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  • Michael Castello

Coaching Matchmaker & Tracker: TheDyspatch's Guide To The 2024 NFL Coaching Carousel

Updated: Jan 25

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This head coaching cycle has marked one of the grander in recent memory. In total, there have been eight vacancies. At the time of writing, three have been filled. The New England Patriots replaced Bill Belichick with in-house linebackers coach Jerod Mayo on Jan. 12, the Las Vegas Raiders elected to retain Antonio Pierce on the 19th, and on Monday the Tennessee Titans replaced Mike Vrabel with Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. 

The remaining open positions belong to the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, and Washington Commanders.

In total, 29 different candidates have interviewed across the seven openings. Of those candidates:

· 15 hail from the defensive side of the ball, 13 from offense, and 1 from special teams

· 15 candidates were age 45 or younger

· 12 have been head coaches before. 10 at the NFL level (Belichick, Frazier, Harbaugh*, Morris, Pierce^, Quinn, Giff Smith^, Tabor^*, Vrabel, Wilks) and 2 (Monken, Shaw) in college. *both levels ^NFL only at the interim level

· 16 candidates are White and 12 are Black. Tampa Bay OC Dave Canales is the only Hispanic/Latinx candidate. There have been no Asian candidates interviewed to date

· 17 different NFL staffs had a member interview for an HC position. Carolina, Detroit, Las Vegas, and LAC had two

Full list, alphabetical by most interviews

6 interviews

Ben Johnson (OC, Detroit Lions) - Chargers, Commanders, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks, Titans

5 interviews

Mike Macdonald (DC, Baltimore Ravens) - Chargers, Commanders, Falcons, Panthers, Titans

Raheem Morris (DC, Los Angeles Rams) - Chargers, Commanders, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks

Dan Quinn (DC, Dallas Cowboys) - Chargers, Commanders, Panthers, Seahawks, Titans

Bobby Slowik (OC, Houston Texans) - Commanders, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks, Titans

4 interviews

Brian Callahan (OC, Cincinnati Bengals) - Chargers, Falcons, Panthers, Titans

3 interviews

Ejiro Evero (DC, Carolina Panthers) - Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks

Aaron Glenn (DC, Detroit Lions) - Commanders, Falcons, Titans

Antonio Pierce (Interim HC/LBs, Las Vegas Raiders) - Falcons, Raiders, Titans

2 interviews

Patrick Graham (DC, Las Vegas Raiders) - Seahawks, Titans

Jim Harbaugh (HC, Michigan Wolverines) - Chargers, Falcons

Brian Johnson (OC, Philadelphia Eagles) - Falcons, Titans

Mike Kafka (OC, New York Giants) - Seahawks, Titans

Todd Monken (OC, Baltimore Ravens) - Chargers, Panthers

David Shaw (HC, Stanford Cardinal, former) - Chargers, Titans

Frank Smith (OC, Miami Dolphins) - Panthers, Seahawks

Mike Vrabel (HC, Tennessee Titans, former) - Chargers, Falcons

Anthony Weaver (D-Line/Assoc. Head Coach, Baltimore Ravens) - Commanders, Falcons

Steve Wilks (DC, San Francisco 49ers) - Chargers, Falcons

1 interview

Bill Belichick (HC, New England Patriots, former) - Falcons

Eric Bieniemy (OC/Asst. HC, Washington Commanders) - Commanders

Joe Brady, (QBs/Interim OC, Buffalo Bills) - Falcons

Thomas Brown (OC, Carolina Panthers) - Titans

Dave Canales (OC, Tampa Buccaneers) - Panthers

Leslie Frazier (DC, Buffalo Bills, former) - Chargers

Jerod Mayo (LBs, New England Patriots) - Patriots

Kellen Moore (OC, Los Angeles Chargers) - Chargers

Giff Smith (Interim HC/OLBs, Los Angeles Chargers) - Chargers

Chris Tabor (Interim HC, STC Carolina Panthers) - Panthers

Atlanta Falcons

Former Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Plainly, this is Bill Belichick’s job to lose. The best coach of the millennium has made it clear he wants to continue coaching, and yet the Falcons are the only team he has given an interview. 

