Ah, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, I’m not talking about Thanksgiving or even Christmas. I’m talking about “Oh My Gosh, Get This Guy The Hell Out Of Here” season for football fans of all ages.
November is usually right around the time when you can really tell whether or not your favorite NFL team is going to need a head coach the following year. We’ll get into the details of which teams are more likely to have head coaching vacancies later this week, but right off the bat we wanted to present the TDN audience with some names from around the NFL, within the college ranks, and perhaps a few candidates not in coaching right now who could be donning the headset for your franchise in 2019.
John Harbaugh, HC, Ravens
Harbaugh hasn’t been canned yet, but there are reports from multiple credible sources saying that by the time the 2018 season has run its course, Harbaugh will be out of Baltimore.
Harbaugh has been the Ravens head coach for 10 years, starting in 2008. He most notably won a Super Bowl for Baltimore in 2012 and has a head coach record of 98-69. Harbaugh made the playoffs in the first five years of his tenure and the first six of seven, but has since missed out on the playoffs four years in a row.
Harbaugh is a defensive minded head coach, but more than that he is an experienced leader in the building. He knows what it’s like to set up a winning culture and of the coaches on this list, has the best track record for winning. He will likely be the most coveted of them all.
Josh McDaniels, OC, Patriots
It’s not a matter of whether or not McDaniels is going to be wanted for his skills as an offensive mind and as a play caller, it’s whether your franchise can trust him.
McDaniels left the Colts high and dry last season after backing out of his agreement to be their head coach at the very last second. He likely did so because he didn’t want to leave Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
McDaniels has been a head coach before. He was the Denver Broncos head coach from 2009-2010. But after going 11-17 in those two seasons he was fired and found his way back to New England, where he’s been ever since. How much credit do you give him and how much do you give Belichick and Brady for the Patriots’ offensive success? That’s the question you’ll have to answer to determine his value.
Bruce Arians, Former HC, Cardinals
Ah, the true wildcard in it all: the coach that isn’t currently coaching.
We weren’t sure Arians, who is 66 years old, would ever come back to the NFL, but when the Cleveland Browns’ coaching position came open and he expressed interest in it, that got the wheels turning for other teams, too.
Arians was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals from 2014-2017. He won AP Coach Of The year in 2014, but also in 2012 as he filled in for Colts coach Chuck Pagano. In 2014 and 2015 he went 11-5 and 13-3 with the Cardinals, which led to playoff berths but nothing more. After two mediocre seasons to follow, he and the Cardinals parted ways.
Arians has a lot more success than he does failures as a coach, especially as an offensive mind. The question is just how much left does he have in the tank to coach at his age?
John DeFilippo, OC, Vikings
Speaking of offensive minds, DeFilippo seems to be the hottest young coaching name floating around during these kinds of conversations, and with good reason.
From 2005-2009, DeFilippo was a quarterbacks coach for the Giants, Raiders and Jets, but his arrival on the coaching scene came when he was named offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns after Kyle Shanahan left in 2015. After getting fired with the rest of that Browns’ regime, DeFilippo was picked up as the quarterbacks coach for the Eagles, which became his crowning achievement as he turned Carson Wentz into an MVP candidate and helped Nick Foles win a Super Bowl.
This led him to the offensive coordinator position with the Vikings where he is now. If your team has a young franchise quarterback, DeFilippo has to be considered due to his track record.
Dan Campbell, TE Coach, Saints
Like Arians, Campbell already has a little head coaching experience from when the Miami Dolphins fired Joe Philbin in 2015 and Campbell took over as interim head coach. He went 5-7 over the remainder of that season.
Campbell comes from the Bill Parcells coaching tree. At 42 years old, he is currently the tight ends coach for the New Orleans Saints at the moment. He was considered for the Colts head coaching position when McDaniels back out, but ended up losing that race to the now current coach for Indianapolis, Frank Reich.
During that interview process, however, general manager of the Colts, Chris Ballard, seemed to be thoroughly impressed.
“He’s been mentored and trained playing under Bill Parcells and coaching under Sean Payton,” Ballard said. “He’s got a great vision of what he wants (his team) to be. I think he’s going to be an outstanding head coach. It’s not a matter of if, but when.”
Jim Schwartz, DC, Eagles
If you like, blunt, aggressive, defensive-minded head coaches, Jim Schwartz can be your guy.
Schwartz was head coach of the Detroit Lions from 2009-2013, and it didn’t exactly go well. In five season, he recorded a 29-51 record with just one playoff appearance. He served as the Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator after that, then took a year off and accepted a job as the defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles.
There, it all came together.
The Eagles had one of the most aggressive defenses in all the NFL last year and it led them to a Super Bowl title. Such a style is hard to sustain, as the Eagles are finding out this year, but when you hit it, you can win a title.
Schwartz is of that kind of mentality. Has he grown since the last time he was a head coach?
