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2021 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Exiting the regular season, six teams are searching for new head coaches. That number is up from last season but not quite as high as 2019, though there may well be more vacancies that emerge during the playoffs.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-16-21 (2:51pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

2021 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

This year’s NFL GM carousel figures to be more active than usual. The Falcons, Lions, Panthers, Texans, and Jaguars are all on the hunt for a new front office leader. And that’s only the official list. The real tally shows six clubs looking for a GM, since the Washington Football Team is expected to install a GM to work alongside head coach Ron Rivera. By mid-January, we could easily see a couple more jobs opening up — that’d put ~25% of the NFL on the market.

We’ll keep track of the GM candidates for each club here, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make general manager changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here’s the current breakdown:

Updated 1-15-21 (4:59pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers 

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Washington Football Team

This Date In Transactions History: Bengals Sign HC Marvin Lewis To Two-Year Extension

On this date in 2018, Cincinnati fans weren’t too high on Marvin Lewis. The Bengals head coach had just missed the postseason for the second-straight season, but it’s not like anyone would have had much faith in the team had they found a way to sneak into the playoffs. After all, Lewis had (and still has) his infamous 0-7 playoff record, with the head coach guiding the organization to first-round exits every year between the 2011 and 2015 campaigns.

So, with the team having only won 13 combined games between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, it only seemed natural to move on from Lewis, right? Nah. Instead, on January 2nd, 2018, the Bengals signed Lewis to a two-year extension that would last through the 2019 campaign. As an aside, Lewis had traditionally inked one-year extensions with the organization, so the two-year pact was met with plenty of ire.

A Bleacher Report article said the extension was a “commitment to mediocrity,” while Will Brinson of CBS Sports described the move as “stunning.” If you want a take on fan reactions, you can check out the comments section of our own article.

Lewis and the organization didn’t do much to calm fans’ nerves when discussing the extension. The coach acknowledged that he probably would have been fired in any other city (per USA Today), while Bengals President Mike Brown admitted that the team had recently “fallen short of our expectations.”

“My job is to win a World Championship,” Lewis said in a statement that day. “We have a talented roster full of veteran leaders and emerging young stars, and I am committed to making the necessary improvements to put this team in the best position to win.”

Critics of the extension were punching air through the five weeks of the 2018 season. With Lewis serving as the second longest-tenured head coach in the NFL (behind Bill Belichick), the Bengals held the top spot in the AFC North with a 4-1 record, and they entered their bye week at 5-3. Then the wheels fell off. The Bengals dropped five consecutive contests and finished the season with a 6-10 record. Raise your hand if you know what happened next. The Bengals and Lewis decided to mutually part ways with a year remaining on the coach’s contract.

Cincinnati bottomed out in 2019 with new head coach Zac Taylor at the helm, allowing them to snag Joe Burrow with the top pick. Lewis hasn’t really committed to returning to the NFL, but he’s still been connected to a number of openings. Over the past few years, Lewis has been linked to head coaching gigs in Washington and Dallas, and he interviewed for the lead position with the Texans in late December. The 62-year-old has been on the Arizona State coaching staff for the past two seasons.

When the extensions was signed three years ago today, Lewis and the Bengals organization probably weren’t envisioning their present-day status. Everyone else? I think we all saw this coming.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which AFC Team Will Miss Playoffs?

Despite the NFL expanding its playoff bracket to 14 teams, one 10-win AFC squad’s season will end Sunday. The historic depth on display in this year’s AFC may well exclude an 11-win team from the playoffs for just the third time since the 1970 merger.

The conference’s Nos. 4-7 spots are not yet determined; the Titans, Dolphins, Ravens, Browns and Colts sit at 10-5. Only the 1985 Broncos and 2008 Patriots — who were left out of five- and six-team AFC brackets, respectively — missed the post-merger playoffs at 11-5. But with none of the 10-win quintet playing one another Sunday, the Colts could join that list.

