While there haven't been any big surprise firings, it's rare to see so many big names and franchises in upheaval. Jim Harbaugh will now be a rock star college coach, but Rex Ryan figures to have opportunities at the pro level. The jobs that are now available don't come around every year. Two of them feature young, quality franchise quarterbacks. San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Oakland are all high profile gigs in major markets.
To put it another way: This is a great year to be looking for a job. Here's how we'd rank the available vacancies in terms of attractiveness:
1. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons have what any prospective coach wants first: A franchise quarterback in his prime. Matt Ryan did not play well in Week 17, but he was a top-10 quarterback all season. The Falcons have one of the best wide receivers in the league, a young left tackle in Jake Matthews, and a great young cornerback in Desmond Trufant.
There are plenty of problems on the roster, especially on defense. But the Falcons are in good shape at a lot of the high-leverage positions. Just as important, the Falcons have generally been a well-run, patient franchise under Blank. It's an organization that is not afraid to spend money to win. General manager Thomas Dimitroff has made his share of misfires lately, but he was named the "Executive of the Year" twice by the Sporting News. You can work with him.
The icing on the cake in Atlanta: You are taking over a talented team coming off two losing seasons. There is room to grow in a lousy division. The pressure will not be as intense as it is in places like ...
2. San Francisco 49ers
On one hand, it's rare that a job like this comes open. Colin Kaepernick's raw talent cannot be denied. He's proven that he can carry a team in the playoffs and he's only 27 years old. There is talent throughout the roster from tackle Joe Staley to tight end Vernon Davis to linebackers Chris Borland, Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis. It's a rock solid roster and a good coaching staff in place to retain if you wanted.
Bill Parcells was always careful to take over rebuilding projects with promise when they had hit bottom. Jim Harbaugh had a 49-22 record in San Francisco and it won't be easy to replace the man who turned the franchise around. While general manager Trent Baalke has an excellent track record, it will be difficult to win consistently in a division with Bruce Arians and Pete Carroll.
In short: This is a high risk, high reward gig. There is potential for a Super Bowl or a quick firing by an organization that believes they are still on the cusp of winning titles.
3. Oakland Raiders
It feels strange to rank the Raiders so high with the spectre of Los Angeles looming, not to mention the previous decade of relentless losing. But this Oakland team is in better shape at the moment than any point since their last playoff appearance.
Linebacker Khalil Mack looks like a perennial Pro Bowler. Quarterback Derek Carr has a chance to be a quality starter. The talent level, especially on defense, has improved lately. They are not that far away from being competitive and general manager Reggie McKenzie is coming off an excellent draft.
McKenzie will be part of the coaching search and looks likely to be on the job this year. His struggles in free agency can't be ignored since his arrival. Still, owner Mark Davis and McKenzie have laudably cleaned up their dire salary cap situation. They are in good position to improve and any coach that turns the Raiders around will be viewed as a God in the Bay Area. The attractiveness of the job comes down to what a coach thinks of Carr. If he's the real deal, this Raiders job could be a diamond in the rough.
4. Chicago Bears
Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett and Jay Cutler make a decent fantasy team. But do the Bears have much potential in reality? There aren't a lot of promising pieces on defense to build around, but the offensive line is in relatively good shape. Cutler has gone through four offensive coordinators and two coaches since arriving in Chicago in 2009. The team's new general manager and coach will have to decide whether they keep Cutler or try to give him away in a trade.
The Bears are a storied franchise that rarely goes through prolonged periods of losing. The town wants a winner badly and is stuck in the same division as Aaron Rodgers for the foreseeable future. This will be a challenging gig, and its potential will depend in large part on the team's next general manager.
5. New York Jets
The bigger problem in New York is a familiar one. They have a decent young quarterback in Geno Smith that would look a lot better as a 1B option than someone you want starting games next season. It won't be easy to find a quarterback in free agency. Still, it's not a roster totally lacking talent.
Percy Harvin, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Eric Decker and Nick Mangold are nice offensive pieces. Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson are stars on the defensive line. Owner Woody Johnson has struggled to build a consistent winner and the organization seems to change plans every year or two, often based on public pressure. The defense could backslide without Rex Ryan calling plays, and fans could resent any coach that is less dynamic than Rex. (So basically every coach.)