Well, the regular season is over. The draft order and season opponents have been finalized, and the playoffs are about to begin. It's an exciting time, unless you're a head coach of a team that missed the playoffs. Today is the scariest day of the year, because this is the day that teams who want to turn around begin to work. So I'm matching each coaching vacancy to its perfect fit.
Denver Broncos: Kyle Shanahan
Following the sad retirement of Gary Kubiak, the Broncos are left with a bigger hole than any hole Donald Stephenson ever made for us. Kube will be difficult to replace, but the replacement should come as no surprise. The young, smart offensive mind will be the perfect coach to develop young QB Trevor Siemian and make the bold play calls we need. He's also in the Broncos family: his father is Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Shanahan. This one was almost too easy for me, but look out for Jim Bob Cooter-he might make a surprise pass at the vacancy.
Buffalo Bills: Vance Joseph
The Bills are clearly an up-and-coming defensive team. Who better to lead them than an up-and-coming defensive mind? With the right coach, the Zach Brown Band will become a force to be reckoned with. Just look at what he did in Miami. It is possible, however, that an offensive coach will be hired. In that case, look for Anthony Lynn to get promoted and Vance Joseph to be hired as DC.
San Francisco 49ers: Rex Ryan
This organization is known for hiring loose-cannon coaches. First Harbaugh, then Kelly, and now Ryan. None of these guys have really gotten their due respect, in my opinion, but this looks like a prime opportunity to turn around the fates of both San Francisco and the Ryan family. Rex will build a great staff, starting with his equally controversial brother Rob, and a good team. At No. 2, DeShone Kizer should still be available, and he's the ideal Ryan quarterback: tall, athletic, cannon arm, runs around. Kaepernick's seen his last days here, and the rebuild should be interesting.
Los Angeles Rams: Ron Rivera
Ron Rivera has been a Panther for a long time now, but I think the right opportunity would get him to leave. LA may be just that opportunity. A young, talented team featuring Jared Goff and Todd Gurley on offense and Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald on defense, this is a perfect pool of players to work with. All the team needs is the right coach, and I think they'll target Riverboat Ron. If not, Teryl Austin is an interesting possibility.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Tom Coughlin
Another easy pick. Coughlin, who has already interviewed for the job, coached the Jaguars to their impressive playoff run back in the day. He did wonders with Eli Manning and the Giants, coaching them to two Super Bowl championships and training an impressive successor, Ben McAdoo. Just think of what might happen when you give him the dynamic duo of Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson, plus a young, star-studded D. He'll also bring in a fantastic staff. This may be the hire of the year.
San Diego Chargers: Darrell Bevell
They'll probably hire Josh McDaniels. Still, this is about their perfect fit, not who they actually get. (Besides, he may actually be more likely than McDaniels, as the Chargers saw first-hand what a crappy job he did in Denver). Bevell will be a good choice to develop receiving talents Dontrelle Inman and Hunter Henry. The Seahawks scheme is a good fit for the Chargers, and he may help scope out a quality young QB in the Russell Wilson mode to train under Rivers.
Houston Texans: Chip Kelly
If the Texans lose this next playoff game, Bill O'Brien's gone. With the interesting staff-building going on right now, he could sign on somewhere as an offensive coordinator. So what's next? Enter Chip Kelly. The Kelly offense is fast-paced, high-flying and high-scoring. While it didn't work in San Francisco, it might be the perfect scheme for the team's talented receivers and athletic quarterbacks. If he doesn't go here, it's doubtful that he'll take a position as coordinator.
Carolina Panthers: Mike Smith
If Rivera goes to the Rams, the Panthers will have a tantalizing coaching vacancy. Mike Smith has spent quite a while in the NFC South lately, and it looks to me like he'll stay in his division. Many have forgotten the high esteem he was held in before the Falcons' "down year." He has been a Coach of the Year and is one of the best DCs in football. He'd definitely love to work with the Panthers' quality linebackers, and his scheme focuses heavily on the front seven.
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