinson seems likely to move on after a down year in which he went from previously being Mitch Trubisky’s favourite target to an afterthought in this season’s Andy Dalton/Fields offense. It isn’t a roster likely to compete for the postseason any time soon, on paper.
The Bears lack a lot of draft capital in the upcoming 2022 draft, largely due to the cost the franchise paid to move up to draft Fields last offseason. 2nd and 3rd round picks, two 5th rounders and a 6th rounder will hamstring any new coach’s attempts to draft rookies who can make an immediate impact, whilst enabling the roster to get younger.
Who should the Bears turn to?
As a Bears fan, on paper I love the idea of pairing Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll with Fields, especially given the development of Allen into an elite, playmaking signal caller.
Brian Daboll coaching stock: 📈📈📈 pic.twitter.com/l9TRDn1wFg
— Bears Nation (@BearsNationCHI) January 24, 2022
Daboll has experience coaching at multiple franchises, as well as spending some time at the college level, and has also coached a range of offensive positions, in addition to a year as a defensive assistant in his first pro coaching job back in 2000. That makes him an adaptable and well connected NFL mind, with experience in a number of systems, enabling him to fit his scheme to the players available.
This is a high level roster in need of an upgrade at the quarterback position. And if a candidate (hello Nathaniel Hackett) can convince Aaron Rodgers to swap Wisconsin for Colorado, it would become an immediate Super Bowl favourite.
The defense, particularly the secondary, has the ability to rival the Super Bowl winning No Fly Zone of Aqib Talib and co, whilst on offense there are plenty of weapons including running back Javonte Williams and wide receiver Courtland Sutton.
The Broncos are projected to have over $47 million in cap space.
That should enable the front office, under respected general manager George Paton, to aggressively address the key holes on the roster.
Outside the pipe dream of Rodgers, there are a lack of quarterback options who can make an immediate impact for the team.
Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and current Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater are amongst the top prospective free agents at the position and there are a lack of highly rated rookie prospects too. Any new head coach could find themselves again treading water at the game’s most important position.
Who should the Broncos hire?
Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy could be an interesting hire for a number of reasons.
Firstly, he has a track record of developing a young quarterback from his work with Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City and the Broncos may be forced to focus on either developing Drew Lock or a highly drafted rookie.
Equally, Bienemy knows the division, has experience calling plays for an explosive offense and would deprive Andy Reid of a key member of his staff. If Bienemy can get the Broncos offense firing, they could be a real force to be reckoned with in the AFC.
Despite his rookie season not living up to the hype, Trevor Lawrence is still seen as a generational quarterback who can still become the face of the franchise. It’s easy to attribute his difficulties in adjusting to the NFL to an organisation suffering through a dysfunctional coaching situation on top of a subpar supporting cast.
A second consecutive first round pick demonstrates the opportunity to add an elite pass rusher in either Kayvon Thibodeaux or Aidan Hutchinson, or upgrade the offensive line for Lawrence. The determination from owner Shad Khan to get this coaching hire right will mean the next head coach will be given a lot of leeway in making the Jags competitive again.
This is a franchise that has had one winning season in the last ten years. In that same timespan they’ve cycled through seven head coaches, including interims.
Is the organisation and ownership around the head coach flawed and not set up for success either? They managed to make the most sure-fire quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck look like a mid to late round developmental prospect. The head coach is going to need to focus on more than just coaching the roster if they’re going to be successful. The presence of GM Trent Baalke may also be off putting to some prospects.
Who should the Jaguars hire?
This job is screaming out for an adult in the room who will help re-establish a culture where grown men feel like they are treated as professionals.
What a dime by Trevor Lawrence, whew. pic.twitter.com/9MUjtK6RJS
— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) January 9, 2022
A re-tread head coach with a track record of success in the NFL is necessary to help the Jaguars develop a winning culture and Jim Caldwell to me seems the guy with the demeanour to handle this job.
The Dolphins are a historic franchise who have lost their way since Dan Marino retired. Restoring the organisation to winning ways will appeal to many prospective head coaches. Plus the weather isn’t bad.
They’re expected to have around $67.5 million in cap space this offseason, which could be used to sign a number of veterans to add to a relatively young roster. Otherwise, this is a job there’s difficult to say much positive about…
This promises to be a tough division for the foreseeable future, with the Bills having the look of a perennial Super Bowl contender, and the Patriots resurgent in the post-Tom Brady era.
Its easy to look at this roster and say that ex-HC Brian Flores overachieved going 10-6 and 9-8 the past two seasons. For all the picks the team accumulated over the past few years, there are few top tier players on this roster.
There are questions at quarterback which were not kept in house during this season (which could be a concern for prospective candidates) and the offensive line remains a work in progress at best.
Who should the Dolphins hire?
Given the fact that the firing of Brian Flores was attributed to a breakdown in his relationship with GM Chris Grier, finding a candidate who meshes well with the leader of the front office will be a priority.
If the focus is on maximising Tua Tagovailoa, then Brian Daboll and Kellen Moore stand out as the most renowned candidates from the offensive side of the ball, especially given Daboll’s history with Tua at Alabama. Leslie Frazier could help maintain the growth shown on the defense under Flores, which will be a necessity when the Pats and Bills come to town.
Nick Caserio’s second hire as head coach will be given plenty of time to help return the Texans to the postseason.
David Culley was one and done in the Lone Star State, which felt a little unfair given the situation he inherited with Deshaun Watson and a roster that resembled the inaugural season of an expansion franchise.
