The Giants’ decision to select Joe Schoen as general manager was an important one, not just for the team but for the NFL as a whole. Why? Because Schoen’s hiring is the first important domino to fall in the hiring cycle for all teams looking not just for general managers but for coaches.
Coaching turnover in pro football has become a seismic event, with a half- dozen or more openings a year. This time there are a whopping eight vacancies — a quarter of the entire league — plus four GM changes. Schoen emerged from a list of nine GM candidates, and his first order of business is finding a new coach.
Here’s a closer look at which teams are looking for head coaches and which coaches are in play:
Giants: Schoen’s connection to the Bills as general manager Brandon Beane’s top lieutenant makes his familiarity with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier important in the coach search. Daboll was interviewed Friday night, hours after Schoen got the job, and Frazier was up next on Saturday morning. Daboll has done terrific work in developing Josh Allen and the offense, and Frazier presides over the NFL’s No. 1 defense. Frazier also has previous head-coaching experience with the Vikings. But the search won’t end there; other potential connections to the Giants’ job are former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, Cowboys defensive coordinator and former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, and former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. Jim Harbaugh’s name has been floated, but he has been connected more with the Raiders’ job. Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was a finalist in the Giants’ last coach search, which ended with Joe Judge’s hiring. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who hasn’t received any interest among other teams, could get an interview.
Raiders: This may be the most intriguing opening in terms of a team that’s ready to win. The Raiders overcame the in-season resignation of Jon Gruden, who was caught up in the investigation into workplace harassment with the Washington Football Team, to reach the playoffs under interim coach Rich Bisaccia. He’ll be in the mix for the permanent job, but it’s expected that team owner Mark Davis will move on to another coach. The biggest name in the mix: Harbaugh, who previously coached the 49ers to a Super Bowl berth. While Michigan is hoping to extend Harbaugh’s contract, there have been persistent signals that he is ready to jump back into the NFL. If that doesn’t happen, other possibilities for Las Vegas include Quinn, Bieniemy, Daboll, Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. Another name to keep in mind: Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who has gotten very little buzz on the head-coaching circuit since he changed his mind after initially accepting the Colts’ job in 2018. Keep in mind that the Raiders also are in the market for a GM after firing Mike Mayock.
Jaguars: If you’re looking to build a team from the ground up, the Jacksonville job is an attractive one. The franchise quarterback already is in place with Trevor Lawrence. There are several promising young players on both sides of the ball. Now the question is whether the Jaguars can quickly recover from the damage left in the wake of Urban Meyer’s cataclysmic failure. They are casting a wide net, with Leftwich, Bowles, Quinn, Moore, Pederson, former Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, former Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberlus drawing interest. The three most intriguing names: Caldwell, Pederson and Leftwich. With Lawrence as the deciding factor in any coach search, the Jaguars will consider the best offensive minds most closely.
Broncos: John Elway waited three years to see if Vic Fangio could turn the Broncos around, but the Hall of Fame quarterback-turned-GM decided to go in another direction after another season ended without a playoff berth. Of all the teams with openings, the Broncos are the one that has shown the most interest in Bieniemy, who has been shut out the last several years despite building an impressive resume as Andy Reid’s top offensive assistant. Elway, however, is looking far and wide in his search. Among the other candidates: Quinn, Moore, Hackett, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, Packers quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy and Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
Bears: Like the Jaguars, the Bears have a first-round quarterback with a year’s worth of experience in Justin Fields. The Bears also are looking to hire a general manager, and that’s the next big hire. That list includes former Texans GM Rick Smith, Steelers VP of football and business administration Omar Khan, Kansas City personnel director Ryan Poles, Colts director of college scouting Morocco Brown, Titans director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort, Saints assistant GM Jeff Ireland and former Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie. The most intriguing name attached to the coaching search is Caldwell, and with former Colts GM Bill Polian helping with the search, his familiarity with Caldwell during their time together in Indianapolis could be a factor. Other possibilities: Frazier, Bowles, Quinn, Pederson, Flores, Hackett, Daboll and Eberflus.
Dolphins: There is almost always a surprise firing, and Flores was the one this year. After two straight winning seasons, Miami parted ways with the Brooklyn native. Flores didn’t quite get the most out of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and that was a factor in his ouster. That means an offensive-minded coach could fit the team’s needs. San Francisco offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel has emerged as a strong candidate, and the Dolphins also are considering Daboll and Moore. Defensive specialists Quinn, Frazier, and Vance Joseph also are in the mix, as is Rams assistant head coach Thomas Brown.
