NFL Coaching Rumors 2024: Insider Provides Latest Around Ben Johnson, Eric Bieniemy, Brian Callahan, and More

What are the latest rumors surrounding the league's top head coaching candidates as the NFL's regular season comes to a close?

Now that we’re heading into the NFL‘s final week of the regular season, some teams that have been eliminated from playoff contention will be looking to replace their head coach and put together their list of candidates.

The league already has three openings, and multiple personnel sources said we could see three to four more coming by the end of next week.

And with that, we’re updating our piece from November with updated information as well as with new names added to the list.

Updated NFL Head Coaching List | Offensive Candidates

Ben Johnson, OC | Detroit Lions

The Carolina Panthers were set to interview Ben Johnson during last year’s coaching search, but he decided against it and wanted to wait another year due to family considerations, a league source said.

Johnson will be one of the top head coaching candidates this time around, and if a team wants to hire a candidate from the offensive side of the ball, he’s likely going to be on the top of the list.

Update: Johnson came into the season as the unquestioned top head coaching candidate, and he remains that guy. He’ll be the top candidate on the Carolina Panthers list, sources said, for the second straight year among many teams that will want to talk to him.

Whether it’s his outstanding work with veteran QB Jared Goff or his offensive scheme and play-calling, other teams have raved about Johnson’s work with the Detroit Lions over the past two seasons.

While he’s pretty young (38 in May), sources who have worked with Johnson over the years say he’s wise beyond his years and is ready to lead a team.

Brian Johnson, OC | Philadelphia Eagles

At least two teams were strongly considering hiring Brian Johnson as their offensive coordinator before the Philadelphia Eagles promoted him from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, sources said.

He was the natural choice to be promoted to his new position after Shane Steichen became the Indianapolis Colts head coach due to his relationship with QB Jalen Hurts and their offensive scheme.

Johnson, who is also calling the plays this season, is going to be on head coaching interview lists, league sources said, but whether he wants to be one this early in his NFL coaching career remains to be seen.

MORE: NFL Head Coaching Candidates — 25 Assistants Who Could Land Top Jobs in 2024

Update: Well, since we wrote our last piece, the Eagles’ offense has regressed, and Hurts has clearly not played as well to this point as he did during his breakout 2022 season.

Johnson is still very well respected around the NFL, but how serious a candidate he will wind up being depends on who you speak with.

As one personnel source said, teams will have to get a better understanding of what has happened to the Eagles’ offense during the second half of the season to make an accurate assessment of the job Johnson has done since the 2023 season began.

Eric Bieniemy, Assistant HC/OC | Washington Commanders

The former NFL running back has done an excellent job of calling plays in his first year doing so.

Eric Bieniemy, a long-time coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs, was heavily involved with game planning, but head coach Andy Reid has been their primary play-caller since he took over in 2013.

While the Commanders are not a winning team at this point, it’s hard to argue with his success in developing first-year starting QB Sam Howell.

Update: Sure, Howell was benched late this season, but his body of work would suggest he certainly improved this season.

But having to play behind one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines clearly caught up to Howell as did a much harder schedule. Even so, Bieniemy should be lauded for the job he did with Howell and others on offense this season.

Brian Callahan, OC | Cincinnati Bengals

A league source told us recently that we would be making a mistake not putting Brian Callahan on our list because of the job he has done developing QB Joe Burrow since the team drafted him in 2020.

Callahan, the son of legendary Cleveland Browns OL coach Bill Callahan, has had previous head coaching interviews, and his star has risen in league circles in recent years, sources said.

Bobby Slowik, OC | Houston Texans

He’s only 36 years old and in his first year of calling plays, but Bobby Slowik has caught the eye of personnel executives around the NFL.

What executives like is not only his background of coaching under 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, but his work with Texans rookie QB C.J. Stroud has been very noticeable.

Updated NFL Head Coaching List | Defensive Candidates

Dan Quinn, DC | Dallas Cowboys

The former Atlanta Falcons head coach, who is widely recognized by personnel executives as one of the top defensive minds around the NFL, has interviewed for at least three head coaching jobs around the league since becoming the Cowboys’ defensive chief in 2021.

The general belief in league circles is that Dan Quinn’s almost certain to be a head coach again, but it will be interesting to see who he hires to run his offense.

That’s typically the challenge for guys who come from the defensive side of the ball. Owners typically prefer head coaching candidates from offense, so the defensive coach has to prove he has an offensive staff that can generate points and develop a QB if need be.

Update: Quinn’s clearly the top choice of our deep list from coaches of the defensive side of the ball. He’ll once again receive serious consideration to become a head coach again in this year’s searches.

Raheem Morris, DC | Los Angeles Rams

He probably was too young when he was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach in 2009 (33 years old), but from talking to coaches who have worked with Raheem Morris with the Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons (his two most recent coaching stops), he’s a born leader and an excellent strategist.

