There were seven coaching jobs open when the NFL’s coaching carousel began and three seats have already been taken. There’s a mad scramble on for the final four, too, as plenty of out-of-work coaches are positioning themselves for new jobs.
But let’s face it: There are jobs and there are JOBS and the difference can be huge. Most coaches don’t have a choice. They take what’s offered. But what if a coach did have his choice of all seven vacancies? Would he follow the money to Washington and work for the dysfunctional Redskins, or follow the talent to Houston for less exposure (and probably less cash)?
It would be a tough choice that most coaches won’t have to make, but if they did, here’s how the seven NFL jobs that are either open or were open this offseason would rank:
1. Detroit Lions
Out: Jim Schwartz, fired (29-48 in five seasons)
This has been one of the most snakebitten franchises in the league the last few decades, but look at what the new coach will be starting with – a franchise quarterback (Matthew Stafford), a top running back/weapon (Reggie Bush), one of the best receivers in history (Calvin Johnson) and one of the most feared defensive players in the game (defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh). That’s not exactly starting from scratch. They also have a patient ownership not afraid to spend money and a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball. They were also big underachievers this season, yet they were in the playoff hunt right until the end. It will take tweaking to get them to contender status, not a major overhaul. Schwartz did not exactly leave the Lions’ cupboard bare.
How good is the Detroit job? A-plus
2. Houston Texans
Out: Gary Kubiak, fired (63-66 in 8 seasons)
In: Bill O’Brien, former Penn State coach
Think about how badly the Houston Texans have underachieved over the last few years, and how badly they underachieved this season when they plummeted to 2-14. You know what that tells you? That they have plenty of talent, at least as far as NFL personnel and scouts and coaches are concerned. The Texans were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders and some of the pieces are still in place, including RB Arian Foster, DE J.J. Watt, and WR Andre Johnson, just to name a few. Oh, and by the way, for their collapse this season? They were rewarded with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. And that’s big, especially since it looks like Matt Schaub’s days as the franchise quarterback are over.
How good is the Houston job? A-minus
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Out: Greg Schiano, fired (11-21 in two seasons)
In: Lovie Smith
One year ago, Schiano had been praised for turning the losing culture in the Bucs’ organization around and for building what looked like a good young team. There certainly is a lot of talent, and an exciting piece in running back Doug Martin. The problem was he built it around Josh Freeman, an immature young quarterback of questionable talent. Well, Schiano provided his successor with one last gift, jettisoning Freeman and turning the keys over to QB Mike Glennon. A terrific young quarterback, plus a talented young running back and the No. 7 pick in the draft will give Smith a huge head start.
How good is the Tampa Bay job? B-plus
4. Tennessee Titans
Out: Mike Munchak, fired (22-26 in three seasons)
In: The Titans were the definition of a middling team during Muchak’s rein, even though he built a strong offensive line, had a powerful all-pro running back (Chris Johnson) and had a defense that was ranked in the top half of the league. The problem was that he never had enough play-makers in the passing game, in large part because QB Jake Locker was erratic and this season, when many expected him to emerge, he was hurt. The job would be much better if it was clear what Locker was going to eventually be.
How good is the Tennessee job? B-minus
5. Washington Redskins
Out: Mike Shanahan, fired (24-40 in four seasons)
In: Jay Gruden
Well, one year ago this looked like a great job. A powerful running game, a dynamic young franchise quarterback, an emerging defense. Now? Not so much. They had a huge collapse this season, and worse, they traded away their first-round draft pick so they can’t even reap the benefits. On top of that, the franchise quarterback – Robert Griffin III – is now an unknown quantity because of his lingering knee problems. And even worse than that, reports have suggested an absolutely toxic situation with the owner, Dan Snyder, who apparently sided with his quarterback over his coach in some internal disputes. Snyder does have plenty of money, but his organization rarely has a plan.
How good is the Washington job? C-plus
6. Minnesota Vikings
Out: Leslie Frazier, fired (21-32 in four seasons)
If you’re starting with a defense that has defensive end Jared Allen and a running back in Adrian Peterson, it should be a great job, right? OK, but who’s the quarterback? Christian Ponder wasn’t the answer and it seems highly doubtful that Josh Freeman will be. Maybe they can find a good one with the eighth pick of the draft, but then they’re just hitting the reset button. Again. And it’s not as if the new quarterback will be surrounded by a ton of offensive weapons. Plus, that defense that was once an anchor? It finished last season ranked 31st in the league.
How good is the Washington job? C-minus
7. Cleveland Browns
Out: Rob Chudzinski, fired (4-12 in one season)
Another franchise playing “Who’s our quarterback?” (Brandon Weeden? Jason Campbell?) Plus, they need to answer who their running back is after trading away Trent Richardson, a former first-round draft pick. They did have an improving defense and an emerging offensive line, plus with receiver Josh Gordon they have one of the NFL’s top skill position players. But you know why this is a terrible job? Start with the fact that Chudzinski was fired after just one season. He was the seventh head coach for the Browns since 2000. None of the last three have lasted more than two seasons and no Browns coach has lasted more than four seasons since Bill Belichick (1991-95). They do have the fourth overall pick in the draft, but the new coach better consider renting a home rather than buying one because history suggests he won’t be there long.
How good is the Cleveland job? D-plus
—By Ralph Vacchiano, @RVacchianoNYDN