Monday’s news that Falcons ascending defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen has moved on laterally to coordinate the Jacksonville Jaguars defense suggests a grander plan is in motion. A volitional move-on from the brightest part of your coaching staff signals a replacement is known; a replacement with britches Belichick-big. Signs point to Belichick bringing his son Steve along from New England to coordinate his defense, which Steve did in tandem with Jerod Mayo last season. Belichick will reportedly give up some of the ubiquitous personnel powers he had in Foxborough, but he probably won’t relinquish defensive playcalling duties until the finger bones of his skeleton wither enough to be snapped away from that vice grip on his call sheet. Nielsen is an incredible get for a Jags defense that was holier than Swiss cheese and communion crackers.

The Falcons have cast the widest net of candidates. They have interviewed 15 candidates, comprising over half of the total list. Their list of second interviews currently runs four: Belichick, Mike Macdonald and Anthony Weaver from the Ravens defense, and Raheem Morris. Morris was Atlanta’s interim head coach in 2020, the liaison between Dan Quinn and Arthur Smith.

All interviewed candidates

Bill Belichick, Joe Brady, Brian Callahan, Ejiro Evero, Aaron Glenn, Jim Harbaugh, Ben Johnson, Brian Johnson, Mike Macdonald, Raheem Morris, Antonio Pierce, Bobby Slowik, Mike Vrabel, Anthony Weaver, Steve Wilks

Los Angeles Chargers

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh (right) celebrating his national title.

It’s exceedingly rare for a head coaching position that touts a quarterback as great as Justin Herbert to become available. The last time a comparable level QB became sherpa-less was before the 2019 season when Aaron Rodgers hit the market – following seasons of 7 and 6 wins. Otherwise, it’s before the 2018 season, when Andrew Luck’s Colts hired Frank Reich. And even then, Luck was coming off an injury that prevented him from playing a snap in 2017. He retired after just one season with Reich, earning Comeback Player of the Year in his final campaign. Dak Prescott before the 2020 season, 2020 Baker Mayfield, 2017 Philip Rivers (age 36), and 2016 Eli Manning (age 35) shape out the tops of the past decade.

We say all that to say, there’s a reason Los Angeles is in the lead for Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh is the best candidate on the market according to most, courtesy of his resume and experience at both the pro and college ranks, his consistency of winning everywhere he sets foot, and his age compared to other accomplished coaches (Belichick and Pete Carroll boast 10+ years over Harbaugh’s 60). He was a pass on the goal line shy of joining Carroll, Barry Switzer, and Jimmy Johnson as the only coaches with a Super Bowl and NCAA D1 title. The ever-hungry Jim would come into the only open team with the quarterback capable of doing it year one and talent that has underperformed, which should be a plus for a confident coach.

All interviewed candidates

Brian Callahan, Leslie Frazier, Patrick Graham, Jim Harbaugh, Ben Johnson, Mike Macdonald, Todd Monken, Kellen Moore, Raheem Morris, Dan Quinn, David Shaw, Giff Smith, Mike Vrabel,  Steve Wilks

Washington Commanders

Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and quarterback Jared Goff.

All reporting out of Ashburn, Va. where the Commanders headquarter is that this is Ben Johnson’s job to lose. It’s a foregone conclusion that Washington will be selecting a QB with its No. 2 overall pick in April’s draft. Pairing the future of the $6.1 billion franchise with a hungry offensive coach is a logical way to go.

Should Johnson be hired, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Monday that Lions o-line coach Hank Fraley is the leading candidate to go with him as his offensive coordinator. In Washington, this would displace incumbent OC and assistant HC Eric Bieniemy. It seems unlikely that the 54-year-old Bieniemy would stick around while a 37-year-old Johnson with decades less experience leapfrogs him for the team’s top spot.

The other two names here that seem prominent are Raheem Morris and Mike Macdonald. After Baltimore’s domination of the thentofore transcendent CJ Stroud, Macdonald appears to be the belle of the defensive candidates’ ball. Raheem Morris seems to be the team’s veteran choice, having already taken multiple interviews with Washington brass. New Commanders GM Adam Peters never missed on a DC during his time with the 49ers. Morris coached Washington’s defensive backs from 2012-14. Yes, he was on that infamous McVay, Shanahan, LaFleur, Mike McDaniel staff (that also included Bobby Slowik!)

All interviewed candidates

Eric Bieniemy, Aaron Glenn, Ben Johnson, Mike Macdonald, Raheem Morris, Dan Quinn, Bobby Slowik, Anthony Weaver

Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks general manager John Schneider.

The five candidates to earn second interviews are Ejiro Evero, Patrick Graham, Mike Kafka, Raheem Morris, and Dan Quinn. 

