Currently, the NFL has six coaching vacancies. That’s nearly 20 percent of the league, but still short of the 8-10 spots that many thought would come open.
The real question is whether there will be more.
For the non-playoff teams, there’s no reason to wait. With candidates for the existing vacancies being lined up, time is of the essence when it comes to finding a new coach. Unless there’s a team out there that secretly is pursuing a Jon Gruden-style white-whale candidate, the 14 non-playoff teams that currently don’t have openings presumably won’t.
That leaves the playoff teams. Coaching changes have been made in the past after seasons have ended in the playoffs, both voluntarily and involuntarily.
For the Titans, there was a belief as of last week that coach Mike Mularkey would be out if the team didn’t reverse a three-game losing streak and secure a playoff berth. There’s still a concern, however, that a loss to the Chiefs on Saturday could be the end of the road for Mularkey.
Beyond Mularkey, there’s no coach who seems to be in danger, grave or otherwise, of losing his job after the playoff run ends. But there are several that maybe should be regarded as candidates to choose to walk away.
Earlier this week, during a visit with Paul Allen of KFAN (and the voice of the Vikings), I threw a dart in a dark room that may not have a dartboard about a possible decision by Vikings coach Mike Zimmer to walk away, Dick Vermeil/Bill Walsh-style, if Zimmer’s team wins the Super Bowl. Chiefs coach Andy Reid and Patriots coach Bill Belichick also could (emphasize “could”) at least consider strolling off into the sunset with a Lombardi Trophy in hand.
Others could consider walking away and emerging elsewhere, with a Super Bowl win. Panthers coach Ron Rivera may decide to hand the silver trophy to Jerry Richardson and move on, along with Richardson. Saints coach Sean Payton, who has coached the team since 2006, could decide after winning a pair of Super Bowls in New Orleans that the time has come for him to move on.
However it all plays out, history suggests that it makes sense to consider that those six vacancies could still grow to seven, or more.