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Armando Salguero: Rating The NFL Coaching Openings Shows Worst Is Best

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Six teams are searching for head coaches today and because it’s the NFL, so the competition is fierce.

Sure there are plenty of candidates, but the teams with the best situations are likely to land the most coveted candidates, which leads to the question: which teams have the most inviting and promising situations to offer their next coach?

Here is the OutKick best to worst ranking of the six teams offering the best situations for potential coaches depending on talent at quarterback, draft and free agency possibilities and other factors:

1. Jacksonville: The Jaguars had the NFL’s worst record in 2021 and the history is troubling, but that’s really where the problems end. The Jaguars have been so bad, their upcoming draft position offers a boon with the No. 1 overall pick and four selections in the first 70 slots.

The Jaguars have a promising quarterback situation in that Trevor Lawrence was the No. 1 overall selection in 2021 and saved his best game for the season finale when he threw 2 TD passes and had a 111.8 rating in an upset against the Indianapolis Colts.

Did I mention Lawrence is on his rookie contract and the Jaguars have the second-most projected cap space of any of these teams, at approximately $50 million? Owner Shad Khan also isn’t shy about spending money because he’s building a new training facility.

The problem here is GM Trent Baalke apparently comes as part of a package, as he’s helping in the coach search, and his reputation in the NFL is still tainted by his power struggle with Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco seven years ago.

2. Las Vegas: They’re the only playoff team of this group and have the most established and proven quarterback of any team on the list.

That could be a blessing and a curse for the next coach because expectations are immediately to carry on the current success and, indeed, improve on it. There would be no significant honeymoon period or rebuild job here.

The Raiders will have moderate cap space, expected to be in the $27 million range, and draft picks in the lower third of each round.

There could also be some residual pushback from the locker room if the new coach is not named Rich Bisaccia because the interim coach took over for Jon Gruden and has won over the players. Bisaccia is expected to be interviewed for the job and could even earn it outright, depending on how far the Raiders advance in the postseason.

3. Chicago: There’s a promising young QB in Justin Fields on the roster, so depending on what the new coach thinks of him, this could be a really attractive job.

The Bears made a clean and full break from both coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace, so the coach will come in alongside the new GM and understand that both of them are as tied to Fields as they are.

That really is an optimal situation to start anew.

The Bears aren’t flush with salary cap space for 2022, but have maneuverability with approximately $28 million. Unfortunately, the team traded away its first-round pick so that’s an issue.

Beyond that, the NFC North is a division in transition as the Detroit Lions are still figuring things out, Minnesota is also starting over, and no one knows whether Aaron Rodgers will return to the Green Bay Packers next season or retire.

4. Minnesota: Another optimal situation in that both the new general manager and head coach will come in at the same time — although president and co-owner Mark Wilf said Monday the GM would be hired first.

The Vikings need an upgrade on defense and the new coach has to find a comfort level with starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is scheduled to cost $45 million in cap space. One supposes a trade is possible, but the Vikings don’t exactly have a starting candidate behind Cousins.

The Vikings have a top-third-of-the-round selection in each of the draft’s first three rounds and dynamic young talent such as Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson. But the defense is broken, despite 2021 efforts to upgrade it, and much work will have to be done to get under the cap because this team has the least cap space of anyone on this list.

5. Denver: The Broncos are an elite quarterback from being a very good team, but the problem is they’re an elite quarterback from being a very good team, which has been an issue the team hasn’t solved since Peyton Manning left after 2015.

It’s obvious Drew Lock won’t be that player, but the Broncos have five picks in the first three rounds of the April draft either to try to select that quarterback or use as ammunition to trade for him.

Denver is otherwise on solid footing with a good defense that includes young talent such as Patrick Surtain II and a good offensive line and running game. There’s also good salary cap of about $30 million for free agency.

So why are the Broncos this far down on the list? Because the one thing they sorely lack — the QB — is the most difficult asset to acquire.

6. Miami: The Dolphins will hire a coach this cycle and the next thing that’ll happen is the team will be involved in significant free agency activity because they have approximately $60 million in salary cap space and that’s the most of any of these teams. So this is great.

But there are problems:

The quarterback position is unsettled. Yes, the Dolphins have Tua Tagovailoa, but he was the NFL’s 19th rated QB in 2021 and his size and injury history put a limit on his ceiling. Beyond that, the Dolphins are a team without a solid offensive line, without a dynamic set of running backs or wide receivers and with a history of dysfunction.

Ownership here is questionable. Stephen Ross said he fired Adam Gase in 2018 because he “wanted to win,” and Brian Flores was fired Monday because he apparently didn’t meet the standard of collaboration the owner expected — even as Flores delivered back-to-back winning seasons.

So does the standard for judging a coach in Miami place winning as a secondary assignment? A new coach candidate is going to have to be comfortable with the answer.

The Dolphins also have general manager Chris Grier on board and helping to guide the hiring process. That means the new coach is probably going to have to accept the GM who picked Tagovailoa over Justin Herbert in 2020, has failed to solve the offensive line since 2016, and said Miami’s running backs corps was good enough before the ’21 season when obviously it was not.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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