Over the years, various available head-coaching jobs have been described as "just right," like gift wines: If they were any better, they would not be available, and if they were any worse, you would not take them. Many of the seven current vacancies in the NFL fit that description.
But first off, know this: Every head-coaching job in the NFL is a good one. There are no career-killing, can't-win jobs, like there are in some places in major college football. With today's free agency and the ability to transform your roster quickly, there is potential in every job. And, of course, these 32 jobs are hard to come by.
Having said that, it's also true that some jobs carry more potential upside, while other jobs carry more potential headaches. Typically, a list of the best jobs available would simply mirror which teams have the best quarterback or best potential for getting a quarterback in the draft. Four of the seven jobs already have an appealing QB in place (Eli Manning in New York, Ryan Tannehill in Miami, Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay and Marcus Mariota in Tennessee).
Chuck Pagano struck gold when he was hired by Indianapolis, holding the No. 1 overall pick in 2012, with wunderkind signal caller Andrew Luck highlighting the draft pool. No such scenario exists this year for any of the current vacancies. The three teams that don't have a quarterback hold high enough draft positions, in theory, to get one: Cleveland at No. 2, San Francisco at No. 7 and Philadelphia at No. 13. The question that remains is if any of the quarterbacks available in the 2016 NFL Draft are worthy of being picked early. From where I stand now, there might be one, or perhaps even two. There aren't three.
Of the available jobs, as of this writing, here is how I stack them up, with the pros and cons of each gig listed below:
1) New York Giants
This is the crown jewel of football coaching jobs. Stable ownership with a vast institutional knowledge -- this operation is run by one of the truly revered families in the NFL. When you add the presence of a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Eli Manning, this job is clearly the most coveted position. However, let the buyer beware: Expectations begin at a very high level, and whoever takes the position will be trying to coach at the very epicenter of the sports media universe. John McVay, who coached the Giants for three seasons in the late '70s, cautioned me years ago, "New York can suck the coaching life out of you."
» Franchise quarterback.
» Patient and loyal ownership.
» Good amount of cap space.
» That franchise quarterback is 35.
» Expectations and demands on the head coach are greater here than anywhere else in the NFL.
» The roster needs more of a makeover than is generally perceived, especially on defense.
2) Philadelphia Eagles
It will surprise some people that I have the Eagles gig listed this high. But in addition to solid ownership, they actually have assets on both sides of the ball, including a quarterback in Sam Bradford who could prosper in the right offense (especially if he can hand off to DeMarco Murray 20 times a game). Like Alex Smith in his early years with San Francisco, Bradford is a former No. 1 overall pick who's been particularly unlucky, changing systems far too often. Bradford is set to hit free agency this offseason, but people need to see what he can do in the same scheme two or three years in a row. The division itself is in transition, with two aging quarterbacks in Manning and Tony Romo.
» Solid ownership.
» Enticing assets in place -- especially compared to the rest of the NFC East.
» Fan base that will embrace a winning head coach.
» Nagging questions about Bradford, and what it will cost to keep him in the fold.
» Fuzziness about the management structure going forward.
» Not in spectacular cap shape.
» Next to New York, the toughest media market in the NFL.
3) Miami Dolphins
There's an up-and-coming quarterback who still has some things to learn. There's an owner, Stephen Ross, who is willing to spend, though the money has not been prudently spent the last few years. The division offers an opportunity: Tom Brady can't play forever -- and Ryan Tannehill is the best young quarterback in AFC East.
» Willing ownership.
» Quarterback with promise.
» Have only been in the playoffs once since 2002, so expectations are reasonable.
» Lots of management churn in recent years.
» Team hasn't really had an identity since Dan Marino retired in 2000.
» You're competing, twice a year, against the best coach (Bill Belichick) in pro football.
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Surprise entry in the coaching carousel. Appears to have cleared Lovie Smith out to keep OC Dirk Koetter from going to another team. Reminds me of when the St Louis Rams pushed Dick Vermeil out the door so as not to lose Mike Martz. This is an attractive job due to promising young QB Jameis Winston. The new coach will need to rework an underperforming defense.
» Franchise quarterback.
» Low expectations.
5) Tennessee Titans
But for the questions regarding future ownership, this job would be much higher on the list. The Titans have a good-looking young quarterback in Marcus Mariota, a defense that finished 12th in yards allowed and the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and they compete in a division (the AFC South) that's rarely top-heavy. Also, the media environment is friendly and patient.
» Young quarterback with significant upside.
» Solid defensive core.
» Manageable media and fan base.
» Winnable division each year.
» Franchise that could be sold.
» A void at the GM level.
» Ownership seems reluctant to spend to the cap.
6) San Francisco 49ers
This is a storied franchise that will always be attractive. It has a well-meaning ownership that has to carry around a legacy of great expectations. The roster is still in transition, and there might not be a quick fix in what could well be the toughest division (the NFC West) in football.
» Progressive ownership that is connected and hands-on.
» Some room to work with, cap-wise.
» Handsome new stadium and strong market.
7) Cleveland Browns
I've never been one to be superstitious or believe in curses, but the Browns are snakebit enough to make you consider the possibility.
The biggest factors in their favor are the NFL's mechanisms for ensuring competitive balance, as well as the sheer law of averages. At some point, things have to turn for the better, don't they?
Johnny Manziel has, in his first two years, shown all the traits of a really entertaining Arena League quarterback. But in the modern NFL, you need a QB dedicated -- to an obsessive level -- to the game, and to studying, and to his teammates. It's safe to say Manziel has fallen well short of this standard.
The biggest thing going for any coach coming into this situation is that you truly get to start from scratch and have zero expectations. This organization has been to the playoffs once since re-launching in 1999. There are also no free spaces for the Browns, as they compete in the AFC North, a division with as much stability at head coach, management and quarterback as any in the NFL.
» The sky is the limit, and when this team does succeed again, it will be one of the best stories in sports.
» Some real talent on the defensive side of the ball.
» A whole lot of cap space.
» A fan base -- and an organization -- that is beaten down and discouraged.
» An offense that is woefully short of skill-position weapons.
» Stiff competition within the division; you have to be real good just to be competitive.