Black Monday hit and eight NFL teams are now looking for head coaches, a fourth of the league. Each of the eight teams are at different stages of roster building — there are three rookie quarterbacks waiting for new head coaches, rosters that might need to be stripped down and rebuilt, and one gig will have the privilege of coaching Aaron Rodgers.
Here’s a quick guide for what these teams with vacancies should and should not look for during their head coaching searches.
Do: Find someone who can get the offense back on track.
Getting Josh Rosen on the path to being a reliable franchise quarterback is imperative for the Cardinals’ next head coach. Rosen showed flashes of competent play as a rookie, but his season was largely a disaster due to a poor supporting cast — the Cardinals lost all five of their starting offensive linemen to injuries during the year.
Rosen finished the season with just 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions — that has to be a little disappointing considering the success that some of the other rookie quarterbacks experienced this season.
Don’t: Hire someone who doesn’t have a background in offense.
This is going to sound like a bit of broken record.
The Cardinals have so much work to do on the offensive side of the ball that they need to get a head coach who specializes in that. Steve Wilks did a decent job with the defense (at times), but Arizona was completely lost on offense this season. They just traded up and invested the 10th overall pick in Josh Rosen — it’s time to give him the support he needs before they completely ruin his chances of being great.
Do: Find someone who can maximize Andy Dalton’s value while rebuilding the league’s worst defense.
The Dalton-A.J. Green-Tyler Boyd-Tyler Eifert combination is a formidable passing attack on paper, but injuries and Marvin Lewis’s guidance has prevented the group from reaching its potential. Fixing that group could be as simple as refining some of the playcalling that stagnated over Lewis’s 16 seasons in town.
Fixing the defense is a different project altogether. Geno Atkins is still awesome and Jessie Bates looked great as a rookie. The rest of the depth chart could stand to be upgraded.
Don’t: Hire Hue Jackson by any means.
Jackson was 3-36-1 in 2.5 seasons with the Browns. That wasn’t enough to stop Lewis from hiring his former offensive coordinator back to his staff this fall, where he was snubbed and stared down by Baker Mayfield in a pair of losses against Cleveland. The Bengals were 1-6 with Jackson on their staff, but that didn’t stop Lewis from recommending Jackson for his old job on the way out.
That would be a bad idea.
Do: Find a coach who can develop young talent.
The Browns are loaded with young players, including a pair of No. 1 overall picks on each side of the ball with Baker Mayfield and Myles Garrett. Both showcased their potential in impressive 2018 seasons, but whomever takes over in Cleveland will have to find away to not only keep their development rolling but also push budding players like Larry Ogunjobi, Nick Chubb, David Njoku, Jabrill Peppers, and Denzel Ward to stardom. Few job openings in the league have more raw talent than the Browns do — but hoooo boy, it is raw.
Don’t: Get hung up on a retread coach.
Gregg Williams and Freddie Kitchens transformed this team in a 5-3 finish that allowed Mayfield to open up his playbook and incorporate more players into his offense than ever before. Freeing him from Todd Haley’s overwrought offense turned him into 2018’s probable offensive rookie of the year and made the Browns one of the league’s most dangerous second half teams. This is a young, versatile roster that can evolve quickly to the league’s latest offensive and defensive trends. Time to gamble on a rising star instead of a staid coaching institution.
Do: Hire someone who can do something about a scoring offense that hasn’t ranked higher than 19th in the league the past four seasons
General manager John Elway hired Vance Joseph in a strength-on-strength move, hoping the former defensive coordinator would take Von Miller’s unit to the next level — or at least do enough to gloss over one of the league’s least intimidating offenses. He didn’t, and now Elway is looking for another specialist:
John Elway is looking for a coach that is great at what they do on one side of the ball and experience.— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) December 31, 2018
The good news is there are several solid offensive minds who would fit that bill. The bad news is Elway’s track record when it comes to big time decisions hasn’t been very good since signing Peyton Manning (which, really, even the annoying novice in your fantasy league would’ve known to do).
