The ideal head coaching candidate for each of the NFL’s seven openings


The New York Giants’ firing of Joe Judge on Tuesday evening brought the NFL’s total head coaching vacancies to seven.

Thus far, the Raiders, Jaguars, Broncos, Bears, Dolphins, Vikings and Giants have openings.

Other openings to keep an eye on: Houston, where David Culley is coming off his first season. Though Culley had little to work with, rumors have swirled that the Texans could look to start over yet again. And there’s Seattle, where the Seahawks face an uncertain future both at head coach and quarterback. Some NFL insiders believe that if Russell Wilson does demand a trade this offseason, that Pete Carroll could wind up retiring rather than starting over with a new quarterback.

But for now, the openings sit at seven.

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The interview process has begun for many teams and likely will continue for the next several weeks. The ownership and management teams of these squads are casting wide nets, with candidates of varying degrees of experience receiving consideration.

Every hiring cycle seems to follow a trend. In recent years, it’s the young, offensive minds that teams have snatched up. But sometimes teams roll with proven commodities, hiring candidates with prior head coaching experience.

These are the ideal candidates for each of the seven current coaching vacancies, according to USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Jones:

Las Vegas Raiders: Rich Bisaccia

The interim head coach brought stability to the franchise when it was reeling from Jon Gruden’s email scandal and subsequent resignation and former first-round pick Henry Ruggs’ dismissal after he was charged with DUI following a car crash that claimed a woman’s life. Everyone who has ever worked with Bisaccia has said that he would be a good head coach if given the chance because of his ability to communicate, his ability to get men to buy into his vision and his attention to the details.

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The Raiders fought their way out of a hole and into the playoffs and have some momentum thanks to a four-game winning streak. Their 10-7 finish marks their best record and first postseason berth in five years. The Raiders will do their due diligence, but very well could stay put, and for good reason. The deeper the Raiders go in the playoffs, the better Bisaccia’s chances are of locking up this job.

Las Vegas Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia during December’s game against the Denver Broncos.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Jim Caldwell

The veteran offensive coordinator/quarterback whisperer helped Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford produce some of their best work; he also has had success as a head coach, even guiding the Lions to two playoff appearances in four years. The Jaguars need a calming presence, a strong leader and an experienced mind to help get the most out of Trevor Lawrence. The Jaguars are casting a wide net, but few boast a resume that rivals Caldwell’s.

Alternative pick: Former Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich, who is the offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He would bring a new energy and serve as a good sounding board for Lawrence and likely fill out his staff with a strong veteran presence.

Jim Caldwell, seen here in 2017 during his time as head coach of the Detroit Lions.

Denver Broncos: Dan Quinn

The former Atlanta Falcons coach landed the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator position this year and has overseen dramatic improvement from historically bad to a big-play, game-changing unit.

Quinn brings experience both as a head coach and coordinator, and would help a young, talented defense take another step forward.

Alternative pick: Green Bay offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, a talented offensive mind who has a strong relationship with Aaron Rodgers, who may or may not be going anywhere in the offseason.

Minnesota Vikings: Marvin Lewis

Off the sidelines since 2018, when he was fired after 16 seasons (and seven playoff appearances) in Cincinnati, Lewis wants back in the NFL. He has spent the last two years working as a consultant/assistant coach of sorts for Herm Edwards at Arizona State.

Lewis possesses an ability to blend young and old talent together while getting them to work toward a common goal. He would bring a freshness, but also a degree of familiarity while upgrading the defense of the Vikings because the system Mike Zimmer ran for eight years as head coach came largely from Lewis, under whom Zimmer coached in Cincinnati.

Marvin Lewis, seen here in his final season with the Bengals in 2018.

Chicago Bears: Leslie Frazier

The longtime coach and current Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator boasts one of the most extensive resumes of any coach on the market. Frazier is a strong leader with a steady demeanor.

He was also a member of the Bears’ 1985 Super Bowl-winning team and led the team with six interceptions that season. So, he understands the Bears’ tradition and the brand of football the fanbase longs to return to.

Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

Miami Dolphins: Jim Harbaugh

Owner Stephen Ross claims that he’s not taking Jim Harbaugh away from their alma mater, Michigan. But few people in the NFL believe that. Ross had interest in Harbaugh in the past and once the dust settles from Brian Flores’ firing, he could make another run at the former NFL quarterback. As head coach of the 49ers, Harbaugh guided San Francisco to three NFC championship appearances and a runner-up finish in Super Bowl 47, where Harbaugh lost 34-31 to his brother, John, and the Ravens.

Alternative pick: Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, a creative offensive mind with coordinator stints with four different NFL teams and Alabama, would be good for young quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, if the Dolphins continue to roll with the 2020 first-round pick.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh during the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31.

New York Giants: Raheem Morris

The L.A. Rams defensive coordinator, Morris was born just 20 minutes away from MetLife Stadium and knows Giants tradition well. He also boasts quite the extensive resume. Morris, 45, became an NFL head coach ( with the Buccaneers) at the age of 33 and led them to a 10-win campaign in 2010. He has since served as defensive backs coach in Washington, wide receivers coach in Atlanta, a passing-game coordinator on offense, a defensive coordinator and interim head coach of the Falcons before joining L.A.’s staff this season. Passionate and high-energy, Morris connects well with players and is big on relationship-building.

Alternative pick: Brian Flores is a Brooklyn native who has four Super Bowl rings as an assistant in New England and directed the Dolphins toward improvement in his three seasons as head coach. However, because Judge (another former Patriots assistant) failed, the Giants could hesitate to go back to the New England well.

Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris during training camp in August.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL head coach openings: The best candidate for every job vacancy



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