How enticing are each of the offensive coordinator openings?

How enticing are each of the offensive coordinator openings?

They're not head coaching gigs, but they're an opportunity to work with some great young talent

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. Leftwich just finished up his fourth season as Tampa’s OC, having reached the playoffs each of the last three seasons — or every season with Tom Brady at quarterback. However, despite the playoff berth, 2022 was hard to watch. The Bucs went from the second-best total offense in the league — and best passing offense — in 2021 to the 15th-ranked overall offense in 2022. The Bucs averaged the fewest rush yards per game of any team in the league (76.9), nearly a full ten yards fewer than the next-worst rushing offense, the Houston Texans (86.8).

Leftwich’s dismissal and Greg Roman’s departure created more offensive coordinator openings, and that’s not including all of the OC positions that have come from head coaches getting fired. Actually, it could be seven. Rumor has it that the Pittsburgh Steelers are planning on firing their offensive coordinator, Matt Canada, and replacing him with Leftwich as soon as Leftwich’s termination is final. Everyone loves to talk about the head coaching vacancies and how enticing those opportunities can be. However, the offensive coordinator position might be a more appealing job option this time around. There are opportunities galore to work with young quarterbacks or halfbacks, without as much pressure that comes with being a head coach. Nowadays, most OCs get as much, or more, praise as their head coaches. So, here’s how we rank the appeal of every OC vacancy in the NFL.

Note: We will not be considering Pittsburgh an OC vacancy since the vacancy is already reportedly filled as soon as Leftwich is officially let go — which he was. Also, not every team who fired their head coach will grab a new offensive coordinator. For example, the Houston Texans may have fired Lovie Smith, but their OC position is still filled by Pep Hamilton. Yes, there have been rumors of other teams bringing Hamilton onto their own staff, but nothing is set in stone. The Texans will also be omitted from this list. Essentially, any team that still has an offensive coordinator after firing their head coach will remain off this list unless there are immense rumors that he will be fired soon.

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9. Washington Commanders

9. Washington Commanders

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Let’s see. Difficult quarterback situation? Check. Fewer than three picks within the first two days of the draft? Check. A free-agent starting offensive lineman? Check. An offense that ranked 24th in points per game? Check!

The Washington Commanders don’t have much going for them aside from Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. They didn’t play well enough to reach the playoffs, so they don’t have a great draft pick to secure one of the upcoming draft class’s top-three quarterback options in Bryce Young, Will Levis, or CJ Stroud. Maybe they could trade up and grab their franchise cornerstone, but they don’t have the draft capital that other QB-needy teams will be able to offer. Maybe they could reach and take Anthony Richardson at 16, but that wouldn’t feel great. However, they’d still have both Carson Wentz and Sam Howell (pictured) on their roster. That’s assuming they don’t bring back Taylor Heinicke as well. Howell wasn’t bad in his lone start either, and reports have come out indicating that Washington plans on rolling with Howell next season, so is drafting a quarterback really at the top of Washington’s to-do list? Maybe not. But then where else do they go?

In 2022, the Commanders’ offensive line ranked 23rd in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate. Interior O-linemen Wes Schweitzer and Trai Turner are both free agents, but neither was particularly effective in 2022. Plus, right tackle is a bigger need anyway, and the Commanders would be more likely to attack that need in the second round when prospects like Dawan Jones (Ohio State) and Darnell Wright (Tennessee) will be on the board.

There just isn’t really a good opportunity to improve anywhere offensively ahead of 2023. As I said, the receiving corps is fine, but an underwhelming group of halfbacks, a poor outlook on the offensive line, and a second-year fifth-round quarterback don’t inspire much confidence. Oh, also, the other three teams in this division are all among the final four teams remaining in the NFC, and all of them have strong defenses. Six games out of the year, you’re going to play high-end defensive units. Absolutely none of that sounds appealing.

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8. Tennessee Titans

8. Tennessee Titans

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Treylon Burks underwhelmed. Derrick Henry (pictured) is getting older, and with the 2021 NFL Coach of the Year on board, most blame should the offense do poorly will fall to whoever replaces Todd Downing.

