NFL Head Coaching Candidates: 25 Assistants Who Could Land Top Jobs in 2024, Including Ben Johnson, Mike Macdonald, and Dan Quinn

Who will be the top NFL head coaching candidates in 2024? Here are 25 coordinators and assistants to keep an eye on as the season winds down.

Over the last five offseasons, an average of seven NFL head coaching jobs have opened up each year. The 2023 offseason was an outlier, with only five top gigs becoming available, but we know there will always be several vacancies following Black Monday.

The 2024 offseason will bring more change and perhaps more new head coaches than we’ve seen in recent memory. The Las Vegas Raiders, Carolina Panthers, and Los Angeles Chargers have already parted ways with Josh McDaniels, Frank Reich, and Brandon Staley, respectively, and more coaches will be let go in the coming days.

Which assistants will be in line to step into those head coaching jobs? Let’s run through the top options that might be available to HC-needy teams in 2024. While Jim Harbaugh or other college coaches could be in line to take an NFL head coaching job next season, we’ll focus on coordinators currently in the league, separated by which side of the ball they coach.

2024 NFL Head Coaching Candidates | Offensive Coordinators

Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions

Johnson could’ve been a head coach last offseason had he wanted to be, but the Lions’ play-caller opted to stick in Detroit for one more year. After helping the Lions win their first division title, Johnson should be the No. 1 head coaching candidate for any team with a vacancy.

MORE: 2024 NFL GM Candidates

While his agent disputed a report suggesting he wants a $15 million salary, Johnson has immense leverage in this hiring circuit. This offseason’s crop of offensive-minded candidates isn’t as strong as in years past, and Johnson’s work with Jared Goff, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and the rest of Detroit’s talented offense is an excellent resume.

Bobby Slowik, Houston Texans

While Slowik has only one year of play-calling experience under his belt, it’s hard to argue with results. The Texans’ OC brought the Kyle Shanahan offense to Houston, helping guide C.J. Stroud to what could be an Offensive Rookie of the Year-winning campaign.

Given how fellow Shanahan acolytes DeMeco Ryans (Slowik’s boss) and Mike McDaniel have worked out as head coaches, Slowik will be targeted.

Brian Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles

Although the Eagles haven’t been quite as efficient offensively this season as in 2022, Philadelphia still ranks sixth in EPA per play. Johnson, who was the Eagles’ QBs coach before replacing Shane Steichen this year as offensive coordinator, deserves credit for helping transform Jalen Hurts from a second-round lottery ticket into a perennial MVP candidate and one of the highest-paid players in the NFL.

Todd Monken, Baltimore Ravens

Monken probably should’ve received head coaching interest after turning a Jameis Winston/Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Bucs offense into the 12th-most efficient unit in the NFL five years ago. Since then, he’s won two NCAA titles as Georgia’s OC and returned to the pros to coach Lamar Jackson, 2023’s presumptive NFL MVP.

His age (57) will work against him, but Monken would bring the schematic flexibility that teams strive to attain, and he’s consistently earned rave reviews from his players.

Frank Smith, Miami Dolphins

The coach with the most boring name in the NFL is helping craft one of the league’s most exciting offenses. Smith doesn’t call plays for the Dolphins, but that shouldn’t stop him from receiving interest from around the NFL following two years of assisting McDaniel. Remember, McDaniel didn’t call plays for the 49ers before he became a head coach, either.

Brian Callahan, Cincinnati Bengals

Callahan didn’t get to coach Joe Burrow for an entire season in 2023, but the Bengals OC’s work with backup QB Jake Browning should have him back on the head-coaching circuit.

After interviewing with the Broncos, Colts, and Cardinals over the past two years, Callahan can sell interested teams on the regular midseason adjustments Cincinnati’s staff has made.

Drew Petzing, Arizona Cardinals

Although Petzing is in his first season as an offensive play-caller, he’s already demonstrated enough creativity to get head-coaching looks in 2024. A former Browns QBs coach, Petzing has worked through multiple quarterbacks in Arizona this season, smoothly managed Kyler Murray’s return, and helped turn second-year TE Trey McBride into an offensive force.

