The 2024 NFL head coaching carousel has spun wildly over the past week, with major movement around the league. Several high-profile coaches like Jim Harbaugh and Bill Belichick are considering making jumps to new teams, while top coordinators and position coaches are being interviewed for the many openings around the league.
Harbaugh Weighs NFL Return Amid Michigan Rumors
Long-time NFL and college head coach Jim Harbaugh has been connected to multiple NFL openings, with reported interest from the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals. After a successful 2023 leading Michigan to a Big Ten title, rumors began swirling about Harbaugh looking to make the jump back to the NFL. The Broncos in particular seem like a strong fit, as their new ownership looks to make a big splash.
Harbaugh brings a proven track record in both college and the pros. He led the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl 47 and has resurrected the Michigan program. His experience and offensive creativity could be just what Denver or Arizona need to take the next step.
Several of Harbaugh’s Michigan assistants are also gaining attention around the league, including DC Mike Macdonald and LBs coach Antonio Pierce. Teams looking to emulate the Michigan model could target these top assistants.
Belichick’s Future Uncertain Amid Contract Rumblings
Long-time New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has reached a career crossroads, with his contract expiring after the 2024 season. There is uncertainty about whether the 71-year old wants to continue coaching, and speculation is rampant that he could move on from New England.
After a successful two decades leading the Patriots dynasty, Belichick’s teams have struggled to maintain that dominance in recent years. With QB Tom Brady’s departure and increasing personnel influence from ownership, rumors indicate Belichick may not return to New England when his contract is up.
The Raiders and Broncos are two teams connected with interest in Belichick if he decides to continue coaching. Both have young QBs and elements around the roster that could entice him. After Jon Gruden’s rapid downfall, Las Vegas’ ownership is looking to make another flashy hire. Denver’s new owners are highly ambitious as well.
If Belichick decides to hang it up, current Patriots staffers like LBs coach Jerod Mayo and offensive assistant Joe Judge could be succession plan options. But with so many unknowns, the future direction of the Patriots franchise is extremely hazy.
|New Coach Odds
|Nathaniel Hackett (Fired)
|Jim Harbaugh +200
|Matt Rhule (Fired)
|Jim Schwartz +150
|Kliff Kingsbury (Fired)
|DeMeco Ryans +225
*NFL New Coach Odds via SportsInteraction as of 1/18/2024
Top Coordinator Candidates Emerge
With up to nine potential openings around the NFL, top coordinator names are gaining steam in the hiring cycle. 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans and Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon lead the list of up-and-coming candidates. Others like Bengals OC Brian Callahan, Lions OC Ben Johnson, and Giants OC Mike Kafka are also gaining consideration.
Most first-time head coaches struggle, but the success of young offensive gurus like Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan has put a premium on replicating that model. Owners want to find “the next McVay”, focusing their search on rising starts.
Ryans in particular looks poised to become a top candidate. In just one year leading the 49ers defense, he orchestrated the league’s #1 unit that led them to the NFC Championship Game. For a franchise like Arizona looking to quickly rebuild, Ryans could be the perfect fit. The Vikings are another team with interest if they move on from the struggling Kevin O’Connell.
On the other side, Gannon has helped mold the Eagles defense into an aggressive, blitz-heavy force. His creativity disguising coverages and manufacturing pressure could attract teams like Indianapolis or Houston. Gannon has learned under one of the NFL’s best defensive coaches in Jonathan Gannon.
Most first interviews will take place during coaches’ playoff byes over the next two weeks. But with so many teams searching and competition fierce for top candidates, the musical chairs could continue all the way up to Super Bowl week.
What’s Next in the 2024 Carousel?
The wildest NFL head coaching carousel in recent memory still has many more twists and turns ahead. Nearly a third of the league could have new head coaches in 2024.
As the playoffs wrap up, top coordinators like Ryans, Gannon, Callahan, Johnson and Kafka will complete initial interviews. Harbaugh’s NFL interest should also gain clarity, potentially before the Super Bowl.
If Harbaugh returns to the league, it could set off a cascade of other college coaches looking to make the jump as well. Expect even more shocking developments over the coming weeks as the carousel spins out of control.
Strapped in owners are in for a dramatic ride in the quest to find the next great NFL head coach. Expect the sweepstakes surrounding Harbaugh, Belichick and the other top candidates to hit a fever pitch around the Super Bowl. This coaching cycle has already been one of massive surprises and intrigue – and it’s really only just getting started.
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