Black Monday is approaching rapidly and, with potentially seven or eight head coaching jobs and possibly five or six general manager positions available, I wanted to provide a short and handy list for the names to watch who’d be filling those positions. Remember, every team and every situation is different.
THE SCHRAGER 10: HEAD COACHES
Let’s just jump in, starting with the hot coaching names. Chip Kelly and Ken Whisenhunt will be interviewed, too, but let’s go with the names who didn’t start the season as head coaches this year.
1. Adam Gase, offensive coordinator, Chicago Bears
Gase interviewed for five different head coaching positions a year ago, ending up in Chicago with John Fox as the offensive coordinator. He’s performed wonders with Jay Cutler this season and has worked under Nick Saban, Mike Martz, Josh McDaniels, Mike McCoy, John Fox and with Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning and Cutler. He’s a bright guy who owns the room and has a resume to back it up. Last offseason was likely a learning experience. He can be picky, as his situation in Chicago isn’t a bad one.
Jackson has been wonderful in Cincinnati. He started on the defensive side of the ball, moving to the offense as an assistant, and now runs the offensive show since Jay Gruden left for Washington. Andy Dalton has flourished, but the way the team has played without Dalton has been impressive, too. Jackson is a fiery individual who is not afraid to speak his mind. Don’t forget his one-year head coaching stint with the Raiders that flamed out too early.
Don’t roll your eyes. Marrone opted out of a contract last year with Buffalo, unsure of the franchise’s future, and spent the year in anonymity working with the Jaguars’ offensive line. A year later, his name is coming up. He’s a Bill Parcells disciple, has years of experience and won nine games with the Bills two years ago. Marrone’s head coaching days are not over. He will get interviews this month.
5. Sean McVay, offensive coordinator, Washington Redskins
You might think McVay is another five years away from being an NFL head coach, but NFL decision makers are impressed with what he’s done in D.C. and he comes from a long line of coaches in his family. He’s 29, yes, but he’s the guy who’s kept the Redskins quarterbacks room together amid controversy, gotten the most out of DeSean Jackson and coaxed big numbers out of Jordan Reed. Jay Gruden thinks the world of him and he’s got a great demeanor. McVay is a guy people around the league want to meet and talk about.
Schwartz was fired by the Lions two years ago but wants to get back in the game. Teams are interested. He had a ton of success under Jeff Fisher in Tennessee as the defensive coordinator and he got the most out of young Lions and Bills defenses that weren’t quite the same when he left. He’s a disciplinarian. He’s going to want personnel input. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea. All you need is one.
7. Dirk Koetter, offensive coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Koetter has been a winning head coach in the college ranks at both Boise State and Arizona State and is often called a quarterbacks guru. Matt Ryan had his best numbers under Koetter in Atlanta, and Jameis Winston flourished in Tampa Bay this year. Koetter is a football lifer who’s respected around the league. Amazingly, he still hasn’t gotten a head coaching opportunity, but this might be the year.
8. Anthony Lynn, running backs coach, Buffalo Bills
Lynn is a former player who’s been a successful running backs coach on Rex Ryan staffs in New York and Buffalo. His work with Buffalo this year has opened eyes. All four Bills running backs performed well, and Lynn showed real leadership with his new team. He interviewed for the Jets’ head coaching job last year and knows the deal. He’ll be ready for his next shot.
9. Sean McDermott, defensive coordinator, Carolina Panthers
You won’t hear much about McDermott, or much from McDermott. Despite helping lead such a rah-rah team and defense, McDermott keeps a low profile. The results are there, though. Look at the development of Josh Norman, Kawann Short and the host of other unsung defenders having career resurgences on Carolina’s defense. McDermott spent 12 years on Andy Reid’s staff and is a football lifer.
Haley’s Steelers offense stubbed its toe last week in Baltimore, but look what this team has done this season without its starting running back, left tackle, center and, at times, quarterback. Haley was the coordinator for a Super Bowl team in Arizona and took a Chiefs team with Matt Cassel at quarterback to the playoffs. He’s part of the Bill Parcells tree, which is always a plus in these conversations.