MORE: Carolina Panthers Head Coach Rumors — Could Former Player Greg Olsen Be a Potential Candidate?

Morris, a two-time Super Bowl winner, is now 47 and has shown over the years that he’s more than ready to become a head coach again.

Update: I ran his name by a personnel source with a team that could be looking for a head coach over the next few seasons. The source said Morris, if they decide to look for a defensive coach, would be high on their list because of his performance with the Rams.

Lou Anarumo, DC | Cincinnati Bengals

Lou Anarumo wasn’t Zac Taylor’s first or even second choice to run his defense when he took over as head coach in 2019, sources said. But over time, he absolutely turned out to be the right choice.

From talking to other teams about Anarumo, they’ve been very impressed with his use of personnel, and he’s shown the ability over the past few years to get the most out of his players.

Anarumo was one of the finalists for the Arizona Cardinals head coaching job that eventually went to Jonathan Gannon earlier this year.

Update: Word around the league is that he’ll get more looks to be a head coach this time around. But as one league source said, it will be interesting to see what Anarumo’s offensive staff would look like since not much was known about his list from that side of the ball last year.

Aaron Glenn, DC | Detroit Lions

The former NFL defensive back got off to a slow start with the Lions as their defensive play-caller, but once the team returned from their Week 6 bye last season, Detroit’s defense really started to play with much more discipline.

Now, Aaron Glenn is widely recognized in personnel circles as one of the better defensive minds in the NFL. What some NFL personnel executives also like about him is he has some background in personnel as he scouted college and pro players for two seasons (2012 and 2013).

Update: There’s no question that Glenn will get some consideration to be a head coach this time around, considering the defensive improvement that has been made. And as one source said, he connects very well with his players.

Jerod Mayo, Linebackers Coach | New England Patriots

The former first-round pick of the team runs their defense along with fellow linebackers coach Steve Belichick.

Jerod Mayo, who interviewed for the Eagles’ head coaching job that went to Nick Sirianni in 2021, is a born leader. Word around Philadelphia after his interview was that he presented himself in a dynamic way and came off very well.

Update: He’s widely considered in league circles to be one of the top candidates to eventually replace Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. And from talking to league sources about Mayo recently, no one is questioning the job he’s done this season despite the team’s disappointing record.

The issues the team has are clearly on offense, and Mayo continues to be a rising star in league circles.

Brian Flores, DC | Minnesota Vikings

While he wound up being fired as the Miami Dolphins head coach after three seasons, Brian Flores is doing an excellent job with limited resources in his first year with the Vikings.

From talking to some coaches who have gone up against Minnesota this season, Flores has shown to be an excellent defensive strategist.

MORE: NFL Head Coach Rankings 2023

This time around, as was the case with the Dolphins, he’ll have to come up with a sound plan to develop an offense.

Update: What one personnel source said to us last week was that it’s hard to find a DC who has done more with less in the NFL this season. We both mentioned Patrick Graham as someone else who has had similar success.

Flores almost certainly will get consideration this time around, but as we wrote above in November, he’ll have to show that he has a good grasp of how to put together a championship offense.

Patrick Graham, DC | Las Vegas Raiders

Patrick Graham did a great job during his time as the Giants’ defensive coordinator for the two seasons he held the job. Some would say he’s done his best coaching job this season, considering he doesn’t have a lot of talent to work with at several key positions.

Graham, like many on this list, is highly qualified due to performance, but whether he gets serious consideration will depend largely on what type of offensive staff he puts together.

Steve Wilks, DC | San Francisco 49ers

From talking to multiple NFL sources about Steve Wilks, the word around the Panthers last season was that he did an excellent job of handling the challenges presented after he got promoted to interim head coach following Matt Rhule’s firing.

So Wilks, who didn’t exactly get a fair shot with the Cardinals (fired after just one season), could get some interest this time around, especially if the 49ers make a deep playoff run.

Update: From talking to sources close to the team, Panthers players really rallied around Wilks last season. One source said it was his leadership that was the top trait that he displayed after taking over for Rhule.

One 49ers source said he handles himself with class with every difficult challenge and has been one of their better assistant coaches this season.

Jim Schwartz, DC | Cleveland Browns

Word in coaching circles is that Jim Schwartz wants to be a head coach again. He has been one of the NFL’s best defensive coordinators for many years.

Schwartz, who won a Super Bowl in 2017 with the Eagles, already has the Browns’ defense in the top five in several key categories.

Update: What a job Schwartz has done this season. He took a defense that underachieved severely last season to one that is ranked highly in several major categories. In fact, you can make the case that he’s done one of the best coaching jobs from either side of the ball this season.

The key for him — as it is with most of the guys from defense — will be what their offensive staff will look like.

