The NFL pushed back the HC carousel’s actual interviews this season, the in-person meetings at least. The league will delay onsite HC interviews until after the divisional round, but teams can still begin requesting meetings today. HC-needy clubs have gotten to work.
This now includes the Chargers, who sent an interview request to 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo. The Bolts need to hire both a head coach and a GM, so plenty of moving parts — the biggest being Jim Harbaugh — are in place here. But Wilks is back on the HC radar after keeping the 49ers’ defense in high gear.
The Bolts are also interested in speaking with both the Lions’ top coordinators. Aaron Glenn and Ben Johnson received requests to meet about the Los Angeles job, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweets. Johnson, who has now collected requests from the Commanders and Panthers, has been on the Bolts’ radar for a bit. Mutual interest is believed to exist. Ravens OC Todd Monken is also on the Chargers’ radar, with Rapoport adding the recent college play-caller received a request about this job as well.
Last year, Wilks went toe-to-toe with Frank Reich for the Panthers’ HC position. After two interviews, David Tepper went with Reich. Tepper had been connected to wanting an offensive-minded coach, sending Wilks out the door after he went 6-6 as Carolina’s interim HC. Reich lasted 11 games, and the Panthers are back on the HC carousel. Tepper is not interested in bringing Wilks back this year, but the Chargers want to see if he makes sense for them. The 49ers, who have seen their past two DCs (Robert Saleh, DeMeco Ryans) become head coaches, rank third in scoring defense and fourth in defensive DVOA.
This represents quite the comeback for Monken, who had spent three years as Georgia’s OC after the 2019 Browns imploded. A one-and-done OC on the ill-fated Freddie Kitchens-centered staff, Monken — a former Buccaneers OC — rebuilt his value in Georgia, helping the Bulldogs to back-to-back national titles. He may have to beat out Harbaugh, whose Wolverines lost to the 2021 Bulldogs in the CFP semifinals, for the gig. Monken, however, has considerable momentum thanks to Lamar Jackson being on the cusp of his second MVP award. The Ravens rank in the top six in scoring and total offense, rebounding after 17th- and 19th-place finishes — albeit in seasons Jackson did not finish — in 2021 and ’22.
Johnson might be this year’s hottest HC candidate. Similar to Arthur Smith‘s stock in 2021, Johnson could end up receiving requests from the full lot of HC-seeking teams. While Smith is not the best name to bring up right now, Johnson joins the ex-Titans OC in being a two-year play-caller as an assistant. The Lions revived their offense after Dan Campbell handed Johnson the reins in 2022. Jared Goff ranked fifth in QBR last season. Although Goff took a step back this year, sitting 14th, the Lions won 12 games for just the second time in franchise history.
Johnson is 2-for-2 in top-five offensive finishes as a coordinator. It would surprise if he did not land a job during this cycle, and multiple offers could come his way. The Panthers loom for the ascending OC, a North Carolina native, but they are not exactly in a good place organizationally — and Johnson turned them down in 2023. The Chargers will have candidates eager to coach Justin Herbert; Harbaugh may well be among them.
Glenn interviewed with the Cardinals and Colts last year, but his unit’s performance does not match the Lions’ offense. The Lions have finished 31st, 28th and 23rd in scoring defense during Glenn’s three-year tenure, and he was rumored to be on the chopping block during the 2022 season. But Detroit crafted a turnaround that has carried over to this year. Glenn has also seen two of his DB pieces (C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Emmanuel Moseley) suffer major injuries. That has not stopped both the Chargers and Commanders from reaching out about their HC vacancies.