Sure, this offense seems easy to run. Just hand the ball off to Henry 30 times a game and call it a night. As long as you win, you’ll get massive praise. However, Henry is 29 years old now. He’s had at least 300 touches in three of the last four seasons. Do you know the only other halfback since 2015 to garner that many carries over a four-season span? Ezekiel Elliott between 2016 and 2019. When do most people say Elliott started to decline? 2020.

Obviously, Henry is a different beast. He’s a freight train on the field, and many people believe the laws of physics don’t actually apply to him. However, there’s still the chance that 2023 could be the year we start to see some regression, and if that’s the case, whoever ends up calling plays for Tennessee could have a much tougher time. Ryan Tannehill doesn’t have the talent to help carry the offense anymore. Malik Willis has looked underwhelming, and the Titans don’t have a high draft pick to grab one of 2023's big three. They do have a few extra draft picks if they want to trade up, but other teams with more draft capital will get those early picks over the Titans.

Perhaps the Titans could turn to one of the veteran options on the trade block: Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo. Do we really think those guys can compete with the likes of Trevor Lawrence and the two young guns the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans are likely to pick in the 2023 draft? No. I like Derek Carr more than most, and even I would despise that move. Ultimately, the Titans are stuck between a rock and a hard place. There are a lot of positions to fill, and the Titans have some resources to work with, but not enough to make a dent in the standings very soon. If anything, I’d expect the Titans to take a step back offensively in 2023, and that’s not a very enticing reality.

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7. Arizona Cardinals

7. Arizona Cardinals

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Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury operated without an offensive coordinator for the entirety of his tenure with the team. Well, now that he’s gone, I’d assume the next head coach will actually bring in someone to help with offensive play-calling. However, Arizona isn’t the most desirable location for those duties. The most obvious reason is the fact that quarterback Kyler Murray (pictured) may not be ready for the start of the 2023 NFL season after tearing his ACL earlier this year. Without Murray, the Cardinals’ offensive explosiveness lies somewhere between that of an old whoopee cushion and a six-year-old shouting “VROOM!” as he plays with his Hot Wheels.

The offensive line is abysmal. James Conner is (and always has been) ineffective as a lead back. Sure, Zach Ertz has had somewhat of a resurgence in Arizona, but he’s also going to be 33 this year. The only saving grace is the wide receiver corps. DeAndre Hopkins, Marquise Brown, Rondale Moore, and Greg Dortch all proved very capable this season, even if the passing offense still runs primarily through Hopkins. That said, Hopkins may not be on the team next year.

About a week ago, The Score’s Jordan Schultz reported that the Cardinals are looking to move Hopkins ahead of the 2023 season. Obviously, numerous teams would be interested in his talents, and perhaps the draft capital that would come from trading a player of Hopkins’ caliber would be enough to put Arizona higher on this list, but I doubt the Cardinals would be able to replace what Hopkins brought to the table no matter how many draft picks they were given. Even if they could, that still wouldn’t solve the dilemma that Murray’s injury leaves. What good is a great receiver without someone who can consistently get him the ball? Murray may not be out that long, but his ACL injury is serious, and not many mobile quarterbacks are ever the same after suffering one. Murray’s a great passer, but his dual-threat ability is what makes him a top-ten signal-caller. Without that, the offense could be much more limited in 2023.

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6. Baltimore Ravens

6. Baltimore Ravens

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Ravens’ offensive coordinator Greg Roman stepped down earlier this morning. For years, Ravens’ fans had been calling for Roman’s job. Ever since he won NFL Assistant Coach of the Year in 2020, Roman’s offenses have underperformed, and even with the absence of Lamar Jackson for several games, Roman carried most of the blame for Baltimore’s offensive struggles late in the year.

Since the Ravens’ loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend, the normally drama-free Ravens have been inundated with stories coming out regarding the team’s suboptimal locker room culture. Head coach John Harbaugh threw his backup quarterback under the bus for the goal-line fumble that resulted in the game-winning touchdown for Cincy.

He said, “[The sneak] wasn’t executed the right way.” Harbaugh continued, “Tyler [Huntley] went over the top. He needs to go low on that. That’s how the play is designed.”Although the lead halfback JK Dobbins didn’t blame the loss on Huntley, even he came to the realization that if they’d had Lamar, they “would have won.”

