Now that the dust has settled on the 2018 coaching vacancies (unless, of course, another one emerges out of the blue, which seems to happen every year), let’s take a look at how the vacancies stack up in comparison to each other.
The following list is mine and mine alone, not reflective of the feelings of any of the other PFT writers. So don’t blame them.
No. 8: The Bengals.
The organization known for being extremely careful with money has had a sense of malaise descend on it over the past few seasons, with multiple non-playoff efforts coming after a string of five straight one-and-done postseason appearances. Owner Mike Brown seems to be intent on hiring someone whom he knows, which narrows the universe of potential coaches considerably. The team also has the lowest budget for a coach, or close to it. Key players like A.J. Green are aging and due for new contracts sooner than later. The quarterback is a middle-of-the-pack guy at best. Apathy looms. And their Ohio rivals are poised to take over the division.
No. 7: The Dolphins.
An owner who once was asked to comment on Stephen Ross living in New York and owning a team in Miami said, “I love competing against him.” And that continues to be one of the biggest impediments to the Dolphins becoming as good as they can be. Ross, an absentee landlord, isn’t sufficiently engaged in the team, deferring to others. As of Monday, the primary person to whom Ross defers (until he doesn’t) will be G.M. Chris Grier, with coach Adam Gase fired and V.P. of football operations reassigned to a non-football job. With the Jets and Bills having their quarterbacks of the future, the Dolphins need to figure out that position first, and then most of the others.
No. 6: The Cardinals.
The Cardinals could be mired in the basement of the NFC West for a while, and the new coach could find himself reporting to a new G.M. as soon as 2020 -- a new G.M. who may want to hire his own coach ASAP. With plenty of holes on the roster and highly competitive rivals in L.A., Arizona, and Seattle, it’s no surprise Eric Bieniemy passed on sitting for an interview.
No. 5: The Broncos.
After consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1971-72, expectations should be low in Denver. Which is good. But the organization is mired in dysfunction, due in large part to an intra-family Willie Wonka competition gone bad, and a former franchise quarterback whose work as the leader of the franchise has left something to be desired in recent years. With the Chiefs poised to dominate the division for years thanks to the presence of Patrick Mahomes, with the Chargers not far behind, and with the Raiders possibly ready to turn it around, the next coach in Denver could be another short-term coach in Denver.
No. 4: The Buccaneers.
It’s hardly ideal to take a coaching job and to not have the ability to pick a quarterback, given the team’s decision to stick with Jamies Winston for at least another year. But the Bucs could do a lot worse at the most important position on the field; with the right coach (Dirk Koetter apparently wasn’t it), Winston could still become a franchise quarterback. And if 2019 proves that Winston isn’t the guy, it becomes basically a scholarship year for the new coach. Regardless, expectations for the team are low, the rest of the NFC South is in transition or close to it, and the door is open for the Bucs to become something they haven’t been in a long time -- a true contender.
No. 3: The Jets.
Sam Darnold had a strong late-season push, making him a viable candidate to become a short-list franchise quarterback. With Tom Brady inevitably retiring, the Jets could fill the looming power vacuum in the AFC East. But it’s a tough market and the roster has plenty of holes. The question is whether the next coach will get enough time to turn it around.
No. 2: The Packers.
No traditional owner. A commitment to patience. A G.M. who gets it. A plan to spend in free agency. A rabid and loyal fan base. History, tradition, etc. The only wildcard is whether Aaron Rodgers will be on board with the hire, and what he may say or do if he isn’t.
No. 1: The Browns.
There’s a sizable gap between No. 1 and the rest. This could be the most attractive opening of the past decade, if not longer. And the presence of Baker Mayfield, plus the absence of any real accomplishments since the franchise rejoined the NFL in 1999, makes it a must-have job. Throw in a talented nucleus of young players and plenty of cap space, and the job gets even better. The only drawbacks are that expectations actually may be higher than desirable for 2019, and the potential for meddling by ownership.