The merry-go-round season for NFL coaches has arrived, and teams looking for new head coaches abound, including the Jets, Raiders, Bears, 49ers, Broncos, and Falcons. The Jets and Raiders seem to have decided, but the other four teams are still interviewing candidates.
The Jets choose Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, whom the Bears and Falcons had also interviewed. Bowles confirmed the Jets hiring in a text to ESPN, which also reported that the Jets offered him a four-year deal. Bowles served as the Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator for the last two years, and head coach Bruce Arians had high praise for him, telling Sports Illustrated, “He was one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached, and then we had to work together in Cleveland, and I saw how great of a teacher he had become.”
The well-traveled Bowles has worked for the Jets before, serving as their defensive backs coach in 2000 before he worked that job with the Browns and Cowboys. He became the Dolphins’ secondary coach and assistant coach in 2008, and briefly went 2-1 as an interim head coach in 2011. In 2012 he served as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator. Bowles’ Cardinal defenses ranked second in the NFL in Football Outsiders‘ opponent-adjusted metrics in 2013.
CBS Sports reports that the Raiders will not promote from within, naming Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to be their new head coach. The Raiders apparently chose Del Rio over interim Raiders coach Tony Sparano, who had gone 29-32 in four years with the Dolphins and Raiders. Del Rio coached the Jaguars for nine years, going 68-71 with two playoff appearances, before his three-year stint with the Broncos. Although Broncos’ general manager John Elway admitted that he had considered Del Rio for the Broncos’ head coaching slot to replace John Fox, there was no significant move made toward hiring him.
The Bears may pick up the Broncos’ leavings, as they have interviewed John Fox for their head coaching vacancy. Fox, who apparently lost his job with the Broncos based on his 3-4 postseason record, brought the Panthers and Broncos to Super Bowls, albeit unsuccessfully. He went 46-18 with the Broncos, with four consecutive playoff appearances.
Bears first-year general manager Ryan Pace, who spent 13 years with the New Orleans Saints, has remained friends with Saints coach Sean Payton, who knows Fox well. Other prospective candidates include Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, and Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. The Jets, 49ers, Falcons and Bears all have interviewed Quinn; the 49ers have interviewed Quinn and Gase.
All four remaining teams in the hunt for a head coach, the Bear, Falcons, 49ers, and Broncos, exhibit serious flaws needing to be addressed. The Bears feature an aging defense and a questionably overpriced quarterback in Jay Cutler. The Falcons also have a weak defense. The 49ers must answer the question as to what to do with their 15 unrestricted free agents, and how to help Colin Kaepernick bounce back to his 2013 form. The Broncos also have a number of free agents, and the ever-present question of how much Peyton Manning has left.