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Meet 2018’s NFL head coach candidates

There are some new names and some familiar faces in the mix this year.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The new year is a time for fresh starts. That’s true for so many NFL teams, who will begin 2018 by bringing in a new head coach to turn things around for this season and beyond.

This worked out well for some teams last year. The Rams moved on from Jeff Fisher and brought in 31-year-old Sean McVay. The first-time head coach turned the offense around, made Todd Gurley relevant again, and showed everyone why Jared Goff was worth the No. 1 pick in 2016.

Vance Joseph carried high expectations with him when he was hired to take over for the Denver Broncos. Joseph inherited a dominant defense in Denver and the team got off to a fast 3-1 star. But then a revolving door of Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, and occasionally Paxton Lynch at quarterback paved the way for an eight-game slide in the middle of the season. Joseph’s squad finished last in the AFC West in his first season.

We don’t know what the future holds for teams that are in the market for new head coaches. But we do know which candidates are likely to be in the running for those openings.

Familiar faces

Teryl Austin: The current defensive coordinator of the Lions has gone through the motions of interviewing for head coach openings before without landing a spot. Maybe 2018 will be Austin’s year.

Reported interest: Lions

Jeff Fisher: Fisher says he feels “young and charged up” and wants another shot at coaching. But does any team in the league really want to deal with his 7-9 bullshit?

Josh McDaniels: This should be another year, another slew of interviews for the architect of New England’s top-ranked offense. But Tom Brady’s almost certainly sticking around, so McDaniels may not want to leave the Patriots.

Reported interest: Bears, Colts, Giants

Matt Patricia: Patricia is less likely to land a spot than McDaniels after his defense floundered early in the season. But his unit turned things around in the second half. Now the Patriots are only allowing 19.3 points per game, which warrants him consideration.

Reported interest: Cardinals, Giants, Lions

Pat Shurmur: His 9-23 record as the head coach of the Browns in 2011 and 2012 doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence ... but it was also the Browns. As the Vikings’ offensive coordinator, Shurmur’s role in turning Case Keenum into a viable NFL starter this season is a shining addition to his resume.

Reported interest: Bears, Cardinals, Giants, Lions

Jim Schwartz: The former head coach wasn’t successful in his five-year stint with the Lions, but he’s done a masterful job in his two years as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator. He turned the defense from one of the league’s worst to one of the best.

Reported interest: Cardinals, Giants

Steve Spagnuolo: Spagnuolo may only get serious consideration from the Giants, where he’s already taken over for Ben McAdoo. Spags is 0-3 right now as the Giants’ interim coach, making his all-time record as a head coach an underwhelming 10-41.

Dave Toub: The Chiefs’ special teams coordinator may not be a household name, but has had lots of success in his 16 years as a coach in the NFL. It’s not common for a special teams coordinator to make the leap to head coach, but it’s not unheard of. Look no further than John Harbaugh, who mentored Toub when he started his career as a special teams quality control coach with the Eagles.

Rising stars

John DeFilippo: Some team may want to duplicate the Sean McVay experiment this offseason. The quarterbacks coach behind Carson Wentz’s MVP-caliber season with the Eagles is a smart bet.

Reported interest: Bears, Cardinals

Frank Reich: If DiFilippo is in the mix, then the Eagles offensive coordinator should be, too. His offense is averaging over 30 points per game and has the second-best run game in the NFL this season.

Kris Richard: The Seahawks defensive coordinator interviewed for the Bills job last year, but was passed over for Sean McDermott. Seattle’s defensive performance without stars like Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Cliff Avril may get him another look.

Reported interest: Colts

Mike Vrabel: The Texans’ defensive coordinator got interviews for head coach positions last offseason before he was even promoted to the coordinator role in Houston. Injuries and a learning curve have slowed down the defense this season, but Vrabel is still expected to become a head coach one day.

Reported interest: Colts, Lions

Steve Wilks: It’s just Wilks’ first season as the Panthers’ defensive coordinator, but his blitz-heavy defense is a key factor in Carolina’s rebound from last year’s Super Bowl hangover.

Reported interest: Bears, Colts, Giants, Lions

Long shots

Bill Cowher: No, Bill Cowher is not coming out of the studio to become an NFL head coach again, no matter how much teams might want him to do so. This rumor, at least as it pertains to the Giants, is all Jerome Bettis’ fault.

Jon Gruden: If there are head coach vacancies, there are going to be GRUMORS. Gruden’s been perfectly happy in the booth for these past nine seasons, and he’s under contract with ESPN through 2021. Despite reports linking him to the Raiders, it’s hard to believe it’ll happen unless it happens.

Reported interest: Raiders (and it’s looking increasingly likely)

Jim Harbaugh: Last year, he called his opponents who used NFL rumors about him to rile up their squads “jive turkeys.” This year, he’s calling the rumors “warmed up oatmeal.” He’s not leaving Michigan.

NFL assistant coaches who could be head coaches