NFL coaches and executives share their thoughts on the most attractive head coaching vacancies after Black Monday, and look ahead at what could be a wild Wild Card weekend
The trajectory of five NFL franchises and countless lives were altered this week, as another Black Monday sent the coaching carousel spinning.
On Monday, Mike Zimmer, Vic Fangio, Matt Nagy, and fairly surprisingly, Brian Flores, were relieved of their duties as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, and Miami Dolphins. On Tuesday evening, John Mara and the New York Giants relieved Joe Judge of his duties, after two terribly disappointing seasons in the Big Apple.
Those five teams join the Jacksonville Jaguars, and perhaps the Las Vegas Raiders, in search of their next head coach, though Rich Bisaccia just might have done enough to have the “interim” removed from his title after leading the Raiders past the Los Angeles Chargers and into the postseason on Sunday.
Beyond the head coaches, who are paid multi-million dollars per season, their families lives will be uprooted and their assistants, and support staff will also be looking for work this week.
Now, which vacancy is most desirable?
“I think the Vikings are the closest to being a playoff team,” former NFL Executive of The Year Jeff Diamond tells FanSided. “One more win this year and they would’ve made the postseason. They had a bunch of close losses, and they also have some offensive stars like Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, and Adam Thielen.”
Zimmer was let go after producing a 72-56-1 record but missing the postseason two of the past three years. There might not be a team across the league that has underachieved more over the past decade than Zimmer’s Vikings.
Minnesota will now be looking for a new direction, but not the only franchise in their own division searching for a new head coach.
“I’m not sold on Justin Fields, but that’s also an attractive job,” Diamond says. “But, they have a really good defense, especially with Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks healthy.
Over in the AFC, the job that has been open the longest is the one Diamond says he would be skeptical of taking the most; the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“I just don’t trust their owner,” Diamond explained. “Or the organization. But, the one good thing about taking that job is you’d get to coach Trevor Lawrence, who will get better, and is a good organizational building block.”
As teams begin scheduling interviews, which job do those inside the league believe is the best available? FanSided spoke to multiple coaches, executives, and scouts, surveying their feelings on the most attractive vacancy. Each respondent was granted anonymity in order to speak freely about each situation.
Their answers are below.
Which NFL head coaching vacancy do league insiders think is most attractive?
NFL general manager:
“If the Broncos have a plan at quarterback, there’s not a better situation to walk into this offseason.”
“It’s the job with the best quarterback. Nothing else really matters. Chicago’s most attractive, because when you look at a situation like Jacksonville, they have Trevor Lawrence, but they need an entire culture change. Chicago still has a bit to go, but is much closer, and Justin Fields has the chance to be great if he can learn to play in the cold.”
NFL Pro Personnel Director:
“The Broncos are probably the best situation. They have some really good pieces on defense, good receivers, and a really talented young running back. Maybe most importantly, they have a good general manager that I’d think a head coach would want to work with.”
“Either Jacksonville or Miami. Call me crazy, but weather plays a role, and who wouldn’t want to live in either place? For me, it’s the Jaguars, because they have the far more stable quarterback situation.”
NFL Personnel director:
“Miami would be pretty good. Especially because they already have Tua, who really came on down the stretch. But, there’s a lot of uncertainty there whether they are going to make a run at Deshaun Watson. Is that a situation you want to talk into?”
NFL Personnel Executive:
“The Jaguars are a great spot, because you have some really solid young talent, and much lower expectations when it comes to winning right away. Plus, you already have Trevor Lawrence, and the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, too.”
How each Wild Card weekend underdog can pull off the upset:
The quest for the Vince Lombardi Trophy enters the home stretch, as the NFL Playoffs begin this weekend.
For the first time, NFL Wild Card weekend will feature two games on Saturday, three games Sunday, and a Monday Night Football game on ESPN.
This weekend might also present the best chance for postseason chaos, as according to ESPN, underdogs went 6-2 outright over the past two seasons on Wild Card weekend.
So, what is the biggest key for each of this weekend’s underdogs to pull off an upset and take one step closer to Super Bowl Sunday?
Here’s a look, all odds courtesy of WynnBET:
Las Vegas Raiders (+5.5) at Cincinnati Bengals – Sat., 4:30 p.m. ET
The Bengals’ defense has punched above its weight for much of the season, but at times has been vulnerable against the pass, and the big play in the vertical passing game. Cincinnati enters allowing 248 passing yards per game.
Meanwhile, the Raiders are 6-0 in games Derek Carr passes for more than 300 passing yards, and just 4-7 when he doesn’t. If Carr surpasses 300 passing yards, Cincinnati might be on upset alert in the jungle.
New England Patriots (+4.5) at Buffalo Bills – Sat., 8:15 p.m. ET
The game of the weekend, perhaps featuring the two teams best suited to make a run to the AFC Championship Game. If New England is going to have any chance of beating the Bills for the second time in three meetings this year, the Patriots are going to have to limit Josh Allen and Buffalo’s offense’s explosive plays.
This season, only 14 teams have had more explosive plays (plays that go for 10 yards or more rushing or 20 yards or more passing) than the Bills’ 15. For the Patriots to have a chance, they’ll need to limit those.
