From the sideline to the unemployment lines, NFL head coaches have tough jobs.
There are only 32 head coaching jobs in the NFL, so guys can’t get too picky over the situation. While the 2021 job openings may have offered several intriguing jobs, the pick of the litter in 2022 isn’t as ideal.
There’s currently eight available jobs, with a ninth yet to come, if the Raiders choose to move on from Rich Bisaccia. Sean Payton surprisingly created an opening when he elected to step away from the Saints on Jan. 25, and the spot instantly became the worst opening in football.
So, of the half-dozen openings across the NFL right now, here’s how desirable they are, from least to most:
8. New Orleans Saints
General manager: Mickey Loomis
Projected cap space: (~$74 million)
2022 NFL Draft picks: Eight
Sean Payton got out at juuuust the right time. The team has the worst cap situation in the NFL, with no clear solution in the immediate.
Speaking of no clear solutions, the team has no real option for franchise QB on the roster (sorry, Taysom Hill) and the 2022 NFL Draft might not offer any answers either when the Saints’ first-round pick rolls around.
The Saints played kick-the-can with a lot of their contracts, but now it looks like they may not have an option but to trade away some of their higher-priced, quality veteran players for cap relief this offseason. That, coupled with the QB situation, means the Saints may have a long road back to contention, even in a division that’s projected to be a bit weaker in 2022. That’s going to be incredibly difficult for anyone not named “Sean Payton” to navigate.
7. New York Giants
General manager: Joe Schoen (Hired Jan. 25.)
Projected cap space: (~$3 million)
2022 NFL Draft picks: Nine
This might be the worst state the Giants franchise has been in in quite some time.
They have plenty of draft picks to kick off a new era right, but their cap situation isn’t ideal, the offense is broken and the defense is pricy and just above average.
With Dave Gettleman retiring and Joe Judge both getting the Big Blue boot, the Giants are going to have to take a long, hard look at their organization and hit the reset button, something they haven’t done in a long time.
There are so, so many questions for new GM Joe Schoen to answer:
- What will they do with Daniel Jones?
- What will become of Saquon Barkley?
- How long will this rebuild take?
The Giants have two top-10 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, so Schoen has his work cut out for him in what will — and should — be Year 1 of a total rebuild. While most of those questions fall on the GM, the head coach will still have to get the most out of whatever Schoen puts on the field in 2022.
The Jones question is the most pressing: While Jones has flashed and shown signs of being a good quarterback, his injury and turnovers issues over three seasons in the league don’t paint a particularly promising picture moving forward. Any GM coming in would be smart to look at the crosstown rival Jets and the Sam Darnold situation for inspiration.
The Jets? Setting an example?
That’s the state of New York football, folks.
6. Minnesota Vikings
General manager: Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (Hired Jan. 26.)
Projected cap space: (~$14 million)
2022 NFL Draft picks: Eight
The Vikings aren’t necessarily a quick or easy fix. To that end, the opening might be the worst of the bunch, but that doesn’t make it a bad job, necessarily.
Kirk Cousins and the Vikings could be a win-now team with a win-now coach in 2022, but after that, there could be a full rebuild on the horizon. It starts with the Viking’s cap situation: Minnesota has lived in cap space hell for the better part of the last five years. With Rick Spielman out, it’ll be on new GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to figure out the Vikings’ cap situation, something that’s easier said than done, even with top-heavy deals on the books.
At the top of that list is quarterback Kirk Cousins: Cousins, who will be in the final year of his two-year, $66M extension, which is fully guaranteed. Cousins is poised to earn $35M next season, which includes a $10M signing bonus. There no real way to avoid paying him big money. They’ll be one of the more interesting teams to watch this offseason, and the new head coach (and GM) will have their hands full.
The new coach will have an opportunity to push the Vikings to the playoffs for one more year before they need to figure out the future, making for a tough situation for any potentially unproven commodity.
