By Conor Perrett 

With the regular season of the NFL season finished, it means the ominous day known as Black Monday is upon us. Before people get excited thinking there are sales on, Black Monday in the NFL world is the day after Week 18 in which we see head coaches of multiple NFL teams get fired. 

While it’s sad to see some folks go, it means new up-and-coming coaches get a look in for a job that only 32 people in the world can say they have. 

If you’re a fan of a team that might have just waved goodbye to their head-coach, don’t worry we have you covered here. One of these names below might be the new head-coach to your NFL team. 

Former Head Coaches:

Sean Payton, former New Orleans Saints head-coach, 2006-2011, 2013-2021

If you’re new to knowing the candidates for head coaching roles this year, then Sean Payton is the biggest and going to be the most fought after name on this list.

Coaching the Saints for 13 years before he ‘retired’ a year ago, Payton is one of the best coaches we’ve seen in the NFL and has a Super Bowl ring to back it up. Specialising on the offensive side of the ball, Payton was famous for his work with QB Drew Brees, which saw the Saints compete as one of the best teams in the NFL for over a decade.

Payton only retired last year, but it was known he was just looking for a break in coaching. Now he feels his days in the media are already over and he is being linked to numerous teams. Payton has 24 years of coaching experience in the NFL and will likely get the pick of teams fighting over him. 

It should be said, Payton is still retired and New Orleans holds his right as a coach. That means if a team would like to hire Payton, they would have to make a trade for him. This can obviously complicate things, but it’s a great position to be in if your name is Sean Payton. Trading for coaches is rare, so when it occurs it means such a coach will get significant power within the organisation. 

Best fits: Saints, Rams, Cardinals 

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head-coach

Jim Harbaugh, like Payton, is a former NFL coach. Currently in control of college team Michigan Wolverines, Harbaugh has 14 years of NFL playing experience with another 21 years of coaching to go with that. In his time as a coach, Harbaugh has had spells at the NFL and college level, with his most famous stint being the head-coach of the 49ers – where he won an NFC Championship in 2012.

After his spell with the Niners, Harbaugh went to where he played his college ball, and has had mixed fortunes. The first couple of years at Michigan were slightly underwhelming, which eventually led to him having to take a pay-cut. Since, Harbaugh has turned the programme around with Michigan having a record of 25-3 in their last two seasons.

Now, this isn’t the first time Harbaugh has been linked to the NFL, when last year it seemed he was heading to the Minnesota Vikings, until things fell apart at the very end. Harbaugh then promised he wouldn’t flirt with the NFL again, but on a lesser salary, the bright lights look tempting.

If you want my opinion, I see Harbaugh keeping his word. But it should be said, anything in the NFL can happen and if the Michigan board doesn’t get their wallet out for Harbaugh with a new contract, it’s only fair he looks at different opportunities.

Best fits: Colts, Broncos, Panthers  

Offensive Candidates:

Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs Offensive coordinator

Eric Bieniemy has been a highly tipped candidate for many years now, but he has never managed to secure a job. Being the coordinator for the best offence in recent memory should have helped him in that aspect, but Bieniemy isn’t actually the play caller. Head coach Andy Reid has always held that status, as teams seem to not know how involved the offensive coordinator is in the offence.

With three years of experience of NFL head coaching interviews, maybe this will be the year Bieniemy finally gets his shot as an NFL head coach.

Best fits: Texans, Buccaneers, Panthers

Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions Offensive coordinator

For my folks in Detroit, Ben Johnson is looked up to as a god and will want to be kept as a secret. 

Coaching tight-ends for the last two seasons in Detroit. When the Lions offence went through some change mid-season last year, Johnson was unofficially promoted to pass-game coordinator behind the scenes. The offence started to improve and he was rewarded with the title of his current position now.

Only one year on the job, he has not disappointed, creating an offence that has been styled completely around Jared Goff. Early on, Johnson made it his mission to make his QB feel as comfortable as he could in his offence and it worked out to Detroit having the No. 1 offence in EPA per drive since Week 13.

Johnson has shown the ability to scheme receivers open, build around a QB with fantastic play-calling. That has caused the Lions to finish 8-2 in their last 10 games.

He may be inexperienced in running a team and being a leader for a group of guys, but if a team is looking for the next Sean McVay or Kyle Shanahan, then Ben Johnson should be their guy.

Best fits: Panthers, Broncos, Texans

Mike Kafka, New York Giants Offensive coordinators

A former Andy Reid disciple, Kafka joined Brian Daboll in New York this season, in which he helped Daniel Jones save his career. Kafka has experience working with Patrick Mahomes as his positional coach between 2018-2021, and got to add play calling duties to his resume this season. Like Johnson, Kafka looks to be one of the next young offensive geniuses and will likely have many interviews at his feet.

Teams to watch out for should be ones that are struggling on offence and need someone with a high knowledge of the game, to give them a new identity on that side of the ball.  

Best fits: Panthers, Colts, Buccaneers   

Defensive Candidates:

DeMeco Ryan, San Francisco 49ers Defensive coordinator

Ryans is sure to be at the top of the list for a number of teams who may be looking for a new voice in their locker room. Taking over from New York Jets coach Robert Salah in San Francisco, Ryans continued to make the Niners D the best in the league. 

San Francisco has ranked first in points allowed this year, building upon a stellar 2021 season that saw them reach the NFC championship game. 

He will be much like Saleh, coaching in a player-friendly manner while being a leader to look up to. For teams that are having ‘culture’ problems in their organisation, hiring Ryans may be the best way to create a new successful identity. 

Best fits: Broncos, Cardinals, Texans

Dan Quinn, Dallas Cowboys Defensive coordinator

Quinn could fall into both categories of defensive candidates and former head-coaches.

Dan Quinn spent time in Atlanta as their former head-coach, but has resurged his career with his time in Dallas. Things looked shaky towards the end of things with the Falcons and he was quickly snapped up by the Cowboys to do something he is extremely good at.

While it looks great to coach a unit that is considered elite, ranking 2nd in defensive DVOA and 3rd in EPA per drive. Sometimes certain great coordinators aren’t meant to be head-coaches. As a coordinator Dan is as good as they come, but he did fail as his lone attempt as a head coach.

He was a highly sought after man last year in interviews and if I was a betting man, he would be one of the safest picks on this list to land a head-coaching jig this off-season.

Best fits: Broncos, Colts, Browns, 

Jonathan Gannon, Philadelphia Eagles Defensive coordinator

Gannon was a hot commodity in last season’s hiring-cycle, landing interviews with three different teams. A season of coaching the Eagles defence, which created the most turnovers in the first half of the season will only add to that hype.

He may look inexperienced at the young age of 40 and only two years of running a defence, but the Eagles have a lot of talent on defence and Gannon getting the best out of them. It is a reason why Philly are the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

Best fits: Texans, Broncos, Browns 

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