Pros and cons of Packers' competition for top coaching candidates
GREEN BAY – On Black Monday, the Green Bay Packers finally got a definitive look at their competition in the search for a new head coach.
The Packers will be one of eight NFL teams hiring a head coach over the next five weeks. Four teams fired their head coaches Monday: Arizona, Cincinnati, Miami and Denver. Tampa Bay and the New York Jets fired head coaches after Sunday’s games. They join the Packers and Cleveland Browns on the head-coaching market.
With so many competitors looking for coaches, Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst must conduct a thorough search as quickly as possible, or risk having another team hire their preferred candidate.
Here’s a look at the seven teams the Packers are competing against for a head coach:
Coach they fired: Hue Jackson. Dismissed in late October. Went 3-36-1 in his two-plus seasons. Hired for his reputation working with quarterbacks.
Coaches they’re targeting: The Browns went 5-3 under interim head coach Gregg Williams. He’s a candidate, as is Browns offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, but Cleveland also reportedly put in interview requests for Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanksi, Patriots defensive play caller Brian Flores and Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.
Job appeal: Finally, the Browns have a quarterback. Baker Mayfield was the top overall pick in the NFL draft last season, and he played like it as a rookie. With Mayfield, the Browns appear to be on a positive trajectory. General manager John Dorsey has a proven track record of identifying NFL talent, and the Browns are among the league leaders in 2019 cap space.
Buyer beware: Owner Jimmy Haslam does not have a good reputation as a boss, which will give some candidates pause. The Browns, notoriously impatient, have had nine full-time head coaches since their rebirth in 1999. That’s basically one coach every two years for two decades.
New York Jets
Coach they fired: Todd Bowles. Went 24-40 in New York, including 4-12 this season. Never won more than five games in three years. Comes from a defensive background.
Coaches they’re targeting: The Jets reportedly requested to interview Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken and Dallas Cowboys passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach Kris Richard. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has been linked through reports to this job, but only as a person of interest. Former Packers coach Mike McCarthy is another name that has been rumored. Their last seven head coaches dating to 1997 have come from a defensive background, so perhaps a coach with offense in his blood would be a refreshing change.
Job appeal: Like the Browns, the Jets also appear to have a talented young quarterback. Sam Darnold’s rookie season did not match Mayfield’s, but the third overall pick in the draft showed plenty of potential. He has a strong, accurate arm and mobility with his legs. An added benefit might be the possible impending end to the Patriots run of dominance in the AFC East.
Buyer beware: Also like the Browns, the Jets tend to be a hot mess more often than not. The coaching carousel hasn’t spun quite as fast as it has in Cleveland, but the Jets have had seven coaches since 1997 for a reason. The Jets haven’t been to the playoffs since 2010.
Coach they fired: Steve Wilks. Got only one year on the job. The Cardinals finished 3-13 and will have the draft’s top pick, but they did beat the Packers. Comes from a defensive background.
Coaches they’re targeting: McCarthy was rumored to be of serious interest in Arizona, but he reportedly turned down the Cardinals. The Cardinals also requested an interview with Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor and reportedly requested an interview with Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
Job appeal: In theory, the Cardinals also have a young quarterback to build around. Josh Rosen, the 10th overall pick last spring, started 13 games. There’s a reason he was drafted after Mayfield and Darnold, though. Unlike them, Rosen threw more interceptions (14) than touchdown passes (11). A quarterback’s best friend is a good running back, and Arizona has one in David Johnson. Also, that top overall draft pick is nice, and the Cardinals are among the NFL leaders in cap space.
Buyer beware: Seeing a head coach fired after just one season is sure to give some candidates pause, no matter how bad the Cardinals’ record.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Coach they fired: Dirk Koetter. Finished 19-29 in three seasons. Promoted from within after being the Bucs offensive coordinator in 2015.
Coaches they’re targeting: Monken, the Bucs' offensive coordinator, has drawn interest elsewhere in the league. It’s uncertain whether the Bucs would want to promote an offensive coordinator to head coach again after Koetter did not work out.
Job appeal: The Bucs ranked third in the league in total offense, though they were just 12th in points. In receiver Mike Evans and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, there are solid pieces on both sides of the ball.
Buyer beware: Despite the offense’s success, the long-term projection at quarterback is far from certain with Jameis Winston’s various issues. Also, they ranked among the worst defenses in the league.
Coach they fired: Vance Joseph. Finished 11-21 in two seasons. Comes from a defensive background.
Coaches they’re targeting: They’ve reportedly requested to interview Flores and Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Job appeal: This is a team that just won a Super Bowl three years ago, and they have many of the pieces from that dominant defense, including Von Miller.
Buyer beware: In Case Keenum, the Broncos are somewhat stuck in no-man’s land at quarterback. He signed after a terrific 2017 season in Minnesota, but probably is best used as a backup. Being in Patrick Mahomes’ division certainly doesn’t help.
Coach they fired: Adam Gase. Finished 23-25 in three seasons. Couldn’t build on promising 10-6 record in first year. Comes from an offensive background.
Coaches they’re targeting: Along with the Broncos, the Dolphins also reportedly put in a require to interview Fangio. Also, like the Packers and Browns, they’ve reportedly requested to interview Flores. And like the Jets, they reportedly want to interview Richard.
Job appeal: Other than the perk of living in south Florida – insert sunglasses emoji here – the next coach will inherit a team that stayed in the AFC playoff hunt much of this season. The Dolphins were 7-6 and on the fringe of the wild card before losing their last three games.
Buyer beware: Injuries have significantly limited quarterback Ryan Tannehill the past two seasons, and those issues could get only worse now that he’s north of 30 years old. Outside the draft’s top 10, they aren’t ideally positioned to start over anew with a top quarterback prospect.
Coach they fired: Marvin Lewis. One of the NFL’s longest-tenured head coaches. Finished 131-122-3 in 16 seasons. Mutually parted ways with franchise. Came from a defensive background.
Coaches they’re targeting: They want to interview Taylor and reportedly also want to talk with New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Rams pass-game coordinator/tight ends coach Shane Waldron. Special assistant to the head coach Hue Jackson, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons are internal candidates likely to get a look.
Job appeal: The Bengals have an attractive owner situation. Mike Brown is considered both patient – Lewis got 16 seasons – and hands off. Also a collaborative front-office setup, led by director of player personnel Duke Tobin. Coaches can expect to have their opinions on personnel not only heard, but considered.
Buyer beware: Like the Packers under Ted Thompson, they’re not active in free agency. Their three most important players are all 30: quarterback Andy Dalton, receiver A.J. Green and defensive lineman Geno Atkins. Dalton and especially Green have had injury issues