NFL coaching rumors 2015: Tracking top candidates for Bears, 49ers and the other vacancies
Who will coach your favorite team next season?
“Black Monday” has arrived in the NFL, a day infamous for the cavalcade of head coaches and executives who lose their jobs. It is an awful day for those people and their families, but it is not without a silver lining.
For many other hard working coaches, the Monday after the regular season is over marks the beginning of their ascension into the big chair. Assistants, after toiling in obscurity for years or even decades, finally receive their chance to take command of an NFL team, a lifelong dream rarely realized in professional football.
The hiring process can be tricky, however. Many of the top candidates work for playoff teams, and organizations looking for a new head coach must carve out time in an already packed schedule. NFL rules also create limitations. Teams in the market must move quickly on coaches whose teams are currently on bye. They must also make sure to meet the league’s equal opportunity hiring policies (e.g. the Rooney Rule).
After the messy hiring period concludes, many coaches will become the new face of an NFL franchise. Here are the high profile candidates for those positions.
Todd Bowles earned accolades for his work as the Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator this season. Under Bowles’ leadership, the Cards weathered a long list of injuries at every level of the defense and remained an aggressive, effective unit despite the loss of players like Daryl Washington, Calais Campbell, John Abraham, Darnell Dockett, and Patrick Peterson for varying lengths of time. The Cards signed him to a nice extension earlier this year, so he can afford to be selective of his landing spot.
Strengths: Bowles’ aggression is his calling card, and any potential interest should bank on a dynamic defensive-minded coach coming in to right the ship. Bowles also has previous experience as an interim coach for the Miami Dolphins and finished with a 2-1 record.
Weaknesses: The Cardinals suffered a slide at season’s end, and the Cardinals defense has been carved up more recently. Bowles was a much hotter name at midseason than he was after Week 17. In addition, his aggressive tendencies could keep him from looking like a mature, balanced head coach.
Jack Del Rio
Unlike many candidates on this list, Jack Del Rio has worked as a head coach before. From 2003 to 2011, Del Rio led the Jacksonville Jaguars. During that span, the Jaguars delivered winning records three times and an overall mark of 68-71. Del Rio has spent the spent the last three seasons in Denver building the Broncos into one of the league’s better defensive teams.
Strengths: Del Rio has developed many young players in Denver into defensive stars including Von Miller and Terrence Knighton.
Weaknesses: Sustaining success was an issue for Del Rio in Jacksonville. Over the last four seasons there, the Jaguars went 23-36.
Adam Gase is the 36-year-old offensive coordinator behind Peyton Manning’s Broncos. He replaced Mike McCoy two years ago when the Chargers hired him to be their head coach. During Gase’s two years calling the offense in Denver, the Broncos finished in the top two in scoring. Teams such as the Cleveland Browns approached him last offseason, but Gase elected to stay put another year.
Strengths: Gase runs a potent offensive attack that has evolved from a pass-heavy approach to one that features C.J. Anderson and Denver’s other talented tailbacks.
Weaknesses: It’s unclear how much credit Gase is due for the offensive success. Manning runs the show on the field, often changed the call at the line.
Interested teams: 49ers and Falcons have reportedly requested an interview with him. Gase coached for the Niners in 2008.
The 44-year-old defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks was a popular name on the coaching carousel last season after Pete Carroll’s staff held up the Lombardi Trophy. Quinn’s reputation has only grown stronger after another stellar season for the Seattle defense. Michael Bennett called this year’s unit “the best defense to ever play football.” That line reads nicely on Quinn’s résumé.
Strengths: Quinn stepped right in after Gus Bradley left for Jacksonville, and elevated the defensive rankings to league-leading status. The Seahawks led the league in points allowed (254) and yards allowed (4,274) and it wasn’t even close.
Weaknesses: It’s hard to top the last two years for Quinn, but his ability to serve as a franchise’s point man will come into question in these interviews. Quinn was DC for the University of Florida before joining Seattle and that’s it for his coordinator experience. Several other candidates will have more impressive tenures to point toward.
Interested teams: The Falcons, Jets, and 49ers are all reportedly interested in Quinn as a potential head coach. Quinn was on staff for San Fran from 2001-04.
For the past six seasons, Rex Ryan has guided an often talent-poor New York Jets team to a 46-50 mark. While that record may be underwhelming, Ryan’s Jets have gone 4-2 in the playoffs including two AFC Championship Game appearances. Around the league, he is regarded as a premier defensive mind and a quality head coach derailed by a lackluster Jets roster.
Strengths: Ryan can manufacture ways to pressure the quarterback without elite pass rushers. For teams looking to turn around their defenses, there are few better options.
Interested teams: [none yet reported]
It wasn’t long ago that Kyle Shanahan was a hot head-coaching candidate working under his father in Washington. There in 2012, Shanahan helped Robert Griffin III produce one of the greatest rookie seasons in NFL history. However, turmoil tore down the Shanahans in D.C. in 2013, and Kyle resurfaced with the Browns last offseason.
Strengths: Shanahan has shown the ability to craft an offense around the unique talents of his quarterback. RGIII likely doesn’t win Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 without him.
Weaknesses: For all his good work in D.C., Shanahan couldn’t figure out how to best implement Johnny Manziel this season. Perhaps that has more to do with Manziel’s work habits, but ultimately everything falls on the coaches.
Interested teams: 49ers reportedly have interest.
Kyle isn’t the only Shanahan who could land a new job this offseason. His father Mike, a coach since 1975, is looking to return to the league after a year away. The elder Shanahan last coached in Washington where he oversaw the triumphs and struggles of RGIII. When the relationship between coach and quarterback became strained, ownership sided with the player and sent the Shanahans packing. Before that, Mike was the head coach of a two-time champion Denver Broncos team and the offensive coordinator for the 49ers during their 80s heyday.
Strengths: Three Super Bowl rings to start. He’s worked with Hall of Fame quarterbacks and was the only one to work any magic with RG3. He owns a career coaching record of 178-144, and few coaches with that experience are ever available.
Weaknesses: Shanahan has his victories, but his last several seasons were largely miserable ones. He only made the playoffs once in his last seven full seasons as a head coach, including a miserable 24-40 record in Washington.