Ranking the NFL head coach openings

Published Jan. 5, 2012

As of this moment, there are five NFL teams, including the Bucs, looking for head coaches. And just to be clear: In the grand scheme of things, you would have to consider all five openings as "good" jobs. After all, there are only 32 NFL head coaches in the world. But some positions are better than others. Today, we rank the five openings from best to worst:

1. St. Louis Rams

The Rams have gone 15-65 over the past five seasons, including 2-14 this season. So at first glance, this seems like a dead-end job. But this might be the best available job for three reasons. They have a franchise (although possibly fragile) quarterback in Sam Bradford, left. They have the No. 2 pick in the draft. And they have a projected $45 million in cap space for 2013 (more than any other team), meaning they can overhaul the roster in a short period of time. In addition, they could parlay the No. 2 pick into a slew of draft picks. Or, if they're not sold on Bradford, the Rams could spend the second pick on a quarterback (Robert Griffin III, let's say) and deal Bradford to a team that is sold on him. Either way, the Rams are holding an enviable hand of cards. Bottom line: The pick of the litter.

2. Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins went 6-3 in their last nine games, including a one-point loss at Dallas and a three-point loss at New England. They finished 15th in the NFL in total defense and 11th in rushing offense, so this is not a horrible team. The talent is there. Unfortunately, that talent does not include quarterback. It seems as if the Dolphins are still trying to replace Dan Marino, above, who retired after the 1999 season. True, franchise quarterbacks are hard to come by, but if the Dolphins can find an upgrade (maybe Matt Flynn or Kyle Orton), this team has a chance to be good right away.

Bottom line: Any unemployed coach (and even a few employed ones) would love this job.

3. Kansas City Chiefs

Injuries are a part of football, but the Chiefs lost two key players in the first two games of the season in Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry and All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles. They also had to do without quarterback Matt Cassel, above, for the second half of the season. By that point, the Chiefs were 4-5 and had to turn to a woefully ineffective Tyler Palko. If you're convinced that Cassel, who is 28-26 as an NFL starter, can play, then this is a decent opening. The Chiefs are committed financially to Cassel, so if you're not a fan, that's a problem. The owners (the Hunt family) and GM Scott Pioli are well-respected. Then again, we're still waiting for Pioli to have major success without Bill Belichick by his side.

Bottom line: Not bad, but not great either.

4. Tampa Bay Bucs

The attractiveness of this job depends on two things: Do you believe Josh Freeman is a franchise quarterback? And do you believe the Glazers when they say they're going to spend money? Freeman still has plenty of believers among NFL analyst types, which is good because the Bucs are not going to start from scratch with another QB. The new coach is going to be married to Freeman for the foreseeable future. There are some other parts in place (a potentially good defensive line, for instance), but the roster has more questions than answers. Hey, if the franchise was in good shape, there wouldn't be an opening. Ultimately, it comes down to whether you trust the Glazers and GM Mark Dominik to give you the support you need by doing their jobs well.

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Bottom line: Hard to have faith in the Glazers and Dominik based on recent history.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars

This is a job for a beggar, not a chooser. What makes this job so unappealing is that the Jaguars have nothing at quarterback. Seriously, have you seen Blaine Gabbert? The defense isn't too shabby (sixth in total defense in 2011), but there are holes all over the roster, especially on offense. There is one thing that makes this job intriguing: New owner Shahid Khan seems enthusiastic and might be willing to spend gobs of money just to make a splash. But fan support is not great and, overall, this seems like an opening that only someone desperate for an NFL head coaching job would truly desire.

Bottom line: Only for really young up-and-comers or really old down-and-outers.

tom jones' two cents

tom jones' two cents