With the Steelers indicating they will rest Ben Roethlisberger, the Browns would appear to have a strong chance to snap the NFL’s longest playoff drought (18 years). Although they lost 38-6 in the teams’ October meeting in Pittsburgh, the Steelers have not played nearly as well since and have lost key defenders Devin Bush and Bud Dupree. The Browns beat the Mason Rudolph-quarterbacked Steelers 21-7 in Cleveland last year, though the game result became obviously obscured. Football Outsiders gives the Browns a 44% chance to hold at the No. 6 seed and a 20% chance to qualify as the seventh seed.

Sean McDermott has not indicated if he will rest starters against the Dolphins. Doing so would certainly hurt the Colts’ qualification chances, with Indianapolis needing at least one of the other four 10-win teams to lose. The Bills can only drop to the No. 3 spot with a loss and a Steelers win, and given Mike Tomlin‘s decision to rest Roethlisberger, it would not be surprising to see McDermott give Josh Allen a rest or an abbreviated assignment Sunday.

The Dolphins have made the playoffs once in the previous 11 seasons and have benched Tua Tagovailoa twice since naming him their starter. Tagovailoa remains Miami’s QB1, however. Football Outsiders gives Miami a 28% chance to hold at the No. 5 seed and a 29% chance to earn the No. 7 seed in this year’s expanded bracket. While the Bengals knocked the Ravens out of the 2017 playoffs in Week 17, this version is less talented and down its starting quarterback (Joe Burrow) and top running back (Joe Mixon). Of the five 10-win AFCers, Baltimore’s path may be the least daunting.

The Colts have seen their Philip Rivers signing produce mixed results, and it is not certain the sides will reunite in 2021. Although Rivers has helped the Colts return to the playoff precipice, the 39-year-old quarterback ranks 18th in QBR. While that figure is north of Rivers and Jacoby Brissett‘s 2019 placements, the Colts have also endured defeats to the Jaguars — their Sunday opponent — and lost by at least two scores to the Browns, Ravens and Titans.

Tennessee also lost to Indianapolis in a blowout and brings a less reliable defense (29th overall) into Week 17. Houston also nearly pulled a Week 6 upset in this matchup, losing in overtime. However, the Texans are without some key players — including Will Fuller and Bradley Roby — going into the rematch. Football Outsiders views a Titans loss in Houston and a Colts win as the most likely way Indy can return to the playoffs, slotting this scenario at 33%.

So which of this quintet will wrap its season early? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts on this Week 17 gridlock in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Reggie Bush Retires From NFL

Three years ago today, Reggie Bush announced that he would hang up his cleats. The veteran running back went unsigned for the 2017 season and he wasn’t about to start his search all over again for 2018.

Reggie Bush (vertical)“I’m done,” Bush said (via Edward Lewis of NFL.com). “Yeah, I’m done. I said it. It’s not breaking news. I’ve been saying it. I said it all season long, I said, ‘Listen, if I don’t play this year, I’m going to retire.’ Because I’m not going to spend a whole year off, come back, 33 years old, trying to get back in the league. Listen, once you get to a certain age as a running back, they just start to slowly weed you out.”

There wasn’t much interest in Bush following a subpar 2016 campaign with the Bills, when he totaled negative yards and one touchdown on 12 carries. Of course, those struggles didn’t negate Bush’s impressive 11-year career. While the 2006 second-overall pick and (later forfeited) 2005 Heisman Trophy winner didn’t necessarily live up to the hype, he was still one of the most respected pass-catching backs in the league.

Bush compiled at least 30 receptions and 200 receiving yards during each of his first eight years in the league, including four seasons with at least 50 catches. The offensive weapon was also a dynamic returner, as he finished his career with four punt returns for touchdowns. The USC product spent time with the Saints, Dolphins, Lions, 49ers, and Bills. Even though his pro career didn’t go as planned, he’s widely regarded as one of the top NCAA running backs of all time.

