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8 Potential Head Coach Candidates
Published at 12/22/2020
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Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs Offensive Coordinator (Age: 51)

Career History: Colorado Runningbacks Coach 2001-2002, UCLA Runningbacks Coach 2003-2005, Vikings Runningbacks Coach 2006-2010, Colorado Offensive Coordinator 2011-2012, Chiefs Runningbacks Coach 2013-2017, Chiefs Offensive Coordinator 2018-2020

Eric Bieniemy will surely draw head coaching interest once again in 2021, as teams try to capture a slice of the prolific Chiefs offense. Bieniemy had a nine-year playing career for the Chargers, Bengals, and the Andy Reid Eagles before starting his coaching career at Colorado in 2001. Bieniemy spent five seasons in the college ranks before joining Brad Childress' staff as the Vikings runningbacks coach in 2006. Bieniemy's big opportunity came in 2007, when the Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson, and he took advantage, coaching Peterson to four-straight Pro Bowls. Bieniemy then spent two years back at Colorado before reuniting with Andy Reid in Kansas City as the runningbacks coach for 2013. Bieniemy oversaw Pro Bowl seasons from Jamaal Charles and Kareem Hunt before his promotion to offensive coordinator in 2018. That year, Bieniemy's unit was the top-ranked offense in the NFL, which he managed to somehow out-do in 2019 by winning the Super Bowl. Bieniemy would be a prime candidate for teams looking to infuse some of Andy Reid's magic into their offense in 2021. 


Brian Daboll, Bills Offensive Coordinator (Age: 45)

Career History: Patriots Defensive Assistant 2000-2001, Patriots Wide Receivers Coach 2002-2006, Jets Quarterbacks Coach 2007-2008, Browns Offensive Coordinator 2009-2010, Dolphins Offensive Coordinator 2011, Chiefs Offensive Coordinator 2012, Patriots Assistant Coach 2013, Patriots Tight Ends Coach 2014-2016, Alabama Offensive Coordinator 2017, Bills Offensive Coordinator 2018-2020

Brian Daboll is sure to garner head coach interest for 2020, as Josh Allen has played at a borderline-MVP level and the Buffalo offense has performed at a high level. Highlights of Daboll's early career include coaching Brett Favre to the Pro Bowl for the Jets in 2008, coordinating a 2010 Browns offense that saw Peyton Hillis amongst the league leaders in rushing, coaching Rob Gronkowski to consecutive All Pro recognitions in 2014 and 2015, and winning a total of five Super Bowls with the Patriots. These achievements netted Daboll the Alabama offensive coordinator post, where he promptly coordinated an offense headed by Jalen Hurts and freshman Tua Tagovailoa to a National Championship. Daboll then took the Buffalo job where he currently works. Daboll's reputation for developing quarterbacks and his ability to maximize his personnel such as Stefon Diggs and John Brown could make him an appealing choice for teams with young quarterbacks. 


Matt Eberflus, Colts Defensive Coordinator (Age: 50)

Career History: Toledo Outside Linebackers Coach 1994-1998, Toledo Defensive Backs Coach 1999-2000, Missouri Defensive Coordinator 2001-2008, Browns Linebackers Coach 2009-2010, Cowboys Linebackers Coach 2011-2017, Colts Defensive Coordinator 2018-2020

As Indy's 'D' continues to outperform the sum of its parts, Matt Eberflus' name will continue to pop up for head-coaching vacancies. Eberflus got his start in Toledo in 1994 before spending fifteen years as an assistant in the college ranks and breaking into the NFL as a linebackers coach in 2009. In his early NFL career, Eberflus coached under Rob Ryan and oversaw All Pro seasons from DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee, along with a career revitalization for Rolando McClain in 2014 and 2015. Eberflus then landed the Indy DC job, where he improved the 30th-ranked total defense into the 11th-ranked total defense, with rookie linebacker Darius Leonard earning All Pro honors. Eberflus got productive seasons out of Leonard, Justin Houston, and rookie Bobby Okereke in 2019, and his defense currently ranks amongst the league leaders in 2020. Eberflus has interviewed for a head coaching position in the past, and he should be a candidate again in 2021 for teams looking to bring a strong cover-2 identity to their defense and develop their young talent in the front seven. 


