Imagine that you are Sean Payton. Teams are usually selected from a pool of candidates. Basically, Payton chooses which team will hire him.
There are five teams with head coach vacancies, and four of them have requested an interview with Payton. Which discovery is better? Much depends on the ranking of landing sites.
Let’s turn on the Indianapolis Colts, the only team that didn’t ask to speak to Payton, and rank which job is best:
5. Houston Texans
The Texans are desperate to hire a head coach. Whoever is hired will be the team’s fourth coach in four seasons. The Texans have had two direct coaches, which speaks to the terrible decisions the franchise has made. Ownership is a big issue. And for a team that has a record of 11-38-1 over the past three seasons, there aren’t many interesting young players on the roster. Bad deals and mediocre drafts continue to hurt the franchise.
The Texans have the second pick in this year’s draft, but even that didn’t work; Houston won in the regular season finale and the Chicago Bears received the first pick as a result. Any team can make a difference with a good head coach and a couple of good draft picks. But until further notice, Houston is an NFL dead-end franchise. The only good thing that can be said about this debut is that the bar to be overcome in order to be successful is very, very low.
4. Arizona Cardinals
Kyler Murray probably wasn’t a $230 million quarterback when he was healthy. But this is a contract he got last year and that was before he tore his ACL at the end of the season. Murray may not be ready for the start of the season, and for a quarterback who relies so heavily on his mobility, there’s a chance he won’t be the same player when he returns. Take this uncertainty and add it to a list that has few blue-chip players.
Cardinals don’t have much history either. They have the longest championship drought in American professional sports, winning just one playoff game since the end of the 2009 season and making the playoffs once since the end of the 2015 season. It’s one of the NFL’s consistent losing teams, with an injured and likely overpaid quarterback and a roster that needs a lot of work. Not good.
3. Indianapolis Colts
Forget Jeff Saturday’s circus, where team owner Jim Irsay looked like he was going crazy. The Colts are the team that won the AFC South a few months ago. They need a quarterback – they have the fourth pick in the draft that can solve this problem – but there are many other good players on the roster.
Things have gone awry for the Colts this season, Saturday’s temporary hire made the Colts a laughingstock, Irsay is as unpredictable as any NFL team owner, but at least there’s hope it won’t be a long-term rebuild.
2. Denver Broncos
This job looked really bad when Nathaniel Hackett was fired. Then the team looked better in the last two games, Russell Wilson had his best two games of the season, and suddenly there was some hope (that’s why we have to ignore the question “what’s the use of firing the coach in the middle of the season?” crowd of people). Now, perhaps you can convince the new head coach that Wilson’s difficulties are all about Hackett.
Plus, the new ownership group has as much money as any other in the NFL, so they could be spending lavishly on a new head coach. It’s a franchise that’s also been doing well for decades, though the years after 2015 have been lean.
Hackett’s sacking when the Broncos did it gave the team time to finish strong, and this start looked much better.
1. Carolina Panthers
Here’s the difference between this job and that of the Broncos: one franchise has to deal with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert for the next decade, and the other has to deal with… Desmond Ridder? Kyle Trask? Who will the Saints find for 2023?
Carolina also has a question for the quarterback, but if she can answer it, the division is ready for the answer. The rest of the roster isn’t too bad and played well by interim head coach Steve Wilkes. A new coach could become the first-year champion in the division. Team owner David Tepper will spend whatever it takes to get this quarterback. He also appears to be difficult to work with because he is impulsive and does not seem to understand the business of the NFL well. However, you would probably prefer an overly aggressive franchise owner to a cheap one. There is a clear path to instant success, and depending on how quickly other teams figure out the quarterback position, the Panthers could rule the division for several years.