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Ranking the NFL Head Coaching Vacancies

Jan 2, 2013, 1:10 AM EDT

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Over the past few months, we’ve often heard or read some
people’s concerns that the Eagles might not be able to attract a high caliber
of coach for any number of reasons. Those range from a supposed dearth of
talent on the roster to not wanting to work with general manager Howie Roseman,
among others. However, we want you to rest assured that none of this is an
issue.

Jeffrey Lurie called coaching the Philadelphia Eagles the
best job in the NFL at his press conference on Monday. I don’t know if I would
go that far – it might not even be the best job available – but candidates will
view this is as an attractive destination regardless. For one thing, there are
only seven openings, so if somebody has aspirations to coach in this league,
they’ll have to start somewhere.

There’s more to it than that, of course. Who has the most
talent? Who already has a franchise quarterback? Who has the best facilities?
Where are the owners that are committed to winning a championship? Where are
the best places to live? All of that comes into play.

In the end, what fits one coach might not suit another, but
if you really wanted to rank the vacancies from best to worst, you could. In
fact, we have.

1. Chicago

Of all the places on this list, Chicago is probably the
closest to Super Bowl-ready. They won 10 games this season, barely missing the
playoffs, and haven’t won fewer than seven since 2004. Their success is largely
built around a solid defense with multiple veteran cornerstones: Brian
Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, and Julius Peppers to name a few.
There is a franchise quarterback in place in Jay Cutler, a passionate fan base,
and an owner committed to winning. With the right hire, the Bears will have
little problem carrying on their reputation as a tough opponent year in and
year out.

2. San Diego

Forget the beaches. The Chargers are a prominent destination
for one reason and one reason only: Philip Rivers. San Diego has by far the
best quarterback situation, a four-time Pro Bowler who has won in the postseason.
Rivers’ play has fallen off over the past two years, but with a new direction
and an infusion of talent, he could easily turn it around. That’s the problem
though: the rest of the roster isn’t all that close. Having said that, Rivers
is 31 so he should have a few good years left, at least long enough that the
Bolts could be back in contention while he is still under center.

3. Philadelphia

You could make the case for Cleveland over Philly, and we’ll
get into why in a moment. Ultimately we think the Eagles are the better job
though. Philadelphia is a nicer place to live, the owner desperately wants to
win, and the organization is stable. On the field, they are brimming with young
talent, including Nick Foles who did demonstrate some potential he could perhaps
be molded into a franchise quarterback with proper tutelage. Plus, they have a
high draft pick, and there is even reason to believe the team isn’t as bad as
their record if several key players recover from injury.

4. Cleveland

The Browns are a franchise on the rise now that Joe Banner
is running the operation – just look at what he accomplished while he was here.
They are going to turn it around, but also remember it did not happen overnight
with the Eagles. The Browns need to assemble a front office along with hiring a
head coach, so there is a great deal of uncertainty in that process. There are
some quality players inside the locker room, but the quarterback is about to
turn 30 in just his second NFL season – if that’s even the direction the new
regime chooses to go. Something tells me being the 5. Arizona

Our perception of Arizona has changed somewhat since Kurt
Warner elevated them to a Super Bowl several years ago. A coach can win there.
The Cardinals have top-rate facilities, and believe it or not, the fans do
care. However, the team itself is a project. Unless Andy Reid plans on propping
up Kevin Kolb once more, they appear to be lacking a franchise quarterback, and
worse yet, they have an offensive line of matadors that couldn’t keep any
passer upright. Plus, owner Bill Bidwell has a reputation for being frugal, so
the next coach shouldn’t count on too many lavish free-agent spending sprees.

6. Kansas City

Ordinarily having the number one pick in the draft might be
reason alone to take a job. Sure, the team sucks, but the head coach can get
his franchise quarterback and begin developing him from day one. Unfortunately
for Kansas City, the class of 2013 might be lacking a player of that caliber.
That could mean a full year of trying to squeak by with a Matt Cassel or an
Alex Smith in a business where you might only have three – if that – before
you’re out on the street again. The Chiefs are a family business with a diehard
fan base, but it could be a long, long time before they are back in serious
contention.

7. Buffalo

What are the redeeming qualities to this job, outside of it
being a head coaching job in the NFL? It’s Buffalo (high of 26 degrees today!),
ownership is only able and/or willing to compete on a budget, and the team
hasn’t made the playoffs in this millennium. The roster isn’t completely
hopeless, but they don’t have a quarterback, and have only used one first-round
pick on the position since Jim Kelly retired in 1996. When somebody takes this
job, it proves there is somebody for every opening, which should mostly
alleviate any concerns that Eagles fans may have about luring a quality
candidate.