NFL Head Coaching Search Thoughts, PLUS: Final NFL Power Ratings

I have not been active on the site in a while and I apologize, but I’ve been traveling quite a bit ever since December and it’s been a hectic holiday season in general.

But I did update my NFL power ratings after the conclusion of the regular season, and I wanted to just get them posted here. I know we’re already through the Divisional Round Weekend of the playoffs, but these were the rankings as of the end of the regular season:

Again, these are the ratings as of the end of the regular season. Playoffs are not included.

The Bills came in as the #1 team in the league by a hair over the Patriots and the Cowboys.

The power ratings aren’t really buying the hype on the Chiefs and Packers, interestingly.

Before getting to the playoff games I want to talk about some of the head coaching openings in the league right now. Currently, none of the 8 open jobs (Bears, Dolphins, Raiders, Texans, Giants, Broncos, Vikings, Jaguars) have been filled yet although interviews are underway. Personally I’d say the Bears and the Jaguars are the two most appealing jobs just because of the promising young QBs. However, both are highly dysfunctional organizations–in fact, pretty much all but the Vikings and Broncos are dysfunctional organizations to the point of arguably being toxic.

The Dolphins do not seem like a well-run organization at all. They drafted Tua with the 5th overall pick and then almost immediately began trying to move off of him. Whether this was just Brian Flores not believing in him or the organization itself being dysfunctional, I don’t know. But it just seems like the Dolphins are a shit show.

The Texans are a disaster as well with Jack Easterby and the DeShaun Watson situation. Houston might be the worst-run franchise in the league.

The Giants are a dumpster fire. The Raiders are the only playoff team of the bunch but have bad leadership; it seems like they’re one of the worst drafting teams in the league.

The Broncos are a decently-run organization it seems like, and the only reason they’re in the dumps lately is because they haven’t been able to find a QB. That’s what sank Vic Fangio, and Vance Joseph before him. If you have no QB, you are not doing shit.

Colin Cowherd, though, brought up three great points on his podcast last night:

  1. Every division in the NFL was won by the team that had the best QB.
  2. Every NFC playoff team has an offensive-minded head coach.
  3. 75% of AFC playoff teams have offensive-minded head coaches.

Let’s review Colin’s claims here, starting with the claim that every division in the NFL was won by the team with the best QB:

  • NFC East: Cowboys, Dak Prescott ✅
  • NFC South: Bucs, Tom Brady ✅
  • NFC North: Packers, Aaron Rodgers ✅
  • NFC West: Rams, Matthew Stafford ✅ (I know people will say Russell Wilson is better, and maybe there even are some Kyler Murray stans. But ever since the Rams traded for Stafford I have said he’s the best QB in the division. I wrote it in my NFC QB power rankings back in March 2021.)
  • AFC East: Bills, Josh Allen ✅
  • AFC South: Titans, Ryan Tannehill ✅ (while some would argue Wentz is better than Tannehill, it’s pretty clear that this year and in recent years Tannehill was the better QB.)
  • AFC North: Bengals, Joe Burrow ✅ (this one will be controversial. Some would say Lamar, but he was hurt for a lot of the season, and I just think Joe Burrow is a way better passer. I’d rather have Joe Burrow than Lamar Jackson).
  • AFC West: Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes ✅ (Herbert is great, but he’s no Mahomes.)

It’s all about having the best QB in your division. That’s what it all hinges on in the NFL today.

Now let’s move on to the playoff coaches starting with the NFC:

  1. Packers: Matt LaFleur, offensive background ✅
  2. Bucs: Bruce Arians, offensive background ✅
  3. Cowboys: Mike McCarthy, offensive background ✅
  4. Rams: Sean McVay, offensive background ✅
  5. Cardinals: Kliff Kingsbury, offensive background ✅
  6. 49ers: Kyle Shanahan, offensive background ✅
  7. Eagles: Nick Sirianni, offensive background ✅

AFC coaches:

  1. Titans: Mike Vrabel, defensive background ❌
  2. Chiefs: Andy Reid, offensive background ✅
  3. Bills: Sean McDermott, defensive background ❌
  4. Bengals: Zac Taylor, offensive background ✅
  5. Raiders: Rich Bisaccia, special teams background ❌
  6. Patriots: Bill Belichick, defensive background ❌
  7. Steelers: Mike Tomlin, defensive background ❌

Colin was right about the NFC coaches–all of them have offensive backgrounds. But the AFC, he’s got his facts mixed up. 5 of the 7 playoff coaches have non-offensive backgrounds.

So I don’t know if I would hurry and take Colin Cowherd’s advice and go hire a young, offensive-minded head coach. I don’t think it’s necessary to have an offensive-minded head coach.

I think you need to have an elite QB, and then the rest kind of figures itself out.