Caserio won’t expect an immediate turn around in his second full season as general manager, giving the successful candidate plenty of time to implement his vision for the franchise on what is essentially a blank slate of a roster.
Similarly to the Dolphins, there are few players on this roster that other franchises will be envious of, so this is a total rebuild from scratch.
The successful candidate will need to have toughness, determination and be totally convinced in their roadmap for the team to weather the long seasons to come as this team journeys back to even mediocrity.
Davis Mills represents something of a conundrum, though perhaps one a head coach would be happy to have. His play down the stretch was impressive, but the lack of surefire prospects in this draft, especially one worthy of taking with the 3rd overall pick, may mean riding the ups and downs of the 2022-23 season behind the Stanford product.
Who should the Texans hire?
The New England connection between Caserio and Brian Flores is an obvious one, but this doesn’t seem like a compatible match given reports that Flores wants more control over personnel than he had in Miami.
A statement from Brian Flores provided to ESPN: pic.twitter.com/CFRUEQGo3r
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 10, 2022
Given the timeline for the rebuild of Houston’s roster, Caserio may opt for a first time head coach candidate who can grow into the role such as the Chargers’ Joe Lombardi given his work with Justin Herbert. That feels like a better pick than a guy with minimal coaching experience such as Hines Ward or Josh McCown.
The Texans’ interview list feels a little minimalist currently and I’d like to see DeMeco Ryans added to it given his work with the Niners defense and his ties to the franchise.
The offense is stacked with talent at the skill positions, such as Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. That unit will keep ticking over nicely as long as any new head coach doesn’t interfere too much.
The quality of the offense means that just fielding a competitive defense could enable this team to return to the playoffs, especially if Aaron Rodgers leaves Green Bay for pastures new. Along with the Broncos job, this vacancy is amongst the best prospects for a head coach looking to make an immediate impact.
The talent level of the defense has been decimated in recent years with the loss of a fearsome veteran defensive line and a porous secondary where numerous first round picks failed to work out.
There are some tough decisions to be made in terms of the salary cap, which may limit the Vikings’ ability to dip into the free agent market, and it isn’t the best way for a new head coach to settle in to their new role.
Who should the Vikings hire?
I like the idea of bringing in Todd Bowles here. He is a top notch defensive coordinator who has managed to field a fearsome unit wherever he has been and in his second go around as a head coach will have learnt lessons from what happened in New York.
Equally, the Vikings are a much more put together and stable franchise than the Jets, which would mean Bowles isn’t stepping into the chaotic situation he did with Gang Green.
There is some highly drafted talent on this roster that a new head coach could help to maximise. Leonard Williams, Azeez Ojulari, Kadarius Toney and Andrew Thomas could be core components of the defense and offense respectively moving forward. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t game changers but they are evidence that the G-Men aren’t totally starting from scratch.
The Mara family is well known for its ambition to run a stable franchise with an emphasis on continuity, just like the Steelers. Given their turn over at head coach over the past few years, this again is a vacancy where the successful candidate would likely be given the benefit of the doubt over the coming seasons with every opportunity to get it right.
Are the Giants looking to move on from their two highly drafted cornerstones on offense: Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley? New York’s offense was a hot mess this past season and any candidate will have to consider whether the unit needs an overhaul or a tune up.
The media in the Big Apple are merciless. Every bad decision or mistake is magnified, which can have the effect of ruining a coach’s public persona and reputation amongst the fanbase and outside of league insiders. Luckily, given the past few years at Metlife Stadium, the only way is up.
Who should the Giants hire?
The hiring of Joe Schoen from the Bills as GM will put the focus squarely on the two Buffalo coordinators: Brian Daboll and Leslie Frazier.
I can't imagine being the #Bears, watching this second half and wanting Leslie Frazier to be my head coach.
Brian Daboll, on the other hand… 🤔
— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) January 24, 2022
Schoen and Daboll reportedly have a relatively close relationship, though the Giants may look to hire a second time head coach given their experiences with Ben McAdoo and Joe Judge.
Frazier may not be a name that moves the needle, especially in the New York market, but a focus on a CEO style head coach, rather than an offensive guru such as McAdoo and ex head coach Pat Shurmur, could be the way to go. Or maybe it’s just the Bears fan in me wanting to convince myself Daboll is en route to the Windy City…
Read more: Best available NFL head coaches
There are a number of areas of strength on this roster, including quarterback, running back and defensive line. Upgrades at wide receiver and cornerback could enable a repeat visit to the playoffs next season.
Given the vacancy that also exists at general manager, this could suit a candidate looking to exercise more control over personnel or one who wants more of an equal relationship with the chief decision maker for the franchise.
The dominance of the Chiefs in the AFC West, as well as the presence of both Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes in the division, could be somewhat off-putting, as it means going toe to toe with a couple of explosive offenses four times a year.
Other than that, there seem to be few drawbacks to this role…
Who should the Raiders hire?
It would be great to see Rich Bisaccia get the role on a full time basis given the stability he has provided for the team during a tumultuous season, as well as his ability to lead them to the postseason.
I don’t think special teams coaches get the opportunities they deserve in head coaching searches even though they have to exhibit many skills that are central to the role of head coach.
Alternatively, strong personalities like Jim Harbaugh or Brian Flores could be a fit here. I’d love to see Flores bring his toughness and defensive nous to the Raiders to help elevate that side of the ball, particularly the defensive backfield.