Ranking the Best NFL Head Coach Candidates After Jim Harbaugh Joins L.A. Chargers

Ranking the Best NFL Head Coach Candidates After Jim Harbaugh Joins L.A. Chargers

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    Former Titans head coach Mike Vrabel

    Former Titans head coach Mike VrabelWesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Jim Harbaugh agreed Wednesday to become the next head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, which means only four NFL head coaching vacancies remain.

    What are the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Commanders looking at in terms of candidates now that Harbaugh, Brian Callahan, Jerod Mayo and Antonio Pierce have been removed from the market?

    Let’s take a look at the top five available candidates based on their experience and resumes to date.

    Interview reports via NFL.com.

5. Bobby Slowik

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    SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 8: Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and Offensive Passing Game Specialist Bobby Slowik of the San Francisco 49ers on the field before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium on January 8, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Cardinals 38-13. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

    Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

    Are you looking to get the most out of your shiny new quarterback? Look no further than Bobby Slowik, who worked under Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco between 2017 and 2022.

    Slowik was the Niners’ passing game coordinator for Brock Purdy’s remarkable rookie campaign in 2022 and worked wonders for Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud during his historic rookie season in 2023.

    Slowik is only 36, but he has been climbing NFL staffs for 13 years. Plus, he’s forward-thinking, with roots at Pro Football Focus. He also appears to have the personality for a head coaching role despite being quite reserved overall.

    It’s no wonder why he’s already interviewed or is scheduled to interview with all four teams still seeking head coaches.

4. Mike Macdonald

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    BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 31: Defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald of the Baltimore Ravens looks on during the first half of the game against the Miami Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium on December 31, 2023 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)

    Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

    In 2021, the Baltimore Ravens ranked 25th in yards allowed, 19th in points allowed and 29th in takeaways. Since Mike Macdonald took over as defensive coordinator in 2022, they’ve ranked seventh, second and fourth in those categories, respectively.

    A lot of that credit has to go the 36-year-old Macdonald, who gained plenty of experience under Wink Martindale earlier in his career before stepping away to Michigan for a successful season under Jim Harbaugh in 2021 and then taking over for Martindale in 2022.

    “Mike is a mad scientist, bro,” cornerback Arthur Maulet recently told Chris Bumbaca of USA Today Sports. “He’s always in the lab. Never not watching film. I respect him a lot.”

    “What you see is he’s just got a really good feel for it,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh added, per Bumbaca. “He’s got a feel for the game itself, but he’s also got a great feel for applying the principles that he’s been a part of developing.”

    Like Slowik, MacDonald’s team remains alive in the Super Bowl race. But he’s also been interviewed by several teams and looks to have more interviews scheduled.

3. Bill Belichick

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    New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick announces he is leaving the team during a press conference at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on January 11, 2024. Belichick, the NFL mastermind who has guided the New England Patriots to a record six Super Bowl titles as head coach, is parting ways with the team after 24 seasons. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

    JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

    Slowik and Macdonald required more justification than the top three, all of whom speak for themselves. How could we not include Bill Belichick, who owns eight Super Bowl rings and is widely considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of American sports?

    Some shine has come off Belichick in recent years after Tom Brady left New England. But there’s little doubt he’s forgotten more than most coaches will ever know about this game, and a fresh setting could perhaps reinvigorate the 71-year-old.

    However, Belichick has only interviewed in Atlanta so far. That still could change, but it suggests that some teams aren’t sure what Belichick might have left at this stage in his career.

    That explains why he’s not at the top of these rankings.

2. Dan Quinn

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    ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 14:  Dallas Cowboys coach Dan Quinn looks on from the field prior to an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium on January 14, 2024 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images)

    Perry Knotts/Getty Images

    Dan Quinn helped get the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl in 2016. That game didn’t pan out well for Atlanta, and the team entered somewhat of a tailspin in the ensuing seasons, but it’s about time the reputed defensive mastermind gets another shot at a top job.

    Quinn’s current run as defensive coordinator in Dallas has been nothing short of outstanding. The team has ranked in the top eight in points allowed in all three of his seasons in that role, and the defense led the NFL in takeaways in both 2021 and 2022. The Cowboys are the only team with more than 90 takeaways since the start of the 2021 season.

    Quinn’s playoff record is spotty, but he’s is a strong vocal leader with a great defensive mind. He deserves a second chance at a head coaching role, and he just might get one this cycle. He’s already interviewed in Carolina and Seattle, the latter of which plans to bring him back for a second interview, and he has an interview lined up with Washington as well.

1. Mike Vrabel

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    HOUSTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 31: Head Coach Mike Vrabel of the Tennessee Titans on the field before the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 31, 2023 in Houston, Texas. The Texans defeated the Titans 26-3.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Mike Vrabel is basically Dan Quinn but without as many scars on a national level.

    Vrabel never guided the Tennessee Titans to the Super Bowl, but they were almost always competitive throughout his six-year run there. He managed that even though the team was never overly talented and was often greater than the sum of its parts.

    The 48-year-old has the mind and disposition to be a great head coach for decades to come. He already proved that in Tennessee, but the Titans front office was unwilling to ride out a proper rebuild with Vrabel.

    That’ll likely work to some other team’s advantage. He already interviewed with Atlanta, and he has an interview scheduled with Carolina.

Notable Exclusions

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    DETROIT, MICHIGAN - SEPTEMBER 24: Ben Johnson offensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions looks on during a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field on September 24, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

    Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

    This year’s coaching market is full of candidates with plenty of experience and strong resumes. There are some other appealing options as well, although they’re far more unproven.

    Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has worked wonders in the Motor City under the offensive-minded Dan Campbell, but he has only two years under his belt as the OC. Meanwhile, former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Brian Johnson has been a hot name on the interview circuit, but Jalen Hurts and the Philly offense had some clear issues this past season during his first and only year at the helm.

    Then there are retreads like Raheem Morris, who has never done much as a head coach and hasn’t run a top-10 defense in his entire lengthy career but keeps landing interviews. Or Steve Wilks, who has held six different jobs since 2017 and hasn’t coached in one spot for more than one year since then.

    Eric Bieniemy’s name usually comes up a lot this time of year, as he had a ton of success with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. However, he left to serve as the Washington Commanders’ offensive coordinator this past season, and they finished the year ranked 24th in total offense and 25th in points scored.

    David Shaw is an interesting candidate as a potential NFL returnee, but things went downhill at the end of his tenure at Stanford and he’s been away from coaching for a year. He’s an honorable mention as a boom-or-bust wild card.

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