2017 NFL power rankings: Head coaching openings

The coaching carousel has begun to move in the NFL. Here are the power rankings for the head coaching vacancies heading into the 2017 NFL season.

Like clockwork, the coaching carousel in the NFL has begun to spin. When teams have bad seasons, coaching staffs get fired. So there are always bad teams in need of a new spark from an incoming head coach.

With the 2016 NFL regular season coming to a close, here are the head coaching vacancies power ranked on overall appeal. Which organization presents the better head coaching job?

5

San Francisco 49ers

NFC, West

The San Francisco 49ers have absolutely no clue what they are doing. Owner Jed York needs to go in timeout because he will be looking for his fourth head coach in four seasons. That’s pathetic for an organization that went to the Super Bowl only four seasons ago.

2014 saw the end of the Jim Harbaugh era in the Bay Area. 2015 brought us the wonder that was Jim Tomsula. 2016 gave us no belief that Chip Kelly can continue to be an NFL head coach. Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke are expected to be fired at the end of the season.

A clean slate, a high draft pick, and getting to live in the Bay Area coaching a once-proud NFL organization could be appealing to some head coaching candidates. However, York has driven this once-lucrative job into the ground. The 2017 49ers head coach will have a tremendously short leash. Would it be shocking to see York fire him after a year, too?

The brand of 49ers football is strong and the organization will be able to interview some interesting head coaching candidates. San Francisco is just not very likely to land anybody solid. Any self-respecting head coaching candidate would pass on this gig if offered another by a better run organization. The 49ers are a total disaster. Whomever takes this job, good luck, sir!

Dec 18, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan reacts to his team scoring a touchdown during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at New Era Field. Buffalo beats Cleveland 33 to 13. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 18, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan reacts to his team scoring a touchdown during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at New Era Field. Buffalo beats Cleveland 33 to 13. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

4

Buffalo Bills

AFC, East

The Pegula Family accepts that they made a huge mistake in hiring Rex Ryan to be their football coach in 2015. Buffalo fired him and his brother defensive coordinator Rob Ryan after the Bills were eliminated from playoff contention via the Week 16 home loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Buffalo has the longest NFL playoff drought of any team in the league, going on 18 years. The Bills had the roster to frankly contend for the AFC Playoffs this year. They have talent, as general manager Doug Whaley seems to be a good fit in the personnel department. Ryan just didn’t care about offense or discipline enough to be an effective NFL head coach in Buffalo.

As for the Bills’ head coaching vacancy, it would be appealing to some, but not everyone. The next head coach for Buffalo will have to buy in to what Whaley wants to do upstairs and probably be an offensive-minded coach in all honesty. This team isn’t terribly far away from contending in the AFC. A culture change could get the Bills to 10-6 as early as 2017 and push for an AFC Wild Card berth.

There are only three potential holdups for this Bills head coaching vacancy: 1.) The Bills play in the same AFC East with the New England Patriots and rising Miami Dolphins. Not ideal for making the AFC Playoffs. 2.) Buffalo has the harshest weather of any NFL city, which limits an offense’s overall effectiveness. 3.) This is the only NFL franchise to not make the playoffs this century. That 17-year skid might be a loathsome burden to top-tier coaching candidates.

Jeff Fisher, Los Angeles Rams

November 20, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher watches game action against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

3

Los Angeles Rams

NFC, West

The Los Angeles Rams were the first team to part ways with their 2016 head coach. Los Angeles fired long-time head coach Jeff Fisher after getting embarrassed at home by the Atlanta Falcons back on Week 14.

The Rams have the allure of being in Los Angeles, having a great defense and special teams unit, and a potential franchise quarterback in No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft in Jared Goff. Rams owner Stan Kroenke has shown a great deal of patience in giving Fisher nearly five years on the job to go 7-9 in perpetuity. Kroenke has given the head coaching position the perception of stability, which bodes well for this downtrodden NFC West franchise.

Los Angeles needs to make a splash hire and could appeal to a head coach’s hubris should he take the job. The Rams need to go with an offensive-minded coach, or at least a defensive-minded coach that can build a competent offensive staff. Playing in the NFC West with dysfunctional San Francisco, decaying Arizona, and a good, but not great Seattle team has its appeal.

The Rams will get a solid head coach to replace Fisher in 2017. However, the job isn’t the best available on the head coaching carousel for three reasons: 1.) Los Angeles is an unforgiven market. This team has to be good or interesting. Otherwise, nobody will care about the Rams. 2.) This is the worst offense in football. The Rams have no idea what they are doing on that side of the ball. 3.) The Rams haven’t made the NFC Playoffs since 2004. They’ve been the worst team in the NFC over that stretch of time. That’s a big burden for a new head coach to carry.

Nov 20, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley second half against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 20, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley second half against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

2

Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC, South

One could argue that the Jacksonville Jaguars might be the best head coaching vacancy in the NFL this trip on the coaching carousel. Jacksonville fired former head coach Gus Bradley after losing an embarrassing game to the rival Houston Texans in Week 15. Former Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone has filled in for Bradley in the interim.

What makes Jacksonville such an appealing job is obvious. Owner Shahid Khan might be eccentric, but has shown patience in letting his coaches coach. He wisely gave the Jaguars job the perception of stability for a lucrative head coaching candidate. The Jaguars have built a solid team thanks to great drafts and free agency acquisitions by David Caldwell. Prospective head coaches would love to work with Caldwell, as he is of the Bill Belichick tree of team building.

Jacksonville plays in a warm-weather city in a very winnable AFC South. The Jaguars need a disciplinarian to get the most out of their football team. Lastly, we’ve already seen the offense in place pop back in 2015. Quarterback Blake Bortles had a great second year in the NFL before suffering from a terrible mechanical year in 2016. Wide receiver Allen Robinson has top-10 talent.

Overall, this is a very appealing job and Jacksonville will be able to land a top-tier head coach of their choosing. This would be a hard job for a prospective head coach to turn down if offered the position. There is a lot to like with the Jacksonville job. Head coaching candidates would love the opportunity to turn this down AFC South franchise around. The path to success is very clear in Jacksonville.

Oct 9, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak looks on in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Falcons won 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 9, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak looks on in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Falcons won 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

1

Denver Broncos

AFC, West

With head coach Gary Kubiak stepping down from his post due to health concerns, the Broncos have one of the best head coaching vacancies of the coaching carousel. Denver is an elite organization that is almost always in playoff contention in the AFC.

Whomever takes this job will inherit a strong team-builder in general manager John Elway. Elway has already done great work in his first season of the brief rebuild in year one post-Super Bowl 50. The Broncos have a remarkable defense and a potential franchise quarterback in Paxton Lynch. 2016’s starter Trevor Siemian is at least serviceable as a starter for another season should Lynch need more time.

Denver’s roster is in a bit of transition, but the Broncos’ football culture is as strong as it gets. This is one of those jobs that would be near impossible to turn down. If a head coaching candidate believes in Elway and Lynch, this is a great job to enter in 2017.

This would be an ideal job for a quarterback whisperer like Kubiak was for two years in Denver. A defensive-minded coach would love to inherit this defense, but would need to bring a solid offensive coordinator with him to have success in the Mile High City. Denver is an ideal job for many would-be head coaching candidates, almost perfect for former head coaches, but a little too daunting for most first-time head coaches. Still an excellent job nonetheless.

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