2021 NFL head coach rumors and potential top vacancies

The NFL head coach rumors for 2021 are in full swing. On Wednesday’s Draft Insiders podcast (full video on this page), Pro Football Network Insider Tony Pauline reported that there will likely be several NFL head coaching vacancies in 2021, including the likes of Doug Marrone, Adam Gase, and Matt Nagy. He also mentioned a few names that could fill some of these roles and others who likely won’t be given the change just yet.


NFL Head Coaching Rumors | Who’s on the hot seat, and who could make the jump?

Jacksonville Jaguars: Doug Marrone

Pauline reports that the Jaguars are likely to move on from Marrone at the end of the season. It makes sense – Marrone hasn’t been very successful in Jacksonville, going 23-36 as of this writing. He did have one run to the AFC Championship Game, but the Jaguars have finished under .500 in every other season he’s been in charge. With the team likely to select in the top two in the 2021 NFL Draft, now seems like the best time to move on.

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With a new quarterback coming in, the team is going to want to bring in a whole new regime. That means it might take a while before rumors spread about this NFL head coaching vacancy for the 2021 season. Pauline reported that the new general manager in Jacksonville will get to pick his head coach, so this won’t be a quick hire.

That doesn’t mean Marrone’s coaching career is over, though. Pauline believes that Marrone will land on his feet somewhere. They may only have one win this season, but four of their eight losses have been by one score. In a different world where they get a little luckier, they may be 5-4 instead of 1-8. That kind of fight from one of the least talented rosters in the NFL is likely to land him on someone’s coaching staff.

Detroit Lions: Matt Patricia

Pauline is reporting that it would take a miraculous turnaround for Patricia to return to Detroit. The Bill Belichick disciple has had a rough go of it with the Lions. He’s just 13-27-1 in his three years. There was a time this season where it looked like he would save his job with the Lions offense finding a rhythm, but that passed quickly.

Now sitting at 4-5, the Lions face an uphill battle in the NFC playoff race. They’re two games back of the Seahawks for the seventh spot and have a difficult schedule the rest of the way with games against the Packers, Vikings, Titans, and Buccaneers. It’s not impossible for the Lions to make the playoffs, but it’s a tall order.

Pauline also reported what’s been rumored since Patricia started in Detroit – it’s been a very contentious relationship from the beginning between the head coach and many of the players on the roster. Patricia is just the latest in the line of failed Belichick disciples. The only Belichick disciple to have a winning record for his career, as of this writing, is Bill O’Brien. It’ll be interesting to see if a team looking for a coach picks another fruit from the Patriots tree this offseason. 

More NFL head coaching rumors in 2021

Chicago Bears: Matt Nagy

Nagy is in a similar situation to Patricia. Tony is reporting that unless the Bears turn their season around, he’ll likely be out of a job. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the offensive-minded Nagy handed over play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor this past week.

Under Nagy, the Bears are 25-17. They made the playoffs in his first year in Chicago and haven’t finished a season under .500 with Nagy in charge. That’s not enough, though. With an elite defense already in place, Nagy had to get the offense to a playable level to be competitive. He’s failed to do that.

He’s got an easier task saving his job than Patricia does, only 1.5 games back of a playoff spot. The Bears also play teams under .500 in four of their last six games. If Nick Foles catches fire over a four-game stretch, that could be enough to save his job.

Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Bieniemy

Bieniemy is the biggest name in NFL head coaching rumors in 2021. There’s no doubt that he’ll end up with a head coaching job next season, especially with at least five jobs likely to be available in 2021. In fact, Pauline is reporting that Bieniemy is the only top tier head coaching candidate right now. 

According to Pauline, Bieniemy is going to break the cycle of nepotism in the NFL. Whereas most head coaches will look to hire friends or people they’ve worked with for years to their coaching staff, Bieniemy just wants to hire the best. He’s going to actively seek out the best coaches to join his staff regardless of his relationships. Teams think that could lead to a superstar coaching staff, and that makes him an even greater candidate than he already was.

College Football Rumors: Who could land an NFL job?

Michigan: Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan has been a disappointment, to say the least. 2020 is off to such a bad start that it likely means Harbaugh’s time at his alma mater is coming to a close. Pauline reports that with Michigan looking to move on, Harbaugh is looking to head back to the NFL, but that the NFL isn’t receptive to the idea.

Pauline believes that Harbaugh will land interviews due to his pedigree and reputation, but the results make it difficult to see him landing an NFL job. Pauline compared Harbaugh’s candidacy to that of Adam Gase in 2018. Two coaches who struggled to find success in recent years but had a reputation for being successful despite the opposite. He also mentions that Harbaugh may end up with a job if an NFL team misses out on their top candidates and is left with little else. It sounds pretty similar to the New York Jets coaching search that landed them Gase.

It’s not impossible that Harbaugh fills an NFL head coach vacancy in 2021, but he’s not getting the type of hype that you’d expect from a candidate with his resume.

Stanford: David Shaw

One of the biggest rumors in the 2021 NFL head coaching cycle revolves around Stanford. According to Pauline, David Shaw is more receptive to an NFL job than ever. It was previously unthinkable to imagine Shaw leaving his alma mater, but the current global health situation has changed a lot in the sports landscape.

Shaw was once the apple of the NFL’s eye. His work with Andrew Luck put him on the map, and his innovative offense kept him there for a while. However, Stanford has struggled the last couple of years. In 2019 they went 4-8, and they’re 0-2 in 2020. They haven’t won the Pac-12 since 2015. That’s why Pauline is also reporting that the NFL isn’t as interested in Shaw as they once were. His time as a candidate may have passed him by.

Still, his candidature is an interesting one. He has a connection with Jets general manager Joe Douglas, both having worked for the Baltimore Ravens between 2002 and 2005. The Jets are almost assuredly going to be on the lookout for a new coach in 2021. That connection could make Shaw a bigger candidate than is currently being let on.

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