Before we get ahead of ourselves, let me first say this: Every open job in the NFL is, by definition, a good job. There are only 32 of them in the world, and in most cases, if they were any better, they wouldn't be available in the first place.
The structure of the NFL is also such that there aren't really any automatic "career-killers" the way people used to talk about certain jobs in the college ranks. But if you should find yourself fortunate enough to choose your destination -- the currently open jobs being with the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers -- here are some very basic criteria you can use to arrive at your preference:
Who has the best talent?
This is one of the first things you think about -- and yet, it's fool's gold, simply because of the way it can change with a single free-agent defection, offseason cap casualty or crucial injury. Few teams had more talent going into 2016 than the Minnesota Vikings, who were picked by many (myself included) to compete for a Super Bowl championship. They lost their franchise quarterback in the preseason, then added their All-Pro running back to injured reserve just four weeks later. Sprinkle in some injuries to the offensive line, and the Vikings' available talent diminished to very average as they went from playoff favorites to also-rans.
With that caveat, Denver would appear to be the best job based on overall talent, but the Rams also have a fairly appealing roster, with the likes of running back Todd Gurley and some key foundational building blocks on the defensive side of the ball. Jacksonville certainly has flashed talent from its young skill players, and Buffalo still has some appealing skill-position options, starting with LeSean McCoy and the league's top-ranked rushing attack.
But choosing a job based on the makeup of the current 53-man roster is very short-sighted. Rosters in the NFL are highly fluid, and any depth chart you're looking at today will be churned before players report for their first OTA.
The best you can do, from a personnel perspective, is focus on the most important position ...
Who has the best quarterback?
If you're comparing apples to apples and asking which available job comes with the best quarterback today, San Diego is the obvious choice. But comparing Philip Rivers -- a 35-year-old veteran -- to, say, a 22-year-old Paxton Lynch, who has just a handful of true game snaps in Denver, is hardly fair. How long does Rivers want to continue to play? How long can he play effectively? What is the upside to Lynch? How long will it take for him to realize his potential? Similarly, you can study the tape of Los Angeles' Jared Goff and Jacksonville's Blake Bortles, but without being in the same building as them, understanding how they learn and process information, it's hard to make a truly educated decision as to which first-round quarterback is the best to hitch your wagon to. At that point, it's no better than drafting a new quarterback, which we have seen is anything but a sure thing.
The next phase when critiquing a quarterback situation -- and certainly in the case of the San Francisco 49ers, who hold the second overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft -- is gauging the current draft class at the position. And when it comes to the Niners job, you have to operate under the assumption that the Browns, who have the first overall pick, could select the QB you value the most. In that case, you have to be just as comfortable with the second-rated quarterback on your board -- if you are, the 49ers gig becomes much more attractive.
For the Bills, that evaluation is much more difficult, as they seemingly won't have a shot at the "top-tier" quarterbacks with the 10th overall pick, given that QB-needy times like the Browns, 49ers, Bears and Jets all pick before them. Buffalo has reached for quarterbacks in the past, which is why EJ Manuel (taken 16th overall in 2013) is sitting on the roster. And the Bills remain in a strange place with their starter of the last two years, Tyrod Taylor.
Before you start in with the examples of how you can be successful without drafting a quarterback in the first round -- such as the Patriots with Tom Brady (a sixth-round pick), the Seahawks with Russell Wilson (third round), the Cowboys with Dak Prescott (fourth round) and even the Bengals with Andy Dalton (second round) -- know I can provide examples of multiple failures in the corresponding rounds to go with every one of your later-round drafting successes. (Were the Cowboys smart to take Prescott? Sure, but also keep in mind that they went into that round preferring Connor Cook, who was off the board when their pick came around. Sometimes, you get lucky.)
What is the salary-cap situation?
This one is fluid, because of the bump that everyone is going to experience this year in the cap. As it stands now, San Francisco is the best job, because the Niners are second only to Cleveland in terms of cap space, according to overthecap.com, though this also is representative of the paucity of talent on the roster. Jacksonville is sixth, L.A. is 15th, Denver is 18th and Buffalo is 24th.
Who is the general manager?
The relationship between head coach and general manager is like a marriage. You must be able to be honest with each other out loud, be on the same page in terms of strategy and nurture the relationship -- otherwise, a professional divorce is likely, if not inevitable. In this regard, San Francisco -- the only team to have fired both its coach and GM -- may provide the best solution, because it is the only one in which you will come in at the same time as a new GM, with the entire rebuilding process beginning anew. (The most recent blueprint for how this can function was the Chiefs' hiring of coach Andy Reid and GM John Dorsey during the same offseason, with Dorsey getting the job in part because he knew and had a good relationship with Reid.)
The GMs of Buffalo (Doug Whaley), San Diego (Tom Telesco) and Los Angeles (Les Snead) could be gone next year, with the entire process starting over again, with or (more often) without the present coach in the picture, regardless of when he was hired. Even when it comes to someone like Jacksonville's David Caldwell, who, on the surface, appears to have done pretty well in the draft, you never truly know what is taking place behind closed doors. Denver seems to have the most stability with John Elway in place, but in Denver, you must be ready to clear every decision with a legendary, revered, hands-on GM, and that can be a difficult thing in an industry with big egos like the NFL.
Who is the owner?
Every owner is going to have individual quirks and personality traits that may or may not be appealing, but I'm not really referring to that in this sense. I'm referring to the history of stability and the proven pattern in which football decisions are made.
Is the team like the Cleveland Browns, who have changed coaches and GMs as often as college teams change uniforms? Or is it like the Pittsburgh Steelers, who allow the process to play itself out and the maturation to take place (and who have employed precisely three head coaches, all of whom have Super Bowls on their résumés, since 1969)?
From this perspective, it is hard to ignore the ownership in Jacksonville, as Shad Khan gave former coach Gus Bradley more than a fair shot in his four seasons there. A more impulsive owner would have fired Bradley after his second season, with just seven wins to 25 losses, and certainly after his third season, when the Jaguars posted just five wins.
Meanwhile, San Francisco and Buffalo are the worst, if you consider that the 49ers are changing coaches for the third straight January, while the Bills fired Rex Ryan only two seasons after then-head coach Doug Marrone decided to walk, based on a clause in his contract (which was a red flag in itself, by the way). Oddly, the 49ers might also be the best of the best in this area -- at this very moment -- because they simply can't continue being this restless without being crucified by the fans and the media as the real problem. More than any other team with a coaching vacancy, the Niners need to give whomever they hire three years at the helm.
What's the divisional competition?
Jacksonville again jumps to the top because of the AFC South -- which was won by the Texans, one of the worst playoff teams we've seen since realignment in 2002 -- being in such disarray. The Broncos and Chargers are near the bottom in this category, because both the Chiefs and Raiders have built such solid foundations in the AFC West. The Rams and 49ers have to compete with the Cardinals, a playoff contender for as long as Carson Palmer is still playing, and also the Seahawks, who have entered each of the past three seasons as heavy Super Bowl favorites, in the NFC West.
And then, of course, there are the Bills, who play in the AFC East, which has been won by the Patriots in 13 of the last 14 seasons. For that reason alone, the Bills job becomes less attractive. All else being equal, a coach is going to look better if he doesn't have to coach against Bill Belichick twice a year.