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Teams with vacancies likely waiting for coaches who are still coaching

There are still four NFL coaching vacancies and they are teams likely waiting to hire coaches who are on teams still alive in the playoffs.

The Cardinals, Lions, Giants, and Colts continue to search for coaches. The prevailing thinking in league circles is that the searches have ended, and that they’re simply waiting for the opportunity to formalize their hires.

They can’t, because all four teams are believed to be targeting coaches who are still coaching as assistants with teams still alive in the playoffs.

The Cardinals have completed their first wave of interviews, with only two of the candidates (Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks) coming to Arizona. The rest of the candidates were interviewed in their current cities, since they are currently employed elsewhere. The next step will be to conduct second interviews, and it’s likely that there’s one specific person they hope to hire at or before the conclusion of that second interview.

The Giants are reportedly down to three candidates -- Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. There’s also, supposedly, a fourth candidate; the thinking is that, if there is one, it’s Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who was not interviewed by the Giants during the bye week, even though a request was made to talk to him.

The Lions have interviewed Patricia, Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, and Packers associate head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss. The Lions are believed to be locked onto Patricia. If he chooses the Giants, it’s unclear who the Lions will choose.

Then there are the Colts. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, they’re down to two finalists. And the name to watch there, somewhat amazingly, is McDaniels. If he believes that Indy will be the right fit for him, he could end up finally leaving the Patriots. Proximity to his home state of Ohio coupled with the presence of franchise quarterback Andrew Luck and the perception that new G.M. Chris Ballard already is turning around a depleted roster may be enough to get McDaniels to roll the dice again on being a head coach, eight years after his first stint in Denver.

Regardless of how it plays out, chances are these jobs will start to fill up based on which teams lose this weekend, making their assistants eligible to be interviewed again and hired immediately.