Tracking head-coach hirings, firings and potential openings: Seven jobs still open

NFL

The NFL regular season is behind us, and we have seven head-coaching openings. The first two hires of this job cycle were made on Thursday with the Denver Broncoshiring of Nathaniel Hackett and the Chicago Bears reportedly hiring the Colts’ Matt Eberflus.

With the Jacksonville Jaguars firing Urban Meyer on Dec. 16 after less than one season, we know they are going to be on the lookout for a permanent option, and they’ve already started requesting interviews with candidates. Same with the Las Vegas Raiders, who had interim coach Rich Bisaccia in place after Jon Gruden’s resignation in October. They have been interviewing candidates as well. The Broncos were the next to fire their coach, as Vic Fangio was let go after three seasons. The day after the season ended, the Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears fired their coaches. The New York Giants followed the day after, and the Houston Texans did two days later.

On Tuesday, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said he was stepping away from the team.

Here’s everything you need to know about the latest NFL head-coach movement, with news on open jobs, potential open jobs and candidates.

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FILLED HEAD-COACH JOBS

New coach: Nathaniel Hackett
Former coach: Vic Fangio

The Broncos are hiring Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to be the team’s new head coach, sources confirmed to ESPN on Thursday. Hackett, who has worked with quarterbacks at all phases on the developmental curve, was scheduled to interview with the Jaguars on Thursday, but the Broncos stepped in Wednesday night to get a deal done that prevented him from going to Jacksonville.

It will be Hackett’s first time as a head coach, and he becomes the team’s fourth different coach since the start of the 2016 season. Of all the offensive assistants interviewed by the Broncos, Hackett had the deepest résumé as a former playcaller for Buffalo and Jacksonville before his time with the Packers.

He replaces Fangio, who was fired this month after going 7-10 this season — the team’s fifth consecutive losing season.

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New coach: Matt Eberflus
Former coach: Matt Nagy

Former Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus will be hired as the Bears’ new head coach, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Eberflus, 51, will join new general manager Ryan Poles in taking over a Bears team that went 6-11 in 2021 under Matt Nagy and has missed the playoffs in nine of the past 11 seasons.

Eberflus has spent the past four seasons as the Colts’ defensive coordinator under head coach Frank Reich. His defenses finished in the top 10 in scoring three times, including being tied for ninth in 2021 at 21.5 points per game.

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OPEN HEAD-COACH JOBS

Former coach: Sean Payton (stepping away from team)

Saints longtime coach Sean Payton, 58, has decided to step away from team after 16 years. New Orleans missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons with a 9-8 record in 2021. But in many ways, it ranked among Payton’s most impressive coaching jobs considering quarterback Drew Brees’ retirement, a roster that was depleted by major injuries, salary-cap cuts and COVID-19 issues, and a hurricane evacuation to Dallas for the first month of the season. Payton acknowledged how trying the season was in Week 18, and although he is under contract, he recently had remained uncommitted to coaching in 2022.

Payton posted a career record of 152-89 (.631 winning percentage), not including his season-long suspension in 2012 because of the league’s bounty investigation. Payton went 9-8 in the postseason, including the only Super Bowl victory in franchise history in 2009.

Adam Schefter reports that Bucs OC Byron Leftwich, Lions DC Aaron Glenn and New Orleans DC Dennis Allen are among the Saints’ head coaching candidates

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Former coach: Urban Meyer (fired on Dec. 16)

Meyer was fired after less than one season as coach of the Jaguars — and reportedly for cause. His time with the Jaguars included incidents on and off the field. While the team did finally win a game after a 20-game losing streak, it was only 2-10 at the time of his firing. And shortly before he was fired, a former Jaguars kicker claimed Meyer kicked him while at practice. Not the year that was expected after drafting Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall in the 2021 draft.

