With only one week left in the NFL regular season, it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2024 head coaching cycle. There are plenty of intriguing names that NFL GMs will be looking to interview after the season.
So far there have been 3 head coaches fired in-season (Frank Reich, Josh McDaniels and Brandon Stanley). You can expect about 4-5 more coaches who will be fired after the season. Let’s take a look at 5 potential NFL head coaches who will get plenty of interest to fill these vacancies.
Jim Harbaugh (Michigan HC)
The last thing on Jim Harbaugh’s mind right now is the NFL. The Michigan Wolverines are coming off a thrilling overtime victory over the Crimson Tide in the Rose Bowl. All the focus will now be on the Washington Huskies who Michigan will play Monday night for the National Championship. This however won’t stop the rumors of Harbaugh bolting to the NFL after the season is over.
For the most part, Harbaugh has done little to squash the NFL rumors when asked. He sticks to his script of one game at a time and doesn’t offer much insight into what could happen next. It’s smart for him to do this as his team seeks its first championship since 1997. If the Wolverines finish the job expect the rumors to intensify as Harbaugh can go out on top.
Harbaugh recently added fuel to the fire when he hired agent Don Yee. Yee is a well-known agent who has worked with Sean Payton and former Wolverine Tom Brady. There is also the sign-stealing scandal that could draw more penalties for the Michigan football program this offseason. If Harbaugh is indeed interested in the NFL you can expect every team with a vacancy to be interested.
Mike Macdonald (Ravens DC)
Speaking of Michigan. Former Wolverines DC Mike Macdonald is quickly becoming a hot name on the coaching scene. Macdonald has built a defensive juggernaut in Baltimore and the 36-year-old will have plenty of suitors this offseason.
The Ravens defense currently ranks 1st in the NFL in points allowed holding opponents to just 16.4 points per game. They are also coming over impressive defensive performances against two high-powered offenses. Baltimore held both the 49ers and Dolphins to just 19 points both coming in blowouts. The Ravens also lead the NFL in sacks with a league-high 54.
There is no doubt the Ravens are loaded with defensive talent but Macdonald has tailored opponent game plans to perfection. Ultimately it will come down to how GMs perceive hiring defensive coaches in today’s NFL. The track record isn’t great but if Macdonald brings in the right OC he could be successful for many years.
Bobby Slowik (Texans OC)
Slowik is another name that many will be interested in this offseason. The Texans offensive coordinator has done wonders for rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud in his first year in Houston. Slowik comes from San Francisco where he worked as passing game coordinator for Kyle Shanahan. He runs a similar west coast style offense that the 49ers run with some variations.
Slowik also spent 3 years working as an analyst at PFF which is intriguing, to say the least. PFF is the go-to for NFL player grades and analytics. It’s something that we don’t see often for an NFL coach but learning the numbers game has many benefits.
If you’re looking for a possible destination for Slowik look no further than Washington. Slowik spent his first three years coaching in Washington as a defensive assistant under Mike Shanahan. The Commanders also recently hired Eugene Shen to oversee their analytics department. Slowik’s unique background will likely be intriguing for Shen and owner Josh Harris who is big on analytics.
Ben Johnson (Lions OC)
Ben Johnson is no doubt the name to watch for the upcoming coaching cycle. The Lions OC was close to becoming a head coach last offseason but decided to stay in Detroit. Johnson is a big reason the Lions were able to capture their first-ever NFC North title. He will be able to pick and choose where he wants to go next if he decides to make the jump.
The Lions are currently third in the NFL in yards per game at 395.7 and are averaging 26.9 points per game. Johnson has also helped resurrect the career of Jared Goff as the former #1 pick has excelled in this offense. It is believed by many that Johnson will decide to take the next step this offseason and he won’t be cheap. Whether or not he is head coaching material remains to be seen but in today’s NFL it’s all about offense and Johnson is an offensive guru.
Wild Card – Brian Griese (49ers Quarterbacks Coach)
Finally, there is Brian Griese. Griese is a bit of a wild card as a coaching candidate but deserves a closer look. He is currently the quarterbacks coach for San Francisco and has been there since 2022. You can’t deny the role Griese has had in Brock Purdy‘s success. Purdy was Mr. Irrelovant in the 2022 draft and is now in contention for the MVP.
Before he came to the 49ers, Griese was working at ESPN as an analyst. It was considered an odd move at the time but Kyle Shanahan has a history with Griese going back to their time in Tampa. It was an out-of-the-box move that has paid off for Shanahan and the 49ers.
Taking a chance on Griese will be risky with his lack of coaching experience but it could offer big returns. Just look at what Mike McDaniel has done in Miami. This move was also criticized at the time but now he is considered one of the league’s best.