It is only Week 14, but reports of Urban Meyer-created dysfunction in Jacksonville and speculation about offensive-wonderkid Joe Brady’s next destination has already begun to fuel the 2022 NFL coaching carousel. While teams will likely have household names such as Eric Bieniemy, Brian Daboll and Todd Bowles at the top of their lists, I am going to dive into some of the underrated head coaching candidates and their best fits around the NFL.
Byron Leftwich, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator
Best Fit: Jacksonville Jaguars
Bruce Arians was so impressed by Byron Leftwich in their time with the Cardinals that he brought the young-offensive mind with him when he was hired to be the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While many have simplified the Buccaneers’ offensive success to Tom Brady’s greatness plugged into Arians’ system, Leftwich is the one who actually calls plays and has a lot of input in play design too. In addition to leading a Super Bowl-winning offense, Leftwich, in his first season as an offensive coordinator, helped Jameis Winston have a season in which he threw for 5,000 yards and 33 touchdowns. It is confusing why Leftwich has not yet gotten an opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL and, in a lot of ways, resembles the league’s discriminatory treatment of Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Eric Bienemy. Leftwich was a quarterback in his playing days and was the 7th player drafted in the first round and picked by the Jaguars in 2003, making a reunion with Jacksonville so fitting. Leftwich is the perfect candidate to develop Trevor Lawrence and help the Jaguars start over (again) after the Urban Meyer debacle.
Nathaniel Hackett, Green Bay Packers Offensive Coordinator
Best Fit: Las Vegas Raiders
Nathaniel Hackett does not fit the prototype of young, innovative Sean McVay- and Kliff Kingsbury-looking offensive coordinator; he is one of the best offensive minds in the NFL today. Similar to Leftwich, he has been underrated due to the assumption that Green Bay’s offensive success is due to partnership between Head Coach Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers. The reality is that Hackett is loved within the Packers’ organization, as Rodgers has said that, “No one brings me more joy [than Hackett].” Similarly, left-Tackle David Bakhtiari said that, “There has never been a day where I have not seen him come in without greater energy and enthusiasm. He’s literally a walking culture.” These are two pretty strong endorsements from two of the league’s top players. In addition to his stellar reputation in Green Bay, Hackett has revamped the offenses in his previous stops, including Syracuse University, the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars. His work in Jacksonville is particularly remarkable, as he led an offense highlighted by Blake Bortles and a receiving core of Keelan Cole, Marqise Lee and Dede Westbrook to the AFC Championship in the 2017–2018 season. I see Hackett as a great fit for the Las Vegas Raiders, a franchise that is in desperate need of a face-lift after the Jon Gruden and Henry Rugg III’s incidents this season. Furthermore, his offensive accent will serve as a nice complement to the defensive leadership provided by Gus Bradley.
Kellen Moore, Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator
Best Fit: Chicago Bears
Kellen Moore is the token young and innovative offensive tactician amongst this group of head coaching candidates. With experience as a quarterback at Boise State University and the NFL, Moore has quickly become recognized as a rising star within NFL coaching circles. At the ripe age of 32, this is the kind of candidate you would rather be a year early on rather than being a year too late and missing out. While it is true that he is endowed with an extremely talented group of offensive skill players in Dallas, he has definitely maximized their abilities in a creative and dynamic offense. Moore crafted an offense that helped backup quarterback Cooper Rush take down the Vikings in Week 8 and created a game plan that allowed Dak Prescott to throw for 375 yards on Thanksgiving. Moore has crafted a distinct role for Tony Pollard this season, who is beginning to resemble a similar skillset as Austin Ekeler. There is a reason why Moore was one of the few people retained during the Cowboys’ transition from the Jason Garrett to the Mike McCarthy regime. I think Moore would be a great fit for the Chicago Bears, where he could develop Justin Fields to his full potential. I also see Moore and young Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai as a strong partnership that could bring the Bears franchise back to relevance.