Skip to main content

NFL+: The Insiders

Coaching notebook: Examining the NFL's seven current head coach searches

Sign up for NFL+ to watch The Insiders every Monday-Friday at noon ET for more exclusive reports.

The Patriots took one head coaching vacancy off the market quickly Friday, when they officially promoted linebackers coach Jerod Mayo to the position.

Where do things stand with the other seven vacancies? Here's a thumbnail look, based on conversations with numerous NFL sources:

Washington owner Josh Harris has tabbed 49ers assistant GM Adam Peters to lead the team’s remodeled football operation and help hire a head coach, with Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson believed to be at the top of Peters’ list. 

Johnson can’t interview in-person until next week, though, and the Commanders will have stiff competition to land one of the NFL’s top offensive minds. Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is also believed to be a top candidate for the job and has head coaching experience from his Atlanta days that could be beneficial working with a first-time GM.

The Commanders conducted virtual interviews with Ravens DC Mike Macdonald and assistant head coach/defensive linemen coach Anthony Weaver during this week’s bye. They also have requested interviews with Texans OC Bobby Slowik, Lions DC Aaron Glenn and Rams DC Raheem Morris.

Owner Arthur Blank fired coach Arthur Smith after a disappointing third season, and the belief within the league is Blank would prefer to hire an experienced NFL head coach this time around.

Speculation has centered on Bill Belichick, who mutually parted ways with the Patriots on Thursday. And it makes sense: The Falcons have a roster that can compete, other than a major question at the quarterback position, and an owner who wants to win right now. 

But the Falcons are just starting their process. Atlanta announced it interviewed Macdonald virtually on Friday and are expected to interview Weaver and 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks before their bye weeks are over. The Falcons also have requested interviews with Johnson, Morris, Glenn, Bengals OC Brian Callahan and Panthers DC Ejiro Evero.

After the surprise firing of respected coach Mike Vrabel on Tuesday, Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk said in a statement she believes “the teams best positioned for sustained success will be those who empower an aligned and collaborative team across all football functions.”

The message was clear: The next head coach must be in lockstep with general manager Ran Carthon, who is leading the search for Vrabel’s replacement and will looking for strong leadership traits. Strunk will make the final call, as she did in last year’s GM search, which was informative for the organization in terms of exposing team officials to a diversity of experience and skill sets.

Glenn and Quinn, among others, are logical fits. Tennessee already has interviewed Callahan and Giants OC Mike Kafka and will interview Raiders interim coach Antonio Pierce this weekend. The Titans also have requests in for Johnson, Slowik and Macdonald.

After parting ways with longtime coach Pete Carroll on Wednesday, the Seahawks are plotting their upcoming search, with interview requests to come in the next few days.

There are logical connections to Quinn, who spent four years with Seattle over two stints, including coordinating the “Legion of Boom” defense that spearheaded their Super Bowl XLVIII championship run. There will be interest, as Quinn is expected to receive a request. But don’t just assume Quinn is Carroll’s successor, especially given interest in Quinn elsewhere. 

Expect a thorough search -- the first led by GM John Schneider, whom Carroll hired in 2010 -- including candidates from a variety of backgrounds. 

It’s no secret owner David Tepper is highly interested in Ben Johnson, who was believed to be Carolina’s top candidate last year before declining to get on the plane for an in-person interview and returning to Detroit for another season. The Panthers ended up hiring Frank Reich, who was fired after 11 games, and now Johnson is a central candidate in their search again.

Fixing the offense is a priority for Tepper. So, it’s no surprise the rest of Carolina’s interview list features a handful of other young offensive coordinators -- including Slowik, Callahan, Miami’s Frank Smith, Philadelphia’s Brian Johnson and Tampa Bay’s Dave Canales -- in addition to the veteran likes of Quinn and Morris.

Carolina began in-person interviews Friday with GM candidates, including Eagles assistant GM Alec Halaby, and conducted virtual interviews with in-house head coaching candidates (Evero and Chris Tabor) and candidates on byes (Macdonald and Ravens OC Todd Monken) in recent days.

Owner Mark Davis is under a lot of pressure to name Pierce to the full-time job -- including from his own locker room. Unless Davis is certain he can lure a big name to offset backlash, Pierce could well be the man in Las Vegas.

The Raiders have been weighing a potential pursuit of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who has spent the past week celebrating a national championship with his alma mater and strategizing about a potential return to the NFL. Harbaugh recently retained agent Don Yee, best known as the agent for Sean Payton and Tom Brady, who has ties to Michigan and the Raiders. (NFL owners have not yet approved Brady’s pending purchase of a minority stake in the team.)

Despite having the NFL’s longest-standing vacancy, the Raiders haven’t put in any requests to interview head coaching candidates. (They have interviewed five for the general manager job, including former Raiders and current Colts executive Ed Dodds, and are scheduled to interview interim GM Champ Kelly on Saturday.) Even if the Raiders plan to go with Pierce, they’re required under the Rooney Rule to interview at least two external minority candidates.

It’s believed the Chargers will speak next week with Harbaugh, who has indicated to associates there’s a real possibility he could leave the University of Michigan to become the head coach in Los Angeles.

The Chargers, who fired Brandon Staley and Tom Telesco on Dec. 15, have been running expansive, parallel searches for their next head coach and general manager. Harbaugh is certainly a candidate of interest, but sources say the sides have not yet spoken. That should change next week, and if all goes well, things could ramp up quickly.

Head coaching candidates who have interviewed so far include Raiders DC Patrick Graham and in-house candidates Giff Smith and Kellen Moore. Monken interviewed with them on Friday, and Callahan will speak to the Chargers on Tuesday. Former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, Glenn, Ben Johnson, Morris, Quinn, and Wilks are all on the list, as well.

Related Content