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Evaluating, ranking the best NFL head-coaching vacancies in 2024, including the Seattle Seahawks

Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

What is the best NFL head coach opening in 2024? We’ve already seen three NFL head-coaching vacancies pop up during the regular season and a fourth is coming. While every job has its positives and negatives, we’re evaluating each of the NFL head coach openings in 2024.

The Las Vegas Raiders created the first vacancy months ahead of the NFL offseason by firing head coach Josh McDaniels. Soon after, the Carolina Panthers (Frank Reich) and Los Angeles Chargers (Brandon Staley) followed suit by becoming the latest NFL teams to jump into the coaching carousel.

Related: NFL coaches fired

Let’s dive into our rankings of the best NFL head-coaching vacancies in 2024. We’ll provide updates as more NFL head coaches are fired after Black Monday following Week 18.

Best NFL head-coaching vacancies: Ranking NFL openings 2024

1. Washington Commanders – Best NFL head coach opening

NFL: Washington Football Team-Press Conference
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It feels strange to rank the Washington Commanders’ vacancy as the best opening available in the NFL this offseason. With Daniel Snyder gone and responsible ownership with deep financial pockets now backing this franchise, though, Washington’s vacancy is extremely appealing.

We’ll start with the assets a new head coach gets to work with. The Commanders will have the No. 2 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, putting them in a perfect position to draft one of the generational talents at quarterback (Drake Maye or Caleb Williams). After that, Washington could have more than $80 million in cap space if it sacrificed a few cap casualties.

We haven’t even gotten to the roster. An offensive-minded head coach gets to work with skill players Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel and Logan Thomas. If the Commanders land a defensive head coach, they get to make things work with Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, Jamin Davis and Emmanuel Forbes. Washington has the best NFL head coach opening in 2024.

2. Atlanta Falcons

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Atlanta Falcons
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The Atlanta Falcons fired head coach Arthur Smith on Black Monday following three consecutive losing seasons. Heading into the 2024 NFL offseason, the Falcons’ coaching search will be conducted by team owner Arthur Blank and CEO Rich McKay, with general manager Terry Fontenot also having input.

Smith’s dismissal came as no surprise after Week 18. Despite Atlanta spending top-10 picks on running back Bijan Robinson, tight end Kyle Pitts and wide receiver Drake London, the Falcons had one of the most inconsistent and unproductive offenses in the NFL throughout the 2023 season. Failing to take advantage of a weak NFC South and one of the easiest schedules in the NFL also proved costly for Smith.

  • Atlanta Falcons cap space: $34 million

Moving forward, this job has a ton of appeal. A new head coach will be walking into an environment with a talented roster on both sides of the ball. The Falcons’ defensive turnaround from 2022 to 2023 was one of the best in the NFL as well, with a new coach likely going to be encouraged to retain defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen on their staff.

Related: NFL coaches fired 2024

The one thing missing in Atlanta, besides a good head coach, is a reliable quarterback. With a top-10 pick, cap space and a commitment from ownership to do whatever it takes to finally solve the team’s biggest problem, this is a very appealing job. The only thing that puts the Falcons’ gig behind Washington in our rankings of best NFL head coach openings is the fact the Commanders have the No. 2 pick, allowing them to draft Drake Maye or Caleb Williams without trading up.

3. Seattle Seahawks

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks
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The next Seattle Seahawks head coach is walking into a great situation. Offensively, quarterback Geno Smith is still capable of playing at a Pro Bowl-caliber level. In addition to above-average quarterback play, the next Seahawks’ coach gets an offense with Kenneth Walker, Zach Charbonnet, DK Metcalf and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

There’s even enough talent on Seattle’s roster defensively to at least build a league-average offense. While the next head coach likely won’t have the amount of control over personnel that Pete Carroll did, Seahawks’ general manager John Schneider has a demonstrated track record of success in the NFL Draft.

The primary knocks on this job are the division and becoming Carroll’s replacement. Not only are the San Francisco 49ers well-positioned to be one of the best NFL teams for the next two years, but the Los Angeles Rams are a perennial playoff threat and the Arizona Cardinals are improving. Still, there’s enough talent in Seattle for this team to challenge for a Wild Card spot next season.

4. New England Patriots

NFL: New England Patriots Hall of Fame
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The New England Patriots have a top-3 pick in the 2204 NFL Draft, providing an unobstructed path to either Drake Maye or Caleb Williams. Access to an elite quarterback prospect on a rookie deal is just one of the biggest reasons why the Patriots’ job is the best NFL head coach opening in 2024.

Related: New England Patriots coaching candidates

Yes, following in the footsteps of Bill Belichick is a daunting task for the next head coach. However, it’s also worth admitting that the Patriots’ standard for success has dropped. New England last won a playoff game in 2019, losing seasons have become familiar for this franchise over the last four seasons.

There’s also something to be said for joining a workplace that offers stability. If you take the Los Angeles Chargers’ coaching job, you’re hamstrung by an ownership group that is tight with its spending and a franchise that genuinely seems cursed on the field. Going to Las Vegas is just as shaky of a situation and the Carolina Panthers’ organization is the most dysfunctional in pro sports.

A top-three pick, more than $75 million in cap space next season, a clean slate with the roster and stable ownership with strong support from a passionate fan base. The Patriots’ vacancy should be one of the most coveted this spring.

