The NFL offseason always seems like it lasts an eternity. Next thing you know, in a blink of an eye, 12 weeks of football have already been played and the NFL playoffs are creeping up quickly. Dominant teams will fight for first round byes, middle of the pack teams will battle it out for wild card spots and the bottom-dwellers will 'compete' for higher draft positioning. For teams like the Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets and Tennessee Titans, who will be watching the postseason from their couches, it might be time to find a new coach to turn things around next season.
Every year, there are coaches on the hot seat who wait nervously on Black Monday as they nervously await a call they hope not to receive. This infamous day always leads to some obvious firings and some not so obvious ones that send shockwaves throughout the NFL. Every year, there are coordinators, position coaches, and even college head coaches who become the apples of the eyes of many NFL GMs. Some work out, some don’t, but the coaching carousel that ensues after Black Monday is always fun to watch. We still have six weeks to go until the madness begins but for now, here’s a list of potential future head coaches in the NFL for the 2015 season:
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10 Frank Reich: Offensive Coordinator, San Diego Chargers
Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers’ career was thought to be spiraling downwards just a few years back when he threw a combined 35 interceptions in 2011 and 2012. Enter Frank Reich as quarterbacks coach in 2013—Rivers had a bounce-back season--- he was sensational and was selected to the Pro Bowl. Due to his outstanding work with Rivers, Reich got promoted to offensive coordinator and midway through this season, Rivers was a strong candidate for NFL MVP. Rivers and the San Diego offense have hit a wall recently and have struggled in the recent weeks, mostly due to injuries, but Reich remains a name that should garner quite a bit of attention this summer.
9 Bob Sutton: Defensive Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
Bob Sutton may not be getting the press--his name is not one you hear often at all--but he deserves some attention. He’s got the Chiefs defense playing great football. His unit ranks 1st in pass defense and 8th in total defense. It also ranks 3rd in scoring defense at 17.7 points per game which is such a telling stat. The former New York Jets defensive coordinator and Army head coach is well-respected by his peers and is seemingly able to squeeze out the very best from his players. After a second half meltdown last season that concluded with a blown 28-point lead in the playoffs vs. Indianapolis, this turnaround is noteworthy---but can he make it last the whole season this time around? This will go a long way in determining whether he becomes a hot name on the market this winter or not.
8 Teryl Austin : Defensive Coordinator, Detroit Lions
When you spoke about the Detroit Lions in seasons past, it was to talk about their explosive offense or their constant mediocrity as a football team. However, Teryl Austin has changed that in 2014. His defense has been nothing short of incredible. After 12 weeks, his unit ranks 1st against the run, and 3rd in total defense. It also ranks 1st in scoring defense giving up a meager 17.3 points per game thus far. They've been carrying a lagging offense and leading the team to victories. They'll still have to go to Green Bay in Week 17, likely with the NFC North on the line, so we’ll see just how good this Lions defense could be. Austin deserves to get some looks this winter and he’s bound to get some calls from needy teams.
7 Darrell Bevell: Offensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks
Darrell Bevell has been the OC in Seattle since 2011. With Russell Wilson being drafted and anointed the starting quarterback as a rookie, Bevell has adjusted his schemes marvelously to fit Wilson’s unique style. The Seahawks offense was on such a roll late last year that Bevell was focused on getting his current team a championship rather than looking ahead to his own future as possible head coach elsewhere. Had Seattle been eliminated in the NFC playoffs, he likely would've been a head coach elsewhere. This season, after losing two big weapons in Golden Tate and Percy Harvin, he’s managed to keep the offense effective with the league's best running game (169.6 yards per game). Now that he’s won his ring and has another year of valuable experience under his belt, look for teams to come knocking on Bevell’s door once again. This time around, Bevell may very well answer.
6 Pep Hamilton: Offensive Coordinator, Indianapolis Colts
Most people would tell you that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league. However, if you were to start an NFL franchise right now and build for the future, most people would take Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck with their first choice. Only in his third year, Luck is turning into something very special. He has all the tools to take his team to the promised land and looks like a future hall of famer. This year, the 2012 no.1 overall pick is picking apart defenses weekly. He ranks 1st in passing yards and 3rd in touchdown passes while turning the Colts’ passing attack into an explosive one.
The man behind Luck’s quick ascension to elite status is none other than Pep Hamilton. Hamilton has definitely paid his dues and was most recently the offensive coordinator at Stanford during Luck’s time there before taking over as OC for the Colts in 2013 and reuniting with Luck following Bruce Arians’ departure to Arizona. With the way the Colts offense has been playing under Hamilton, his stock is growing by the week and his name will be one to watch at the end of the season.
