This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a ranking of the top head coaching candidates this offseason. There are a few openings, but we are keeping things broad for the list instead of worrying about team personnel and structure. The candidates are meant to be realistic (so no Bill Belichick as an option), but No. 1 would admittedly probably be difficult to get an interview with. [UPDATE: This list does not include Ron Rivera because the Redskins are already hiring him.]
10. Pat Shurmur
This final spot came down to fired Giants head coach Pat Shurmur or Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Shurmur probably just wasn’t a fit in New York, but he oversaw a promising rookie season from quarterback Daniel Jones, and the former Browns head coach simply hasn’t been in opportunities set up for success in the NFL. The Giants played hard all year for Shurmur, and he can help an offense operate at a high level. Another possibility would be Frazier as the head coach with Shurmur as his offensive coordinator.
9. Greg Roman
The architect of the Lamar Jackson-led Ravens offense this season, offensive coordinator Greg Roman is unsurprisingly one of the hottest names on the coaching circuit. One issue is that a quarterback like Jackson is extremely rare, though there will be plenty of players at the position available this offseason and in the draft. Roman has a long history as an assistant coach, and he might be ready for a lead job.
8. Jim Caldwell
He benefitted from being able to coach Peyton Manning during his time with the Colts, but Jim Caldwell had 14-2 and 10-6 records before Manning’s neck issues led to a 2-14 season in 2011. Then, Caldwell had another opportunity in Detroit from 2014-2017 and went 11-5, 7-9, 9-7, and 9-7. With an above .500 record in two destinations, Caldwell deserves a lot more respect than he’s getting as a potential head coach with experience.
7. Gregg Williams
The Browns might be in another position right now if they retained Gregg Williams as their head coach after he pulled off a 5-3 record as the franchise’s interim head coach last year, and he clearly gains the respect of his players. The longtime defensive coordinator and former Bills head coach always has extremely aggressive defenses, and that tough, all-out mindset could translate well throughout the entire roster. Williams had a huge hand in the Jets’ 6-2 finish this season.
6. Josh McDaniels
Josh McDaniels did not get much of an opportunity with the Broncos, being fired before the end of his second season at the helm—but he’s had more time learning from Bill Belichick, who clearly holds his offensive coordinator in high regard, and should do very well with another chance as a head coach. It would be important to get a general manager that would mesh well with McDaniels’ specific preferences for his players.
5. Matt Rhule
These top five candidates are primarily CEO-style coaches that can be given several years to control and turn around a football operation, and they would probably get it done with great success. Matt Rhule built up both Temple and Baylor at the college level, and he has a year of experience under Super Bowl-winning head coach Tom Coughlin. Rhule sounds like he has the right mindset and approach to building an NFL team as successfully as he built two college programs.
4. Urban Meyer
This would be an interesting jump because Urban Meyer has no experience at the NFL level, but he found major success at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, and Ohio State throughout his career coaching in college football. Meyer was 54-4 in conference play with the Buckeyes, and he was 12-3 in bowl games overall—especially in a wide-open NFL with rules slanted in favor of the offense, Meyer knows how to win football games and would be a high-upside hire.
3. Mike McCarthy
Mike McCarthy is probably not quite the CEO-level guy within the organization that would want to have a heavy impact on selecting players, but there is no question he can coach with the best of them. McCarthy went 125-77-2 in 13 seasons with the Packers, including a Super Bowl title and a 15-1 regular season the following year. The time off for McCarthy could lead to him becoming an even better coach in his second stint with a new team, and franchises with openings would be foolish not to interview him.
2. Chip Kelly
No one in Philadelphia will admit it, but Chip Kelly had a major impact after doing the dirty work to lay the foundation for the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory a couple of years ago. He knows how to build a team and knows exactly what he wants in an organization from top to bottom, so he’s someone an owner can hand the reigns to. At UCLA, you can see Kelly is using more pro-style things and is not running at a breakneck tempo all the time, and he’ll likely eventually make his way back to the pros. In San Francisco, Kelly has no chance with the NFL’s worst roster by far, but I bet he would be extremely successful if given another fair opportunity in the NFL.
1. Nick Saban
Again, this is meant to be realistic, and No. 1 is probably the least realistic option by far—Nick Saban is undoubtedly comfortable at Alabama and can operate without having to deal with much in the way of politics and front-office issues costing him his job. However, NFL owners with an opening should seriously consider handing the keys of the football operations over to Saban with a massive contract offer. His success speaks for itself, and overall, it’s best to have someone like Saban, Kelly, or Rhule that will be constantly consumed with building a consistent, championship-level team.