Potential landing spots for the top NFL coaching candidates available

By , Audacy

Black Monday has come and there are several new head coach openings around the NFL with plenty of high-profile names available for these jobs.

Not every top candidate will land a job, as we've seen in recent years, while a big-time college name always also seems to surface this time of year.

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This year, it is Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh as the hot name on the market. Unlike Urban Meyer last year, Harbaugh has a track record of success in the NFL. Meanwhile, top coordinators Josh McDaniels, Eric Bieniemy and Brian Daboll will also be back on the radar after not landing jobs last year.

Here is a look at the best fits and landing spots for each of the top candidates.

Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh
Photo credit Getty Images

After his most successful season at Michigan, the rumor mill that Harbaugh could be headed back to the NFL has begun and several teams are reportedly already interested in him. Harbaugh last coached in the NFL in 2014 with the San Francisco 49ers and held a 44-19-1 record, leading the team to two NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl appearance, which he lost to his brother, John, and the Ravens.

Landing spot: Las Vegas Raiders
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was rather definitive on Monday that he would not pry Harbaugh from his alma mater (but probably still shouldn't be ruled out). Then there is the obvious connection to the Bears, where Harbaugh played for seven years. But the Raiders may be the most likely destination.

Mark Davis is believed to really like Harbaugh and the owner has not been afraid to back up the brinks truck to make a splash with a head-coaching hire the way he did Jon Gruden (which did not work out for other reasons). Harbaugh could very well be the next splash Davis makes, although interim head coach Rich Bissacia has done a superb job and has the Raiders in the playoffs.

Brian Flores

Brian Flores
Photo credit Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins shocked everyone on Monday when they fired Flores after winning eight of their final nine games to finish the season. While the Dolphins did not make the playoffs in three seasons under Flores, they posted back-to-back winning seasons and appeared to be making progress in the right direction under Flores' leadership.

Landing spot: New York Giants or Houston Texans
For a minute, it appeared as if the Giants were going to stick with Joe Judge moving into next year but the team made the decision late Tuesday to part ways with the head coach. The Giants would be smart to pursue Flores to fill that void. Flores is coming off back-to-back winning seasons as a head coach, something the Giants have not had since the Tom Coughlin era, and is one of the rare success stories from the Belichick tree. If the Giants are to rebuild, Flores could be the perfect fit.

Meanwhile, the Texans have not yet fired David Culley, but the team could still certainly move in that direction, especially with Flores now on the market. Former Patriots executives Jack Easterby and Nick Caserio are calling the shots in Houston and Flores is a former Patriots assistant coach. NFL draft analyst Matt Miller tweeted that it has been a long-rmored belief that the Texans would like a Patriots-connected head coach and what better choice than someone who already has a proven track record? Flores could be exactly what Houston needs to start turning things around.

Josh McDaniels

Josh McDaniels before a Patriots game.
Photo credit Getty Images

McDaniels seems to be on this list every single year and each year he continues to stick with the New England Patriots (although he left the Colts at the altar in 2018). Plenty of teams will be interested in McDaniels, but the question is if there is any team he is interested in? Which situation would he most likely leave the Patriots for to become a head coach?

Landing spot: Minnesota Vikings
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network recently went on WEEI and mentioned the Vikings as a potential team for McDaniels, specifically because he would prefer to go somewhere without a GM. With Minnesota firing both Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman it makes the room for McDaniels to either have control over personnel or have his say in who gets that position.

As for the team he would be taking over, he has a ton of offensive weapons in Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen and a veteran quarterback in Kirk Cousins. McDaniels has not been a head coach in over a decade, but this could be the situation that makes him leave New England.

Eric Bieniemy

Eric Bieniemy before a Chiefs game.
Photo credit Getty Images

Like McDaniels, Bieniemy seems to be on this list every year but continues to not get hired. He is the offensive coordinator of what has been one of the top offenses in the NFL over the last four seasons, which would make him a slam-dunk candidate.

Landing spot: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins' decision to fire Brian Flores on Monday was the ultimate head-scratcher, but this could be the team Bieniemy finally gets his chance as head coach. If Miami does indeed trade for Deshaun Watson, Bieniemy would find himself with an elite QB and offensive weapons such as Jaylen Waddle and DeVante Parker to work with.

Brian Daboll

Brian Daboll
Photo credit Getty Images

Daboll got a few interviews last year and will be a hot name on the market again this offseason after his fourth season as Bills offensive coordinator and his role in developing Josh Allen into one of the best QBs in the NFL.

Landing spot: Chicago Bears
Daboll seems like he would be an ideal fit for the Chicago Bears, who have a young quarterback in Justin Fields in place to be the franchise player. Obviously, being a head coach carries more responsibility than developing a QB and leading the offense, but Daboll has been an NFL assistant for 20 years and has experiencing working under Bill Belichick and Nick Saban in addition to Sean McDermott. If Daboll really played a large influence in turning the Bills around, it makes sense he could help do it in Chicago.

Kellen Moore - Jacksonville Jaguars

Kellen Moore looks up during a Cowboys game.
Photo credit USA Today Sports

Kellen Moore has been gaining a lot of attention since becoming the play-caller in Dallas and has helped oversee a Cowboys offense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL this past season. Offensive-minded coaches are the hot commodity and Moore has thwarted himself up toward the top of that list.

Landing spot: Jacksonville Jaguars
Moore is a young, offensive-minded coach who has found success in the NFL, albeit as a coordinator. In other words, he is the complete opposite of Urban Meyer. Moore would be coming over from a respected organization like the Cowboys and could bring some of that culture with him to a franchise that desperately needs some of it. It's also fun to think about what he could do with Trevor Lawrence in helping him reach his potential.

Jerod Mayo

Jerod Mayo during a Patriots game.
Photo credit USA Today Sports

Here's an outside-the-box candidate to add to the list of potential head coaches. Mayo interviewed with the Eagles last year and he is quickly emerging as a "hot name" on the market, per NBC Sports Boston. According to SI's Albert Breer, teams have been viewing Mayo in similar fashion to former players-turned-coaches like Mike Vrabel and Dan Campbell.

Landing spot: Denver Broncos
Mayo may not be the first name that comes to mind, but he has already been linked to the Broncos as a name to watch. GM George Paton has said he wants someone with "leadership" as his next head coach and Mayo reportedly left the Eagles impressed with his "rare leadership traits" last year, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.

Mayo's experience may be a knock against him, but he's worked under Bill Belichick and has been part of a collaborative defensive coaching staff that had the Patriots second in the league in points per game. It's possible the Broncos opt for a more offensive-minded coach but don't sleep on Mayo.

Other names to watch: Byron Leftwich, Doug Pederson, Jim Caldwell, Nathaniel Hackett, Mike Zimmer, Matt Eberflus, Dan Quinn

There could still be more potential openings in the coming days, plus the aforementioned names may not necessarily be the ones to land a job. Pederson and Caldwell are both safe options that have proven track records that teams could feel more comfortable with instead of going with younger, unproven guys like Moore or Mayo.

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