NFL

Ranking the NFL’s potential coaching vacancies

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Black Monday came a month early.

Following an embarrassing 42-14 home loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the Los Angeles Rams fired Jeff Fisher after five uninspiring, losing seasons. Various news outlets reported last week that Fisher agreed to an extension through the 2018 season.

So much for that.

“Making a decision such as this — especially during the season — is one of the most difficult in sports,” Rams owner Stan Kroenke said in a statement. “I have great respect for Jeff as a coach, person, father and friend.”

Fisher, who matched Dan Reeves’ all-time record with his 165th career loss, might have been the first coach sent to the unemployment line. But he certainly will not be the last.

With that in mind, let’s explore the potential vacancies and their appeal to prospective job applicants. Each job is ranked, from 1-10, based on attractiveness, with 10 being the highest value.

 

Los Angeles Rams

Current record: 4-9

Outlook: The change of scenery did not lead to a change in fortune for the Rams franchise, which has not reached the postseason since 2004. The Rams named special teams coach John Fassel as Fisher’s replacement in the interim. Fox Sports reporter Jay Glazer said the Rams’ job became the “most desired” one when the team uprooted from St. Louis. The Rams will continue to utilize the L.A. Coliseum as their home field until the new Inglewood facility opens in 2019. Still, Jared Goff and Todd Gurley are in place, and Aaron Donald might be the best defensive player in the NFL. And if Fisher’s recent run is indicative of anything, you can hang around a while even without winning. The Rams will have their pick of the litter.

Job appeal: 8

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Current record: 2-11

Outlook: Has there been a more disappointing team in 2016 than the Jaguars? Loaded with young talent and fresh off a productive free agent spending spree, the Jags appeared poised to contend in the AFC South. The wheels fell off early, and Gus Bradley is assuredly a goner. Bradley’s record stands at an unbelievably futile 14-47 (.230 winning percentage). Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder when it comes to Jacksonville. Specifically, it’s whether a coach believes he can correct Blake Bortles’ mechanics and limit his mistakes. Jacksonville’s defense, anchored by Malik Jackson and Jalen Ramsey, is respectable though it does not take the football away from opponents. Jacksonville’s likely to land yet another premium first-round pick, so that’s a huge plus. Mental toughness is a must for the next candidate.

Job appeal: 5

 

Buffalo Bills

Current record: 6-7

Outlook: CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora said Rex Ryan could have been fired “as soon as Monday.” Well, that didn’t happen. And now he’s caught in the crossfire with three games left as speculation swirls about yet another coaching change in Western New York. Since the Bills jettisoned Wade Phillips, the last man to lead them to the playoffs, in 2000, Buffalo has cycled through seven coaches – Gregg Williams, Mike Mularkey, Dick Jauron, Perry Fewell, Chan Gailey, Doug Marrone and Ryan. In addition to the coaching controversy, Buffalo general manager Doug Whaley needs to answer a $27.5 million question in reference to Tyrod Taylor – is he the guy? If not, will the Bills make a play for Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, another veteran or a rookie under center? There’s a good deal of individual talent on both sides of the ball, but a lack of defensive identity – stemming from a switch from Jim Schwartz’s 4-3 scheme to Ryan’s 3-4 front – really hurts this club. Lots of questions; very few answers; facing Tom Brady and Bill Belichick twice a year; and a 16-year drought. Coaches could do better.

Job appeal: 3

 

San Diego Chargers

Current record: 5-8

Outlook: Given the state of the AFC West, the Chargers have been pragmatically eliminated from the playoff chase for close to a month already. Mike McCoy led the Chargers to the playoffs in his first season (2013), but the team has lost 20 of its last 29 games. Philip Rivers – yes, that Philip Rivers – leads the league in turnovers, including 12 in his last four games alone. Making matters worse, San Diego ranks 29th in scoring defense. Rivers is entering the twilight of a tremendous career, but Melvin Gordon and Joey Bosa look like potential franchise players. In a weekly radio spot, General manager Tom Telesco declined to commit to McCoy, who has one year left on his contract. Given the fact the Chargers may join the Rams in L.A. next fall, they’ll compete for the tabloids, the interest of frankly fair-weather football fans and potentially for a new head coach.

Job appeal: 7

 

Indianapolis Colts

Current record: 6-7

Outlook: After dropping a virtual must-win home game to Houston, the Colts are major longshots to overcome a 2-3 divisional record. In a division that includes the aforementioned Bortles, $72 million bust Brock Osweiler and rising second-year star Marcus Mariota, any team with Andrew Luck should be the favorite. But Indianapolis’ roster, under the careless watch of general manager Ryan Grigson, has deteriorated and put Luck at risk of wasting his prime years behind an inadequate offensive line. Chuck Pagano signed a four-year extension back in January, but back-to-back playoff misses may force Jim Irsay to reconsider his level of commitment to the current regime. In spite of massive holes throughout the roster, Luck alone drives the interest level of this potential vacancy. Coaches will salivate at the thought of inheriting a franchise quarterback that turns 28 next September. The Colts are a proud, successful franchise. This is one of the most desirable jobs in the NFL.

Job appeal: 10

 

Cincinnati Bengals

Current record: 5-7-1

Outlook: The Bengals’ run of five consecutive appearances, all first-round exits, will come to an end. And it’s fair to wonder whether or not the team has peaked under Marvin Lewis, the second-longest-tenured head coach in football (14 seasons). Andy Dalton still can’t shake the stigma of past playoff failures. However, the “Red Rifle” has thrown for 41 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions in his last 26 starts. Dalton is a legitimate NFL starter, though maybe nothing more. Still, the Bengals boast one of the league’s most exciting rosters – particularly on offense, with A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Jeremy Hill and Tyler Boyd in the fold. Lewis told the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Paul Daugherty that he will coach the team next season if asked and that he has no plans to step down or retire. If the Bengals go in a different direction, suitors will line up in hopes of maximizing the potential of a ready-built contender.

Job appeal: 9


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