Rex Ryan leads top nine head-coaching candidates

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Every week, Chris Wesseling will roll out the power rankings for one specific NFL position or attribute.

So far, we have covered running backs, safeties, red-zone threats, throwing arms, quarter-pole surprises, quarter-pole disappointments, franchise cornerstones, players deserving of Pro Bowl consideration, best free-agent pickups, biggest free-agent flops, rookie classes, Comeback Player of the Year candidates, 2015 free agents, position groups and Defensive Player of the Year candidates.

With Week 17 wrapped up, we turn our attention to the top head-coaching candidates from around the NFL.

1. Rex Ryan, Jets coach: Owner Woody Johnson quickly cut the cord Monday on Ryan and general manager John Idzik. Although Ryan has been undone by his almost willful disregard for offense and inability to identify coaches capable of developing quarterbacks, he's still respected as one of the game's premier defensive minds. John Fox, a coach with a similar profile, has succeeded with the help of a franchise quarterback in Denver.

2. Todd Bowles, Cardinals defensive coordinator: With maniacal blitzes and creative scheming, Bowles has fashioned an island of misfit toys into one of the NFL's most overachieving defenses. Bowles offers experience as an interim head coach with the Dolphins in 2011 and has interviewed for openings in each of the past few seasons. The Cardinals have already acknowledged Bowles will be one of the hot candidates in January.

3. Dan Quinn, Seahawks defensive coordinator: The Seahawks stand atop the NFL's defensive rankings in points and yards 10 months after Quinn cooked up one of the best game plans in Super Bowl history. Quinn is one of the main reasons pass rusher Michael Bennett boasted recently that Seattle is now home to the greatest defense ever to hit the gridiron. If Quinn draws interest around the league, Pete Carroll will have no qualms about nudging his top lieutenant out of the nest.

4. Teryl Austin, Lions defensive coordinator: In his first year as coordinator, Austin's Detroit defense is second only to Quinn's in points and yards thanks to his aggressive, player-friendly approach. Chairman John Wooten has said Austin will be one of the top-three minority candidates the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation will submit to NFL teams with coaching vacancies this off-season. Austin is "absolutely" open to interviews next month.

5. Adam Gase, Broncos offensive coordinator: One of the NFL's bright, young offensive minds, Gase turned down an opportunity to interview for the Browns' job last January, focusing instead on Denver's Super Bowl run. Former Rams coach Mike Martz believes Gase is excellent at scheming matchup advantages, which would help a team with a young quarterback in need of a guiding hand.

6. Hue Jackson, Bengals offensive coordinator: In addition to his semi-successful stint as Raiders head coach, Jackson has plenty of experience developing quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers at the college and pro level. Despite injuries to Marvin Jones, Tyler Eifert and A.J. Green, he has kept Cincinnati's offense afloat thanks to a strong rushing attack and crafty game plans. One concern for prospective teams: Andy Dalton's regression in Jackson's first season replacing Jay Gruden.

7. Darrell Bevell, Seahawks offensive coordinator: Bevell worked with Brett Favre in Green Bay and Minnesota before helping to develop Russell Wilson in Seattle. He's also had the good fortune to work with two of the best running backs of the past decade in Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch. After spending the offseason tinkering with Wilson and Percy Harvin, Bevell has found himself leaning on Lynch and a passing attack that relies on Wilson's extraordinary improvisational skills. How will interested teams interpret that temporary identity crisis?

8. Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator: Not ready to become a head coach at age 33, McDaniels crashed and burned with the Broncos in 2010. He has rehabilitated his image as an offensive specialist since returning to New England four years ago. Although he's viewed as a quarterback guru, McDaniels was not able to develop a handpicked Tim Tebow or former No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford. There is also speculation that he is not all that eager to leave his station as Bill Belichick's right-hand man.

9. Mike Shanahan, free agent: Will NFL teams view Shanahan in a different light after Jay Gruden went through similar struggles with Robert Griffin III this season? The former Broncos and Redskins coach is interested in coaching again, but only for the right organization with a roster ready to contend. The problem is those teams don't tend to have head-coaching vacancies.

Other names to watch: Jim Schwartz, Gary Kubiak, Pep Hamilton, Kyle Shanahan, Norv Turner, Mike Singletary

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Week 17 game and debates the MVP race between Aaron Rodgers and J.J. Watt. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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