There Are Five NFL Coach Openings And Best Opportunity Of Bunch Might Surprise

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NFL coach openings have come to the Texans, Cardinals, Broncos, Colts, and Panthers now. So where’s the best spot?

Which of the five offer the biggest opportunity to go from the cellar to the penthouse in the span of a couple of years? Which is the best opening currently available?

I reached out to a handful of bright NFL minds throughout the day on Monday and asked them to rank the worst job to best. And what I got was some intriguing stuff that merits sharing here.

First, let’s stipulate that nobody is a prophet and knows which of these admittedly bad teams offer the quickest opportunity for a turnaround.

New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll and New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) prior to the National Football League game between the New York Giants and the Indianapolis Colts on January 1, 2023 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

NFL Coach Openings Birthed Five Playoff Teams

“Look at what happened this season with the 10 jobs that got filled after last season,” a current NFL assistant general manager said. “There are surprises everywhere among those teams.”

Five of the 10 teams that hired new coaches this season made the playoffs.

Brian Daboll got the New York Giants to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Mike McDaniel got the Miami Dolphins to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Kevin O’Connell got the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs for the first time since 2019.

Doug Pederson got the Jacksonville Jaguars to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

And Todd Bowles, who took over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when Bruce Arians stepped aside, got his team back to the playoffs.

Most of those are more than a little surprising. The Giants, for example, know they’re a middling team early in a building process. The Vikings missed the playoffs in previous years with a very similar roster. And even Pederson told OutKick before the season he was confident he’d turn the thing around in Duval County but it would take some time.

The Jaguars won the AFC South.

The Raiders, meanwhile, made the playoffs last year but fell back with new coach Josh McDaniels. And the Broncos added quarterback Russell Wilson to breathe life into new coach Nathaniel Hackett’s offensive scheme.

And now Hackett is fired and the Wilson trade is seen more as a burden than blessing in Denver.

Head Coach Lovie Smith of the Houston Texans on the sidelines during a game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on December 24, 2022. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Texans A Surprise Favorite Opportunity

“Remember all this and then take everything I’m about to tell you, take with a grain of salt,” a current NFL assistant expecting to interview for at least one open job told OutKick. “I think Houston is the best job out there.

“I know, I know, you’re going to bring up all the mess of the last four years or so. But I love their draft picks. And I love their salary cap situation. There are possibilities there if the right guy has a chance to lay a foundation.”

The fact is three of the five experts who spoke to OutKick on Monday said Houston had the most upside of any job vacancy. Another had Houston as the second-best job available.

The Texans are scheduled to have 12 picks in the April draft. They’ll have two first-round picks, including the second overall selection. Their pick in the second round is a borderline first-rounder because the Dolphins forfeited their first this year, meaning there are only 31 first-round selections this draft.

The Texans will also have two picks in the third round this year. And two more first-round picks next year. This offers opportunity to find a franchise quarterback and build around him.

“And, don’t forget, the Deshaun Watson drama is gone,” a source said.

Houston Texans quarterback Kyle Allen hands off to Houston Texans running back Dameon Pierce during the football game between the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 4, 2022. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Texans Need A Quarterback But Have Resources

But the obvious issue with the Texans is they’ve been a dumpster fire of a reputation among some coaches. That has happened because the Texans fired both David Culley and Lovie Smith after only one season.

“That’s not overplayed media stuff,” one coach told OutKick. “That’s real. But never underestimate someone’s ego. I personally wouldn’t go in thinking the last two guys got fired after one year, so this is how it’s going to go for me.

“Guess what, you go 3-13-1 and blow the No. 1 overall pick, maybe you should get canned after one year. I think that job’s going to be an excellent opportunity for somebody.”

This is obviously one man’s opinion. But the Texans resources for adding talent, including having the most cap space of any of the teams hiring this cycle, makes them tempting.

And here’s a surprise: The lack of a quarterback this cycle is seen as something of a strength rather than a weakness by some.

Multiple people who spoke to OutKick on Monday showed little enthusiasm about the Arizona Cardinals and Broncos, in part because those teams are tied to veteran quarterbacks making a lot of money but not playing like they deserve a lot of money.

The Cardinals, searching for both a general manager and coach, are tied to Kyler Murray to such a degree that owner Michael Bidwell told reporters on Monday the player would have input in the coach search.

Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill stands on the field prior to a game against the Los Angeles Rams at State Farm Stadium on December 13, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Cardinals Empowering Kyler Murray

“The last thing that kid needs is find another coach to be his friend,” a source told OutKick. “And that’s how it’s looking. I mean, what has he done to deserve any say in a search?

“There’s no serious coach that wants to be interviewing with the quarterback who hasn’t proven anything. We’re not talking Peyton Manning here.”

The Broncos have not said Wilson will be part of their search. But coming off his worst professional season and holding a contract that prevents the team from moving on in the next two seasons is as much a challenge as developing a young quarterback.

Carolina? Indianapolis?

Neither have a quarterback. And neither have a top 3 draft pick, either.

So both are likely to pick up whatever quarterback doesn’t get selected by the Texans or another team that trades up to the No. 1 overall pick, which Chicago owns, or No. 3 overall pick, which Arizona owns.

Oh, yes, both Carolina and Indianapolis have interim coaches who expect to get interviews for the job — Jeff Saturday in Indy and Steve Wilks in Carolina.

“There’s a couple of ways to look at that,” a source said. “I think Wilks actually has a shot. Jeff has no shot. I respect both guys and I think we saw both those teams need to be largely rebuilt. But I’m not sure ownership in either spot agrees with that.

“That’s a tough situation to step into when the expectation is there’s a lot of talent ready to go to the next level but the truth doesn’t match that expectation.”

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

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