Seattle is a situation truly in flux. While dressed as a mutual parting of ways/retirement/Pete Carroll will languish into a less stressful front office gig, Carroll made it clear that he still wants to coach. Following the blow-it-all-to-hell trade of Russell Wilson, Carroll brought a written-off team a playoff entry and an above .500 finish in back-to-back seasons. 

Relieving a win-now coach of his duties suggests a step back, but the team is still piloted by Geno Smith, who will be 34 come Week 1. Smith has shown no indication that he isn’t a winning-level QB. It was Carroll’s defenses much more than OC Shane Waldron’s offenses that held back the Seahawks post-Wilson. Now, Waldron has moved on to a lateral job as the Chicago Bears’ OC, priming the same speculation that Ryan Nielsen’s departure arose in Atlanta. With the brightest 2/3 of the coaching staff’s leaders gone, and a quarterback one year shy of running for President, a rebuild is being indicated.

This is GM John Schneider’s first time having personnel control, an authority that was Carroll’s since the two both arrived in 2010. It’s anyone’s guess what the image in which he chooses to shape the roster will look like, but it will definitely be his own.

The team has shown plenty of interest in former Seattle/Carroll DC Dan Quinn, and the logic there is patent. He’s a strong presence that can shore up Seattle’s troublesome side of the ball, has made it all the way to the Super Bowl as a head coach, won the Super Bowl with Seattle and made a second, and was hands-off en route to some extraordinary offenses Atlanta, letting OC Kyle Shanahan fine-tune Matt Ryan into an MVP.

While Quinn is the mainstream’s and Vegas’ leader at the moment, his hire doesn’t entirely align with the vision of trading away Russell Wilson in the spring of 2022, and replacing a win-now defensive coach with a win-now defensive coach gives pause to the “relief” (firing) of Pete Carroll. 

With the chance to imprint on this tabula that’s suddenly rasa, expectation should be for a younger coach on either side of the ball. Do not be surprised if they go QB at pick 16 this April, regardless of if they sit him for a year while he learns and $31 million ticks off of Geno’s deal. That contract currently has two years left, on the hook for just $8.7 million in 2025.

All interviewed candidates

Ejiro Evero, Patrick Graham, Ben Johnson, Mike Kafka, Raheem Morris, Dan Quinn, Bobby Slowik, Frank Smith

Carolina Panthers

Panthers defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero.

The Panthers gig is, respectfully, one opposite the Chargers job. Bryce Young is not the antithesis of Justin Herbert (aka bad), but the situation in Charlotte is one that got a head coach fired after 11 games and looms an owner notorious for meddling and being difficult in David Tepper.

The roster is bare, after such panaceas in free agency as Miles Sanders on a four-year deal, Adam Thielen for three, and 3/$22m for Hayden Hurst couldn’t overturn a moribund roster in the dredges of a rebuild. Now, they are a team with a meager $25-30 million in cap space and no first-round pick, bound to a quarterback with capricious rookie tape.

As a believer in Bryce Young, and an enjoyer of the second half of his season, I don’t aim to make this situation out as impossible. It’s just realistic that Carolina is not in contention for the Harbaughs, Belichicks, Macdonalds, and Ben Johnsons of the world. However, this coaching cycle is particularly talented, and the names on their interview list show promise across the spectrum of old, young, offense, defense, and in-house.

In his first season as a DC, a 41-year-old Ejiro Evero had the 2022 Broncos defense holding 11 of 12 opponents under 24 points to start the season, carrying the 32nd scoring offense until they let go of the rope at 3-9. He spent this year calling shots for the Panthers D after Sean Payton came into town, and that profound Denver defense became perfunctory, climaxing with a 70 burger on their heads. Mike McDaniel should have kicked that field goal instead of kneeling on 4th down.

The Texans paired their young quarterback CJ Stroud with a defensive coach in DeMeco Ryans because he was the best man for the job. Panthers OC Thomas Brown might not necessarily be Bobby Slowik, but he has gotten promotion looks this cycle as well, interviewing for the Titans HC job. It's pronounced \ee-JAIR-oh ee-VAIR-oh\.

All interviewed candidates

Brian Callahan, Dave Canales, Ejiro Evero, Ben Johnson, Mike Macdonald, Todd Monken, Raheem Morris, Dan Quinn, Bobby Slowik, Frank Smith, Chris Tabor

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