One of the old adages that you’ll hear repeated over time is that the acronym “NFL” may as well mean “Not for long.” The constant turnover that takes place in the league ranges widely from players to coaches, and every single season a handful of head coaches will inevitably be let go to make wave for new blood at the top positions across the league. This past offseason, we saw coaches such as Jeff Fisher and Chip Kelly be ousted in favor of Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan (who are ages 31 and 37 respectively) in order to bring a fresh approach to their team outlook moving forward.
Those two were already recognized as two of the brighter young minds in the sport, but it was certainly something of a surprise to see Shanahan make such a meteoric rise that he parlayed into a head coaching job, and no one ever could have predicted McVay would be the top man in Los Angeles around a year ago. So who are some of the guys around the league that fans should be keeping an eye on to make a similar sort of leap in 2018? Let’s take a look.
Jim Bob Cooter, offensive coordinator, Detroit Lions
Aside from having one of the better names in the NFL, Cooter has built one of the more successful offenses in the league for Detroit over the past couple of seasons, and has almost completely flipped the script on Matthew Stafford’s career. He took over for Joe Lombardi midseason in 2015 and Stafford has looked like a Pro Bowl passer ever since, which is somewhat reflective of the route McVay took in Washington by helping turn Kirk Cousins into a franchise quarterback. There are some potential off the field concerns with Cooter, but if he checks out in that respect don’t be surprised to see a team in need of a quarterback whisperer go after him, especially if McVay is successful in turning Jared Goff around this season.
Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator, New England Patriots
McDaniels has been a hot name for a few seasons now, but has wisely kept his name out of the running. This has given him the chance to rehab his image since his disaster of a run in Denver that began with him scattering Jay Cutler to the wind and ended after he fell to 3-9 in just his second year with the team. He had built up a bit of an unsavory reputation for his time with the Broncos, but since returning to the Patriots, McDaniels has played a big role in putting Tom Brady’s career back on track and orchestrating two of the more incredible comebacks in Super Bowl history. McDaniels will likely be compared to current Dolphins’ head coach Adam Gase, as a relatively young quarterback guru with a ton of energy and an ability to turn a passer’s career around as Gase has possibly done with Ryan Tannehill.
Matt Patricia, defensive coordinator, New England Patriots
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the team that has won two of the last three Super Bowls has two of their coordinators on the league’s head coaching radar. Patricia is a low-key all business type of coach with a great defensive mind and down to Earth personality. Patricia made headlines recently when it came out that Roger Goodell was still unhappy with him for wearing a Barstool Sports T-shirt that depicted the commissioner as a clown (in response to the Deflategate saga), but if any team actually lets that affect their decision to bring him in, it will be their loss. There are whispers that Patricia is being groomed as the next in line to replace Bill Belichick when he eventually moves on, so anyone with that on their resume should absolutely get head coaching recognition from any team with a need at the position.
Mike Vrabel, defensive coordinator, Houston Texans
Vrabel has been a rising star in the league over the past few seasons as a linebackers coach for the Texans, turning down a coordinator job with San Francisco only to replace Romeo Crennel at that position in Houston this offseason. When observing Vrabel in Hard Knocks in 2015, it was clear that Bill O’Brien had high hopes for him within his coaching staff. It was easy to see why; Vrabel was no nonsense, gruff, and related well to the players due to his experience as a productive linebacker in the league for many years. He clearly is the perfect personality type for a head coaching job, so if the Texans defense performs well this season as they should, don’t be surprised to see him get some head coaching buzz in 2018.
While there is no real way to tell whose names will come up when black Monday rolls around this season, these are a few names to keep in the back of your mind for when the day does come. If the absolute worst case scenario plays out in Baltimore this season and John Harbaugh is unfortunately ousted, we may have to become familiar with one of them very soon.