The three vacant NFL head coaching roles all have unique benefits and turn-offs to them.
Three different NFL head coaching vacancies have opened up in the middle of the 2020 season, as Dan Quinn, Bill O’Brien, and Matt Patricia were finally given their pink slips after underachieving throughout the season. While more firings are expected in the coming weeks, these three can get a head start on interviewing potential candidates.
Detroit, Houston, and Atlanta all have some enticing features for new components, but these three aren’t perfect openings by any means.
While all 3 NFL head coach openings have some attractive components, they have some thorns that make them less attractive
Pro: A former MVP at quarterback and elite skill position talent
The Falcons have plenty of problems on their roster right now, but talent on offense is not one of them. Even though he might not be playing at an MVP level anymore, Matt Ryan remains one of the better quarterbacks you’ll find in this league. If whoever gets hired as GM can bring back Todd Gurley, the combination of Ryan, Gurley, and Julio Jones on the outside should get anywhere with an offensive brain excited.
The Falcons’ winless stretch to begin the season was not due to their offense, as their secondary kept blowing leads. The lack of a quarterback and quality skill position players can doom head coaches out of the gate, but whichever coach the Falcons hire in 2021 will not have to wrestle with that problem given the surplus of talent.
Con: Defense needs an overhaul
It’s always worse when a flailing coach struggles to make his specialty a respected unit, and Quinn, the former Legion of Boom defensive coordinator in Seattle, was unable to make this defense any more than mediocre. This points to both a lack of schematic creativity and some serious holes in the construction of this roster.
Things have turned around under interim head coach Raheem Morris, as Atlanta hasn’t conceded more than 27 points since he took over, but that might be due to the fresh injection of new blood after Quinn was fired, and that momentum might dissipate over time. A patchwork defense could be a major anchor on Atlanta’s chances to contend in 2021, and that could force the best candidates to turn elsewhere.
Pro: Young talent on both sides of the ball
The Lions had to fire GM Bob Quinn when they booted Patricia, but to say that he did a completely terrible job of building this team is a bit unfair. The likes of D’Andre Swift and Jeff Okudah from the 2020 draft both look like future studs, and the offensive line will getting even better as Jonah Jackson continues to develop. While no one expected the Lions to contend this year, it’s clear Patricia was mismanaging this team, and a new coach armed with plenty of young talent and cap space could undo his mistakes.
If they can work on a deal to bring Kenny Golladay back as their featured No. 1 wide receiver, Detroit might have an offense that legitimately could strike fear into the rest of the NFC North, as their collection of youth will be the main selling point they can push towards any prospective coach.
Cons: Franchise history
Even after ownership changed hands last offseason, it only changed hands within the Ford family, and that should do little to change the momentum of a franchise that has only won one playoff game since 1958. As rough as this sounds, the Wayne Fontes era in the 90s were the “glory days” for this franchise of late.
Since Fontes, the Lions have hired 10 different coaches, a sign they will boot you out of town if you can’t turn things around soon. That might be offputting to several candidates, as the lack of stability and crushing expectations that are inherent in assuming the role of Lions head coach could lead them towards jobs where they’ll get a longer leash.
Pro: Deshaun Watson
The Texans might be one of the least attractive openings when one looks at everything except who is lining up under center. Watson remains on pace to set several personal passing records, all the while leading the entire league in yards per attempt. While Houston does have some good wide receivers, the fact that he’s doing this with a neophyte OC in Tim Kelly is a true testament to his quality. Houston already checked the difficult box by finding a franchise quarterback, now they just need to get better people around him.
In this league, great quarterback plan can patch over a ton of holes, and any coach would be comfortable tying the next few years of their career to someone in Watson who will likely end up in the Pro Bowl with regularity.
Cons: Everything that isn’t Deshaun Watson
This team doesn’t have a first or second-round pick next year. Outside of the one lineman they traded some of those picks for, the offensive line remains subpar. They traded away DeAndre Hopkins for pennies on the dollar. The team is currently being run by Jack Easterby, who has somehow risen from essentially a team chaplain to GM of an NFL team despite being woefully underqualified for this job. Tennessee and Indianapolis look like teams who will be well above-average for the next half-decade, and Jacksonville might take a franchise quarterback No. 2 overall. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.