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NFL coaching predictions 2024: Falcons and Commanders strike big, Patriots land new leader

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The 2024 NFL coaching carousel is warming up as a new offseason begins. We’ve already seen several NFL coaches fired and more are likely coming. With that in mind, it’s time for our annual NFL coaching predictions.

There remains a possibility that we see a rare coach trade this offseason. NFL teams are enamored with Bill Belichick and Mike Vrabel, leaving the door open to the possibility of the New England Patriots or Tennessee Titans trading their contractual rights away. We’ll stay away from that in our NFL coaching carousel predictions, but we still have a fun forecast for 2024.

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Let’s dive into our NFL coaching predictions for the offseason.

NFL coaching predictions: Predicting NFL coaching carousel 2024

Carolina Panthers: Frank Smith hired as head coach

NFL: Frankfurt Games-Miami Dolphins Practice
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Everyone knows that Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper wants to hire Ben Johnson as his next coach coach. The problem for Tepper is the fact he created the least desirable head-coaching vacancy in the NFL. this isn’t a great situation to walk into, so the Panthers will have to probably look elsewhere.

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Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Frank Smith is exactly who Carolina should target. He’s not a quarterbacks coach, in fact, Smith spent the majority of his coaching career working with tight ends, offensive linemen and running backs. However, he knows offenses and that’s what the Panthers need. Our reasoning for predicting Smith as the next Panthers head coach goes beyond that, though.

Listen to all the reasoning given by Panthers’ players for why quarterback Bryce Young struggled this season. Carolina had too many voices around him, sending mixed messaging and not all the coaching might’ve been the type of instruction Young needed. Smith is different. Miami’s head coach Mike McDaniel raved Jeff Howe of The Athletic about Smith’s teaching, especially with young players. It’s also backed up by those he’s taught, with Austin Ekeler endorsing Smith and the NFLPA announcing that players voted Smith as one of the most positive impactful coaches in the NFL. The Panthers will recognize those qualities and hire Smith to help Young and this offense.

New England Patriots: Mike Vrabel returns to replace Bill Belichick

Syndication: The Tennessean
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We’ll preface this by saying the Tennessee Titans should not only keep head coach Mike Vrabel, he should be signed to a lucrative contract extension. Vrabel’s leadership and ability to build a strong team culture make him one of the best ‘CEO’ head coaches in the NFL today. However, it’s becoming clear what he wants to happen this offseason.

Bleacher Report’s NFL insider Jordan Schultz reported that Vrabel is very interested in the idea of returning to the New England Patriots. It’s hard to blame him, especially considering the success he had as a linebacker with the franchise (2001-’08). If Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft is going to hire anyone to replace Bill Belichick, it would be the coach who he believes brings the same leadership qualities and has a proven track record of success.

Vrabel would be choosing to follow in Belichick’s footsteps, something that not every coaching candidate would be willing to do. We also can’t forget that Vrabel went back to Foxborough in October to be inducted into the Patriots Ring of Honor and he referred to them as “we” when speaking to the fans. Vrabel to New England is best for everyone involved, except the Titans.

Seattle Seahawks: Dan Quinn returns

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp
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The moment Pete Carroll was dismissed, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn stood out as the leading candidate to take his place. While Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones will do everything in his power to retain Quinn, it seems highly unlikely to be successful unless he’s willing to name Quinn as head coach.

A return to Seattle would be fitting for Quinn. After turning down head-coaching interviews and offers in each of the past two offseasons, Quinn finally seems ready to make the jump again. He learned from his mistakes as the Atlanta Falcons head coach, which were primarily handling too many tasks on his own and not providing more freedom offensively.

The Seahawks’ choice feels like it comes down to Quinn or Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dave Canales, who previously worked in Seattle. Because of the club’s defensive issues in the last two seasons, Quinn seems like the perfect choice to turn the defense around. Plus, he’ll maintain the culture in Seattle.

Las Vegas Raiders: Mark Davis ‘settles’ for Antonio Pierce

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders
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Typically, allowing an interim coach to keep the title the following year doesn’t work out. In a worst-case scenario, the partnership lasts less than a year and there are better endings that only last 2-3 seasons. That’s one of the biggest reasons why we’ve argued for the Las Vegas Raiders to not retain Antonio Pierce in 2024. However, there are exceptions to the rule.

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In his brief stint as the Raiders head coach, Pierce demonstrated the leadership qualities you want to have in your locker room. In press conferences, he sets the tone by being accountable for his mistakes, he creates message that unite players and fans, all while getting everyone in the organization to buy into his vision.

