On average, there are about six or seven head coaching vacancies that come up at the end of each NFL season. Given the fact that there are only 32 of these jobs in the world, that much turnover seems like a lot. But it puts into perspective how cut-throat the business is; win, or we’ll find someone who can.
So far, this is the list of coaches who have been fired and the teams that now have vacancies to fill.
Houston Texans: Bill O’Brien
Atlanta Falcons: Dan Quinn
Detroit Lions: Matt Patricia
New York Jets: Adam Gase
Jacksonville Jaguars: Doug Marrone
Los Angeles Chargers: Anthony Lynn
Those are the six, and they may be the only six. It doesn’t seem like the Cincinnati Bengals are moving on from Zac Taylor this year. Doug Pederson seems safe in Philadelphia, for now. It looks like Vic Fangio is getting one more year in Denver and the Arizona Cardinals appear to be committed to at least one more season with Kliff Kingsbury as well.
For as much as we talk about who will take over for these next coaches, there isn’t as much talk about where the fired coaches might land next. Not all of the names on the fired head coach list will find head coaching work again, but some might.
These are the coaches who I believe have a chance to be head coaches again sometime in the future.
This one feels like the obvious one, right? Years ago, Quinn was the defensive coordinator for the best defense in the NFL when the Seattle Seahawks and the “Legion of Boom'' took over the league and won a Lombardi Trophy. Soon after, he was hired to be the head coach of the Falcons, where he also led them to a Super Bowl appearance—albeit a crushing loss in the end.
Quinn never was able to get over that loss, for whatever reason. His team made the playoffs as a wild-card team the following season, but then put up back-to-back 7-9 campaigns. This year, after an 0-5 start, the Falcons decided to move on—understandably so.
Quinn is not only a great defensive mind, but from all accounts is one of the best leaders of players and staff in the NFL. His character and leadership are regarded highly around the league, no matter who you talk to. With that, and given his history of success as a coordinator and a head coach, I fully expect him to get another head coaching shot one day.
Lynn was somewhat of a surprise fire—not because there wasn't cause for it to be the case, as Lynn showed time and time again that he could not manage late-game situations, squandering leads and making games against inferior opponents much closer than they needed to be. But the surprise was that Lynn was let go after finishing 12-4 in his first year two years ago, 5-11 and his second season, and 7-9 this season. In the end, when you blow an 11-point lead to the Chiefs, a 17-point lead to the Buccaneers, a 10-point lead to the Saints, and a 21-point lead to the Broncos, as well as lose 45-0 to the Patriots, all in the same season, there’s rarely any coming back from that.
Another reason for this firing was likely timing. Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert took the league by storm this season, and the Chargers know that they cannot afford to settle for anything other than the best man for the job during the next few years of his rookie contract.
Like Quinn, Lynn is spoken so highly around the league. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who had a negative thing to say about the man’s character and leadership. But, as stated at the top of the article, it is a results-driven business, and the results weren’t what they needed to be or could have been this year. Lynn was part of what held them back.
Oh, I can just see my mentions now, but this question was about who could be a head coach again, not who will just be employed at the top of a staff again.
The reason why there’s a difference there is because O’Brien is a veteran football mind. He’s a good coach, and his record of four division titles in five seasons with Houston speaks to that. Was he perfect with the talent he had? No, but he amassed plenty of success with the pieces he was given and built a good offense once Deshaun Watson got on board.
What O’Brien is not, is a good general manager. When O’Brien was given general manager power on top of his head coaching power, that’s when things started to go downhill. That’s how the Texans got in a bad salary cap situation with a depleted stash of draft picks.
Right or wrong, I’m just saying, don’t be surprised if, in a season or two, O’Brien’s name pops up in some future head coach interviews.