The Most Deserving NFL Head Coach and General Manager Candidates By Ryan Kanne
After a slew of firings on “Black Monday”, the day after the final game of the NFL season, there are six head coaching jobs and seven general manager jobs available around the league. While there are sure to be surprise hires like Bruce Arians coming out of retirement last offseason, there are plenty of options that have already sparked interest or even interviewed for positions.
The coaching and general manager carousel moves quickly, especially when a coveted coordinator or executive is available. This offseason is no different with coaches like former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer drawing interest to come out of retirement and Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy already completing virtual interviews.
With many of the coaching candidates still working for other teams in the playoffs, we may not see official head coach hiring’s until after teams like the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills are eliminated. Until then, let’s look at a few head coach and general manager options that have already generated excitement around the league and deserve to gain control of a team.
Head Coach Candidates
Bieniemy may be the most coveted head coaching candidate available right now, and for good reason. The former Colorado Buffalo running back worked his way from running backs coach to offensive coordinator with the Chiefs after Matt Nagy became head coach of the Chicago Bears. Since then, Bieniemy has proved invaluable to a Chiefs offense that has ranked towards the top of the league the last three seasons.
Whether it be running the offensive meetings or helping put together a game plan, Bieniemy has been described as a “detail-oriented coach” by Bleacher Report. Chad Henne, former backup quarterback for the Chiefs, even complimented how Bieniemy simplifies protections and reads to make the signal caller’s job easier.
Plenty of teams with young quarterbacks, like the Chiefs division rival Los Angeles Chargers, and teams likely drafting a quarterback, like the New York Jets, are certainly interested in Bieniemy. Whoever pulls the trigger on the Chiefs offensive coordinator should expect a dynamic play caller and improved quarterback play from the start.
At the time this article is being written, Bieniemy has already interviewed for the Atlanta Falcons head coach job, while the Chargers, New York Jets, and Detroit Lions have requested to interview him.
On the other side of the ball is San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. While his success is more tied to the 49ers Superbowl appearance last season, his performance with an injury riddled team is astounding. While missing three starting defensive lineman including stars Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, Saleh’s defense ranked fifth in total yards allowed.
This feat was accomplished while finishing seventh in rushing yards allowed (106.4 yards per game) and fourth against the pass (207.9 yards per game). Saleh’s defense also didn’t allow a 100-yard rusher in any game.
Saleh has produced at just about every coaching job he’s had in the NFL. He won a Superbowl as the Seattle Seahawks defensive quality control coach from 2011- 2013, made the AFC Conference Championship with a dominant Jacksonville Jaguars defense as the linebackers’ coach in 2014, and of course his Superbowl appearance in 2019.
At the time this article is being written, Saleh has completed an interview for the Falcons head coach job, while the Lions and Jaguars have requested interviews.
A lesser-known candidate for a lot of people is Joe Brady, the Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator. Brady doesn’t have a lot of experience as a coordinator with his only year doing so being this past season. In fact, Brady doesn’t have a lot of experience in general as he began his coaching career in 2016.
While Brady is in the mold of the “young offensive genius” that got Zac Taylor of the Cincinnati Bengals and Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams hired, Brady’s quick rise is still uncommon for most. His big break as the top assistant in college football as LSU’s passing game coordinator and wide receivers’ coach only came in 2019.
Even with a small sample size, Brady has impressed with the Panthers enough to garner three interview requests. The surface numbers don’t impress as the Panthers finished 24th and 21st in points per game and yards per game respectively. Brady and the Panthers get an excuse as Christian McCaffery played only three games and Teddy Bridgewater underperformed in his first season.
Even with injuries and poor quarterback play, four players finished the year with over 1000 scrimmage yards. PFF backed up Joe Brady’s offense with their “Expected Points Added” statistic. At LSU Brady finished as the best coordinator in PFF’s system, completing the same feat in his first year in the NFL.
At the time this article is being written, Brady has had three interview requests from the Falcons, Chargers, and Houston Texans.
General Manager Candidates
The search for qualified general managers is difficult for every front office, let alone the casual NFL fan wanting to blame or praise the person in charge. However, the politics of the front office sometimes frees up an overly qualified candidate. That candidate this year is Reggie McKenzie.
The former Oakland Raiders general manager found himself looking for a job after the Jon Gruden regime took back control of the roster heading into the 2019 offseason. With the Raiders, McKenzie was able to turn a team with no first or second round pick in 2012 into a 12-4 playoff team in 2017. That team included star draft picks Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper, and Derek Carr.
Since his firing, Mack and Cooper have been traded while they both continue their Pro Bowl careers. Gruden has also failed to make the postseason in each of his first two seasons on his 10-year mega deal.
McKenzie found himself a job as the Miami Dolphins senior personal executive where he’s been since the firing. Unfortunately, McKenzie hasn’t even heard an interview request for even one of the open general manager positions. His time with the Raiders and untimely firing from that job are a part of the NFL front office culture. Jim Trotter, a reporter with the NFL put it best in the clip below.
One general manager candidate that actually has gotten an interview request is Ed Dodds, current assistant general manager of the Indianapolis Colts. Dodds has spent his career with the Seahawks and Colts, helping architect some of the best drafts in recent memory.
While with the Seahawks from 2007- 2017, Dodds was a part of draft classes that constructed “The Legion of Boom” defense as well as players like Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett in the third round to solidify the offense. Dodds quickly helped the Colts turn around their roster into one of the best in the league with a 2018 draft class that brought Quinten Nelson and Darius Leonard to the team.
Dobbs has spent his career working with two of the better general managers and front offices in the league today. His work in the scouting department and his subsequent draft success is a big reason why he’s become so coveted.
At the time that this article is being written, Dodds has an interview request from the Panthers.
John Schneider (Honorable Mention)
Speaking of the Seahawks draft success, John Schneider has always generated interest from his master draft classes and trades that earned two trips to the Superbowl and one Lombardi Trophy. While the Seahawks general manager is still under contract with the team, the Detroit Lions have reported interest in trying to pry him away from the Seattle.
Schneider hasn’t been receptive to the rumors with his response to a question about them below. Leaving a perennial contender on the West Coast for a struggling franchise in the Midwest is a tough call to make, especially when the Lions would likely lose a draft pick or two for hiring Schneider before his contract ends.
The Lions rumor is interesting but unlikely. Schneider has spent 10 years with the Seahawks and the team has made playoff appearances in all but two of those years. While head coach Pete Carroll still has final control over the roster, it’ll be hard to pry away Schneider