Interestingly, even though Bush said he was done with football in 2017, he did leave the door slightly open for one pro team:

“Listen, the Saints know I’m coming home at some point. [If I play again,] I’m going to come home to retire as a Saint. But yeah, man, I’m done. For sure. I’m done.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Eagles Place QB Carson Wentz On IR

With Carson Wentz hitting the bench this weekend, it’s only appropriate to look back at one of the first notable transactions involving the quarterback. On this date in 2017, the Eagles placed Wentz on the injured reserve.

At this point three years ago, Wentz hadn’t yet been labeled as injury prone. The 2016 second-overall pick started all 16 games during his rookie season, with Wentz playing the second-most snaps in the NFL that year (per Football Outsiders). The young quarterback was also rolling during the 2017 campaign, helping the Eagles to an 11-2 record by tossing 33 touchdowns through 13 games (a performance that would ultimately garner him his lone Pro Bowl nod).

However, during Philly’s NFC-East-clinching Week 14 win over the Rams, Wentz suffered a torn ACL, ending his season. We all know what happened next; backup Nick Foles took over under center and helped guide the Eagles to a Super Bowl LII victory over the Patriots.

Wentz suffered (pseudo) season-ending injuries in both of the next two seasons. After missing the first two games of the 2018 season as he recovered from knee surgery, the quarterback regained his starting spot. A back injury ended up sidelining him for the remainder of the season and playoffs, with Foles again taking over as the starter. Wentz managed to appear in all 16 games during the 2019 campaign, but during his postseason debut, he suffered a head injury following a helmet-to-helmet hit with Jadeveon Clowney during the NFC Wild Card game. That first-quarter injury ultimately sidelined Wentz for the rest of the game.

Wentz managed to return from his concussion and start each of the Eagles 12 games in 2020. However, the 27-year-old’s performance took a significant dip; Wentz has connected on a career-low 57.4-percent of his passes, and he leads the NFL in sacks taken (50) and interceptions (15 vs. only 16 touchdowns). Doug Pederson ended up benching Wentz for rookie Jalen Hurts during the second half of last weekend’s loss to the Packers, and the 2020 second-rounder will get the start this weekend against the Saints.

On this date in 2017, there was still plenty of optimism surrounding Wentz; NFL.com listed him third in their ranking of the top-100 players heading into the 2018 campaign. Things obviously could have been a lot worse for the Eagles (the team can always point to their Super Bowl rings), but the transaction that took place three years ago today proved to be a sign of things to come.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Broncos Extend Brandon Stokley

Although the Broncos of the late 2000s were not particularly successful and are better known for a controversial Mike Shanahan-to-Josh McDaniels transition, one player’s extension agreement 13 years ago today helped lead to some higher-profile NFL moments.

The Broncos signed Brandon Stokley to a one-year deal in the spring of 2007, adding the former Colts standout as part of their post-Rod Smith receiving corps. On Dec. 8, 2007, Stokley agreed to terms on a three-year extension to stay in Denver. This ended up paying dividends down the road.

Stokley ruptured an Achilles’ tendon late in the Colts’ Super Bowl-winning 2006 season, leading the team to release its slot receiver in March of ’07. Stokley had been part of the past four explosive Indianapolis offenses. This included a 2004 season that featured Peyton Manning breaking Dan Marino‘s touchdown pass record — on a throw to Stokley — and his veteran slot staple joining Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne in surpassing 1,000 receiving yards.

Stokley recovered from this injury quickly and amassed more than 1,100 yards in Shanahan’s final two Broncos seasons, but he was less productive under McDaniels. That said, the veteran wideout’s first catch in McDaniels’ offense produced one of the unlikeliest endings in NFL history (and set the table for a signature Gus Johnson call). Stokley’s 87-yard, game-winning touchdown off a deflection gave the Broncos a final-seconds victory over the Bengals in Week 1 of the 2009 season. Denver started 6-0 that season.

