Top NFL head coach candidates to look out for in 2022

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 A.J. Schulte 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 aren’t any current openings, but give it about six weeks into the season, and there will probably be at least one team needing a new head coach moving into 2022.

NFL head coach candidates to consider in 2022 | NFL ranks

There are a ton of names on the list of candidates to consider in the following hiring cycle. A few of these names have been around for years now. Some already had one chance as head coach. When will these deserving names get their next opportunities?

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.

Sources told PFN’s own Benjamin Allbright that Bieniemy is a “titleholder” that doesn’t really have much true input on the Chiefs’ impressive offense. But that didn’t seem to bother the Bears when they hired Matt Nagy. Nagy was a quarterbacks coach for three seasons, then Reid’s offensive coordinator for two seasons before the Bears snatched him up.

Heck, Zac Taylor spent just a single season as a quarterbacks coach in the NFL before securing the Bengals’ head coaching job.

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.

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 a disciplined and impressive defense to complement a young signal-caller.

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. However, they’ve still produced excellent defensive campaigns. Defensive performances are difficult to replicate year to year, and the consistency his defenses show deserves recognition.

Dennis Allen

Allen has already been a head coach. Yet, if we remember the tragic roster the Raiders had at the time, there really wasn’t anything Allen could do. Sheesh, Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin trotted out as starting at quarterbacks in the NFL during that time.

Allen’s return to New Orleans was just what the doctor ordered. The Saints finally began to spend resources on the defensive side of the ball, and Allen took them from incredible lows to what they are now. In 2020, the Saints finished second in defensive efficiency. They did that despite their top cornerback, Marshon Lattimore, having a down year.

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.

Joe Brady

Striking while the iron is hot is often as important as having a 20-year résumé of success. Brady exploded onto the scene as the LSU Tigers passing game coordinator in 2019, taking the Joe Burrow-led Tigers offense to historic heights through the air. His use of empty sets made its way to the Cincinnati Bengals, where Burrow still flourishes while operating with five wide.

Teddy Bridgewater is a fine quarterback in the grand scheme, but he’s a low-end starter at the end of the day. Despite the lack of upside Bridgewater brought to the passing game, the first-year offensive coordinator took Carolina from the 30th-ranked offensive team in terms of efficiency to 20th. He did that without the services of Christian McCaffrey, too.

If Brady carries Sam Darnold out of the flaming building of an Adam Gase-coached team, he will be a head coach in 2022.

Brian Daboll

Brian Daboll is what I envision in a football coach. The bald head, gray beard, and a physique that tells me he spends all of his time at his desk watching film or fine-tuning offensive schematics. Lovie Smith might have worked out at Illinois if he’d have eaten a few more Twinkies at his desk and done less cardio.

In all seriousness, though, Daboll should be one of the top NFL head coach candidates during the next hiring cycle. If Josh Allen and the Bills offense takes another step forward in 2021, it would be difficult to envision a scenario where he doesn’t end up a head coach on a team with a young quarterback.

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

Eberflus should be viewed as one of the top head coach candidates heading into 2021. 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 28 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.

Josh McDaniels

Does Josh McDaniels deserve another shot at being one of the NFL head coach candidates every offseason? Maybe, maybe not. He failed as a coach in Denver. That was nobody’s fault but his own. Much like we saw with Matt Patricia, he came in wielding a big stick. He had roster control, and he turned that roster inside out before his firing after starting 3-9 in 2010. But he was incredibly young and probably compensating for that youth.

Leaving the Colts at the altar was an even worse look. It worked out for them in the long run, so karma worked itself out there. Still, McDaniels rumors remained the next offseason. If he can take this Patriots offense and make it formidable with Cam Newton, no receivers, and 75 tight ends, there’s a good chance he’s again one of the top candidates in the 2022 cycle.

Patrick Graham

Graham is a name to watch going forward, but he’s relatively new as one of the NFL head coach candidates in 2021. He’s still just 42 years old, and he’s 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 trachings.

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NFL head coach candidates to consider in 2022 | College ranks

The NFL head coach carousel is no stranger from 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 is 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 must feel confident in his potential future in the NFL as one of the top head coach candidates. Otherwise, he couldn’t have turned down that offer. He’s established himself as one of the top names over the past few years. That doesn’t seem to fade at all year to year. He’s secure in Ames, so he might as well hold out for what he deems a better opportunity at the next level.

Lincoln Riley

Riley’s name will come up as long as his quarterbacks continue to be high NFL Draft picks and pump out Heisman-worthy performances. Riley’s offense is his calling card. However, he’s taken a good Big 12 team and made them into a juggernaut.

He may not want to leave Norman, Oklahoma, though. He has complete control with the Sooners and is making $45 million over his six-year deal. He’s been blunt about his unwillingness at this time to leave college football.

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Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch

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