The NFL head-coaching search is on.
The Jacksonville Jaguars kicked things off by parting ways with Urban Meyer a couple of weeks ago. The Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears followed suit on Black Monday, releasing Vic Fangio, Mike Zimmer, Brian Flores and Matt Nagy back onto the open market.
Other teams could soon enter the head-coaching search, but with Black Monday now behind us, let's examine the five current openings and what they have to offer for the coaches who will steer these teams into the 2022 NFL season.
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Chicago started the much-needed overhaul on Black Monday, firing head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace.
While Pace did a good job of hitting on Day 3 picks in his time as GM, he simply made too many missteps for Chicago to keep him in the fold. Meanwhile, Nagy was given praise and then the benefit of the doubt after having to work with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky for the first three years of his tenure, but the evident lack of progress on offense made it an easy decision.
As if the opportunity to turn around one of the NFL's most storied franchises wasn't enough, the incoming head coach will also get to inherit promising young quarterback Justin Fields, making Chicago's head coach and general manager openings exceptionally alluring.
Fields tied for fourth among all NFL quarterbacks in big-time throw rate as a rookie this year (6.1%) while also producing the fifth-most explosive runs of 10 or more yards (14). The young quarterback has the tools to be a star, and now he just needs the right coach.
This roster needs a lot of work before a new head coach can bring success to Jacksonville, but the draft capital, cap space and — most importantly — quarterback Trevor Lawrence makes this a tempting opportunity for any coach.
The 2021 No. 1 overall pick may not have had a banner rookie campaign, but he flashed everything that once made him a generational quarterback prospect, from his pocket presence to his arm talent to his playmaking ability under duress to his mobility.
Lawrence ended his first year with the lowest pressure to sack rate among rookies and the third-most big-time throws under pressure (12), and he showed the ability to manipulate defenders with his eyes and shoulders that evades some of the league's most experienced signal-callers.
Lawrence’s situation in 2021 was as bad as it gets; it featured suspect playcalling, a below-average offensive line, countless drops by his receivers, receivers not winning at the catch point and off-the-field issues with the former head coach. Things can only get better for the former No. 1 overall pick, and there will be no limit to his ceiling if his team lands the right head coach.
Denver has an above-average roster and the cap space to make it even better.
Former head coach Vic Fangio did everything he could, given Denver's poor quarterback situation. His defense ranked 10th league-wide in expected points added (EPA) allowed per play in 2021, but the combo of Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock at quarterback ultimately led to the team’s demise.
Denver finished the campaign with the ninth-worst successful pass rate and eighth-worst explosive pass play rate outside of garbage time this year despite boasting the league's ninth-highest team pass-blocking grade and a wide receiver room that includes Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton.
Luring an offensive-minded head coach — specifically one who could pry a big-name quarterback to the Mile High City — should be priority No. 1 for John Elway & Co. If they can’t get a proven veteran quarterback, you can go ahead and pencil them in for a quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Miami presents a similar opportunity to Denver in that the Dolphins have a decent roster with several promising rookies but a big question mark at quarterback.
Tua Tagovailoa turned in a 67.3 passing grade for the 2021 season, with more than double the amount of turnover-worthy plays (22) as big-time throws (10). Poor pass protection and revolving offensive coordinators haven’t helped his cause, but at the end of the day, there has been a discouraging lack of growth from the 2021 No. 5 overall pick.
Tua Tagovailoa: Passing statistics since 2020
|PFF overall grade||68.2||34th|
|EPA per play||0.019||30th|
|Average depth of target||7.6||41st|
|Yards per attempt||6.6||37th|
|Adjusted completion %||74.8%||27th|
|Passing grade from a clean pocket||82.4||22nd|
|Passing grade under pressure||32.8||29th|
Minnesota is seemingly stuck in purgatory for the short-term, with no cap space to work with this offseason and quarterback Kirk Cousins entering the final year of the mega-contract he signed in 2020.
The Michigan State product has proven to be a capable NFL quarterback, but questions remain about whether he will ever be good enough to warrant the $45 million cap hit in 2022. As PFF’s Eric Eager outlined earlier this week, Cousins’ lack of risk-taking has buoyed his metrics but hindered the team’s offensive output.
Cousins' 86.8 passing grade ranks fifth among quarterbacks this season, but the Vikings ranked only 19th in successful pass rate. The Cousins era is likely coming to a close at the end of 2022 when Minnesota gets out of his contract, and their best bet is taking a swing on one of the many risky quarterback prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft class.
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