When Gary Kubiak resigned for health reasons less than a year removed from coaching the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl championship, he left behind a great gig.
“There’s 32 of these jobs, and to think that you’re doing one of them is the greatest feeling in the world. I’ll say this: At this place, this is the best job in America,” Kubiak said this week, “because the people you’ve got helping you on a daily basis are second to none.”
Several factors can be considered when rating which of the six head-coaching vacancies around the league is the most - or least - worth wanting. Those include roster quality, especially at quarterback; how helpful and patient ownership is; competence of the general manager; competitiveness of the division.
Among the potential candidates for these positions are top offensive minds (Josh McDaniels, Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay), defensive experts (Matt Patricia, Teryl Austin) and folks who’ve been around before (Tom Coughlin, Mike Smith).
If one had his choice of landing spots, which should he pick? Here is one analysis of the current NFL openings, in order of desirability:
DENVER BRONCOS (2016 record: 9-7)
Why it’s a good gig: By far the best job available. One side of the ball is set, thanks to linebacker Von Miller and the rest of a topflight defense that led the club to the title not that long ago and was superb again this season. There’s considerable talent on the roster, a winning environment, a real home-field advantage, a GM (John Elway) who knows what he’s doing, and a willingness to do - and spend - what it takes to succeed.
Why it’s a bad gig: There is no established quarterback - Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch have a combined 16 pro starts - and the AFC West might just be the league’s toughest division.
What was said: “This is a great place to work, but the expectations are high. … Everybody that comes here, as a coach or as a player, understands that the standard is to have to be able to compete for world championships.” - Elway.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (3-13)
Why it’s a good gig: There’s a big drop-off from Denver to the rest of the bunch, but Jacksonville ranks No. 2, primarily because of an up-and-coming defense and relatively patient ownership, plus plenty of room under the cap to bring in help. Doesn’t hurt to be in the deeply flawed AFC South, either, meaning a playoff berth is never far out of reach.
Why it’s a bad gig: Not clear that Blake Bortles is a long-term solution at quarterback and, as of now, it appears the franchise could be stuck with him for at least another season.
What was said: “Whoever the new head coach is, I totally understand that he’s going to play at quarterback who he wants to play at quarterback, and I have no problem with that.” - Bortles.
LOS ANGELES RAMS (4-12)
Why it’s a good gig: Thanks mainly to Aaron Donald, the defense is respectable. Sophomore slump aside, Todd Gurley looks like the real deal at running back. There’s also a young QB drafted No. 1 overall, Jared Goff, to work with. And if you’re a coach who wants to “go Hollywood,” well, here’s a place you truly can.
Why it’s a bad gig: Something’s amiss when a coach gets fired within days of word leaking out that he received an extension a while ago. Oh, and there’s the not-so-little matter of 12 consecutive seasons without making the playoffs.
What was said: “With the talent we’ve got, we shouldn’t be where we’re at, as far as the record and the way we’ve been losing.” - Donald.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (5-11)
Why it’s a good gig: There’s quality at QB (in the short term, anyway, because Philip Rivers is 35), RB (Melvin Gordon) and DE (Joey Bosa). And, hey, can’t beat the weather, right?
Why it’s a bad gig: The uncertainty over whether the team will be in San Diego or LA is only one manifestation of the club’s long-standing lack of direction. Ownership is known for hiring coaches on the cheap, and the Chargers have made nine playoff appearances in 33 years.
What was said: “You’re looking for a leader. It’s not always just about the X’s and O’s.” - GM Tom Telesco, on what he wants in a coach.
BUFFALO BILLS (7-9)
Why it’s a good gig: Some pieces of the puzzle are in place, including WR Sammy Watkins and RB LeSean McCoy. Not a lot else, though.
Why it’s a bad gig: Start with two names - Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. The Bills are basically playing for second place, at best, behind the New England Patriots in the AFC East, although even that doesn’t account for why they have gone 17 seasons without reaching the playoffs. That drought is unfathomable in today’s everyone-has-a-chance NFL. One example of the problems: GM Doug Whaley had no input in the decision to fire coach Rex Ryan.
What was said: “We’re searching for that coach that can be here for 10-15 years.” - Whaley.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (2-14)
Why it’s a good gig: Hmmmm. San Francisco’s a terrific city? The new stadium? Nowhere to go but up?
Why it’s a bad gig: A lengthy list, from the lack of a QB, to a woeful defense, to general dysfunction and impatience of an organization that dismissed three head coaches and a GM over the past three seasons. Things are so bad that team CEO Jed York was asked at a news conference why he shouldn’t be dismissed or reassigned.
What was said: “I own this football team. You don’t dismiss owners. I’m sorry that that’s the facts and that’s the case, but that’s the fact.” - York.
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