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An early look at where the coaching carousel could land

In Sports
January 13, 2024

The annual coaching carousel got started during the season, accelerated slightly (but not unexpectedly) on Monday, and then got nutty on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

It might not be done yet. Especially with 14 teams still playing, six destined to lose this weekend, and big names looming over the market.

Here’s a very preliminary snapshot as to how things could land. The names we’re watching in certain cities, subject to change — especially if other teams decide to change coaches.

This comes from the names we’re hearing when talking to various folks throughout the league. It’s not a report. We’re simply sharing what we’re hearing at a time when things have gotten crazy.

Falcons: Bill Belichick.

There are issues that would need to be addressed if Belichick goes to Atlanta. (We’ll address those in another post.) But Belichick has been consistently linked to Atlanta, and Atlanta to Belichick, since it became obvious that he would no longer be linked to New England. The question is whether another team (Cowboys or Eagles) end up opting to try to hire him, if/when their playoff runs end.

Commanders: Ben Johnson.

Multiple sources firmly believe that Adam Peters had been preselected to be the next G.M. Those same sources believe the Lions offensive coordinator has been preselected to coach the Commanders.

And, yes, we’ve previously said new owner Josh Harris is enamored with the idea of Bill Belichick coaching (and only coaching) the team. The Commanders have done a good job of mobilizing this week to throw water on that notion. One source with knowledge of the situation shared that same message with PFT on Friday, with the caveat that things could change.

The change would or could come from Peters, who spent six years working with Belichick in New England, from 2003 to 2008. For now, though, the thinking is that it’s Peters first, Johnson second.

Seahawks: Dan Quinn.

G.M. John Schneider is finally running the show in Seattle. And every good scout keeps an eye on players and on coaches. Schneider surely has had in his back pocket a list of coaches he’ll try to hire if/when he’s ever running a team. With Pete Carroll gone, Schneider finally is. And the thinking is that Quinn is the name at the top of his list.

The question is whether Quinn will choose to stay in Dallas, with the hopes of eventually succeeding Mike McCarthy. If McCarthy succeeds in not getting swapped out for Belichick.

Chargers: Jim Harbaugh.

He wanted the job last year. He’s reportedly meeting with the Chargers this year. It makes too much sense to not happen.

The question is whether, while doing his due diligence, he sees anything that gives him pause — especially after his experience with the 49ers, a team that failed to find a way to coexist with a great coach.

The other question becomes whether another team makes a strong push for him. The Buccaneers love to chase big names. And, if they lose on Monday night, the Bucs can’t be ruled out.

Titans: Antonio Pierce.

The Raiders interim coach did a great job after the firing of Josh McDaniels. Possibly not great enough to get the permanent job. But definitely great enough to be seriously considered elsewhere. A Pierce/Ran Carthon partnership could be the next experiment for owner Amy Adams Strunk, who has taken a huge risk by letting a great coach like Mike Vrabel go.

Raiders: Mike Vrabel.

And that brings us to Vrabel and the Raiders. Yes, the Raiders. Albert Breer of SI.com pointed out the relationship between Vrabel and Tom Brady, who is still hoping to be approved as part owner of the team. Brady, per Breer, was at the team’s final practice of the year, bolstering the notion that Brady will be involved in the coaching search.

Vrabel might want to lay low, however, until it’s known whether Mike Tomlin takes a Sean Payton-style break in Pittsburgh or Andy Reid takes to retirement in Kansas City. Although most think of Vrabel as a Patriot, he was drafted by the Steelers — and he finished his career with the Chiefs, sent there as part of the Matt Cassel trade.

The possibility of a Reid retirement could become a factor for Belichick, too. Only one team has Patrick Mahomes. If Belichick wants to win another Super Bowl, or two, that could be the place to go.

Panthers: “Who fucking knows.”

That’s the direct quote from a high-level source with one of the NFL’s teams, other than the Panthers. Owner David Tepper looms over all decisions, and he will hover over the shoulder of whoever gets the job. It’s the least attractive option of all (in my opinion), given that the owner is the most active (and disruptive) to the efforts of the coach to do his job.

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