Although the Broncos ended up releasing Stokley in September 2010, his Colorado relocation played a part in one of the free agency era’s biggest transactions.

After seasons with the Seahawks and Giants in 2010 and ’11, Stokley circled back to Denver in 2012. This came after the Colorado resident helped recruit Manning and worked out with the future Hall of Fame passer during his Denver free agency visit. When the Broncos landed Manning, they brought back Stokley on a one-year agreement soon after. Despite being 36 in 2012, Stokley re-emerged with a 544-yard, five-TD season — which ended with a 13-3 Broncos record and Manning’s QB-record sixth first-team All-Pro honor — and added a touchdown reception in Denver’s divisional-round loss.

The Broncos did not bring back Stokley in 2013, having signed Wes Welker ahead of a record-setting offensive season. The 15-year veteran finished his career back in Baltimore that season. But Stokley played a part in some key developments for the Broncos this century.

This Date In Transactions History: Vikings Waive Donovan McNabb

Kirk Cousins has been the first quarterback to open three straight seasons as the Vikings’ starter since Daunte Culpepper. In between, the franchise took several notable swings to fill the position. One of those came nine years ago, when Donovan McNabb made his third and final NFL stop.

The Vikings acquired McNabb from Washington in July 2011 — after the lockout’s conclusion led to the 2011 league year beginning just before training camp — by trading a sixth-round pick for the then-34-year-old passer. (That pick turned into Alfred Morris in 2012.) But after six starts, Minnesota benched the former Pro Bowler.

On Dec. 1, 2011, the Vikings waived McNabb in what then-HC Leslie Frazier described as a mutual decision that would free up McNabb to catch on elsewhere. That did not end up happening, and the ’11 season in the Twin Cities became McNabb’s 13th and final NFL campaign.

Culpepper’s severe knee injury in 2005 led the Vikings to a run of passers. They pivoted back to Brad Johnson following Culpepper’s career-altering setback and used a 2006 second-round pick on Tarvaris Jackson, who served as the team’s primary starter from 2007-08. Brett Favre notably replaced Jackson, but his retirement following the 2010 season left the Vikings again in need at quarterback.

The Eagles had completed the rare intra-division QB trade, ending McNabb’s Philadelphia tenure at 11 seasons by sending him to Washington in 2010 — months after he led the Eagles to a playoff berth and earned his sixth Pro Bowl nod. McNabb, however, did not replicate that form in Washington, finishing the ’10 season with a 14-15 TD-INT ratio.

In Minnesota, the former No. 2 overall pick produced a better QBR figure (55.3) than he did in Washington (48.2). But he threw just four touchdown passes in six starts and went 1-5 as the Vikes’ first-stringer. Frazier, who was with the Eagles when they drafted McNabb in 1999, benched the veteran for first-round pick Christian Ponder that October. The Eagles’ all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown passes, McNabb went unclaimed on waivers and ended up officially retiring as an Eagle in 2013. But his final game action occurred with the Vikings.

The Vikings have not needed quarterback stability to venture to the playoffs. Since Culpepper’s injury, each of the franchise’s six postseason berths came with a different QB1. Minnesota is keen on Cousins ending this unusual run, having signed him to a two-year, $66MM extension in March.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Bears WR Allen Robinson

It’s safe to say that Allen Robinson isn’t a happy camper. Over the weekend, the Bears wide receiver liked a series of tweets from fans who encouraged him to skip town (Twitter link via Dov Kleiman). He’ll have the opportunity to leave Chicago in the spring when his contract expires, but it’s not a given that the market will meet his expectations. 

Earlier this year, we heard that Robinson saw himself as the top wide receiver in this year’s free agent class. That would mean a deal of at least $20MM per year, putting him in the neighborhood of Michael Thomas and Julio Jones who have much stronger resumes. Thomas’ camp would probably point to Keenan Allen and Amari Cooper — receivers who did not have the same credentials as Thomas or Jones, but still topped $20MM/year.