Don’t: Avoid hiring an innovative offensive mind just because Gary Kubiak’s around
Elway has already told the press he expects Kubiak to remain part of his brain trust, whether as an advisor or in a coaching role. That also seems like a recipe for tension for a new head coach constantly having the boss’ old pal looking over his shoulder.
Do: Hire someone who will let Aaron Rodgers be Aaron Rodgers.
Mike McCarthy undoubtedly had a successful run as the Green Bay Packers’ head coach, but his scheme and creativeness on offense got a bit stale.
Here's a sample of how many slant-flat passes Mike McCarthy has called in 2018.— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) October 9, 2018
This doesn't include similar concepts like:
X slant-RB flats
slant-flats on the backside of other concepts pic.twitter.com/9NctU6Q7lU
Don’t: Overpromote an inexperienced assistant trying to find the next Sean McVay
Replacing McCarthy is the Packers’ most important decision of the past decade. While the desire to find the next rising young star or off-the-grid candidate will be high, the team can’t afford to throw away two seasons or more on a coach who’s not ready for prime time. Rodgers is 35 years old. Green Bay needs a head coach that can maximize his talent during his closing window of elite quarterback play and Super Bowl contention.
That doesn’t mean the Pack should automatically hire a coaching retread like Chuck Pagano or Josh McDaniels — just someone who can handle the pressure of working with an all-world quarterback (and is okay with handling some scapegoat duties should anything go wrong with Rodgers).
Do: Find someone that has some experience building teams.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross sounded like he realized that the team needed a complete overhaul at his Monday press conference. That means some lean years for the team, and a more experienced coach who knows how to get players through the struggles, find the positives to build on and stay grounded in reality (instead of thinking they’re ready to roll up on the Patriots in Year 1). The Dolphins are a franchise in perpetual turmoil (a lot of that starts at the top too), so hiring someone who can steady his players and build trust will be more important than getting wins that first year.
Don’t: Hire someone who thinks they can fix Ryan Tannehill.
It sounds like the Dolphins are moving on anyway, but the temptation is still there. Waiting for Tannehill to become something better than average has cost the Dolphins dearly. And don’t even think he’ll be fine as a bridge quarterback. Purge. Move on.
Do: Hire someone who thrives on chaos.
It’s a cliche to say that the Jets are a circus, but sometimes cliches are kinda the only thing you can say because they’re just so spot on. Entropy follows the Jets. Whoever they hire, the initial wave of enthusiasm will fade after a year. The tabloids will turn on them. The infighting inside the building will get ugly, and there’s no small chance we’ll be right back here again in 3-4 years. That’s why the Jets need to find someone who can navigate that kind of a mess. And since they’re keeping GM Mike Mccagnan, who’s responsible for the state of that roster, the new guy is going to be expected to weave gold out of straw.
Don’t: Heap unrealistic expectations on the new guy.
Sam Darnold looks like a bona fide franchise quarterback, but he’s got a lot of work to do before he gets there. The Jets need a good offseason focused on getting better parts on the roster to fit around Darnold. Even if they have a A+ draft and free agent spree, dynasties aren’t built overnight. Give the coach some breathing room in his first year.
Do: Hire someone who can hold his own at the table with the general manager.
The Bucs did not fire GM Jason Licht, so the new coach isn’t going to have much say on the personnel side of things. That’s important for one reason: Jameis Winston. The four-year veteran who just can’t break through is going to be back for a fifth year in 2019, and the new coach will be expected to win games with Winston at quarterback, no matter how inconsistent 2015’s No. 1 overall pick is.
So what the new guy has to do is be able to tell the team that it needs to cut bait on Winston when his contract ends after the season if things don’t work out. That’s not as easy as it sounds. General managers usually don’t like to be told the biggest draft pick of their career is a flop.
On the other hand, nothing sets an organization back like that doubling down on a bad draft pick, especially a quarterback.
Don’t: Hire someone who thinks they can fix Winston.
That ship has sailed, and it’s sure fire way for the quarterback to get a third coach fired. Do the best you can in 2019, hope you make it to 2020 and be ready to have some real talk about the team’s future at quarterback.