Interview requests: Former Eagles HC Doug Pederson (interviewed), former Colts and Lions HC Jim Caldwell (interviewed), Cowboys OC Kellen Moore, Buccaneers OC Byron Leftwich (interviewed), Buccaneers DC Todd Bowles (interviewed), Alabama OC Bill O’Brien, Jags interim HC Darrell Bevell, former Broncos head coach Vic Fangio

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Former coach: Mike Zimmer

In eight seasons with the Vikings, Zimmer had a 72-56-1 record and made three trips to the postseason (2015, 2017, 2019), with two playoff wins. The Vikings fell short of reaching the playoffs in 2020 with a 7-9 record and they fell short in 2021, too. They had not missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since Zimmer took over in 2014.

The story of this year’s Vikings team was defined by games that came down to the final possession. Of Minnesota’s 17 games this season, 13 were decided by one possession. You can see them listed quite a few times in the win and loss columns of all the walk-off wins of the season.

The Vikings invested north of $46 million in guaranteed money on defensive contracts in the offseason to restore their once-vaunted defense. But before Week 18, Minnesota ranked 31st in yards per game (385.4), 26th in yards per play (5.81), 27th in rushing yards allowed per game (133.3), 26th in passing yards allowed per game (252.1) and 25th in points allowed (409).

On Thursday, the Vikings announced they have hired Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as their new GM.

Interview requests: Bucs DC Todd Bowles, Cowboys OC Kellen Moore, Rams OC Kevin O’Connell, Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon, 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans, Cowboys DC Dan Quinn, Rams DC Raheem Morris

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Former coach: Brian Flores

Flores was fired by the Dolphins after three seasons. General manager Chris Grier will remain with the team in his current role.

Flores’ career record was 24-25. The Dolphins started the 2021 season 1-7 before going on a seven-game winning streak — becoming the first team in NFL history to have a seven-game winning streak and a seven-game losing streak in the same season. But the Dolphins were eliminated from the playoffs after losing to the Tennessee Titans in Week 17. The Dolphins never reached the postseason under Flores, despite his twice leading them to a winning record, including 10-6 in 2020.

Flores is expected to be a prime candidate to get head-coaching consideration elsewhere during this next hiring cycle.

Interview requests: Bills OC Brian Daboll, 49ers OC Mike McDaniel, Cowboys DC Dan Quinn, Cardinals DC Vance Joseph, Cowboys OC Kellen Moore, Bills DC Leslie Frazier, Rams AHC/RBs Thomas Brown

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Former coach: Joe Judge

The Giants fired coach Joe Judge after two losing seasons with the team. The move came a day after general manager David Gettleman retired after four seasons on the job.

Judge, a first-time head coach, went 10-23 in his two years. He is the third consecutive Giants coach to be fired after two seasons or less, following Ben McAdoo (13-15) and Pat Shurmur (9-23), as the once-proud franchise stumbles through one of the worst 10-year stretches in its history.

The Giants hired Bills assistant general manager Joe Schoen as their new GM and now must find a coach to replace Judge.

Interview requests: Cowboys DC Dan Quinn, former Dolphins HC Brian Flores, Bills OC Brian Daboll, Bills DC Leslie Frazier, Giants DC Patrick Graham, Bengals DC Lou Anarumo

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Former coach: David Culley

The Texans fired Culley one year after the longtime assistant became the oldest first-time NFL head coach at age 65.

In Culley’s first season as a head coach, the Texans won the same number of games as they did the previous season under interim coach Romeo Crennel. Culley did it with a depleted roster and team that has had just one first-round pick in the last four years.

Interview requests: Former Dolphins HC Brian Flores, Chargers OC Joe Lombardi, Florida Atlantic WRs coach Hines Ward, Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon, former QB Josh McCown, Rams OC Kevin O’Connell

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Former coach: Jon Gruden (resigned Oct. 11)

Rich Bisaccia took over for Gruden and led them to the playoffs, but the Raiders are interviewing head-coach candidates to take the full-time job. They also fired general manager Mike Mayock and are in need of a new GM.

Bisaccia, 61, had been promoted from special teams coordinator upon the resignation of Jon Gruden. It was the first time in a coaching career that began in 1983 that Bisaccia was a head coach at any level.

Interview requests: Bisaccia, Patriots ILB coach Jerod Mayo, 49ers OC Demeco Ryans, Patriots OC Josh McDaniels (per Schefter), Patriots personnel executive Dave Ziegler (interviewed)

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