Todd Monken, OC, Buccaneers
The 52-year-old Monken would be a first-time head coach, if this were to happen, but if it were to ever be the time, one could say this is it.
Monken was the offensive coordinator for Oklahoma State in 2011 and 2012 where his team had the No. 1 and No. 2 offense in the country those two seasons. He then became the head coach at Southern Miss where he went 1-11, 3-9, but then 9-5 and accepted a job with the Buccaneers.
Since then, Monken has been the wide receivers coach, the offensive coordinator and even has called plays this season. As the team’s play caller to start the year, he help orchestrate and offense that broke NFL records when the Bucs played the Saints and the Eagles.
Since then head coach Dirk Koetter has taken back play calling, but when Monken was given the reigns, he seemed to really know what he was doing. He deserves his looks for a head coaching job.
Dave Toub, ST, Chiefs
It’s not often you hear of special teams coordinators getting head coach looks, but for Toub it wouldn’t be the first time.
Toub has been interviewed by the Denver Broncos and L.A. Chargers in recent years, and was even considered years ago by the Miami Dolphins in 2012 and the Chicago Bears in 2013.
He’s been the special teams coordinator for the Chiefs since 2013, but has also been the assistant head coach for this season. It’s likely his last year in Kansas City.
Eric Bieniemy, OC, Chiefs
Toub might not be the only potential head coaching candidate in Kansas City.
We’re all watching the Chiefs take the NFL by storm, and one of the men responsible for that is their offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
Bieniemy is in his first year as the team’s coordinator, and though it is still heavily orchestrated by their head coach Andy Reid, Bieniemy getting to work as closely as he does with Reid is a plus in and of itself.
He’s been KC’s running backs coach since 2013. He’ll require some research, as his name would be new to the potential coach circle with as little experience he has, but perhaps he’s a hidden gem around the league.
Matt LaFleur, OC, Titans
Everyone wants the next Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahn.
Well how about the closest mind to them that’s left?
The 38-year-old LaFleur was the quarterbacks coach in Washington during the three year span that Shanahan was offensive coordinator, which was also the same time McVay was tight ends coach there. LaFleur was then the quarterbacks coach in Atlanta for the two years Shanahan was their offensive coordinator. And to top it all off he was offensive coordinator in Los Angeles for McVay’s first season as a head coach with the Rams.
It doesn’t get any closer than that.
Norv Turner, OC, Panthers
Hey, if Arians is getting looks from outside the league at 66 years old, Turner will gets some, too, at the same age while revitalizing the Carolina Panthers’ offense in 2018.
Turner has extensive head coaching experience. He was Washington’s head coach from 1994-2000 with one playoff appearance and a 49-59 record. He was the Raiders head coach on a short stint from 2004-2005 with a 9-23 record. Then, most successfully, was the Chargers head coach from 2007-2012 with three playoff appearances, three division titles and a 56-40 record.
He went on to be an offensive coordinator around the league before resigning from his position in 2016. In 2018 the Panthers lured him back in and Carolina’s offense has been brilliant with him this year.
If he wants to be a head coach again, he’ll get his looks.
George Edwards, DC, Minnesota
Edwards, a long-time defensive mind in the NFL, was interviewed by the Bears for their head coaching vacancy last offseason. However, with the desire to go for more of an offensive mind to pair with Trubisky, they decided to hire elsewhere.
Depending on how much you believe a defensive minded head coach can succeed, Edwards has built quite the strong defense in Minnesota with some of the best pass rushers and best secondary players in the NFL. He has been the defensive coordinator for five seasons now, and that doesn’t come without a good process and good results because of it.
Lincoln Riley, HC, Oklahoma
The 35-year old Riley has only been the head coach at Oklahoma for two season, but in those two seasons he has put up some of the most prolific numbers in all of college football. So much so that Kirk Herbstreit even reported that nearly every single NFL team reach out to Riley to pick his offensive brain at some point over the last two years.
Who knows whether or not he’s even willing to leave OU, but in an age where offense is king, no one is putting up more points with more creativity than Riley is at Oklahoma. He helped make quarterback Baker Mayfield into the No. 1 overall pick, and if a team wants to take a bet on a young offensive mind, there aren’t many choices better than Riley when it comes to potentially hitting the jackpot at the NFL level.
But success in the Big 12 and success in the NFL are two different beasts. Riley will need an experienced coaching room around him if he makes the jump.
Chris Petersen, HC, Washington
Not too long ago NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah asked five NFL executives to identify head coaching candidates at the college level and two of them mentioned Washington’s Chris Petersen.
“Petersen would easily be my top candidate,” one executive said. “He’s an outstanding coach and I know some teams have done their homework on him. Recruiting is such a mess for these coaches. I wouldn’t be totally shocked if he decided to make the jump. He would be a home-run hire for any NFL team.”