Nathaniel Hackett, Packers Offensive Coordinator (Age: 40)

Career History: UC Davis Assistant Linebackers Coach 2002, Stanford Offensive Assistant 2003, Stanford Coordinator Assistant 2004, Stanford Recruiting Coordinator 2005, Buccaneers Offensive Quality Coach 2006-2007, Bills Offensive Quality Coach 2008-2009, Syracuse Quarterbacks/Tight Ends Coach 2010, Syracuse Offensive Coordinator 2011-2012, Bills Offensive Coordinator 2013-2014, Jaguars Quarterbacks Coach 2015-2016, Jaguars Offensive Coordinator 2017-2018, Packers Offensive Coordinator 2019-2020

With Green Bay ona two-year year and Aaron Rodgers playing at an MVP level, Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett is sure to get some looks for head coaching jobs. Hackett is the son of Paul Hackett, who was Joe Montana’s quarterbacks coach under Bill Walsh in San Francisco. Nathaniel Hackett got his start as a low-level college assistant in 2002 before joining Jon Gruden’s staff in Tampa Bay as an offensive assistant in 2006. Hackett remained a low-level assistant before latching on as a key offensive coach with Doug Marrone’s Syracuse Orange from 2010 to 2012. Marrone and Hackett went 21-17, who had went 9-27 in the three year prior, and they produced drafted talents in Ryan Nassib and Justin Pugh. Hackett followed Marrone to Buffalo and to Jacksonville, including a 2017 season with the Jaguars where Hackett’s offense finished as the 6th-rated total offense despite starting Blake Bortles. Hackett joined Matt LaFleur’s staff as the offensive coordinator in 2019, and the tandem so far has improved Aaron Rodgers’ play and won the division in consecutive seasons. Hackett’s work with Green Bay could be of interest for teams looking to add a young, West Coast mind to improve their lagging offense. 


Marvin Lewis, Arizona State Co-Defensive Coordinator (Age: 62)

Career History: Idaho State Linebackers Coach 1981-1984, Long Beach State Linebackers Coach 1985-1986, New Mexico Linebackers Coach 1987-1989, Pittsburgh Linebackers Coach 1990-1991, Steelers Linebackers Coach 1992-1995, Ravens Defensive Coordinator 1996-2001, Football Team Defensive Coordinator 2002, Bengals Head Coach 2003-2018, Arizona State Special Advisor 2019, Arizona State Co-Defensive Coordinator 2020

Following his 16-year tenure with Cincinnati, Marvin Lewis remains a high-profile candidate for head-coaching jobs. Lewis spent 11 years in college and 4 years with the Steelers before becoming the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator in 1996, which was also Ray Lewis’ rookie season. In Marvin Lewis’ 6 seasons with Baltimore, his defense ranked top-2 in total defense 3 times, Ray Lewis made 5 Pro Bowls and 3 First-Team All Pros, and the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000. Then, in 2003, Lewis decided to take the head coach position with the Bengals, who had gone a combined 47-113 without a winning season in the 10 seasons prior. Lewis transformed the Bengals and brought stability to the franchise, finishing a combined 131-122-3 in his 16 seasons with 7 playoff appearances and 4 top-10 total defenses, despite the owner Mike Brown also serving as general manager and usually refusing to put big guaranteed money figures into free-agent contracts. In the absence of big-name free agents, Lewis developed late-round and undrafted players such as Geno Atkins and Vontaze Burfict into very good defensive starters. Marvin Lewis would be a good candidate for a team looking to rebuild their image, and the hire could have great upside as well if Lewis can perform better elsewhere, without the constraints he had in Cincinnati. 