Shane Waldron, Seattle Seahawks

While the Seahawks’ offense has taken a step back in 2023, they’re still an above-average unit with Geno Smith under center. That would have been an incredible statement heading into last season when Waldron spearheaded Smith’s breakout campaign. Waldron’s ties to Sean McVay won’t hurt his potential candidacy, either.

Dave Canales, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As Seattle’s QBs coach in 2022, Canales was also essential to Smith’s 30-TD season, and his efforts landed him an offensive play-calling role with the Buccaneers.

All he’s done is help revitalize another quarterback’s career, pushing Baker Mayfield to the 16th-best QBR in the league. Pete Carroll, Canales’ mentor for nearly two decades, will surely vouch for the 42-year-old.

Eric Bieniemy, Washington Commanders

Having interviewed 15 times for head coaching positions since becoming the Chiefs’ OC in 2018, Bieniemy departed Kansas City for Washington over the 2023 offseason. Sam Howell had his moments under Bieniemy’s tutelage but looked overwhelmed for much of his de facto rookie season before being benched.

MORE: NFL Offense Rankings 2023

The Commanders will likely clean house after Week 18, firing head coach Ron Rivera and his staff. Bieniemy will probably be part of that purge and may need to spend another season as a play-caller before landing a head coaching position.

Mike Kafka, New York Giants

Things can change quickly in the NFL. Look no further than Kafka, who interviewed for four of the five HC openings in 2023 but now is tied to a Giants offensive debacle. No one expected Kafka to turn Tommy DeVito or Tyrod Taylor into an All-Pro, but New York’s offense struggled even before Daniel Jones went down with a season-ending injury.

It might be difficult for an ownership group to sell its fanbase on the idea of hiring the offensive play-caller for this version of the Giants.

Adam Stenavich, Green Bay Packers

If Jordan Love and the Packers continue their turnaround and sneak into the playoffs, Stenavich will undoubtedly draw attention around the league. He doesn’t call plays in Green Bay, but as the club’s former OL coach, Stenavich consistently developed mid and late-round picks into starting-caliber linemen.

Stenavich is also a former undrafted free agent who spent time on practice squads and even played in NFL Europe but never appeared in an NFL game, perhaps giving him the perspective to better relate with current players than other head coaching candidates.

2024 NFL Head Coaching Candidates | Defensive Coordinators

Mike Macdonald, Baltimore Ravens

Few NFL coordinators have made as much impact as Macdonald this season. The Ravens rank first in points per drive (1.35) and second in yards per play (4.6) despite battling injuries to key contributors like CB Marlon Humphrey, S Marcus Williams, and EDGE Odafe Oweh. They’re leading the league in sacks (57) with Jadeveon Clowney as their top edge rusher.

Between Baltimore’s statistical success, his experience under the Harbaugh brothers, and his willingness to try anything schematically, Macdonald might be the perfect head coaching candidate.

Dan Quinn, Dallas Cowboys

Quinn interviewed with the Cardinals, Colts, and Broncos last offseason and probably had a decent chance at landing one of those jobs had the Cowboys not bumped his salary to convince him to stay. Dallas is still dominant on defense, and Quinn is the only coach on this list who’s led a team to a Super Bowl appearance.

Raheem Morris, Los Angeles Rams

Morris has done it all. He became one of the NFL’s youngest head coaches of all time when he took over the Buccaneers at 32 years old. He coached on the offensive side of the ball as the Falcons’ passing game coordinator from 2015-19 and spent five seasons at the collegiate level.

MORE: Which Teams Might Fire Their Head Coach This Year?

Now, Morris is coordinating a relatively anonymous Rams defense — and somehow has them in the middle of the pack in most defensive metrics. He’s more than earned a second full-time HC opportunity.