The Bears weren’t willing to go there when the two sides last spoke, but they also kept Robinson past the early November trade deadline. Since then, they’ve watched their playoff hopes dwindle. The Bears, riding a five-game losing streak, may wind up losing their star receiver for nothing but a compensatory pick.

The Bears’ quarterback situation hasn’t provided Robinson with the ideal platform, but he’s still been fairly productive from an individual standpoint. Last year, Robinson managed a solid 98 grabs for 1,147 yards — his best showing since his 2015 coming out party with the Jaguars. Through eleven games this year, he has a stat line of 71/829/5, bolstered by his latest outing against the Packers. Robinson’s 11.7 yards per catch average over the last two years doesn’t exactly jump off the page, but it’s evident that the talent is there, and Robinson has been largely healthy over that stretch.

But, even with the most favorable view possible, Robinson probably won’t be the kingpin of this WR class. Chris Godwin and Kenny Golladay are also on track to hit the open market — ditto for JuJu Smith-Schuster, who could probably be had for less than Robinson.

Given the strength of the WR class and uncertainty of the 2021 salary cap, it might behoove Robinson to smooth things out with the Bears. Or, at minimum, pretend to smooth out with the Bears, in order to fetch the best possible deal. If Robinson can keep the incumbent Bears involved, he could land somewhere near the $18MM/year mark like Tyreek Hill and Odell Beckham Jr. If he can’t, he might be looking at ~$16MM/year offers, similar to Cooper Kupp‘s recent Rams extension.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Giants Bench Eli Manning

Three years ago today, it was looking like Eli Manning‘s career with the Giants was coming to an end. On November 28, 2017, the organization announced that they’d be benching the future Hall of Famer for Geno Smith (we know, we know…this isn’t actually a transaction, but it’s not everyday an organization releases a press release regarding a BENCHING).

Geno will start this week,” said then-head coach Ben McAdoo. “Over the last five games, we will take a look at Geno, and we will also give Davis [Webb] an opportunity.”

While the move certainly came as a surprise, there was some merit to the decision. It was already a lost season for the Giants, as the team was out of the playoff picture with a 2-9 record. The organization apparently thought it was useful to evaluate their younger options as they looked ahead to the 2018 campaign.

On the flip side, there were also plenty of reasons to stick with the Manning. His illustrious resume included a 210-game starting streak, the then-second-longest streak by a quarterback in NFL history (behind Brett Favre (and since passed by Philip Rivers)). The Giants gave Manning the option to still start the upcoming games, but the veteran said it was “pointless” and disingenuous to start a game that he wouldn’t finish. Further, it wasn’t like the quarterback had even bad that bad during the 2017 campaign. Despite the team’s record, Manning had still completed 62.5-percent of his passes for 2,411 yards, 14 touchdowns, and seven interceptions through the first 11 games…and that was with major injuries to wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall.

The move was instantly criticized around the NFL. Former Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said he was “very upset” by the decision, and many pundits suspected the move came from higher-ups like Jerry Reese and John Mara. Naturally, there were also a number of articles pertaining to trade theories, with the Jaguars, Broncos, and Cardinals listed as potential suitors.

How did the move work out? Not great. The Giants lost by seven to the Raiders with Smith under center. The former second-rounder did manage to complete 61.7-percent of his passes for 212 yards and one score, and he added 13 yards on the ground. However, he also had a fair of key fumbles that could have changed the Giants’ fortunes.

Days following the loss, McAdoo was fired, and interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo reinserted Manning back into the lineup. Manning proceeded to start the rest of the Giants games that season, and he started all 16 of their games in 2018. Manning’s career would ultimately come to an end following the 2019 campaign…but still, that was two years later than what many thought on this date in 2017.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.