5. Los Angeles Chargers

NFL: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers
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Nothing beats having a franchise quarterback. While Justin Herbert isn’t in the same tier as Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, he’s one of the most physically gifted players in the NFL. Already signed to a long-term extension and capable of playing at an MVP-caliber level, even with a bad environment around him, Herbert is the pull with the Chargers’ vacancy.

Related: Los Angeles Chargers coaching candidates

There’s also no denying the appeal of coaching an NFL franchise in Los Angeles. On an NFL coach’s salary, it becomes luxury living and the beauty of the city is that the population is largely made up of other fan bases. So, win or lose, the coach who takes the Chargers’ job will have a comfortable living and get to work with a Pro Bowl quarterback for the next three-plus years.

Now, there are plenty of drawbacks to this job that even go beyond the Spanos family. The Chargers are $42 million over the projected NFL salary cap in 2024. It means Los Angeles will have to ct players like Khalil Mack and potentially Mike Williams. There aren’t even guarantees that Joey Bosa ($36 million cap hit) and Keenan Allen ($34.7 million cap hit) stick around.

Related: 5 offseason moves the Los Angeles Chargers need to make

Essentially, you’re joining a franchise that has Herbert, Derwin James Jr. and very little else to work with. Of course, even if the next general manager and head coach build this roster the right way, they’ll still be sharing the division with Patrick Mahomes. That’s why the Chargers’ big ranks second on our list of the best NFL head coach openings in 2024.

6. Las Vegas Raiders

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders
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There’s an undeniable appeal with the Las Vegas Raiders. One of the most storied franchises in NFL history, located in a city that players want to experience with one of the most passionate fan bases in all of sports. Winning in Las Vegas gets you attention and achieving success with the Raiders franchise can make you a legend. Of course, there’s a reason the Raiders are ranked third among the NFL head-coaching vacancies.

Related: Latest on Las Vegas Raiders coaching search

It starts with the roster. Las Vegas likely won’t be well-positioned to land one of the three best quarterback prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft. The Raiders could dive into NFL free agency to solve their quarterback woes, but Kirk Cousins will be 36 years old and coming off a torn Achilles. The second-best option is Baker Mayfield.

Already facing continued quarterback purgatory, becoming the Raiders’ head coach also brings additional challenges. Josh Jacobs is a free agent, All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams will be 31 years old next season and the Raiders have a league-average offensive line with Maxx Crosby carrying the defense. A bottom-10 roster puts even more weight on the coaching staff to squeeze the most out of whatever talent Las Vegas has.

Finally, we get to Mark Davis. He has a troubling history of getting involved in football decisions and that’s not a trait you see from successful NFL franchises. However, Davis has let the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces operate without his interference and they’ve won consecutive championships. While the Raiders’ reputation and an opportunity to coach a franchise in Las Vegas are appealing, Davis’ mingling and a weak roster push the Raiders down our rankings of the best NFL head coach openings.

7. Tennessee Titans

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans
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While the Tennessee Titans don’t have the worst NFL head-coach opening in 2024, they aren’t that much better off than the Carolina Panthers. Tennessee has its own first-round pick, which is critical for long-term success, but there’s a lot going on in Nashville that could pose problems for a new head coach.

Reporting on Titans’ owner Amy Adams Strunk doesn’t paint a favorable light on the Titans’ organization. While she wants more collaboration between the head coach and general manager, it seems GM Ran Carthon had no input on the decision with Mike Vrabel. Not only that, Strunk has now fired a head coach and general manager not long after extending their contracts.

Tennessee’s best move is a two-year rebuild, but it’s unclear if the Titans’ organization has the patience for that. With a bottom-10 defense, one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, an aging roster and long-term uncertainty at quarterback, there are quite a few issues with the Titans’ job.

8. Carolina Panthers – Worst NFL head coach opening

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
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There’s a reason they say there are only 32 NFL coaching jobs so someone will always be interested. The Carolina Panthers have the least appealing NFL head coach opening in 2024, by far, but there will be several head-coaching candidates vying for the gig.

Related: Carolina Panthers coaching candidates

We’ll start at quarterback. Even before Bryce Young had one of the worst seasons by a rookie quarterback in NFL history, he wasn’t a player every head coach would want. For as smart as Young is, with some suggesting he could be a coach, a 5-foot-10 quarterback with average arm strength and athleticism aren’t franchise-caliber traits. You can make an offense work with Young, but he’ll never be the player who can carry a team.

Even if he was, this job still isn’t appealing because of Panthers’ owner David Tepper. After axing Frank Reich less than a year after firing him, Tepper has now fired three head coaches in the NFL and multiple coaches in MLS. He insisted on the Panthers overpaying to acquire the No. 1 pick and helped pick Young. If all of that isn’t concerning enough, Tepper also kept confidants on the Panthers’ coaching staff who would report directly to him if Reich did something they didn’t like.

Joining an unstable franchise with a volatile owner who makes moves on a whim is a recipe for a head coach to be fired quickly. The icing on the cake, which certifies this vacancy as the worst job available, is the fact that the Panthers don’t have a first-round pick in 2024. Someone will take this job, but they’ll probably regret it within three years.

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