- Bill Barnwell is a staff writer for ESPN.com.
We’re expecting significant coaching turnover in the NFL this offseason. Five teams hired new head coaches after the 2019 season, but we’ve already seen three teams fire their coaches this year, and the Jets might inspire their fan base to revolt if they don’t move on from Adam Gase. There are still three weeks left to go in the regular season, but there are as many as nine more teams that could consider changing their coach.
Let’s evaluate the various coaching opportunities that might come available this offseason and rank how desirable they would be for a qualified candidate. I think there are 12 total teams that could have vacancies, but I’m leaving out the Bengals, Cowboys and Vikings, who seem less likely to fire their coaches than the other franchises. Each of those three jobs would rank in the upper half of this list if they were to come available.
I’m evaluating these jobs based on several criteria. Most important, of course, is whether the team has a talented roster and a star quarterback. After that, we’re looking at things like future cap space and draft capital, the difficulty of each team’s respective division and how patient the present ownership group has been when its team has struggled. Also, note that we’re looking at this exclusively from the perspective of a possible coach as opposed to that of a new general manager.
I’ll start with the least desirable opportunity of the nine and work my way up to the most tantalizing job:
9. Chicago Bears (6-7)
Pros: core talent
Cons: lack of cap space, no long-term quarterback
Over the next three weeks, the Bears could run the table and make it into the playoffs or lose two of three and spark a regime change. Regardless of what happens, it’s clear that the all-in moves general manager Ryan Pace made before 2018 didn’t work. Mitchell Trubisky hasn’t developed into a great passer, in part because coach Matt Nagy doesn’t appear to be any sort of quarterback whisperer. (The fact that he was playing the defenses ranked 26th and 30th in pass defense DVOA might have something to do with Trubisky’s recent hot streak.) Pass-rusher Khalil Mack is a great player, but he hasn’t been enough for the Bears to net a playoff win, let alone compete for a Super Bowl.
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It’s hard to be enthusiastic about what’s left. The Bears have $2.5 million in cap space next year before re-signing players such as wideout Allen Robinson, defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris and safety Tashaun Gipson, let alone addressing the quarterback position. They project to have the 14th pick in the 2021 draft, which could leave them too late in the hunt for quarterbacks. After making the Mack deal and repeatedly trading up in drafts past, Chicago also isn’t in position to make another all-in move for a young quarterback. It has a more competitive roster than most of the other teams on this list, but its ceiling is severely capped.
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