With Black Monday looming, here's a list from Audacy Sports of the 10 best NFL head coaching candidates for the 2023 cycle.
1. Sean Payton - Analyst, FOX Sports
Payton is a hell of an analyst, so it would be a shame to see him serve in that role for only a season. But he's one of the greatest offensive minds in NFL history, and even though a new employer will have to work out a trade with the New Orleans Saints to acquire his contract, he's 100% worth it. Still only 59, Payton could easily coach for another decade -- if not longer -- adding a second chapter to an already decorated coaching career.
2. Jim Harbaugh - Head Coach, University of Michigan
Harbaugh's intensity may mean that he comes with a shelf life, but everywhere he goes, the team ends up having success. It's been eight years since he's coached in the NFL, during which time he's restored the Michigan program to its former glory. But Harbaugh led the San Francisco 49ers to a 44-19-1 record in four seasons as their head coach, a period that saw the franchise reach the NFC Championship Game three times and the Super Bowl once. It's past time that the 59-year-old gets another crack in the NFL.
3. Eric Bieniemy - Offensive Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
Nothing has changed from the past few offseasons, when Bieniemy seemed like one of the most attractive coordinators that could become a head coach. Proximity to greatness doesn't always mean you'll end up as a great head coach yourself, but Andy Reid has generally been seen as doing a good job of grooming future head coaches. Bieniemy's two predecessors -- Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy -- both got chances to become head coaches. There's no reason that Bieniemy shouldn't be the next branch on the Reid coaching tree.
4. Dan Quinn - Defensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
Things didn't end great in Atlanta, but Quinn was 43-42 (.506) in parts of six seasons as the head coach of the Falcons. He's got a tremendous reputation around the league, and has turned around the Dallas Cowboys' defense after taking over as their coordinator in 2021.
5. Brian Flores - Senior Defensive Assistant/Linebackers Coach, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Miami Dolphins had two winning seasons in three years with Flores as their head coach, but fired him following the 2021 season anyway. We're skeptical that any owner will give the 41-year-old another shot this winter, given his seemingly rightful lawsuit against the league. But his teams in Miami were opportunistic both on defense and special teams, and probably overachieved based on the talent he was handed. If Flores goes somewhere that he's more comfortable with the quarterback situation, he'll likely be massively successful in his second opportunity to be a head coach.
6. Shane Steichen - Offensive Coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles
The 37-year-old is the play-caller for the Eagles, and while he had previously had experience working with Philip Rivers and Justin Hebert, Steichen and Nick Sirianni have built a great system around a completely different style of quarterback in Jalen Hurts. If you're looking for the next great offensive-minded head coach, Steichen will be near the top of your list.
7. DeMeco Ryans - Defensive Coordinator, San Francisco 49ers
Ryans was an excellent linebacker for the Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles, and has quickly become an asset as Kyle Shanahan's defensive coordinator in San Francisco. The 38-year-old was promoted to defensive coordinator after Robert Saleh took the job as the head coach of the New York Jets in the 2021 season. Now, it's his turn to lead a team.
8. Leslie Frazier - Defensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills
In terms of former head coaches that deserve a second shot, Frazier often seems to be overlooked. He was the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings from 2011-2013, and has since been the defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Bills. At 63, this cycle may be Frazier's last, best shot to be a head coach again.
9. Mike Kafka - Offensive Coordinator, New York Giants
Kafka was briefly a backup quarterback for Andy Reid in Philadelphia, and later spent five years on his former head coach's staff in Kansas City. Brian Daboll hired him away to be the offensive coordinator in New York, and the duo have had tremendous success building an offense around Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. Kafka may be a year or two away from becoming a head coach, but he's absolutely a name that should be on everyone's radar right now.
10. Jonathan Gannon - Defensive Coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles
Gannon may prove to be a better head coach than defensive coordinator. He was a serious head coaching candidate in Houston last offseason, and it sounds as though he could be again. It seems just to be a matter of when, not if, the 40-year-old is a head coach.