Philadelphia Eagles (+8.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Sun., 1 p.m. ET
No team has run the ball more effectively than the Eagles, who averaged 159.7 rushing yards per game this season, 10 yards more than the second-leading rushing offense, the Indianapolis Colts.
The problem for Philadelphia, is in order to beat Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, they will need to shorten the game. Tampa Bay enters with the third-stingiest rushing defense in the league, allowing just 92.7 yards. The Eagles need to approach 200 yards rushing and dominate the time of possession to have any real chance at moving on.
San Francisco 49ers at (+3) Dallas Cowboys – Sun., 4:30 p.m. ET
There might not be a tougher out this round than the Dallas Cowboys, especially with how dominant Dallas’ defense has been all season and how explosive Dak Prescott and Co. are on offense. But, according to one NFL head coach whose team beat the Cowboys earlier this season, the biggest key for San Francisco is to limit Dallas’ Yards after the catch.
Dallas enters Sunday averaging 129 YAC per game, ninth-most in the league. San Francisco’s cornerbacks; Emmanuel Moseley and K’Waun Williams can’t afford missed tackles on Sunday, or to let Amari Cooper or CeeDee Lamb get behind them.
Pittsburgh Steelers at (+13) Kansas City Chiefs – Sun., 8:15 p.m. ET
Creating turnovers is going to be paramount for the Steelers. In Kansas City’s five losses this season, the Chiefs turned the ball over 13 times. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the Chiefs enter the postseason playing their best football of the season and look like one of the more dominant teams in the league. Again.
For the Steelers to have any chance, they need to play a perfect game, create as many turnovers as possible, and make the Chiefs pay for those mistakes by scoring off those takeaways. It sounds like a longshot, but Kansas City has fell victim to such pilfery multiple times in 2021.
Arizona Cardinals at (+4) Los Angeles Rams – Mon., 8:15 p.m. ET
Plain and simple, the Cardinals are going to need to relentlessly pressure Matthew Stafford to have any chance. Stafford looked hobbled late in Sunday’s 27-24 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners sacked Stafford five times and intercepted him twice.
Arizona is going to need to have a similarly dominant performance from their front-seven, to neutralize the impacts of Odell Beckham Jr., Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee, among others, in the Rams’ passing game.
“The fans in New York are fed up. It’s time for the Giants to reach outside of the norm and stop being as conservative as they’ve been in the past. The NFL is changing. They’ve got to change with it.” – Michael Strahan on FOX
Officially, Dave Gettleman retired as New York Giants general manager this week, and with Judge also having his key card revoked, it would seem owner John Mara and the organization are finally adapting to a modern NFL landscape.
According to The Athletic’s Dan Duggan, Mara is not soliciting the opinion of former New York Giants Super Bowl winning general manager Ernie Accorsi this time around.
Accorsi was instrumental in 2017, with Dave Gettleman crediting Accorsi’s endorsement as key to him landing the job.
Some names to already be linked to the Giants have been Tennessee Titans Director of Player Personnel Monti Ossenfort, and Vice President of Personnel, Ryan Cowden along with Kansas City Chiefs’ executive director of player personnel, Ryan Poles, Cardinals VP of player personnel Quentin Harris, among others.
At a minimum, Mara seems to be casting a wide net of outside candidates, which is a welcomed step in the right direction for a franchise that has rarely gone outside its insular sphere of influence over the past several decades.
John Madden’s legacy has loomed large over the National Football League, since the coaching and broadcasting legend passed away on Dec. 28, and as NFL Wild Card weekend kicks off this weekend, there will be one more serendipitous reminder of his impact.
Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. ET, the NFC Wild Card game between the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys will kickoff on CBS, despite the fact that FOX has held the rights to the NFC since Madden and Pat Summerall called CBS’ final NFL game on Jan. 24, 1994.
It was the NFC Championship Game between the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers at Texas Stadium.
Madden and Summerall became icons during their 13-year partnership at CBS, forging an on-air chemistry that elevated whatever game they were calling into an event that couldn’t be missed. There’s a reason FOX initally paid Madden $30.4 million to be the network’s first showcase analyst, and ensured Summerall joined him at the fledgling network.
When the Madden Cruiser parked outside your stadium, you knew you were walking into the biggest game of the weekend.
With the possible exception of ESPN’s College GameDay, there isn’t a marker in sports that raises the profile of a game in the way Madden and Summerall’s presence in the booth did, for decades.
CBS is undoubtedly hoping for a much closer game on Sunday afternoon than the Cowboys’ 38-21 blowout to send Dallas to Super Bowl XXVII, nearly 28 years ago to the day.
But, despite the lopsided outcome, Madden and Summerall rose to the occasion.
“To stay with a blowout game with the kind of attention they did under the circumstances, I think will be one of the legendary performances of all time,” former CBS Sports Senior Vice President Rick Gentile told The Washington Post the following day.
Much has been written in recent weeks about Madden’s impact on the sport of football, and there might not be a singular figure who has done more to advance the popularity of the game from his Super Bowl winning coaching career to pioneering broadcasting style, and of course the lasting popularity of EA Sports’ Madden video game franchise.
But, Sunday afternoon, CBS has one more opportunity to remind the nation just how special an announcing duo Madden and Summerall were for decades.