With a spate of firings shortly following the conclusion of the 2013 regular season, there are now six job openings across the NFL:
» Cleveland Browns (former coach Rob Chudzinski went 4-12 in one season).
» Detroit Lions (former coach Jim Schwartz went 29-51 in five seasons).
» Houston Texans (former coach Gary Kubiak went 61-64 in eight seasons).
» Minnesota Vikings (former coach Leslie Frazier went 21-32-1 in three-plus seasons).
» Tampa Bay Buccaneers (former coach Greg Schiano went 11-21 in two seasons).
» Washington Redskins (former coach Mike Shanahan went 24-40 in four seasons).
Given the current state of each franchise, which head-coaching vacancy is most attractive?
The Detroit Lions job screams immediate success to me. Matthew Stafford is an uber-talented young QB (he's just 25 years old and has five NFL seasons under his belt), while Calvin Johnson leads a good receiving corps and the offensive line has building blocks in left tackle Riley Reiff and right guard Larry Warford. Defensively, the Lions do not take a back seat to anyone on the front line, with a group that includes Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and rookie Ezekiel Ansah.
Talent oozes from this team -- talent good enough to make big waves in the NFC.
Cleveland has to be the most desirable spot. Here are five reasons why:
1) The new head coach will have two first-round draft picks to work with in 2014, one of which is very high.
2) In Brian Hoyer, the team has a solid veteran QB carrying a very low price tag -- meaning the new boss won't be forced to live through Geno Smith-esque ups and downs.
3) Expectations are so low in Cleveland at this point that if a head coach led the Browns to the playoffs, he'd pretty much be a civic hero.
4) The front office will not fire another new coach after just one season, even if he goes 2-14. So the new guy gets an automatic free pass right off the bat.
5) With Josh Gordon, Joe Thomas, Jordan Cameron, Joe Haden and a decent defense overall, the pieces are in place for this club to make a big jump from 4-12.
Believe it or not, if I'm a hot coaching candidate, this is the job I want. Think how much impact a successful head man could have on this organization -- and on the city as a whole.
If I'm a coach, give me that Detroit Lions roster any day. The common denominator of every other opening: issues at quarterback (even in Washington). Not so with the Lions, who have Matthew Stafford, a pretty nice receiver to go with him in Calvin Johnson, and plenty of talent on defense. Plus, they have the benefit of patient ownership and a ridiculously loyal fan base.
The Lions should have their pick of whoever they want.
Houston. Sure, there are questions at quarterback, but the Texans hold the No. 1 pick, which means the new coach could land a nice QB prospect to groom.
And beyond that position, there is talent all over the field. Some of that talent is older, but the chance to win early is there. Plus, ownership, management and the city are all first class.
The Detroit Lions job is the most appealing opening in the NFL. The roster is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, with a franchise quarterback (Matthew Stafford) signed for the long haul. Additionally, the team has a superstar receiver (Calvin Johnson) and a defensive front line that's the best in the business.
If a new coach can implement structure and discipline on both sides of the ball while also addressing a few holes in the secondary, I will expect the Lions to make a serious run at a playoff berth in 2014.
I think the Lions, Buccaneers and Texans offer very attractive opportunities for a variety of reasons. Detroit has a bunch of talent -- including a quarterback who has great natural ability but needs to be coached. Tampa has talent, too. But ultimately, I'd give the nod to Houston.
The Texans have a fantastic owner in Bob McNair and a strong general manager in Rick Smith. They hold the top overall pick in May, and the cupboard is far from empty. Heck, Houston was my preseason Super Bowl pick in the AFC. And the AFC South is still a relatively weak division. A new head coach with a hand-picked quarterback could have an Andy Reid/Alex Smith-like effect in Houston.
I like the Lions. They have a QB in Matthew Stafford who has Pro Bowl ability -- and enough additional talent on offense to be pretty good. (Though they do need a second receiver.) On defense, Detroit has the potential to be good on the line, but the secondary must improve.
Bottom line: The hardest thing to find in today's NFL is a quality QB, and the Lions have one.
Maybe it's the masochist in me, but if I were a hot-shot coaching candidate, I would love the opportunity to take over the Cleveland Browns. I would even put on a purple gingham shirt and have Jim Gray join me at the press conference announcing my decision to accept the gig.
The Browns job is attractive for a number of reasons. This city is starving for a winner -- anybody who could turn the team around would instantly join Paul Brown in Cleveland lore. The fans are fantastic. And you have Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron and a number of picks, as the Browns smartly traded away Trent Richardson. Because of all that, this job opening is the lead dog -- pun intended.
For me, this boils down to a very simple equation ...
Best non-QB player in football + top-eight (or so) talent at QB + highly pedigreed/potentially dominant D-line = Detroit Lions
Potential head coaches should line up to take over for Jim Schwartz in Detroit. Who wouldn't want to coach Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell? That offense is teeming with talent. Yes, there's a lot of pressure, but there's a lot of pressure for every job nowadays. It's not like it used to be, where you could take over the Browns or Jaguars and get 15 years to build a winner. Every team wants to win now, regardless of how realistic that plan is.
So if all of that's equal, you go to the team most ready to win in 2014. That's Detroit. Just one piece of advice to the new head coach ... Win the fans over early. Do not draft a wide receiver in the first round. You still need one -- just find him via free agency instead.