No. 1 Carolina Panthers
After firing Matt Rhule, the Panthers played to their potential under Steve Wilks and narrowly missed the playoffs. A top-10 rushing unit will look to find its next signal caller and the next head coach will inherit a talented defense with multiple young core players such as Brian Burns, Jaycee Horn and Derrick Brown.
Candidates: Shane Steichen, Frank Reich, Steve Wilks
Positives: Solid young defense, multiple building block players on offense, weak division, team owner willing to spend
Negatives: Must find QB ASAP, very involved team owner
Draft Capital: No. 9 overall and 7 picks total
No. 2 Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals land at No. 2 overall for a couple of reasons. The first is that they have their franchise quarterback in Kyler Murray. The second is the expectations for 2023 will be at an all-time low for the new regime with Murray expected to miss time and the team putting an emphasis on shedding bad contracts and getting draft capital. New GM Monti Ossenfort comes over from Tennessee and will look to clean house for a multi-year rebuild.
Candidates: Sean Payton, Vance Joseph, Brian Flores
Positives: Franchise QB in-house, easy cap clearing decisions, low expectations early, No. 3 overall pick
Negatives: Lacking young talent, tough division, losing key players to retirement and trades
Draft Capital: No. 3 overall and 5 picks total
No. 3 Houston Texans
After two years of, let’s just say questionable at best, head coaching searches and hirings, the Texans appear to be ready to take a newer and younger approach for their next head coach. Texans GM Nick Caserio has spent two years clearing up the cap situation and found a couple of intriguing young players thanks to the Deshaun Watson trade haul. They are likely to enter next season with an offensive minded head coach, a new quarterback and a couple of new key draft pieces. The Texans possess the best pathway to rebuild, provided they give the head coach time and a voice in the process.
Candidates: Sean Payton, Jonathan Gannon, Shane Steichen
Positives: Most draft capital in the NFL, solid cap situation, multiple key players at premium
positions, weak division
Negatives: Erratic ownership and front office, might not get the QB of their choice
Draft Capital: No. 2 and No. 12 overall and 12 picks total
No. 4 Indianapolis Colts
The Colts, when healthy, have a little more going for them than the Texans and Cardinals with guys like Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman to build around. What the next head coach will be tasked with is developing the Colts QB of the future, retooling one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and elevating a defensive unit that took significant steps back last year. Oh, by the way, Jim Irsay is 99% sure to call the shots on draft day and whether the Colts moves up or stay at No. 4 overall. General manager Chris Ballard will likely make the head coach's input a distant third in terms of priority.
Candidates: DeMeco Ryans, Mike Kafka, Ejiro Evero, Shane Steichen
Positives: Several building block players on offense, manageable cap situation, willingness to
get their top QB in draft, weak division
Negatives: Erratic front office, unknown expectations, lower cash spending organization
Draft Capital: No. 4 overall and 7 picks total
No. 5 Denver Broncos
If there was a way to guarantee a Russell Wilson resurgence or an out in his contract over the next couple years, this might be one of the top jobs. But let’s be very clear, any head coach who takes this job is effectively hitching their wagon to a 34-year-old whose play has deteriorated for two straight years. The defense played relatively well and yet everything was dragged down by a quarterback who the Broncos won’t be able to move on from until maybe 2025? Broncos fans will tell you the biggest issue with the Nathaniel Hackett hire wasn’t just the horrific in-game management but the overall lack of coaching experience and leadership to maintain an older locker room. The next head coach will likely need to be an experienced one and will hope that GM George Paton can work with less in free agency and the draft for 2023.
Candidates: Dan Quinn, Ejiro Evero, Jim Caldwell, Sean Payton
Positives: Multiple weapons on offense, solid defensive core, manageable cap situation, new ownership with deep pockets
Negatives: Russell Wilson or bust, tough division, early expectations, re-tooling both offensive and defensive lines is a must
Draft Capital: 49ers first rounder and 7 picks total