Already, teams are clamoring to hire their next coaches. But some of the best candidates won’t be available to be hired — possibly for more than a month.
The league allows certain interviews of assistants whose teams are in the postseason, but nothing can be made official until the playoff run of a candidate’s current team ends. The effort to avoid the creation of an obvious conflict of interest, with an assistant employed by one team already officially named the head coach of another team, sets up an even more awkward situation where the assistant at some level realizes that losing in the postseason could help him fulfill the lifelong dream of becoming an NFL head coach.
It would be better to have full transparency, allowing the hire to be made but no actual work on behalf of the new team to begin until the work with the current team ends — other than to put a staff together.
For now, teams with vacancies will be relegated to interviewing this week the assistants from teams that earned bye weeks. After the wild-card round, assistants from the winning teams can be interviewed, but only with the express permission of their current teams. After the conference championship round, teams who already interviewed an assistant from a Super Bowl team can interview him again.
The inability to be actually hired has contributed to keeping guys from getting jobs in the past, and it could contribute to some teams choosing not to wait this year, too. This could hurt candidates like Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula, and Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.
Ultimately, it depends on how important speed of hiring will be for the teams involved. If time is of the essence, a viable candidate could be left behind, hoping that in a non-playoff year he’ll still be viewed as sufficiently desirable to get a promotion elsewhere.