Petersen, at age 54, doesn’t have any NFL experience. However, he’s been one of the most innovative offensive minds in college football for the last two decades, most notably turning Boise State into a household name with the 2007 Fiesta Bowl as his crowning achievement.
Petersen is 136-32 in his head coaching career. If he’s looking to make the leap, that success is tough to argue with.
David Shaw, HC, Stanford
We all know Shaw as the hottest college football coaching name that has never been for what seems like the last five years now, but there are reasons for that.
Shaw’s NFL experience started in 1997 when he was a quality control assistant and position coach for the Eagles, Raiders and Ravens up until 2005. Since 2007, Shaw has been at Stanford — first as offensive coordinator for Jim Harbaugh, then his successor as head coach. He has since been a Pac-12 coach of the year four times.
Shaw’s teams at Stanford have won the Pac-12 North five times, and he’s most notably coached guys like Andrew Luck to great success. But, he has since cooled down as a hot coaching name since 2014 and 2015. His Stanford teams haven’t been what they were a few years ago, but his name is still going to be in the air of coaching circles.
Matt Campbell, HC, Iowa State
As our own Connor Rogers wrote on Monday, Campbell is already getting some NFL consideration, after being highly regarded by the likes of Browns general manager John Dorsey.
He was the head coach at Toledo from 2012-2015 before taking the job at Iowa State in 2016. Campbell is 14-8 following his first season, which speak more to how you can turn a program around, if you ask me. His attention to detail and discipline has been noted by many as the reason he has had success through all levels of maturity on his roster.
Though he played defensive line during his playing days, he’s been on the offensive side of the ball as a coordinator for most of his coaching career.
He’s relatively new and his competition level hasn’t been in the realm of the NFL yet, but if he’s already getting looks from those within the NFL, you know those will keep coming with more success.
His success is in his process — the little things become the big things. He could be paired well with a young roster.
Urban Meyer, HC, Ohio State
Say what you want about Urban Meyer, he does have success.
He worked with future No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith during his time at Utah, he coached and developed one of the greatest college football players of all time in Tim Tebow, and has turned Ohio State into an absolute juggernaut during his tenure there.
The question with Meyer is how much of it was him and how much of it was his coordinators, and then you have to ask yourself if what Meyer does would work in the NFL.
There is a difference between coaching young adults and coaching grown men. Meyer never has, and assuming he would be able to is still a risk. He’s dominated college football for more the 10 years. Would you trust him in the NFL?
Chip Kelly, HC, UCLA
Even though I don’t think Kelly would leave UCLA this soon, he has to be on this list just because of who he is. He took the Buccaneers job back in 2012 before backing out for one more season at Oregon. He then went on to be the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles where he played mad scientist with the roster until he ran himself out of town. Kelly then became the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers for one season before getting fired.
After a year off, he’s back and coaching, this time at UCLA. I think he’ll be there for a little while longer, but being labeled a failure in the NFL is likely a little voice in the back of his head that won’t go away.
Will he listen to it eventually?
Jim Harbaugh, HC, Michigan
Like his brother, Jim Harbaugh’s name has been around the NFL for ages, even though he hasn’t been in the league for the last four years.
Harbaugh was the head coach at Stanford from 2007-2010 before making the big jump to the NFL. He took over the San Francisco 49ers and led them to a Super Bowl birth in 2012, but did not have enough success after that for people to put up with his reported antics and style of managing a team. So back to college he went as he has been the head coach for the Michigan Wolverines since 2015.
Harbaugh hasn’t had much big-time success at Michigan. This could have likely been his last year, as another underwhelming season could have landed him fired, or the flip side, which is actually happening, his Wolverines are poised for a College Football Playoff spot and his success might be what causes him to leave, too.
Of candidates coming from the college ranks, Harbaugh has the most NFL experience and the most head coaching experience in general.
Jim Mora, Former HC, UCLA
When you say the name “Jim Mora” there is often a polarizing response, depending on who you ask.
Mora, who is the son of a former NFL head coach, was the Atlanta Falcons head coach from 2004-2006 after missing the playoffs for two straight season. He then became the Seahawks head coach for one season in 2009, but then in 2012 was hired to be the head coach of UCLA. Mora served as the head coach there until 2017, where he had early success, but couldn’t sustain it.
Mora has NFL experience, but not a lot of success to go with it yet.
He is currently not coaching anywhere.
Matt Rhule, HC, Baylor
Rhule made a name for himself as the head coach at Temple from 2013-2016. After winning 10 games in back-to-back seasons, he accepted the head coaching job at Baylor.
Last year Rhule interviewed for the Indianapolis Colts head coaching position, though it was reported he turned it down to stay at Baylor.
That may have been then, but a year can change a lot of things. Any offensive minded head coach that has had NFL consideration before will likely get it again.