Now begins an uncertain offseason for the Ravens, one marred with the potential of losing out on their franchise quarterback. Should that happen, the Ravens would be an incoming OC’s worst nightmare. Injury-prone running backs, an unproven yet still somehow disappointing wide receiver corps. I mean, sure, you’ve got a solid O-line and Mark Andrews, but without Jackson, the latter option is pretty much irrelevant.

In five games (four in the regular season and the team’s lone playoff game) without Jackson this year, Andrews recorded just 22 catches on 37 targets, 266 yards, and zero touchdowns. On a per-game basis, that’s just 4.4 catches, 53.2 yards, and of course 0.0 tuddies. Andrews did have some success without Jackson in 2021, but I’d consider this a “What have you done for me lately” situation, and the answer is “Not a whole lot.”

Of course, if Lamar re-signs with Baltimore, then everything is good. As long as the Ravens pick up at least one solid receiver, this offense would be a great opportunity for any OC. Until that day comes though, the uncertainty may leave many potential candidates feeling uneasy.

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5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Remember when the Bucs missed the playoffs for 12 straight seasons before signing Tom Brady (pictured)? I do. The team isn’t giving up hope that Brady will return in 2023, but there’s always the prospect that he retires or signs with a different team. Even if he returns though, why would anyone want to take on the league’s worst-rushing offense?

There is hope that the emergence of Rachaad White late in the 2022 season could carry over into 2023 and reignite the flame under Tampa’s ground attack, but that’s not guaranteed. Ryan Jensen’s return will certainly help, but I wouldn’t assume the Bucs will become ground-heavy in 2023 because of one man, especially if Brady returns. Brady loves to throw the ball. He’s led the league in passing attempts each of the last four seasons, and Jensen’s return might help the passing game, but the Bucs’ passing attack was already pretty solid, to begin with.

If Brady doesn’t return to the team, there’s a good chance that other key offensive pieces like Mike Evans get traded as well. Down the final stretch of the 2022 season, Chris Godwin emerged as the team’s most dynamic receiver. Evans still holds a lot of trade value, and sending him away before he likely tails off without Brady could be the best course of action. It’s a decent long-term option, but in the short-term, 77 receptions and six touchdowns are hard to replace immediately. There’s a chance that Leftwich’s replacement has to deal with a worse receiving corps and an unproven quarterback. There’s still a lot of talent on this offense between Godwin, White, and even Cade Otton, but the uncertainty of this team’s future keeps this OC vacancy low on the list.

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4. New England Patriots

4. New England Patriots

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This may be a controversial placement, but the Patriots rank this high on our list under the assumption that the team’s 2022 offensive woes fall primarily on Matt Patricia. Obviously, expecting the team’s 2023 OC to be the next Josh McDaniels is a pipe dream, but anything better than what Pats fans got in 2022 would be a blessing. The leash will likely be extraordinarily long and there are still some strong pieces in place.

The offensive line is fantastic. Even if Isaiah Wynn leaves in free agency, the Patriots have proven more than capable of finding gems to place on the offensive line in years past. Couple that with a deep group of running backs including one of the most dynamic young backs in the NFL in Rhamondre Stevenson, and there’s potential to do some damage with only a ground game. However, that’s not where the promising features end. Sure, Jakobi Meyers may leave in free agency, but I’d argue he’s not as pivotal to the team’s offensive success as most people believe. DeVante Parker (above) could slide into that No. 1 role immediately. Parker had flashes of greatness in his first year with New England, and he seems confident that he can be “that guy.” Of course, the team could also draft someone on the outside.

Furthermore, we know Mac Jones (pictured) can be better than he was in 2022. We saw as much during his rookie season, when he almost snatched Rookie of the Year away from Ja’Marr Chase. I’m not going to say that Jones can be a top-five or even top-10 quarterback, but he’s proven capable of leading a passing attack before. He could be the franchise guy everyone expected him to be following 2021 with the right play-caller.