Don Martindale, Ravens Defensive Coordinator (Age: 57)

Career History: Notre Dame Assistant 1994-1995, Cincinnati Linebackers Coach 1996-1998, Western Illinois Defensive Coordinator 1999, Western Kentucky Defensive Coordinator 2000-2003, Raiders Linebackers Coach 2004-2008, Broncos Linebackers Coach 2009, Broncos Defensive Coordinator 2010, Ravens Linebackers Coach 2012-2017, Ravens Defensive Coordinator 2018-2020

As the Ravens continue to excel defensively, Don Martindale's chances of landing a head-coaching job go up. Martindale got his coaching start on the college level in 1986, and he spent 18 years in college before taking an NFL linebackers coach job in 2004. In the years leading up to Martindale's eventual Baltimore job, Martindale coached standout pass rusher Elvis Dumervil to All Pro recognition, while also getting productive seasons out of Kirk Morrison and DJ Williams. In Baltimore, though, starting in 2012, Martindale seemingly set up a linebackers factory, developing CJ Mosley, Zach Orr, Za'Darius Smith, and Matt Judon into excellent players before his promotion to defensive coordinator in 2018. Martindale coordinated top-5 total defenses in both 2018 and 2019, running a man-heavy, blitz-heavy unit. Once again, the Ravens have a strong defensive unit in 2020, and Martindale could finally break through after interviewing for a head coach job in 2019. 


Robert Saleh, 49ers Defensive Coordinator (Age: 41)

Career History: Michigan State Defensive Assistant 2002-2003, Central Michigan Defensive Assistant 2004, Texans Defensive Intern 2005, Texans Defensive Quality Coach 2006-2008, Texans Assistant Linebackers Coach 2009-2010, Seahawks Defensive Quality Control Coach 2011-2013, Jaguars Linebackers Coach 2014-2016, 49ers Defensive Coordinator 2017-2019

Robert Saleh was a highly-touted head coach candidate following the 49ers' Super Bowl run in 2019 and should be in the mix again following the 2020 season. Saleh got his NFL start working with linebackers in Houston from 2005 to 2010, where he worked closely with young Pro Bowl linebacker duo Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans, prompting Pete Carroll to hire him as an assistant for the Seahawks from 2011 to 2013. In those three seasons, the Seahawks had two top-5 seasons in total defense, and linebackers Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright each had productive starts to their careers. Saleh then went to the Jaguars from 2014 to 2016 as the full-time linebackers coach, where he coached Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith, which prompted the 49ers to hire him as a defensive coordinator. In San Francisco, Saleh ran a version of Pete Carroll's cover-3 defensive scheme with big-name assistants Joe Woods and Kris Kocurek, and he developed linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw and finished with the 2nd-ranked total defense in the NFL in 2019. Saleh is a fiery coach who should draw interest as the next high-profile Seattle-3 head coach candidate. 


Arthur Smith, Titans Offensive Coordinator (Age: 38)

Career History: Football Team Defensive Quality Assistant 2007-2008, Ole Miss Defensive Intern 2010, Titans Defensive Quality Control Coach 2011, Titans Offensive Quality Control Coach 2012, Titans Assistant Tight Ends Coach 2013-2015, Titans Tight Ends Coach 2016-2018, Titans Offensive Coordinator 2019-2020

Arthur Smith was largely an unknown quantity in 2019 when he took over as the Titans' offensive coordinator, but since then he has established himself as perhaps one of the best coordinators in all of football. Smith bounced around in low-level assistant coaching jobs before landing the Titans' assistant tight ends coach post in 2013. Between 2013 to 2017, Smith coached Delanie Walker to the Pro Bowl three times, coached the beginning of Jonnu Smith's career, and earned a promotion to tight ends coach in the meantime. Smith then coached under offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur in 2018 before taking over as offensive coordinator himself in 2019. That season, Smith oversaw a veteran breakout for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who went 7-3 as a starter and led the league in passer rating despite starting the year as a backup. In 2020, Smith and Tannehill have picked up right where they left off, and so Smith has emerged as a hot head coach candidate as the next young West Coast offense option to follow in Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay, and Matt LaFleur's footsteps.

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