Yes, Perce relied on a lot of outside help and guidance this season. That’s a good thing, it speaks to his willingness to learn from others. Coaches can be strong-headed, believing their way is the only way to do something. Smith listens to players and his peers. If the Raiders can’t land Harbaugh, keeping Pierce in 2024 is the rare instance where retaining an interim head coach is the right call. Based on where we believe the NFL coaching carousel is headed, it’s what Las Vegas would do.

Tennessee Titans: Ran Carthon reunites with Bobby Slowik

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans
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As previously stated, Tennessee’s best outcome this offseason would be keeping Vrabel. The moment a head coach starts expressing interest in leaving the franchise, though, it’s best to let them leave. Besides, the Titans are heading into a transition and that is a fitting opportunity for a young head coach.

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YearPPGYards per Play3rd Down RateRed Zone TD RateEPA per Play
202217.04.730.32%47.92%-0.168 (32nd)
202322.25.637.93%54.72%=0.023 (15th)
Houston Texans offensive comparison before and after the hiring of Bobby Slowik

A year ago, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson was a rising name in the NFL and he’s now the most in-demand coaching candidate in the league. Houston Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik is on that trajectory. He did historic work with C.J. Stroud in turning around what was one of the league’s worst offenses a year ago.

There’s always risk in hiring a first-year offensive coordinator to become a head coach. However, Slowik also stands out for other reasons. The 36-year-old learned from Kyle Shanahan from 2011-’22, spending years with him on the San Francisco 49ers coaching staff. Fittingly, Slowik and Titans’ general manager Ran Carthon joined the 49ers in the same year. Connections matter and the Titans would have the patience to let Slowik learn the ropes of being a head coach, too.

Washington Commanders: Bill Belichick finds a new home

NFL: New England Patriots at Denver Broncos
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Washington Commanders owner Josh Harris wants to make a big splash in the NFL coaching carousel. After cleaning house, which the franchise needed, Haris brought in former Golden State Warriors executive Bob Myers to assist in turning this franchise around. Championship pedigree and ties to a dynasty, it’s no wonder Harris is enamored with Bill Belichick.

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Belichick made it clear in his end-of-season press conference that he’s willing to give up significant control over personnel and that should be music to Washington’s ears. It opens the door for the Commanders to make a home run hire this offseason, first hiring San Francisco 49ers executive Adam Peters as general manager and then bringing in Belichick.

It would be the perfect set-up. Washington lands the greatest coach in NFL history to fix its defense and Belichick proved in 2023 that he can create a top-10 defense even without a lot of talent. Meanwhile, Peters builds the Commanders’ roster and Washington uses the No. 2 pick on a generational talent at quarterback. It’s a blueprint Harris will pursue and his financial resources make it a very realistic outcome.

Los Angeles Chargers: Jim Harbaugh makes NFL return

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If it’s coming down to a choice between the Los Angeles Chargers or Las Vegas Raiders for Jim Harbaugh, the decision seems obvious. Becoming the head coach of a storied franchise is a nice opportunity, but Los Angeles provides Harbaugh the chance to work with Justin Herbert.

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An elite quarterback gives you the best chance of winning in the NFL. Even without one, Harbaugh demonstrated he could hit double-digit wins in a season at both the collegiate and pro levels. However, Herbert gives Harbaugh a skeleton key for his offense, entrusting him to execute everything.

Historically, money has been an issue for the Chargers. One way around this for the Spanos family is pairing Harbaugh with a general manager who will allow him to have significant input on roster construction. While the most in-demand GM candidates won’t accept that, those same hires would also require getting into a bidding war with other teams. Hiring Harbaugh and making him de-facto general manager, with some assistance, feels like a fitting outcome for Los Angeles.

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Atlanta Falcons: Ben Johnson lands a golden opportunity

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
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The Atlanta Falcons bought a ticket for the NFL coaching carousel for a reason and it wasn’t just to get rid of Arthur Smith. Reporting made it clear that Smith had a strong chance of keeping the job late in the year, but consecutive blowout losses pushed him over. There’s also strong reason to believe Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank is going to make a big move this offseason.

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Hiring Belichick is one potential move, but Washington is better positioned to do that. Instead, despite how things worked out with Smith, Atlanta could be in a perfect spot to land Ben Johnson. It’s a fitting pairing for a variety of reasons.

Johnson will make Bijan Robinson, Kyle Pitts and Drake London the focal points of his offense. Having a play-caller who maximizes the skills of his best athletes and makes them the engine of his offense is coaching 101. Of course, what separates Johnson is that he does it better than anyone outside of Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay.

Atlanta can offer Johnson the perfect environment for his offense to be successful. As for what the Falcons do at quarterback, either draft Michael Penix Jr., trade for Justin Fields or sign Kirk Cousins in free agency. On the defensive side, the Falcons can keep defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen and maintain that continuity on defense in 2024, creating a well-balanced team.

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