Where do Vikings rank compared to other NFL head coaching vacancies?
There might not be a situation more appealing than what the Vikings have to offer.
EAGAN, Minnesota — With the Vikings in the early stages of the interview process for both general manager and head coach openings, it’s only a matter of time before certain candidates start to separate themselves from the pack.
That should happen at some point in the next couple of weeks.
In the meantime, it’s worth noting that the Vikings have a lot of competition as they try to determine who to hire to lead this franchise into its next life. While there are only a few other teams looking for a general manager, the Vikings are competing with seven other teams — the Bears, Broncos, Dolphins, Giants, Jaguars, Raiders and Texans — in their search for a head coach.
The good news for the Vikings? There might not be a situation more appealing than what they have to offer.
Remember, co-owner Mark Wilf doesn’t consider this a full rebuild. He thinks the Vikings can compete at a high level next season.
Let’s take a look at where the Vikings rank compared to the other NFL head coaching vacancies:
8. Houston Texans
Talent: There isn’t a team currently searching for a head coach with less talent than the Texans. They have no stars on either side of the ball. Whoever steps in here will truly be starting from scratch.
Quarterback: Davis Mills showed some flashes in his rookie season. Is he someone the Texans can actually build around? That’s the million-dollar question. Star quarterback Deshaun Watson, whom the Texans kept away from the team for the entire 2021 season, likely will be traded this offseason because of his off-field issues.
Salary cap: They have roughly $20 million in projected salary cap space. That number would go up if they offload Watson’s contract.
Draft capital: They have the No. 3 pick in the 2022 NFL draft. That gives them a chance to hit a home run.
Overall: There are so many unknowns that come with this job, including job security for whoever comes in. Remember, they recently fired former head coach David Culley after a single season on the job. This feels like a situation where the guy is hired to get fired.
7. New York Giants
Talent: They have at least a few players worth building around. Saquon Barkley is talented running back if he can stay healthy. James Bradberry and Leonard Williams are solid players on the defensive side of the ball.
Quarterback: Daniel Jones is still the guy in New York. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing. It will be interesting to see if the Giants go for a quarterback in the upcoming draft.
Salary cap: They are projected to have less than $100,000 of salary cap space. Not ideal.
Draft capital: With the No. 5 pick and No. 7 pick in the 2022 draft, there’s at least some hope for the future.
Overall: The good news is it’s going to be hard to look worse than fired head coach Joe Judge. The bad news is there isn’t a ton of talent on the roster at the moment.
6. Chicago Bears
Talent: The emergence of David Montgomery at running back and Darnell Mooney at wide receiver is promising. Robert Quinn is an elite pass rusher, and Roquan Smith is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker with a ton of talent. There are also other pieces that make the Bears a somewhat desirable destination.
Quarterback: Justin Fields left something to be desired in his rookie season. He has a ton of talent, though, and is an intriguing prospect to build around.
Salary cap: There’s some flexibility here with roughly $39 million of salary-cap space. That will give them a chance to be spenders in free agency this offseason.
Draft capital: They don’t have a first-round draft pick this year. That stinks.
Overall: The presence of Fields is enough to attract pretty much everyone. With his very unique skill set of run-pass ability, he has a chance to be a dominant player. Coaching in Chicago is not an easy market to be a part of, though, as former head coach Matt Nagy learned very quickly.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
Talent: The cupboard is pretty bare. Not a lot to write home about on offense, and while Josh Allen is an exciting puss rusher on defense, this feels like a lengthy rebuild.
Quarterback: The jury is still out on Trevor Lawrence, who was underwhelming in his rookie season. He also had to battle through the dysfunction that was former head coach Urban Meyer. But Lawrence’s raw talent is undeniable. The new coach will be hired to help him become the QB he should be.
Salary cap: The biggest reason this situation is appealing comes down to the fact that the Jaguars have roughly $61 million in salary-cap space. It’s a blank slate in Jacksonville.
Draft capital: They have the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft, and that should give them a foundational piece on defense to pair with what Lawrence brings to the team on offense.
