There are now three head coaching vacancies following the release of Matt Patricia on Saturday. The Lions join the Falcons and Texans as the franchises looking for a long-term solution at head coach. Each is at very different places in terms of team composition and goals, creating an interesting market for potential candidates.
Despite an abysmal 4-7 record, the Falcons have the eighth-most productive offense in the league. Their third worst defense is what’s hampering their ceiling.
All of the offensive pieces are there for Atlanta if they wish to compete. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Todd Gurley; there is no lack of offensive firepower. Defensively, however, there is no help. More specifically, the secondary can not contain anybody. The Falcons have allowed the third-most touchdowns through the air this season.
The Falcons are searching for one of two archetypes for their next coach. Either they want someone to further elevate the offense to offset the miserable D, or they will find someone comfortable blowing up the whole organization. Jones and Ryan are both on the wrong side of 30 and their best defensive players are rapidly approaching that mark. Either Atlanta commits to offense-only or they start from square one.
The Lions sit bottom of the NFC North with their 4-7 record. Matt Stafford still has a handful of productive years and there are three genuine offensive weapons under 24. Add in the defensive cornerstones Jeff Okudah and Romeo Okwara (25 and 21) and the Lions are a team built for success… three years from now.
Detroit’s emphasis must be developing talent. They tried their hand with rookie HC Matt Patricia, and that did not work out. The Lions need someone with a track record of working with youngsters and getting the most out of them.
While unlikely, the best place to look for such coaches would be the college game. Iowa State’s Matt Campbell has been a hot name in NFL circles. If Campbell, or another NCAA coach, wants to make the jump to pros in unknown.
Unlike the Falcons, who could be a contender, the Texans are a contender from day one. The offense is elite, and the defense has the talent to make a run. Houston would be performing far better than 4-7 if it were not for Bill O’Brien’s incompetency.
The Texans desperately need a proven head coach. Someone who has performed at a high NFL level before and is ready to begin (or reprise) a Super Bowl-level coaching career.
The name that immediately jumps out is Jim Harbaugh. His NCAA Michigan Wolverines are just 2-4 but was an elite HC during his time in the NFL. In his four years with the 49ers Harbaugh averaged 11 wins per season. His San Francisco teams made the NFC Championship thrice, but advanced past only in 2012.
Other names floating around include Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Baltimore’s Greg Roman, although neither make nearly as much sense as Harbaugh.