The coaching search season is in full swing and it has been surprisingly low key. We expected there could be upwards of a dozen head coach openings around the NFL, and we barely got halfway there. No surprise firing came out of left field, one of the departures was a retirement (Bruce Arians from the Cardinals) and one of them happened before the end of the year (Giants).

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders made official what everyone knew was happening, convincing Jon Gruden to leave the ESPN “Monday Night Football” booth and return to the Raiders nearly 20 years to the day after they hired him the first time. It’s a big deal. Just ask Mark Davis. And, literally, it is a big deal: Davis and the Raiders are giving Gruden $100 million over 10 years. It may end up being even more expensive, if the NFL concludes the Raiders violated the Rooney Rule, as it would result in a pretty big fine. Gruden, by the way, said he has no idea how much money he’s getting. Watch his smile here and tell me if you believe him.

Job Status: Jon Gruden hired by Raiders

Chicago Bears

The Bears also acted quickly when it came to hiring their head coach, with GM Ryan Pace locking in on Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy and sealing the deal after Kansas City gagged away a 21-3 lead against the Titans at home in the Wild-Card round last Saturday. Nagy is a young offensive mind — basically the opposite of John Fox, who was fired quickly after Chicago’s season ended. The Bears played the ex-girlfriend theory to a tee. They’re also trying to basically pull off an L.A. Rams 2.0, having drafted a young quarterback (Mitchell Trubisky) who toiled under a veteran, defensive coach in his rookie year, paired him with a stud running back (Jordan Howard) and now hoping to give him a new coach that can unlock his potential. The Bears have the offensive line pieces in place and might have a tight end in Adam Shaheen who could surprise quickly, but they need some wide receiver help in a big way before we can just sign off on this being a big success. All eyes are on Trubisky’s development in Nagy’s first season running the Bears.

Job Status: Matt Nagy hired by Bears

Arizona Cardinals

Fun fact: the Cardinals don’t have a single quarterback signed on their roster right now. The lack of coach and quarterback might be cause for some panic, but let’s not forget five years ago GM Steve Keim took over this job with the same quandary, and he promptly secured Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer. Neither move “won the press conference” the way a Gruden hire might, but both were A+ moves and allowed the Cardinals to take a leap into the upper echelon of NFC contenders. There are questions as to what this team will do at quarterback, but it’s still a very good job. According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, the Cardinals have narrowed their list down to nine candidates, with only two of them — Cards DC James Bettcher and Panthers DC Steve Wilks — being already eliminated from the playoffs. Also under consideration are Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFillippo, Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak and Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong. 

It’s a very mixed bag of candidates but when predicting who the Cardinals would look at, I actually managed to go 6-for-9 (and only listed seven guys originally). Something about the Patricia thing still hits home here because of the defensive personnel, but he may have so much interest elsewhere (see: below) that it could be tough to draw him in. Munchak has a little bit of Arians feel to him; a football lifer who could help improve the offensive line immediately and work with Keim to find a quarterback. He didn’t have a great record with the Titans from 2011-2013, but he was also hamstrung with Jake Locker. 

Shurmur could be interesting because of his connection with the current Vikings quarterbacks: Sam Bradford, Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater might all be available in free agency. Alex Smith is a name to watch as well, if Kansas City is willing to trade him, although there isn’t anyone with a significant connection to Smith on the current list of candidates. 

Job Status: Still open

Candidates: Matt Patricia (NE DC), Pat Shurmur (MIN OC), Steve Wilks (CAR DC), Brian Flores (NE LB), Jim Schwartz (PHI DC), John DeFillippo (PHI QB), James Bettcher (ARZ DC), Mike Munchak (PIT OL), Keith Armstrong (ATL ST).

Detroit Lions

The logical connection for the Lions right now involves Patriots coaches and it sure does feel like Lions fans are all in on New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. There’s some real potential heartbreak there with the Giants and Cards both open. We knew the second Jim Caldwell was fired GM Bob Quinn, who came from New England, would target his old co-workers. Pat Shurmur also interviewed with Detroit recently.

Is, um, Josh McDaniels just out on this job? The Lions do have Matthew Stafford in place, which makes it an attractive spot for an offensive guy. But there’s been no buzz about McDaniels having interest. The other Patriots name to watch is Mike Vrabel, the Texans defensive coordinator who used to play for New England. According to Peter King of TheMMQB.com, Patricia might “prefer” the Giants job, which would open up the door for Vrabel to land the Lions gig.

Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter is in play as well, although there’s significant rumors about offensive players simply wanting to keep him in place as the team moves forward. It’s not likely he lands the job.

Job Status: Still open

Candidates: Matt Patricia (NE DC), Josh McDaniels (NE OC), Pat Shurmur (MIN OC), Mike Vrabel (HOU DC).

Indianapolis Colts

There’s something about this job no one’s talking about: why did Matt Nagy pass on it? Peter King wrote at TheMMQB.com that Chris Ballard was “smitten” with Nagy, and the two used to work together. Yet Nagy decided to take a job with Mitchell Trubisky instead of Andrew Luck. That should be yet noteworthy when examining what coaching candidates are doing around the league as it relates to the Colts. According to Greg Abraham (who used to work with Ballard when both were in Chicago), Nagy was never offered the Colts job.

Also odd? The Colts randomly interviewed Matt Rhule, the Baylor head coach who took over the Bears last year after doing an excellent job at Temple. That would have been a left-field hire, but Rhule decided to stay at Baylor. Friend of the program Gregg Doyel of the Indy Star wants the Colts to hire Nick Saban, which would also be a surprise. Good note here, also in the Indy Star, from Stephen Holder, who points out that Josh McDaniels and Ballard share the same agent, Bob LaMonte. This search is really odd in that we really haven’t heard a whole lot about what’s happening. The interview list has sort of been cobbled together, with the Colts keeping things very secretive.

And there’s mystery there too — according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the Colts are focusing in on offensive candidates, and as such won’t be interviewing Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. Or never interviewed Wilks. Whatever. There are a lot of defensive guys on that list. Maybe it’s all a big smokescreen to land McDaniels. The lack of heat around Dave Toub, the Chiefs special teams coordinator, is surprising given Toub’s season is now over.

Given the buzz around McDaniels here and the lack of movement on the coaching search front, it sure seems like this one could drag out and/or we haven’t seen all the candidates Ballard plans to talk to. Either that or it’s all a big smokescreen to make no one else talk to Toub. Easily the most confusing search. 

Job Status: Still open

Candidates: Josh McDaniels (NE OC), Dave Toub (KC ST), Mike Vrabel (HOU DC).

New York Giants

The blue chippiest job out there, in theory, with people loving the Giants job so much that in a single offseason, both Bill Belichick and Nick Saban have been connected. Good job, good effort, everyone. Neither of those guys is coming to work with Dave Gettleman in New York, not without some serious structural shifting or a surprising amount of bridge crossing when it comes to personnel control. Much more likely is the Giants inking one of Belichick’s lieutenant’s, and, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, the Giants have three candidates they’re looking at, with two of them stemming from Belichick’s coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is reportedly the top option, along with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Also on the list is Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. According to Schwartz, Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks didn’t “make the cut.” Also ruled out at this stage are Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and former Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville. Mike Lombardi of the The Ringer, who used to work in New England, noted on the “GM Street” podcast that he doesn’t think McDaniels would pare well with Gettleman because of concerns about the power structure. Lombardi also added he believes owner John Mara is still making calls behind the scene. 

Job Status: Still open

Candidates: Matt Patricia (NE DC), Josh McDaniels (NE OC), Pat Shurmur (MIN OC).


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