Top NFL head coach candidates to look out for in 2022

The top NFL head coach candidates for the next cycle all have the opportunity to showcase their individual talents in the 2022 season.

The list of head coaching candidates in the NFL for the 2022 hiring cycle looks eerily similar to the 2021 list. Seven NFL teams hired new head coaches after last season. Interestingly enough, of the 22 candidates PFN wrote about heading into 2021, only four eventually found jobs at the NFL level. Urban Meyer, David Culley, and Dan “Kneecaps” Campbell were all surprises.

There is already one job opening. After a season full of turmoil in Jacksonville, Shad Khan finally pulled the rug out from under Urban Meyer. It was a bit poetic. The news came right after midnight as if the 12th bell ringing lifted their curse. There is little doubt in my mind that Meyer will go down as the single worst NFL head coach of all time.

Hopefully, nobody on this list gives him a run for his money.

NFL head coach candidates to consider in 2022 | NFL ranks

There are several names on the list of candidates to consider in the following hiring cycle. Be sure to follow our NFL head coach tracker for the latest news and rumors in the 2022 cycle.

Eric Bieniemy

The Eric Bieniemy hiring circus feels like Grey’s Anatomy. It was exciting when it started. Now, it doesn’t benefit anyone. His head coach in Kansas City, Andy Reid, has a coaching tree with many long branches. Bieniemy deserves a shot to be the next branch.

There’s been much ado about Bieniemy’s role within the Chiefs’ offense, but that doesn’t matter much when it comes to being a head coach. Most of the great NFL coaches have a specialty, that is true. Still, few are out actually calling plays. Reid’s always been the architect of his offense.

Bieniemy’s past is well-documented at this point. Incidents from 20 years ago should have little bearing on his employment in 2021, not to mention the fact Vance Joseph was along for that questionable Colorado ride with Bieniemy. So, it has to come down to the interviews, right?

That’s at least what Doug Gottlieb says he’s heard from NFL front offices:

Every guy I talked to about Bieniemy was like, ‘he was good and I can see him becoming a head coach, it’s just for us there wasn’t a lot of detail, and I think it might be because he’s doing too many interviews while still having his other job.’

Hopefully, this clears itself up. We’ll either get a definitive answer, or he’s hired as a head coach in the next cycle.

Josh McDaniels

Josh McDaniels has not handled being (or imminently becoming) a head coach very well in his past. As famed Saturday Night Live Dr. Weknowdis would say, “we know this.”

But a lot of time has passed since those transgressions, and what McDaniels has done with the Patriots’ offense devoid of high-end skill-position talent and a rookie quarterback has been nothing short of outstanding.

He failed as a coach in Denver. But maybe that could be chalked up as being young and arrogant. We saw the same thing happen with Matt Patricia in Detroit. The Bill Belichick protégés trying to carry the same stick Belichick can — and with abject disaster as a result. Unfortunately for McDaniels, that wasn’t even the worst of it.

Leaving the Colts at the altar was an even worse look. The Frank Reich hiring turned out to be a blessing in disguise, but it didn’t slow down the McDaniels rumors one bit. If the Patriots continue to have strong offensive showings down the stretch, it’s hard to imagine a team like the Bears or Jaguars not considering him given his success with Mac Jones and the skeleton crew at receiver.

Don “Wink” Martindale

These days, NFL head coach candidates boast their ability to work with the young franchise quarterback. Hiring Don Martindale would be about building an aggressive and disciplined defensive unit. However, that’s not the only upside.

Nobody — and I mean this from the bottom of my heart — is cooler to watch on the sideline. It’s zero surprise that the man with the Ravens vest, gold chain, and flowing hair from a baseball cap at 58 years old is the son of a famous game show host.

The Baltimore Ravens might be the class of the entire league from a front office perspective. Martindale’s defenses aren’t the star-studded names we’ve gotten used to seeing in black and purple. But in each season until 2021, one in which the Ravens have been absolutely ravaged by injury, his defenses were still in the top 10 in DVOA.

Dennis Allen

Speaking of consistent defenses, Dennis Allen, everybody! Allen has already been a head coach. However, we shan’t judge him too harshly for the absolute tragedy that was the Raiders’ roster in his time there. Seriously, at one point, he had to start Matt McGloin IN SIX NFL GAMES!

As advanced efficiency metrics become more mainstream, we’ve found that defensive performance is incredibly difficult to sustain year over year. However, Allen took the Saints from the laundry room to the penthouse in one year and kept it going.

No defense in the league has been more consistent, and no secondary unit is more symbiotic than Allen’s secondaries. Heck, in 2020, his defense finished second in DVOA and fourth in EPA/play despite starting cornerback Marshon Lattimore having a down season.

Allen interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles as one of the NFL’s top head coach candidates of the offseason but eventually lost out to Nick Sirianni.

Brian Daboll

Brian Daboll’s stock has seemingly dropped a bit during the 2021 NFL season. The Bills struggle to run the football with anybody but their 240-pound moose of a quarterback. And said quarterback isn’t performing to the MVP level he had a season ago.

Nonetheless, we know what we saw with Daboll. We saw a coordinator who did everything to carry a quarterback with blunt tools to the blacksmith for thorough sharpening. Now, when he turns it on as he did late in the game against the Buccaneers, Josh Allen can be as sharp as a witcher’s silver blade.

Daboll hails from the dreaded Bill Belichick coaching tree — still, he’s been long removed from the tutelage of the “great one.” He was around for the first display of dynastic potential in the early 2000s when the Patriots won their first three Super Bowls. Any team looking to develop a young quarterback should consider Daboll next offseason.

