Why Chargers, Jaguars Are Among Best Landing Spots With Head Coach Vacancies

Money, proven talent and draft capital speak volumes


January 4, 2021

Several NFL teams currently are without a head coach but will have quite a bit to offer once one arrives. 

We already know about the openings after recent firings within the New York Jets, Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars organizations. The Houston Texans, Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons, who all finished the season with interim coaches, also have vacancies.

But which team has the most to offer a new head coach? Allow us to dissect: 

6. Detroit Lions
The Lions, as you may recall, moved on from head coach Matt Patricia midway through the year, and interim coach Darrell Bevell isn’t a lock to return. Like one or two teams on this list, the Lions have a major decision to make this offseason regarding their quarterback. Detroit will either roll with the sometimes-stellar-but-often-injured Matthew Stafford into the 2021 season, try to find the next heir apparent with a high draft pick, or both. Stafford is under contract until 2023.

The Lions don’t have an abundance of cap space, but at least they don’t have to shed like one or two other teams on this list. However, they do only have five picks in the upcoming draft, headlined by No. 7 overall. On the other hand, Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson, 2020 first-round cornerback Jeff Okudah and 2020 running back D’Andre Swift offer some solid building blocks for Detroit.

5. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons find themselves in a similar spot to Detroit with an aging quarterback in Matt Ryan, who’s under contract until 2023. But Atlanta still has a talented roster, even with bloated contracts.

The Falcons have 10 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, including the No. 4 overall selection. It would provide Atlanta a chance to draft a quarterback (likely the third signal-caller off the board) or continue to build around Ryan with another foundational piece. Atlanta’s good news takes a hit when you consider its cap space, though, having to shed in the neighborhood of $20 million. However, with players like Julio Jones (under contract through 2024) and fellow receiver Calvin Ridley on a rookie contract for at least one more season, it could attract those on the open market.

4. Houston Texans
Admittedly, many aspects are working against Houston. The Texans don’t have a first (would’ve been No. 3 overall) or second-round pick in 2021 due to Bill O’Brien’s trade that sent Laremy Tunsil to the Miami Dolphins. And while sometimes cap space can make up for lack of draft capital, the Texans don’t have that advantage either. Oh yeah, and the Texans traded All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins this past offseason and there’s been said to be culture problems in Houston.

So, you’re probably asking “Well, what would make anyone want to go to Houston then?” And it’s a fair question, but the answer is simple — Deshaun Watson.

The Texans signal-caller put together another remarkable campaign, leading the league in passing yards despite limited resources. The 2017 first-rounder, who’s under contract through 2026, checks the box as a franchise quarterback and with the position being so valuable, it certainly makes the head coaching job more attractive. A head coach arriving in Houston would have to understand it will be a multi-year rebuild, but the option is still an interesting one.

3. New York Jets
We’re not one to back away from dragging the Jets, but the reality is that New York actually presents a good option for head coaches after the firing of Adam Gase. The Jets’ meaningless, two-game win streak allowed the Jaguars to jump them in the draft order, but the No. 2 overall pick should be viewed as a solid landing spot (especially after seeing Justin Fields in the college football semifinal).

The Jets have another first-rounder in the 2021 NFL Draft, which they received after trading safety Jamal Adams to Seattle. It’s one of two Seattle picks — first- and third-rounders — the Jets have this upcoming offseason. A big question mark for any incoming coach will be the fate of Sam Darnold, but if the Jets intend to trade the former first-rounder and draft Fields (or another QB) No. 2 overall, it would earn New York even more draft assets. New York has four first-rounders in the next two years.

Lastly, the Jets have the second-most cap space of any team in the NFL, behind only the Jaguars. So while their draft capital would allow them to build a young team, they can go out and spend on proven contributors to pair with a new coach, quarterback and perhaps most importantly, a new vision.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have something no other team in the league has — the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Any head coach who takes over for Doug Marrone does so knowing Jacksonville has the opportunity to select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, thought to be one of the best prospects in recent memory, and build the franchise around him. The Jaguars have 10 other picks in the draft, too.

The Jaguars underwent a fire sale of sorts recently with 2017 first-rounder Leonard Fournette, 2016 first-rounder Jalen Ramsey and 2016 third-rounder Yannick Ngakoue all playing elsewhere. The Jaguars have in the neighborhood of $100 million in cap space should ease that burden. Jacksonville also found a potential steal at an important position as running back James Robinson was the first-ever undrafted rookie to eclipse 1,000 yards of offense in his first season.

1. Los Angeles Chargers
Anthony Lynn and the Chargers were dealt a number on injuries during the 2020 season, but there?s no debating the head coach underachieved with the amount of talent in Los Angeles. First and foremost, the Chargers have promising young quarterback Justin Herbert, who could very well win Offensive Rookie of the Year, on his rookie deal. That?s a noteworthy advantage many other teams don?t have as it allows a team to build its roster while not having to pay a signal-caller anywhere from $20, $25 or even $30 million per season. 

The Chargers also have a strong complement of skill players with running back Austin Ekeler and receiver Keenan Allen under contract until at least 2024 with fellow receiver Mike Williams under contract for the 2021 season. And on the defensive side of the ball, Joey Bosa, the No. 3 overall pick in 2016, has proved to be one of the league?s best pass rushers. Bosa is under contract until 2026 with fellow defenders like Linval Joseph (2022), Kenneth Murray (2023), Casey Hayward (2022) and safety Derwin James (2022) under contract for another season or two. Free-agent Melvin Ingram provides another dominant pass rusher for the Chargers, as long as LA can agree with him this offseason. That’s a major difference from the Jaguars. While LA doesn’t have the cap space, they already have proven players at high-impact positions, which we consider more valuable.

Additionally, as far as players that aren?t on the roster yet, the Chargers possess the No. 13 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Thumbnail photo via Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports Images
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