Black Monday has come and gone, and several new head coaching vacancies exist across the NFL landscape. Most were to be expected, but per usual not all jobs could be salvaged. Here’s my take on just who could be taking over the coaching reigns, and a surprise candidate who could take a floundering franchise to the next level.
- Oakland Raiders
My Prediction: Jon Gruden
After high expectations arose from a 2016 playoff berth, disappointment ran afoul this season and ultimately led to the reset of the franchise, as head coach Jack Del Rio was fired after Sunday’s blowout loss to the Chargers. The black hole (no pun intended), according to multiple reports over the past few days, is set to be filled by Monday Night Football commentator Jon Gruden after a 15-year separation from the franchise, which traded him away to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002. While doubters maintain that Gruden can attribute his Super Bowl win to a roster built by Tony Dungy, look for Gruden to energize a dormant franchise that is set to move to Las Vegas in 2019- and hopefully return franchise quarterback Derek Carr to the MVP caliber numbers we saw a season ago.
My Prediction: Josh McDaniels
The loss of Andrew Luck for the season was catastrophic for a team built around their one in a generation quarterback talent, and missing the playoffs for three straight seasons after a 2014 AFC Championship appearance was the final straw for Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis. McDaniels, who struggled in his first head coaching stint in Denver a few years ago, seems poised to leave the Patriots with an aging Tom Brady and multiple teams craving his offensive play-calling abilities. A combination of McDaniels’ offensive prowess and Luck’s talent could be a potent combination, and lead to the earlier success seen from the franchise after Luck was drafted.
My Prediction: Jim Schwartz
Ben McAdoo gone, Jerry Reese gone, and Eli Manning seemingly on the cusp of leaving the franchise he brought two Super Bowl titles, the Giants have more flexibility than many other teams- holding the second overall pick in the upcoming draft and returning many of the pieces of a former top ten defense including Landon Collins. Schwartz has turned around teams prior, taking the Lions to the playoffs after an 0-16 campaign in 2008 as well as greatly improving a Philadelphia defense that has struggled in previous seasons this fall. Schwartz in New York could change the culture of a franchise that desperately needs a new look from the ugly fallout of this season, and could help rebuild a defense we have seen in the past possesses plenty of talent.
- Detroit Lions
My Prediction: Matt Patricia
The Lions under Jim Caldwell were the definition of mediocrity, besides the emergence of Matthew Stafford as one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league over the past four seasons. While the offense under coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has seen growing levels of success, the defense has floundered. Patricia, the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, has been touted by executives across the league for his football intelligence and worked beneath one of the greatest defensive minds of all time in Belicheck. The hiring of Patricia could serve as a spark for a franchise that is a solid defense away from deep playoff run in the coming years.
- Chicago Bears
My Prediction: Pat Shurmur
No one expected Case Keenum, a regular journeyman who has bounced around multiple teams in the past few seasons, to be the quarterback who would lead the Minnesota Vikings to a second-place finish in the NFC and a seemingly easy ticket to the Super Bowl in February. Much of the credit of Keenum’s success should be given to Shurmur, who is finally ready to be given another shot as a head coach after an abysmal 9-23 record in two seasons in Cleveland. Shurmur could be a great option for a Bears franchise looking to help rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky improve upon his rookie campaign, and turn around a team that has seen lackluster coaching performances the past few seasons from the likes of Marc Trestman and John Fox.
- Arizona Cardinals
My Prediction: Greg Edwards
Poor Mike Zimmer. He, along with Bill Belicheck, may lose both coordinators this offseason. Edwards, one of the architects behind the phenomenal Vikings defense we have seen for the past few years, would be a perfect fit in Arizona after the retirement of head coach Bruce Arians this week. Losing stars such as Carson Palmer and (inevitably) Larry Fitzgerald means the Cardinals are in need of a new direction, and defensive stars including All Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson could benefit from the acquisition of Edwards as a strong willed and gritty defensive coordinator. In a division with quarterbacks including Goff, Wilson and now Garropolo, Arizona may need to become a defense-oriented team in order to compete out west, and Edwards is certainly the man for the job.
Surprise Prediction: Jim Harbaugh
Come on, tell me you haven’t at least thought about the idea. His first three seasons in Michigan have been good but not great, and a stunning loss in Monday’s Outback Bowl looks ugly on a resume that does not include a win against the Buckeyes or Spartans since his arrival in Ann Arbor. While it’s highly unlikely, it would be incredible to see Harbaugh reunited with former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck in Indianapolis or pair up with a gunslinger like Matt Stafford in Detroit. I’m not saying it should or even could happen, but in this league- who really knows?