Teams that don’t have an established veteran QB will be looking for someone who has a plan on how to develop their young player at the position. Schwartz, like the other defensive guys, will have to have a list of proven coaches when it comes to quarterback development.

Jeff Ulbrich, DC | New York Jets

From talking to other teams who have gone up against the Jets, the fiery former NFL inside linebacker has become one of the top defensive minds in recent years.

Jeff Ulbrich has great leadership skills, but what he’ll have to prove, like so many defensive coaches, is that he’s capable of putting together a really strong offensive coaching staff.

Update: Don’t let the Jets record fool you. Ulbrich, from talking to sources familiar with him, will be a head coach — it’s just a matter of when not if.

Mike Macdonald, DC | Baltimore Ravens

Mike Macdonald, who was once a low-level defensive assistant with the team back in 2015, worked his way up the coaching staff over the years to DBs coach and then linebackers coach before leaving to run Michigan’s defense in 2021.

Macdonald was a surprise choice to return to the Ravens to replace veteran defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, considering he only ran Michigan’s defense for one season and was only 35 years old when he came back to Baltimore.

It might be a little early for Macdonald to become an NFL head coach, but his ability to game plan defensively can’t be underestimated. The team has one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Update: One personnel source from a team that could be making a change soon said that Macdonald has been an intriguing candidate because of his usage of defensive personnel, and from watching the Ravens’ defensive tape, they are fundamentally sound.

The source added that second-year S Kyle Hamilton’s breakout season and veteran OLB Jadeveon Clowney’s resurgence this season can’t be ignored when it comes to Macdonald’s performance this season.

Ejiro Evero, DC | Carolina Panthers

From talking to some of the teams that went against his defenses with the Panthers this season and the Broncos last year, Ejiro Evero is clearly one of the better defensive scheme designers. From talking to Panthers sources, he has made a very positive impression from the day he got there.

Antonio Pierce, Interim HC | Las Vegas Raiders

While they’ve been eliminated from playoff contention, Antonio Pierce has the buy-in from his players, which is something that former head coach Josh McDaniels clearly couldn’t achieve during his nearly two seasons with the team.

From talking to sources around the team and some agents who have players with the Raiders, it’s clear that Pierce had that buy-in very quickly.

MORE: 7 Candidates To Replace Josh McDaniels 

Pierce, a former NFL player and Super Bowl winner, knew that things would have to change after he took over for McDaniels. He got the players to play more freely and not to worry about being criticized for every little thing.

Pierce will get an interview to be the permanent head coach, but other teams should take notice of the job he did this season.

Updated NFL Head Coaching List | Other Candidates

Jim Harbaugh, Head Coach | University of Michigan

He’s in the midst of turmoil for accusations of sign-stealing against his program, but some NFL teams have had their eyes on him for years since he left the 49ers after the 2014 season.

Jim Harbaugh once was a Raiders assistant coach for two seasons (QBs) over 20 years ago, but he had a good relationship with then-owner Al Davis, a league source said. His son, Mark Davis, who has been the owner since 2011, had significant interest in Harbaugh back in 2015, but Harbaugh chose to coach at his Alma Mater.

Update: From talking to coaching and league sources who have known Harbaugh over the years, they continue to say he will eventually go back to the NFL. Word around the league is there will be interest in him come next week should he not sign an extension with Michigan.

Harbaugh has won everywhere he has coached (University of San Diego, Stanford, 49ers, and Michigan), so any team that has interest in him knows he’s capable of turning any situation around.

Raymond Ventrone, Assistant HC/Special Teams Coordinator | Cleveland Browns

Known as one of the top special teams players in the NFL for his career, which spanned 10 seasons, Raymond “Bubba” Ventrone has now become known in coaching circles as one of the best special teams coordinators.

From talking to more than one coach who has worked with him over the years, Ventrone has great command and has an outstanding presence, which is why his name came up with more than one NFL source since we wrote our piece back in November.

Being that the Browns have already clinched a playoff spot, Ventrone should garner more attention as teams put together their head coaching candidate lists.

Rich Bisaccia, Assistant HC/Special Teams Coordinator | Green Bay Packers

Rich Bisaccia was Las Vegas’ interim head coach after Jon Gruden was fired during the 2021 season and was highly thought of inside the Raiders building, sources said, for keeping the team together despite all of the chaos that the team went through that season.

They shockingly made the playoffs as a Wild Card, which was quite an achievement under the circumstances.

From talking to coaches who have worked with Bisaccia over the years, they say he’s a born leader and has great command, which means players buy in with what he’s asking them to do.

However, John Harbaugh is the only NFL head coach who was an NFL special teams coach previously, so Bisaccia will have an uphill battle to become a head coach.

Update: There’s really no valid reason why he shouldn’t get requests for interviews. Sure, Bisacccia will have to put together a solid coordinator list to get serious consideration, but again, he has really good leadership skills, which is extremely important when it comes to being a quality head coach at any level.

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