Texans: Dysfunction has surrounded the franchise the last two years, starting with the firing of Bill O’Brien in 2020 and the decisions to part ways with All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and defensive end J.J. Watt. Quarterback Deshaun Watson was inactive the entire season after being accused by 22 women of sexual assault, and the matters have yet to be resolved. The Texans fired head coach David Culley after just one season. Flores has become a leading contender for the job, although he prefers the Giants’ opening. His connection to Texans GM Nick Caserio from their days in New England makes for a potential fit. Another name to keep an eye on from Caserio’s time in New England: McDaniels. The Texans’ search also has included the Eagles' Gannon, Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell and two out-of-the-box candidates: former Steelers receiver Hines Ward and longtime backup quarterback Josh McCown, who also interviewed for the job last year.
Vikings: Minnesota also has a general manager opening that is to be filled before a coach will be hired. Poles has impressed Vikings officials, and Ossenfort, Browns VP of football operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Browns front-office executive Glenn Cook, Patriots personnel man Eliot Wolf and John Spytek of the Bucs’ football operations department have been interviewed. The Vikings also interviewed Eagles vice president of football operations Catherine Raiche, the first female GM candidate to be interviewed who is not affiliated with a team’s ownership group. The coach search includes Bowles, Hackett, Quinn, Moore, Gannon and 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.
Brady’s last dance?
Tom Brady has given no outward indication that this could be his final NFL season. In fact, he has said largely the same things this year as every year: There is no end game for him.
But speculation has bubbled up in recent days that this might be it for Brady, who won his seventh Super Bowl title last year in his first season with Tampa Bay after a 20-year run with the Patriots. Rob Ninkovich, the former Patriots linebacker who now works for ESPN, suggested this week on the "Get Up" morning show that Brady might hang it up after this year’s playoffs.
"It wouldn’t surprise me if Tom Brady decided to walk away and do whatever he wants to do," Ninkovich said. "Right now, Tom is in bonus time. How many 44-year-old quarterbacks have we seen throw for the amount of yards and touchdowns [he has]? He’ll be 45 in August. So, at this point right now, what else does he have to prove to anybody? What else does he have to check off the list?"
Then again, Brady could have chosen to retire any number of times with a similar mindset. He has always returned, looking for that next championship.
But I’m with Ninkovich on this one. It wouldn’t be shocking at all to see Brady call it a career, especially if things don’t go well against the Rams or, if he makes it that far, the NFC Championship Game or Super Bowl.
Cradle of coaches in Washington
Mike Shanahan never won a championship during his time as Washington's head coach, but he did develop some pretty terrific coaches along the way. In fact, three of his former assistants made it to the divisional round of this year’s playoffs: his son Kyle, the 49ers’ head coach; Sean McVay, who coaches the Rams, and Matt LaFleur, Green Bay’s head coach.
Shanahan’s coaching tree is a fine one, and if you go back even further, it’s the Bill Walsh tree that continues to grow new branches. Add Zac Taylor of the Bengals, who worked for McVay, and, of course, Andy Reid of Kansas City, who worked under Walsh disciple Mike Holmgren.
Arians fine was justified
Bucs coach Bruce Arians is appealing the $50,000 fine levied by the NFL after he struck safety Andrew Adams in the helmet during Tampa Bay’s 31-15 win last weekend.
Arians argued that he was trying to keep Adams from incurring a penalty during a pileup after a muffed punt by Eagles returner Jalen Reagor.
"You can't pull guys out of a pile," Arians said. "We just got a big play, great field position and he's trying to pull a guy out of the pile and I was trying to knock him off that guy so he didn't get a penalty."
No excuse. You don’t make contact with players like that.
Prescott’s (belated) apology
Dak Prescott’s unacceptable comments about fans being right to throw debris at officials after last Sunday’s 23-17 loss to the 49ers drew a $25,000 fine from the NFL on Thursday. Fans were upset that the Cowboys couldn’t get off a final play after Prescott’s quarterback sneak in the final seconds, and they pelted the officials with bottles and other objects as they headed into the dressing room.
It was a despicable showing, one that drew criticism from Prescott. Then he found out that the fans weren’t throwing stuff at the Cowboys but at the officials.
"Credit to them," Prescott said.
Look, I get it that players are emotional after a loss, but that comment was over the line. And the fact that Prescott didn’t immediately walk it back is on him. Even the NBA Referees Association publicly rebuked Prescott for "condoning violence," which may have prompted Prescott to issue an apology on his Twitter account.
"This was a mistake on my behalf, and I am sorry," he said.
Prescott has done a lot of good for a lot of people in his time as the Cowboys’ quarterback — on and off the field — and admitting he messed up here was the right call. Even if it came late.