I understand the AFC East is very difficult and, without Brady, the Patriots’ strength will always lie in their defense, but there’s reason to be optimistic about this team’s offensive future. Most of it lies in the fact that Patricia won’t be calling plays, but the lack of pressure that comes from taking over play-calling duties from that inept panda is what makes New England so enticing.

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3. Indianapolis Colts

3. Indianapolis Colts

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Much like the Washington Commanders, the Colts seem like a dumpster fire right now. After years of stability, owner Jim Irsay had seemingly had enough of these subpar performances and cleaned house. Unlike the Commanders though, there is both a bright future and expectations to rise moving forward. Not only do the Colts have the fourth overall pick — prime position to take one of the 2023 class’s top quarterback options — but after a season marred with a series of injuries to star running back Jonathan Taylor (pictured) and underwhelming performances from otherwise stalwart players like Quenton Nelson, there is reason to expect a resurgence in 2023.

The AFC South is weak, and although the Jaguars may be on the rise with their young, talented quarterback, the Colts could very well have one of their own very soon. Taylor is still on a rookie deal. Rookie tight end Jelani Woods showed signs of potential. There may not be a ton of weapons, but having the opportunity to work with both Taylor and either Young, Stroud, or Levis is a solid compromise. There’s also the presence of Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce, both of whom have been considered improperly utilized by the Colts in recent seasons. Whoever takes the play-calling reigns in Indy could have an opportunity to showcase their talents through the air.

For how abysmal the Colts’ offense was in 2022, there are enough pieces in place to warrant optimism for any incoming coordinator. That said, there is still the chance that the offensive line doesn’t recover from whatever plagued them last season, and that could spell absolute doom, and given Irsay’s recent decisions, perhaps the long-time patient owner could refuse to live through a rebuild. I’d be willing to bet the opposite though.

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2. Los Angeles Chargers

2. Los Angeles Chargers

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Justin Herbert. That should be all I need to say, but I’ll draw this one out because I don’t get paid if I do a bad job. In all seriousness, the offense was never a concern for Los Angeles, obviously. They put up 30 points on the road in the Wild Card round and lost. They have Herbert, Austin Ekeler (both pictured), Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, and Rashawn Slater will be back for the start of 2023. What’s not to like about the personnel?

“They don’t have a true workhorse back,” shouts a skeptic. Okay, but very few teams do nowadays in the NFL. Luckily, they have one of the best pass-catching/red zone backs in the league. What else? “The head coach sucks!”

That’s fair. However, I’d argue that’s a plus for anybody looking to take an OC job this offseason. Brandon Staley has been scolded time and time again for a variety of reasons during his first few years with the Bolts. Many people wanted his head before former offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s. The public’s perception of Staley is at an all-time low, so any offensive woes would likely be passed onto Staley, even if those problems are in fact due to Lombardi’s replacement. The pressure to succeed is almost entirely on Staley in 2023.

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1. New York Jets

1. New York Jets

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Yes, they have a quarterback problem. If they were to solve that quarterback problem, no one would disagree with where I’m ranking these guys, right? Well, good thing the Jets are the betting favorites to land both of the top quarterbacks available this offseason. Lamar Jackson? Jets (+250). Derek Carr? Jets and Colts (+400).

Obviously, Jackson would be preferred. He’s younger, more athletic, has an MVP under his belt, and would be thirsty for revenge against the Ravens after they failed to give him the contract he deserved. However, Carr would still be a massive upgrade for a team that already boasts Breece Hall, possible Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson (pictured), and Elijah Moore. Great weapons, a solid head coach, a top-10 defense, and an offensive line that, although it went through serious injury problems in 2022, is severely underrated when healthy. Maybe they need to shore up that right tackle position, but man, this team has a lot of good things going for it.

Furthermore, the Jets may not have an absolute abundance of draft picks, but they aren’t missing any key picks either. They also have extra picks in hand for 2024. Experts seem to think that the Jets will be targeting both offensive linemen and wide receivers with their early picks, so there’s a good chance that this team trots into 2023 with virtually zero holes on offense, barring injuries.

Yes, the Dolphins, Patriots, and Bills are very tough opponents, but the Jets showed flashes of being able to hang tough with great teams in 2022, and next season will likely be even brighter.

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