5 David Shaw: Head Coach, Stanford (NCAA)
With Chip Kelly’s recent success in Philadephia, more teams may be looking to give college coaches a chance in the NFL. After all, the NFL is evolving every year and with the emergence of a run-option quarterback such Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick to name a few, NFL playbooks have become more and more open for college plays.
David Shaw, Jim Harbaugh’s successor at Stanford, has not missed a beat after Harbaugh left to San Francisco. A proven winner, Shaw has experience in the NFL as an assistant and would be an interesting go for a team looking for a coach. If Harbaugh leaves San Francisco as expected after season’s end, wouldn’t it be a little funny to see Shaw stay in the Bay Area and follow in Harbaugh’s footsteps once more?
4 Kevin Sumlin: Head Coach, Texas A&M (NCAA)
It’s always interesting to speculate which college head coaches could coach the big boys in the NFL. One name that is sure to get some buzz this offseason is Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin. Again, with Chip Kelly’s recent success, an offensive mastermind like Sumlin could be just what the doctor ordered for some teams with a head coaching vacancy this offseason. His explosive passing attack is so creative that other coaches are trying to follow in his footsteps. Sumlin also brings leadership and stability---if the guy was able to handle the media circus that was Johnny Manziel, then he could handle anything.
3 Dave Fipp: Special Teams Coordinator, Philadephia Eagles
It’s not often you put a special teams coordinator in this type of conversation, but hats off to Dave Fipp because his unit’s success this year has been absolutely unbelievable. Game after game, Philadelphia’s special teams keeps making plays. Through 11 games this season, the Eagles have scored six touchdowns on special teams (two punt returns, two kickoff returns, and two punt block returns). To put things in perspective, no other team has more than two. New acquisition Darren Sproles has been electrifying in the return game. Their two specialists have been great all year. New kicker Cody Parkey, who was picked up from a trade in the preseason, has been money all year long. Their punter Donnie Jones is 2nd in the NFL in punts inside of the 20.
Does Fipp have talent on special teams? Of course-- but this kind of production is unheard of in the NFL and does not go unnoticed. Helping his case is John Harbaugh’s great success in Baltimore after being Philly’s special teams coordinator. The Eagles are not 8-3 without their special teams and it will be interesting to see whether Fipp gets a crack at a head coaching job or not.
2 Adam Gase: Offensive Coordinator, Denver Broncos
Adam Gase will be a popular pick to land a head-coaching gig following the 2014 season --- as he was last offseason when he declined an interview opportunity with the Cleveland Browns saying that it was not the right time to become a head coach. Time will tell but perhaps this offseason will lead to a different outcome. Simply put, no offense has been as productive as Denver’s during Gase’s time as offensive coordinator. The Manning-led Broncos are 1st in the NFL in points scored and yards gained since Gase took over in 2013.
After Week 11 of this season, the unit is 3rd overall in total offense and is 5th in points scored per game. This does beg the question however of how much of an impact Gase really has on the offense. Is he the product of Peyton Manning’s greatness or is he the one helping Manning avoid Father time? At just 36 years young, Gase could very well be in line for a head-coaching job elsewhere next season. It will come down to whether he chooses to take it or not.
1 Todd Bowles: Defensive Coordinator, Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator is fearless. Bowles loves to blitz and everyone knows it, yet they have no answer. When most coaches would elect to play it safe, Bowles does just the opposite. In a 24-20 Cardinals win over the Eagles earlier this season, he threw an all out blitz at Eagles’ quarterback Nick Foles and was successful as Foles threw an errant pass to seal the game for the Cards. In Week 11 against an explosive Lions offense, Bowles elected to send pressure on Matthew Stafford on a 4th and 2 late in the fourth quarter. The result? Stafford rushed his throw and missed Calvin Johnson on a quick out to move the Cardinals to 9-1 at the time and continue to hold no.1 seed in the NFC. After a dozen weeks, his opportunistic unit ranks 11th overall in the NFL in total defense, but more impressively, is 2nd in points allowed per game.
What makes this feat that much more impressive is that he’s done it after losing several key pieces to the defense from last season. After losing Daryl Washington (suspension), Karlos Dansby (free agency) and Darnell Dockett (injury) before the season began, expectations were not high for Arizona’s previously vaunted D. Throughout the season, he’s also missed several more big contributors at one time or another due to injury. He hasn't gotten much help from his team's offense, now led by Drew Stanton at quarterback. Arizona is the NFC's no.1 seed due to their defense keeping them ahead in games.
Other than a blemish in Denver, Bowles’ defense has been downright dominating its opponents. Bowles was the interim head coach for the Dolphins when Tony Sparano got the boot out of Miami but was never given an opportunity to be the man even after winning two of the three games he coached. This time around, he’ll be highly sought-after and Bruce Arians can only hope he somehow retains Bowles.
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