THE SCHRAGER 10: GENERAL MANAGERS
Now, on to the front office. Here are 10 guys whose names are being mentioned in conversations around the league and a little about each.
1. Nick Caserio, director of player personnel, New England
There’s no indication Caserio would leave New England, where he’s a trusted partner of Bill Belichick’s in the front office. But many around the league view him as the next great general manager, if and when he wants a job. He pulled his name out of the Dolphins GM search a few years ago but will garner interest.
2. Jon Robinson, director of player personnel, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers have had back to back strong draft classes. Their first four picks in 2015 — Jameis Winston, Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet and Kwon Alexander — all start and play key roles on the team. Robinson has the resume and the track record, too. Prior to being a key eye for talent with Tampa Bay, he spent time in the New England organization as a regional scout, and then the director of college scouting.
3. Eric DeCosta, assistant general manager, Baltimore Ravens
DeCosta’s name comes up every year, but he hasn’t left the Ravens yet. The thought is he’ll take over when Ozzie Newsome decides to step away, but there’s no indication as to whether that’s happening in the near future. Regardless, DeCosta is very well respected around the league and viewed as innovative and hard-working in the building. If and when he wants to entertain offers outside of Baltimore, there will be interviews.
4. Trent Kirchner, co-director of player personnel, Seattle Seahawks
Kirchner has risen rather rapidly from a public relations and scouting intern with the Seahawks 15 years ago to larger roles in Carolina and Washington and now to co-director of player personnel in Seattle. Sources tell me it’s Kirchner who helped build the Seattle free agency board the past few years and that he helped work on the signings of big names like Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Seattle consistently has one of the best rosters in football. It’s a group effort, of course, but Kirchner receives a lot of praise.
5. Brandon Beane, assistant general manager, Carolina Panthers
In three years as general manager, Dave Gettleman has done a marvelous job transforming the Panthers from an afterthought into an NFL powerhouse. His right-hand man is Beane, a 38-year-old Panthers lifer. Beane pre-dated Gettleman but was so valued within the organization that he kept his scouting job and even had it expanded once Gettleman took over for Marty Hurney in 2013. Carolina’s last few drafts are loaded with home runs, and Beane’s fingerprints are all over them.
6. Omar Khan, director of football operations, Pittsburgh Steelers
Khan is still young (38) but has been mentioned in GM discussions for years. Working side by side with general manager Kevin Colbert, Khan is often responsible for managing the salary cap and interacting with player agents and fellow executives. Khan is a sharp guy with an acumen for making things work with veteran players and tight budgetary limitations. A Rooney protégé who’s been groomed in the right organization, Khan has been a part of three Super Bowl staffs.
7. Eliot Wolf, director of player personnel, Green Bay Packers
Wolf, 33, is even younger than Khan and his father is Hall of Fame executive Ron Wolf. He’s been with the Packers since 2004 and has worked closely with Ted Thompson, John Schneider, Reggie McKenzie and John Dorsey. The Packers don’t go huge in free agency and build from within. Wolf’s role has continued to increase in responsibilities and debates.
8. Chris Ballard, director of player personnel, Kansas City Chiefs
Ballard’s work with Chicago has been noted for years, but it’s what he has done with GM John Dorsey in Kansas City the past two years that’s been most impressive. The Chiefs have loaded up via the draft but have also smartly signed free agents. The more Kansas City wins, the brighter his star gets.
9. Jim Monos, director of player personnel, Buffalo Bills
Monos spent years with the Eagles and Saints but has made the biggest impact in Buffalo. The Bills recent drafts have netted talents like Sammy Watkins, Ronald Darby and Karlos Williams, among others. Monos, who complements GM Doug Whaley, made his bones scouting the Southeast for the Saints. A smart guy who’s been on the road for years, Monos is the son of a legendary Division II coach and a well-known commodity in the scouting community.
10. Terry McDonough, vice president, Arizona Cardinals