5. Houston Texans
General manager: Nick Caserio
Projected cap space: ~$17 million
2022 NFL Draft picks: Seven
The Texans have a first-round pick for the first time since 2019, which is a good thing. Who will be throwing the ball, though, is still a question.
With the Deshaun Watson situation still unresolved, GM Nick Caserio is going to have to orchestrate something with the QB position this offseason. Davis Mills had a surprisingly good first season getting starts for the Texans, leading to some believing he’ll get another fair shake in his sophomore season.
That boon in future draft capital, plus a team that looked a little bit more competitive than some thought, may make the Texans a more intriguing landing spot for a head coach. They’re closer than people think they are, but not quite at the level of contention just yet.
4. Miami Dolphins
General manager: Chris Grier
Projected cap space: ~$75 million
2022 NFL Draft picks: Seven
The Dolphins surprisingly moving on from Brian Flores opens up a pretty attractive position in South Beach.
The cupboard isn’t exactly barren: Jaylen Waddle proved to be a standout wide receiver in Year 1 and Tua Tagovailoa seemingly earned the confidence of the owner and the GM in Year 2. While owner Stephen Ross has been candid about his desire to avoid Deshaun Watson, whether it’s Watson at the end of the tunnel or Tua, Miami’s new head coach won’t have to worry about a passer.
Instead, the next head coach will have to figure out the rest of Miami’s offense and build on a promising 8-1 finish that Brian Flores had to close out the 2021-22 campaign. Those are tough shoes to fill.
3. Denver Broncos
General manager: George Paton
Projected cap space: ~$48 million
2022 NFL Draft picks: Seven
The Broncos are a readymade, ready-to-win organization right now. Well, aside from one teeny, tiny issue …
… Who’s playing quarterback?
Vic Fangio was dismissed at the conclusion of the regular season, partly due to Denver’s underperforming offense with both quarterbacks Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater. The Broncos have way, way too much offensive talent to be stuck in thee bottom third of the league in most major offensive categories.
The Broncos have ample cap space before any pending cost cuts in the coming months, putting them in very good position to keep their competitive window open. It’ll be on Paton and the next head coach to figure out the quarterback spot, something they may address in the 2022 NFL Draft.
2. Chicago Bears
General manager: Ryan Poles (Hired Jan. 25.)
Projected cap space: ~$43 million
2022 NFL Draft picks: Five
There are several reasons why the Bears job is one of the most appealing in the NFL right now.
First: A near-total organizational reset. New general manager Ryan Poles getting to pick his own head coach instantly lends some good synergy in the building. While they won’t get to pick their own quarterback (unless something goes really, really wrong with the Justin Fields evaluation), the guy they have under center has plenty of potential to get potential candidates salivating.
The biggest hurdle right now is the lack of a first-round draft pick, which was sent to the Giants in the trade that landed Fields. If Fields turns out to be the real deal — 2021 was something of a wash for him, given the situation — then that missing first-rounder won’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.
On defense, the Bears have plenty of playmakers and enough cap space to try and attack it this offseason. They have work to do to bring in legitimate skill positiont talent, but they’re not as far away as the Matt Nagy era may lead one to believe.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
General manager: Trent Baalke
Projected cap space: ~$72 million
2022 NFL Draft picks: 10
The Jaguars having the best available job two seasons in a row? What world is this?
While owner Shad Khan is typically a patient guy when it comes to head coaching, he ripped the Urban Meyer Band-Aid off midway through the season, kickstarting the search for their new coach.
The next Jaguars hire is absolutely crucial to the next five-plus years of what’s going to happen in Jacksonville: With Trevor Lawrence in place, the new boss is going to have to reset the QB and cleanse the Meyer stench out of the organization. That’s not an easy task, but at least they’ll have all the assets to do it, either by free agency or by draft.
The small hurdle that the next head coach will have to clear is the GM already being in place. Baalke has something of a mixed reputation in the league, and being hired after Meyer in 2021 means he may have been the choice of the unemployed former coach, still leaving a bit of that weird dysfunction in Jacksonville.