Two of the NFL’s six head coaching vacancies have been filled, with the Oakland Raiders luring Jon Gruden from the ESPN broadcast booth and the Chicago Bears hiring Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy.
The New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals remain in the market. The top remaining candidates include Bill Belichick’s top lieutenants in New England, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia; defensive coordinators Steve Wilks of Carolina and Mike Vrabel of Houston; and Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, another under-40, would-be offensive genius in the mold of Sean McVay, the NFL coach of the year front-runner with the Los Angeles Rams.
Here are some quick thoughts on the ongoing searches and candidacies:
Will McDaniels leave? . . . It has been assumed for the past few hiring cycles that McDaniels, after rehabilitating his reputation in his return to the Patriots, could have a head coaching job when he wants one. But after his failed stint in Denver, McDaniels has been selective, waiting for the opportunity to get the right quarterback and a front office setup to his liking.
Many within the league assume that, after reports of tension and internal strife within the Patriots organization, both McDaniels and Patricia will move on. But is that so certain in McDaniels’s case? He would be a strong candidate to succeed Belichick if this indeed is his final season with the Patriots. But both Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft have said they expect Belichick to coach the team next season.
If McDaniels does leave, where does he go? The conventional wisdom at this point seems to point toward Indianapolis. He would have a franchise quarterback should Andrew Luck return from his lost season following shoulder surgery, and McDaniels also could coach former Patriots backup Jacoby Brissett. The issue is whether McDaniels would want to work with General Manager Chris Ballard.
McDaniels also has interviewed with the Giants, who have the No. 2 overall selection in a quarterback-rich NFL draft, and also could retain Eli Manning. But the Giants just hired a new GM in Dave Gettleman. And, again, the question is whether that’s an arrangement that works for McDaniels.
Patricia and the Lions? . . . Some within the league are convinced that Patricia will end up in Detroit to work with Lions General Manager Bob Quinn, a former Patriots executive. The Lions fired Jim Caldwell after a 9-7 season, so Patricia would inherit a contending team with a franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford.
Will DeFilippo land a job? . . . McVay’s Year 1 success has led teams to put aside any reservations about hiring young head coaches. DeFilippo, 39, helped quarterback Carson Wentz to develop into a league MVP candidate this season in Philadelphia before suffering a season-ending knee injury, and has since interviewed with the Bears and Cardinals. Chicago is now off the board but Arizona remains in play. The question there is what the Cardinals will do at quarterback after Carson Palmer’s retirement. A quarterback guru needs a quarterback, after all.
What about the Giants? . . . Belichick probably won’t leave the Patriots for the Giants. Assuming that Alabama’s Nick Saban, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Stanford’s David Shaw remain in the college ranks and Bill Cowher remains out of coaching, what are the Giants going to do?
One candidate to watch could be Wilks. He’s scheduled to interview Tuesday and could have the support of Gettleman, the former GM of the Panthers. He is regarded as a rising star in the coaching ranks. The problem could be inexperience. He has been a coordinator for only one season in Carolina since succeeding Sean McDermott, who left the Panthers to become the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. Are the Giants willing to take another chance on an inexperienced coach after what happened with Ben McAdoo?
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