The Houston Texans and four other NFL teams are searching for a new head coach for 2023 and beyond. This week, The Athletic ranked all five open head coaching positions and named the Texans as the most appealing for potential candidates. Senior NFL writer Mike Sando broke down his criteria for evaluating the current NFL head coach openings.
"Ownership, quarterbacks and draft capital aren't the only considerations in evaluating the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts," Sando said.
Both the Broncos and the Cardinals have quarterbacks under contract, viewed as a positive for candidates, even though Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray "outweigh their expected production while limiting options," according to Sando.
The Texans have "a clear advantage in draft capital." Sando isn't wrong. Looking at draft capital through the first three rounds PLUS projected cap space, the Texans' $40 million in cap space is eye-popping compared to the Panthers' negative $5 million.
|Team||RD 1-3 PICKS||PROJECTED CAP||3-YR WIN %|
It's a nod to General Manager Nick Caserio's work in managing a difficult salary cap situation when he arrived in January 2021.
Average ages for starters:
The Texans fall somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to average age of starters. Ranking oldest to youngest, the Texans were 18th on offense and 13th on defense.
"The Cardinals fielded the NFL's oldest offensive starters by this measure," Sando said. "That makes Arizona less attractive. The Panthers fielded the second-youngest starters on offense and the seventh-youngest on defense."
With the above criteria and a few more thrown in for good measure, Sando ranks all five open positions adding some thoughts from an NFL executive.
5. Arizona Cardinals
"Arizona has an older roster and the Kyler Murray contract/injury situation to deal with. I don't know how much better Kyler can be. He might have hit his ceiling, and will always be limited by his size and unwillingness to stand in there and get hit."
4. Denver Broncos
"Denver has the best tradition, and the new owners seem aggressive and willing to spend, but I think Wilson is washed, and the lack of draft capital is holding them back. The defense is very good, but Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert aren't going anywhere in that division."
3. Indianapolis Colts
"Put Indy third with a winnable division and a solid roster that could bounce back if they hit on the head coach and quarterback. The owner needs to step back and let the football people operate."
2. Carolina Panthers
"The Panthers have the best young roster of the group. Put them right behind Houston since Houston has a clearer path towards landing a franchise quarterback with all that draft capital. That division is winnable. (David) Tepper should give you everything you need to succeed if he doesn't meddle."
1. Houston Texans
"They are first due to the assets they got from the Deshaun Watson trade. The next coach should enjoy stability after back-to-back one-and-done situations. The AFC South remains a winnable division. They have some nice young pieces from this past draft in (safety) Jalen Pitre, (running back) Dameon Pierce and (cornerback) Derek Stingley."
Sando also adds that Texans Chairman and CEO Cal McNair "doesn't seem to be a meddler in football operations, which means if the right people are in the coach/GM roles, the team should be able to succeed. Houston owns five of the top 73 picks in the draft, including the second and 12th choices."
The Texans have currently completed head coaching interviews with Rams assistant HC Thomas Brown, Broncos DC Ejiro Evero, Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon, Lions OC Ben Johnson (staying with the Lions), Giants OC Mike Kafka, former Saints HC Sean Payton, 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans and Eagles OC Shane Steichen.