Brian Flores, Minnesota Vikings

No defense has changed more since 2022 than the Vikings’, and that’s entirely due to Flores, who’s blitzing more than any team in the NFL but also rushing just three at a higher clip than any club. He’s making the pieces work, and Minnesota is up to eighth in defensive DVOA. Flores’ management style drew criticism during his time as the Dolphins’ HC, but he may have softened over the past two years.

Aaron Glenn, Detroit Lions

Glenn interviewed with the Cardinals and Colts during the last hiring cycle and should draw interest again in 2024. While Detroit’s defense has regressed since its early season dominance, the unit plays with an attitude that speaks well of Glenn’s coaching.

Given how much team success the Lions have enjoyed in 2023, they might lose both coordinators to head coaching jobs à la the 2022 Eagles.

Ejiro Evero, Carolina Panthers

Evero is an excellent defensive coordinator, but he needs to get better at choosing his dance partners. Part of the Nathaniel Hackett debacle in Denver in 2022, Evero is now playing out the string for the Frank Reich-less Panthers.

After interviewing for every opening on last year’s circuit, Evero’s stock shouldn’t be tainted by Carolina’s disastrous campaign. If he’s not a head coach in 2024, Evero seems like a lock to get a top job by 2025.

Patrick Graham, Las Vegas Raiders

Graham survived Josh McDaniels’ midseason firing; in fact, he’s done more than survive. The Raiders defense, which ranked 26th in efficiency before McDaniels was canned, is third since he was let go after Week 8. Graham interviewed for the Jets job in 2021 and the Vikings and Giants’ gigs in 2022.

Steve Wilks, San Francisco 49ers

Wilks took over as Carolina’s interim head coach early in the 2022 campaign and nearly led the club to playoffs, posting a 6-6 mark down the stretch. A finalist for the Panthers’ full-time gig, Wilks instead kept San Francisco’s defense at an elite level this season. He never received a fair chance with the Cardinals in 2018, but Wilks deserves one now.

Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots

Although he was once viewed as the Patriots’ head coach in waiting, Mayo’s future in New England has presumably been disrupted by the club’s 2023 struggles. Bill Belichick appears increasingly likely to be fired after the season, but it’s unclear if Mayo remains a potential successor or will need to take interviews elsewhere.

Jim Schwartz, Cleveland Browns

Schwartz could hardly have reclaimed an NFL DC seat with more authority this season. The Browns’ defense ranks first in yards allowed per game (266.6) and opponent scoring rate (23.8%). Myles Garrett is a DPOY candidate, and Cleveland’s defense has helped the club to an 11-5 record despite ongoing offensive issues.

MORE: NFL Defense Rankings 2023

Schwartz may be in that bucket of play-callers that seems destined to be a coordinator for life, especially given that he’s already received one head coaching opportunity (Lions, 2009-13), but he will at least be in the 2024 mix.

Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos

Listing Joseph as a head coaching candidate would have been laughable earlier this season when the Broncos were fresh off allowing 70 points to the Dolphins, but Denver’s defense turned things around at midseason, helping them back into playoff contention before a late-campaign swoon.

A familiar face with the Broncos, Joseph was fired after just two seasons (2017-18) in Denver during his first head coaching opportunity but could receive another shot.

Teryl Austin, Pittsburgh Steelers

Austin has interviewed for 11 head coaching positions during his NFL career, but most of those meetings took place nearly a decade ago. He’s had to work his way back up the ranks and is now in charge of a Steelers defense that kept Pittsburgh in games and the playoff race. If a rival club wants a dose of Mike Tomlin’s magic, Austin might be their best bet.

Steve Spagnuolo, Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes used to have to overcome a poor Chiefs defense, but now that Spagnuolo has taken a run of successful draft picks and molded an elite unit, K.C.’s defense is starting to carry the team. Spagnuolo is behind that effort, but his age (64) and the lifetime DC label will hinder his head coaching chances.

Spagnuolo’s last full-time HC opportunity, a 2009-11 run with the St. Louis Rams, yielded mixed results, but he’s built an impressive resume since then.

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