Ranking the NFL’s open head coaching jobs, from best (Falcons) to worst (Panthers)

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There’s a lot of talk about what an NFL team might be looking for in its next head coaching hire. But what about the top coaching candidates knowing which are the better jobs to take?

Not every vacancy is created equal. Some teams are prime for turnarounds with their existing talented personnel and upcoming offseason resources. Some teams are traps for new coaches, either with fickle, unreasonable owners or bad cultures preventing actual improvement.

Based on what full-time NFL jobs are open in 2024, here’s a helpful hiring guide for rookies and veterans wanting to be hired into the best coaching positions to succeed.

MORE: Meet the NFL’s top rising coaching candidates for 2024

1. Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons somehow went 7-10 in each of now fired Arthur Smith’s three seasons. That screams of this team’s potential for a quick turnaround because it’s not close to being the worst team but it has had real flashes of being a playoff team.

The obvious void has been a franchise quarterback in the transition from Matt Ryan. But they have great offensive promise after drafting tight end Kyle Pitts, wide receiver Drake London and running back Bijan Robinson in the past three first rounds. Defensively, they invested for improvement last offseason and saw some better play there under former Saints assistant Ryan Nielsen until key injuries hurt.

The Buccaneers did win the NFC South for a third straight season going from Tom Brady to Baker Mayfield, but that’s not a dynasty. They were able to do at 9-8 partly because the Saints, Falcons and Panthers all didn’t play to their capacity in the NFL’s weakest division. The division is wide-open for the taking next season. 

If someone can mesh well with owner Arthur Blank and GM Terry Fontenot, they have a chance to have immediate success with the right QB choice, much like the Texans with DeMeco Ryans and C.J. Stroud.

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2. Washington Commanders

The Commanders are a close second with new owner Josh Harris taking careful consideration about making the right first hire after firing Ron Rivera. Washington is sitting on the No. 2 overall pick with which it is sure to target a true franchise QB (perhaps D.C. native Caleb Williams) and it also has the most salary-cap space (around $80 million) available for free-agent contracts.

The Cowboys and Eagles have dominated the NFC East for a while, with the Commanders making only three playoff appearances since 2012. The goal should be making this league’s marquee competitive division again and it requires adding the right football leadership and decision-making under Harris. Whoever Washington lands will be well empowered for a hastened rebuild.

3. Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders have been pushed by the players to stick with interim coach Antonio Pierce, who led the team to a 5-4 record in the second half of the season taking over for fired Josh McDaniels. While the organization mulls over keeping Pierce long-term, the intense search for a savvy new GM progresses. 

Las Vegas has a good defensive foundation with Maxx Crosby and others. Offensively, there has been a lot invested, but that also means it’s a good environment for a rookie first-round franchise QB.

4. Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks’ opening came out of the navy blue with Pete Carroll, 72, being reassigned, a quasi-firing right after he had no intentions to retire. Carroll leaves behind a great 14-year legacy, including 10 playoff appearances, 5 division titles, two NFC championships and a Super Bowl ring.

That’s a incredibly tough and consistent act to follow. The Seahawks are also in not the most desirable spot now always chasing Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers and Sean McVay’s Rams. Going forward, they have limited cap space and the basic draft haul with only seven picks in April. But they also have good leadership and decision-making led by GM John Schneider ane will be committed to having a winning tradition. It just feel like they are teetering toward a rebuild as more of a mediocre team at 9-8 in each of the past two seasons.

Justin Herbert

5. Los Angeles Chargers

It’s hard to win in the NFL in L.A. on the other side of McVay. The Chargers have Justin Herbert and a few offensive line pieces, but the skill positions need more rebuilding with age and free agency issues looming. The defense needs to be revamped vs. the pass, and the top edge rusher is 34 (Khalil Mack) and the other is oft-injured (Joey Bosa).

The new coach and GM replacing the combination of Brandon Staley and Tom Telesco will have their work cut out for them trying to complete the unenviable task of catching up to the division-dominant Chiefs.

6. New England Patriots

This was a difficult team to rank. On on hand, following Bill Belichick and having even a small fraction of the all-time success he had seems like a lot of pressure after owner Robert Kraft didn’t even give the GOAT a pass for a few bad rebuilding seasons despite six Super Bowl rings. On the other hand, the Patriots have an interesting fresh foundation as a proud franchise and the next coach can define his own identity as comparing to Belichick is impossible.

The Patriots, like the Falcons and Commanders, need to find their long-term QB. The difference is, the entire passing game also needs an overhaul. The one advantage is having some established defensive prowess from Belichick carrying over.

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7. Tennessee Titans

It was a tough break for Mike Vrabel being fired after two losing seasons, despite the Titans winning division titles and going 23-10 in the previous two years under him. But then again, this team did fire predecessor Mike Mularkey after a playoff win and thinking about extending him.

There’s a lot of rebuilding to do, not just the offensive line and skill players around Will Levis, but for much of the defense, too. It’s also not a marquee job, much like the Chargers and the one worse opening.

8. Carolina Panthers

The Panthers have an impatient, demanding and confused owner in David Tepper. Changing from Rivera was one thing. Not feeling Matt Rhule was another. Giving up so early on Frank Reich was lunacy. Now after just three years, the Panthers need a new GM to replace Scott Fitterer.

There was uncertainty within the organization about trading away a ton for the No. 1 pick and then whether to use it on Bryce Young. There’s no real identity or plan and the new coach will be expected to establish and finalize each immediately with limited draft capital and just OK cap space. The big picture makes Carolina least desirable landing spot for a promising coach.

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