Matt Eberflus

Matt Eberflus should be viewed as one of the top head coach candidates heading into 2022. The Colts hired away Eberflus from the Cowboys after the 2017 season. Indianapolis’ defense in 2017 ranked 27th in efficiency. Since then, they’ve landed in the top 10 two out of the past three seasons under Eberflus. How has Dallas’ defense looked the past two years?

Eberflus has shown the ability to adapt his scheme for the roster around him. At 51 years old, it’s soon time for him to take the next step. Eberflus has coached for my entire lifetime of 29 years. He began as a student assistant coach for Toledo in 1992. Eberflus had long stints there and at Missouri. He was then briefly employed by the Browns for two seasons in 2009 and 2010. He was with the Cowboys from 2011 until 2018, when he got his first gig as a defensive coordinator at the NFL level.

The crazy thing about Eberflus as a coach is he’s never failed down. He went from college coordinator to NFL linebacker coach, but that hardly seems like a demotion. He’s also been outrageously stable, only calling five spots home in his nearly 30 seasons coaching. That is unheard of in the coaching world.

His 2021 defensive performance might be his best yet. Despite seeing diminishing returns from Xavier Rhodes and losing both starting safeties (something that not many give enough credence to), he’s coached this team to overcome the rough back end. They are infinitely aggressive, and they have the personnel to take chances and try to “Peanut Punch” every ball in play.

Patrick Graham

Patrick Graham is a name to watch going forward, but he’s relatively new as one of the NFL head coach candidates for 2022. He’s still just 42 years old and going into his third season as a defensive coordinator. He’s also the assistant head coach for the Giants. The Giants’ defense saw significant improvements from 2019 to 2020 under Graham’s tutelage.

Graham’s defense struggled in 2021, but that has little to do with his abilities or inabilities as a coach. Maybe we can give some blame to Graham for not being able to create pressure despite not having great pass rushers, but what I will say is that the defense improved as the season progressed.

Graham may be young, but he’s coached for 20 years now, starting at Wagner in 2002. He also comes from the large, yet disturbingly unsuccessful Belichick coaching tree. But his time with the Patriots came to an end in 2015, so he’s seen how other organizations and coaches handle things.

Leslie Frazier

Leslie Frazier has been coaching football a long time. He’s also been an NFL head coach before, albeit unsuccessfully in Minnesota from 2011-2013. However, in 2012, he won 10 games with Christian Ponder playing quarterback. Sure, he also had Adrian Pederson, who ran for just shy of 2,100 yards, but that’s beside the point. Ponder was playing quarterback!

The Bills’ defense is undeniably talented, but Frazier has been the architect of that defense, and they were on a torrent pace early in the season. They should still be stingy down the stretch, despite losing All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White.

Dan Quinn

What Dan Quinn has done with the Cowboys’ defense has been nothing short of a miracle. Dallas currently ranks second in weighted DVOA after 14 weeks. One year ago, they finished with the 20th-ranked defense, and it felt so much worse than that.

But the defensive turnaround on paper isn’t the most impressive part of Quinn’s revitalization. No, he’s not completely ditched his single-high Seattle roots, but he’s evolved immensely in a short time from a schematic standpoint.

He’s having a ton of fun playing with Dallas’ versatile safety group. And now that Micah Parsons, Tank Lawrence, and Randy Gregory are all on the field together, he’s already shown through one game that he’s willing and able to reach deep in his bag of pressure packages.

However, he also feels at home as a coordinator. It’ll be interesting to see if he wants to take the leap into being a head ball coach again after just one year off.

Teryl Austin

Teryl Austin is no stranger to the NFL head coaching cycle — or the facade put on by NFL organizations trying to meander through the hiring gates of the Rooney Rule. Austin has often interviewed for head coaching jobs in the NFL, but he’s been open about his experience, claiming he felt only a few were legitimate interviews.

Austin’s stints as a defensive coordinator didn’t go well, but as we need to be reminded, being a good coordinator has absolutely no bearing on one’s ability to be a head coach. They are completely different jobs.

What I will say is Austin has coached up a talented Steelers secondary in his time. We saw both Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson get paid for their production in the Steelers’ defensive backfield during the offseason. We’ve also seen a career resurgence from Joe Haden and the surprise development of Terrell Edmunds during his time there.

Other NFL head coach candidates to consider in 2022

  • Byron Leftwich
  • Nathaniel Hackett
  • Todd Bowles
  • Raheem Morris

NFL head coach candidates to consider in 2022 | College ranks

The NFL head coach carousel is no stranger to trying to poach palpable coaching talent from college. Who might be the next college coach to make the leap to the pros?

Matt Campbell

When I heard rumors that Matt Campbell turned down an eight-year, $68.5 million deal to become the Detroit Lions head coach, all I could do was shake my head. Campbell instead chose to remain at a mid-tier Big 12 school. Dennis Dodd, who reported this, even said the Lions had offered him full control.

What an unbelievable “no” that was.

Campbell is an enigma. He doesn’t have an agent, and despite being a candidate for almost every college coaching vacancy, there’s never even a whiff that he may actually take one of these jobs. If he continues to have success in Ames, Iowa, of all places, he’ll continue to have his hat thrown in the ring by media. For now, it seems he’ll lurk in the shadows and take the opportunity he best sees fit.

But as we just saw with another former college coach that turned pro, maybe control is more important to Campbell. He doesn’t necessarily seem the type, but we’ll have to wait and see, won’t we?

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