Skip to main content

Possible head coaches with most to gain -- and lose

A little more than a year ago, the Buffalo Bills were forced out of their home stadium before a game with the New York Jets and forced to play halfway across the country in Michigan in a domed stadium away from the snow.

Then head coach Doug Marrone had to reorganize practice schedules on top of trying to dig his players out of a massive blizzard that coated the area.

Despite all this, the game ended up being a massive success and the Bills pummeled the Jets, 38-3. At the time, the Jets probably knew it wasn't going to work out with then-head coach Rex Ryan. Ryan said as much in later interviews. Owner Woody Johnson was also probably thinking about potential replacements and walked away impressed with Marrone and the way he handled a stressful situation. Marrone was one of the first very serious candidates Johnson talked to about the Jets job a few weeks later.

The point to all of this? As we reach the season's home stretch, owners have a good idea whether or not they will fire their coaches and are keeping an open mind about who is coming next. For some owners, it's the first time they are really digging in to the grunt work all year. For others, it is a period where they will refine a wish list already in progress.

In that spirit, here's a list of possible NFL coaching candidates who have the most to gain -- and lose -- over these next month (Note: This is a mix of informed opinion, previously published reports and pure opinion).

1. Hue Jackson, offensive coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals: For almost the entire season, Jackson has been brilliant and was one of the main reasons why Andy Dalton took a massive step forward. More than that, though, fellow coaches who have worked with and schemed against Jackson describe him as "brilliant." His knowledge of play design, which is grounded in solid matchup principles but expanded with an eye toward the future, are singling him out as a no doubt first call for many teams this winter. If he can keep Dalton rolling into the playoffs, it's only a matter of time.

2. Frank Reich, offensive coordinator, San Diego Chargers: Reich is reportedly in the mix for a college gig or two, but that doesn't change the fact that he's engineered a top-10 offense in the NFL this year. Reich is well liked around the league and many of his concepts are coveted and studied by fellow coordinators at the pro level. Reich interviewed for the Jets opening last winter and, despite a dismal record in San Diego this year, has only improved his credentials.

3. Adam Gase, offensive coordinator, Chicago Bears: Gase's offense put up 34 points on the Lions earlier this season in a Bears loss and will just so happen to face Detroit again to close out the season. Other teams with potential openings coming have also seen what he can do with Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery. This was viewed as an untenable situation for Gase just a few months after he slid off the coaching carousel. Teams have been eyeing him up to make the leap for more than two years now, and a strong finish by the Bears will only bolster those credentials. The Cleveland Brownsplan to interview Gase for their upcoming coaching vacancy, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

4. Sean McDermott, Mike Shula and Steve Wilks, defensive coordinator, offensive coordinator and assistant head coach, Carolina Panthers: Because this is a copycat league, there is no question one of Ron Rivera's big three will be plucked following their season and don't be surprised if all three field some phone calls for big openings. Carolina already rolled over the coach-needy Titans and close out their season with games against the Giants, who may also be looking this offseason.

5. Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, New England Patriots: We know that McDaniels is primed for his second chance, but what about a first opportunity for Patricia? According to one former co-worker, he's "an absolute genius," and has never lost the drive he felt as an undersized collegiate football player at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The wave of teams hiring anyone they can from Bill Belichick staffs has obviously cooled over the years, but don't be surprised to see that trend reverse this offseason. Belichick's staff has come to define versatility in the NFL, and owners will pay for any connection they can find.

6. Kyle Shanahan, offensive coordinator, Atlanta Falcons: Right now, the Falcons are on the outside looking in after a white-hot start to the season. Shanahan's ability to get Julio Jones the ball will certainly be attractive for owners looking to light up their passing game. His pedigree, while something that Shanahan has always tried to distance himself from as he forges his own path, is impeccable. Consistency is an issue, yes, but the Falcons are still a top-10 offense.

7. Anthony Lynn, assistant head coach, Buffalo Bills:NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport listed Lynn as one of his surprise candidates for this offseason, but for those who have coached against Lynn's position players (running backs) this should not be a shock. Lynn did a great job developing rookie Karlos Williams this year and was a major factor in LeSean McCoy's transition to Buffalo. Lynn has been an assistant head coach in two different spots under Rex Ryan now and interviewed for offensive coordinator openings in Cleveland and Jacksonville last year. The Bills edged the Titans and thumped the Dolphins earlier this year, and as the team continues to make the most out of their offense on the ground, don't expect his name to remain a secret for very long.

8. Harold Goodwin, offensive coordinator, Arizona Cardinals: There is a lot to like about a coach who has spent almost a decade working with Bruce Arians. Goodwin's knowledge and expertise is grounded in offensive line play, but Goodwin has been designing run concepts for the Cardinals offense since 2013. Add in the fact that he's also being mentored under the wings of Tom Moore, and you have a candidate that absolutely deserves an interview. Goodwin's ground unit has put up more than 100 yards on all but four opponents this season, including the Browns, 49ers, Lions and Rams.

9. Doug Marrone, assistant head coach, offensive line coach, Jacksonville Jaguars: Marrone, the former Bills head coach, is expected to be interviewed for the Browns' upcoming head-coaching vacancy, Rapoport reported.

10. Teryl Austin, defensive coordinator, Detroit Lions: Austin is expected to be interviewed for the Browns' upcoming head-coaching vacancy, according to Rapoport.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content