I decided to do my own ranking.
The 49ers have had three different head coaches the past three years. That’s not a fantastic sign of organization stability. Before that, they fired Jim freaking Harbaugh. The team has fallen off a cliff after that decision.
Beyond that, even if you think “well, they just fired three coaches in three seasons, they won’t do that again,” San Francisco’s roster is severely lacking. Former GM Trent Baalke had his the right draft philosophy — he did everything in his power to acquire extra draft picks to get more rolls at the craps table (so to speak). One tiny problem though... he was unable to correctly evaluate prospects entering the NFL. So instead of having like seven bad picks, he’d have like 10. Woof.
Lastly, if you’re interviewing with San Francisco, wouldn’t you want the team to hire its GM first to see who’d be directly above you on the franchise’s chain of command?
Tom Telesco, the Chargers’ current GM, didn’t have good 2014 or 2015 drafts which has led to a roster without a considerable collection of talent. His third pick, Keenan Allen, is the best player he’s drafted, and that selection came in 2013. However, Joey Bosa looks to be on the fast track to superstardom on the edge, and Hunter Henry flashed as the heir-apparent to Antonio Gates at tight end. So there’s promise.
Beyond the roster, which I think is lacking yet far from terrible, this gig is No. 5 on my list for two main reasons -- the uncertainty about the future location of the franchise and the age of Philip Rivers. He just turned 35, and although he posted an impressive TD percentage of 5.7, he led the NFL with 21 interceptions in 2016.
You’d get an established veteran quarterback, which is a major luxury, but he’s past the prime of his career and doesn’t have the offensive line or defense to back him up on a consistent basis. Having to face the Chiefs, Broncos, and Raiders two times a year each is not something to get excited about either.
The draw of L.A. is the draw of L.A., for you and players. Second-biggest market in the country. Warm weather. Celebrities. TV production studios everywhere. The last coach, Jeff Fisher, hung around for way longer than he should have, which you’d like.
Aaron Donald is a Top 5 player in the NFL, and young. The defensive line, as a whole, is rock-solid. The rest of the team is pedestrian. Sure, you have 2016 No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff, but he had a terrible rookie season... and the team had to unload a ridiculous amount of draft capital to get him. Good luck building around him through the draft over the next few years.
2b. Buffalo Bills
The last head coach was a big name, and reported directly to the owner. That we know. So he bypassed the GM. However, the owner was quick to fire that head coach, Rex Ryan, just 31 games into his coaching tenure in Buffalo. The coach before him re-signed after two seasons. Those facts aren’t encouraging, but, like with the 49ers, you’d have to think ownership won’t want to fire a head coach quickly again, right?
Beyond the managerial logistics, the team has talent, especially on offense. The group finished 16th in yards and 10th in points in 2016 and scored the third-most offensive touchdowns when Tyrod Taylor was under center. The year before that, it finished 13th in yards and 12th in points. You’d have to make a choice on Tyrod, who’s been mostly good, at times great and at times inconsistent. LeSean McCoy just had the most efficient season of his NFL career, the offensive line is respectable, and Sammy Watkins should be fresh for the start of 2017.
The defense needs work. In a big way, but the are a handful of good players on that side of the ball. After a dazzling 2014 season under 4-3 defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, everything went awry under Ryan. The Patriots are the unquestioned rulers of the AFC East, but the Dolphins and Jets aren’t juggernauts.
Blake Bortles is likely not the answer, so you’d have to identify and acquire a new quarterback, which is either extremely frightening or exciting, based on the type of person you are.
The last head coach, Gus Bradley, was kept for a significant amount of time despite his poor record, which you’d have to like. The GM, Dave Caldwell, has had some hits in the draft, but the majority of his picks have gone by the wayside.
Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, Allen Robinson, Yannick Ngakoue, and Allen Hurns are young and exude talent. Brandon Linder is an offensive-line anchor. Malik Jackson is a defensive-line anchor, and T.J. Yeldon is a sound running back. The rest of the team needs work. But considering the freedom given to the last head coach, a youthful core, and the chance to handpick a quarterback make this the second-best head-coach opening. Oh yeah, and your team will have plenty of cap space this offseason.
1. Denver Broncos
Less than a year ago, the Broncos won the Super Bowl. Although it was with Peyton Manning under center, he wasn’t even close to the Peyton Manning we had witnessed from 1998 to 2014.
Von Miller is the premier edge-rusher in the NFL, and he’s only 28 in March. The secondary is as good, if not better than Seattle’s. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have an argument as the best one-two punch at wide receiver in the entire NFL. John Elway has quickly become an elite GM, both in free agency and the draft. Since he took over as the man in charge of the Broncos’ football operations, Denver is 67-29 in the regular season and has made two trips to the Super Bowl. Trevor Siemian had his moments in 2016, but if you aren’t sold on him, there’s a former first-round quarterback, Paxton Lynch, waiting in the wings.
This is, far and away, the best head-coach opening in the NFL.