NFL Coaching Carousel—Five Most Attractive NFL Teams for Candidates

Two NFL teams parted ways with their head coaches on Black Monday, the first day following the end of the regular season where underachieving franchises traditionally make sweeping personnel changes.

The Jacksonville Jaguars fired Doug Marrone after the team ended the campaign with an NFL-worst 1-15 record, bringing Marrone's spell in Florida to an end after four seasons. Meanwhile, a four-game winning streak to end the season wasn't enough for Anthony Lynn to save his job, as he was fired by the Los Angeles Chargers following a 7-9 campaign. On Sunday, the New York Jets jumped the gun and parted ways with Adam Gase, who complied a 9-23 record in two seasons in New Jersey, including a 2-14 record this year.

The three teams join the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions and Houston Texans as the franchises looking for a new head coach ahead of next season. Here's a breakdown of how the current vacancies rank in terms of appeal for potential candidates.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Doug Marrone era is over in Jacksonville and a blank canvas awaits his successor. The Jaguars are looking for a new general manager, a new head coach and a new quarterback. The latter, bar major a surprise, will in all likelihood be Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who has long been considered the presumptive first overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

After going 1-15 this season, the Jaguars hold the first overall pick and have a clean run at Lawrence, but the first selection in the draft is just one of many mouthwatering carrots Jacksonville can dangle in front of coaching candidates. The Jaguars hold the Los Angeles Rams' first- and fourth-round picks they received as part of the Jalen Ramsey trade in 2019 and a second-round pick they obtained from the Minnesota Vikings as part of the Yannick Ngakoue trade in August. According to figures from Overthecap, Jacksonville is projected to have up to $74.4 million in cap space available this year—the most of any team in the NFL.

On top of that, in wide receiver D.J. Chark and rookie running back James Robinson the Jaguars have some young talented offensive skill position players. Former Florida and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is the most high-profile name linked with the Jaguars job, but it remains to be seen whether he will be happy to swap his current gig as FOX pundit for the demands of an NFL job.

Los Angeles Chargers

Unlike the Jaguars, the Chargers have already got their franchise quarterback and Justin Herbert's name will feature prominently in their pitch to job candidates as they search to replace Anthony Lynn. The sixth overall pick of the 2020 draft had a historic debut season, throwing for 31 touchdowns and 4,336 yards—respectively the most and second-most for a rookie quarterback in NFL history. Aside from Herbert, the Chargers have plenty of talent elsewhere on the roster in the likes of wide receiver Keenan Allen, pass-rusher Joey Bosa and safety Derwin James, who was ruled out before the beginning of the season because of a knee injury.

The Chargers hold the 13th overall pick in the draft and should have approximately $31 million in cap space, giving general manager Tom Telesco enough flexibility to add pieces to the roster. The Bolts were 5-7 in one-score games this season and have lost a league-high 16 games decided by a touchdown or less over the last two seasons, a dismal trend Lynn's successor will be expected to address as swiftly as possible.

Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert
Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers warms up prior to the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on January 3 in Kansas City, Missouri. Jamie Squire/Getty

New York Jets

The Jets wasted no time in parting ways with Adam Gase after two largely disappointing seasons that returned a combined 9-23 record. Having resembled a dysfunctional mess that reset benchmarks for ineptitude through the first 14 weeks of the season, the Jets won back-to-back games in Week 15 and Week 16 to relinquish their grasp on the first overall pick and effectively ending Jets fans' dreams of seeing Lawrence playing in green and white next season.

While Lawrence may be heading to Jacksonville, the Jets' 2-14 record means they hold the second overall pick and could take another swing at a quarterback—most likely Ohio State star Justin Fields, who led the Buckeyes to an impressive win over Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal last week—after selecting Sam Darnold with third overall pick three years ago.

Darnold has shown worrying signs of regression and the chance of selecting a new rookie quarterback may be too tempting for the Jets, who could also trade the pick for a sizeable haul —on Sunday ESPN reported the franchise was expected to make a "big trade this offseason." Significantly, the Jets also hold another first-round pick and an additional third-round pick they received from the Seattle Seahawks as part of the trade that took Jamal Adams to Washington at the beginning of the season.

Regardless of whether the Jets keep the pick or trade it, general manager Joe Douglas will have over $72 million in cap space available, which should be enough to allow Gase's successor to improve a competitive roster already featuring intriguing young players such as offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, wide receiver Denzel Mims and defensive end Quinnen Williams.

Houston Texans

The Texans fired head coach and de facto general manager Bill O'Brien following a 0-4 start to the season, but Houston's fortunes didn't improve and the team ended the season on a five-game losing streak and a 4-12 record that returned the third overall pick in this year's draft. Unfortunately for Texans, the pick belongs to the Miami Dolphins, who received it as part of a trade that took Leremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills to Houston. The deal was one of many inexplicable trades O'Brien gave the green light to during his tenure, which also included trading All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals at the beginning of the season for a paltry return.

As a result, as things stand Houston does not have a pick in the first two rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft. The already difficult scenario is exacerbated by the fact the Texans are $17.7 million over the salary cap, as per figures from Overthecap. The considerable yin to this almighty mess of a yang is Deshaun Watson, who remains one of the league's elite quarterbacks and could offset some of the franchise's glaring issues under the right coach.

J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson
J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans walks off the field with Deshaun Watson #4 following a game against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium on January 3 in Houston, Texas. Houston finished 4-12 after losing the last four games of the season. Carmen Mandato/Getty

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons' salary cap situation is even worse than the Texans as they are $24.3 million over the salary cap. Much like Houston, Atlanta is at a crossroad: Bring back the current roster in the hope former MVP Matt Ryan and star wideout Julio Jones can summon up the magic of old, or tear down the roster to offload some enormous salaries and start a rebuilding process that should be aided by the fourth overall pick the Falcons hold after finishing 4-12 this season?

Like Jacksonville, Atlanta is looking for a new general manager and a new head coach after firing Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn earlier this season. Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy has already been interviewed for the head coach position, as has Raheem Morris who served as interim head coach following Quinn's departure.

About the writer

Dan Cancian is currently a reporter for Newsweek based in London, England. Prior to joining Newsweek in January 2018, he was a news and business reporter at International Business Times UK. Dan has also written for The Guardian and The Observer. 

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