And another big thing: even though many playoff teams have offensive-minded head coaches, many of those teams are stout defensively. I’m talking about the Bucs, Cowboys, Rams and 49ers specifically. Plus the Packers have one of their best defenses in years (although it’s a bit soft against the run). Let’s not pretend it’s all about offense with these teams. All 5 of those teams would not be where they are without their defenses.

So I don’t think a team has to hire an offensive-minded head coach. What really matters in the NFL is having a great quarterback and a great defense. If you do, the sky is the limit. If you don’t, you are guaranteed to fail. It’s why Vic Fangio ultimately failed as Broncos head coach.

As for the vacancies and the head coaching candidates themselves, my biggest thing is I want to see Jim Harbaugh as the next Bears head coach. I think Jim Harbaugh is about maxed out at Michigan and I think he’s getting tired of being a college coach because of how onerous it is these days. Beating Ohio State, winning the Big Ten, and getting stomped by an SEC school in the playoff is about as good as Michigan can be expected to do in this day and age, and I think it’s time for Jim Harbaugh to go back to the NFL.

However, Wannstedt in the video above with Colin Cowherd says the Bears have not yet reached out to Jim Harbaugh, which is obviously a major and inexcusable fuck-up by the Bears if they never end up reaching out to him, but also an expected one given the general incompetence of the organization. They fired Nagy and Pace but at the end of the day, the McCaskeys are still in charge and have been for 40+ years. George McCaskey is not qualified to run an NFL team. His only qualification is that his mother is the owner of the team. And the only reason his mother is the owner of the team is because her father was George Halas.

The only saving grace right now is that George McCaskey has Bill Polian, the former longtime GM of both the Colts and Bills, running the hiring committee right now, and I think McCaskey at least has the good sense to defer to a true pro like Polian. Bill Polian’s presence in the Bears organization is the only reason I have some degree of optimism in this process for them.

If not Harbaugh, I think the Bears would be happy to get Jim Caldwell. Bill Polian hired him in Indianapolis and will probably be pushing for him in Chicago. Jim Caldwell gets overlooked often but this is a guy who was Tony Dungy’s handpicked successor, who led the Colts to a Super Bowl appearance in 2009. They lost narrowly to the Saints, but I might also add that the 2009 Colts started the season 14-0 and probably should’ve gone 16-0, but according to Pat McAfee who was on the team, the “people upstairs” chose to lose the final two games. Caldwell only got fired in Indy because after Peyton Manning had neck surgery, the organization executed a deliberate tankjob for Andrew Luck in 2011, and the team went 2-14.

After being fired by Indianapolis after the 2011 season in favor of a rebuild around Andrew Luck, Caldwell was hired on as the quarterbacks coach for the Ravens. John Harbaugh dismissed offensive coordinator Cam Cameron mid-season and made Caldwell the OC. The Ravens then went on to win the Super Bowl and Joe Flacco was named Super Bowl MVP. Jim Caldwell was a big part of that, obviously.

Caldwell then got hired as head coach of the Lions, going 36-28 over 4 seasons but somehow getting fired after a 9-7 season in 2017. The Lions fired him in favor of Matt Patricia, which was an epic fuckup on Detroit’s part, as Patricia went 13-28 over his 3 seasons as head coach. Jim Caldwell would in my humble opinion be a tremendous hire, not just for the Bears but for any NFL team out there looking for a head coach. Any coach who can win games consistently with the fucking Detroit Lions is a hell of a coach in my book. Jim Caldwell is to this day the only Lions head coach over the past FIFTY YEARS with a winning record. You have to go back to Joe Schmidt, who coached the team from 1967-1972, to find the last Lions head coach other than Caldwell to post a winning record (Schmidt was 43-34-7).

As far as other head coaching candidates go (and this is not specifically for the Bears but for any team, really), I’m a fan of Doug Pederson. It’s not often that a Super Bowl-winning head coach hits the open market, but the Eagles are idiots and fired the guy barely 3 years after he led them to a Super Bowl Championship. My only concern with Pederson is that the Eagles seemed to have a ton of injuries while he was the head coach. Maybe it was bad luck, maybe it was the playing surface in Philly–I don’t know. But I’m a person who believes it’s no accident that some teams are more consistently injured than others. I don’t know why exactly it is this way; I’d assume it has a lot to do with the training and conditioning staff. But that’s my biggest concern with Pederson. Other than that, I think he would be a slam-dunk hire for any team looking for a head coach and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t one of the 8 new NFL head coaches hired in the next few weeks.

I also like Dan Quinn a lot. Yes, he does have the permanent stain of 28-3 on his record and it’ll never be erased, but the guy clearly knows how to coach defense and come on: he came as close to winning a Super Bowl as any non-Super Bowl-winning head coach in NFL history. Give the guy some credit at least. He’s shown he has the ability to get you there. I think Dan Quinn would be a great hire.

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