Overall: All the person who steps in for Meyer has to do is be a professional and he will be granted a longer leash. There’s certainly potential to grow for whoever leads the Jaguars into the future.
4. Miami Dolphins
Talent: The defense is in the upper echelon of the league with star cornerback Xavien Howard leading the way. You’ve also got wide receiver Jaylen Waddle as an elite playmaker on the offensive side.
Quarterback: Some people still believe in Tua Tagovailoa, and some do not. He’s good, not great. Give him another weapon to go with Waddle, though, and that might be enough to help him reach the next level.
Salary cap: They have roughly $73 million in salary-cap space, the most of any team currently looking for a head coach. Plus, the Miami lifestyle is usually very attractive to free agents. If they sign a few key players, that might be enough for the Dolphins to take off.
Draft capital: They have the San Francisco 49ers’ pick in the first round of the 2022 draft, which is getting worse by the day as the 49ers make their way through the playoffs. That could make it more difficult to select an impact player.
Overall: The biggest concern is the fact that former head coach Brian Flores got fired after back-to-back winning seasons. That doesn’t exactly lend itself to job security, even if there’s a lot of talent in place.
3. Las Vegas Raiders
Talent: There’s a lot to like about the Raiders on both sides of the ball. They have a matchup nightmare in tight end Darren Waller and a reliable target in wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. They also have an elite pass rusher in Maxx Crosby to go along with a few other key pieces.
Quarterback: This is a conundrum. In a lot of ways, Derek Carr can be viewed as the best option of any team currently looking for a head coach. Still, Carr has never won a playoff game, which makes some wonder about his ceiling. Has he already reached it?
Salary cap: They have roughly $40 million in salary-cap space. That will allow them to be big players in the free agency.
Draft capital: They have the No. 22 pick in the 2022 draft. That will give the new regime a chance to select a pretty good player. Is that person a game-changer? That remains to be seen.
Overall: This is a playoff team that showed a lot of character this season. If whoever gets the nod can put Carr in a position to succeed, there is a lot to like about the Raiders.
2. Denver Broncos
Talent: There are weapons galore on offense in running back Javonte Williams, wide receivers Jerry Jeudy, Coutland Sutton and Tim Patrick, and tight end Noah Fant. There’s also a lot of talent on defense.
Quarterback: It comes down to who is under center. Even though Drew Lock is the incumbent, it’s hard to imagine general manager George Paton not drafting or signing someone to replace him — or at least compete with him. There could be big benefits to starting from scratch at quarterback.
Salary cap: They have $47 million in salary-cap space, which offers a ton of flexibility this offseason. Do the Broncos want to go big game hunting for a quarterback? They easily could. How about Aaron Rodgers big? That might do it.
Draft capital: They have the No. 9 pick in the 2022 draft. If they don’t like any of the quarterbacks available in free agency, taking one in the first round would make sense.
Overall: The ability to hand-pick a quarterback is by far the most intriguing part of the Broncos’ situation. With the amount of talent on this team, if they make the right call at quarterback, they could be poised for a quick turnaround.
Talent: No team looking for a head coach has more talent than the Vikings. You could argue that wide receiver Justin Jefferson is already a Top-5 player at his position. Dalvin Cook is also a top-tier running back, and Adam Thielen brings veteran leadership as the other starter at wide receiver. You also might have star defensive end Danielle Hunter back to go along with middle linebacker Eric Kendricks and safety Harrison Smith.
Quarterback: Kirk Cousins is who he is. He was very, very good this season — and the Vikings still missed the playoffs. He’s only under contract through next season, so if the new regime doesn’t like him, they could easily move on.
Salary cap: They have negative money to work with this offseason. This is far and away the biggest concern when it comes to the Vikings.
Draft capital: They have the No. 12 pick in the 2022 draft. That should give them options, whether they want to take a quarterback of the future, a reliable offensive lineman or a key defensive player.
Overall: No team played more close games than the Vikings this season. That speaks to the fact that they aren’t far off. If whoever takes this job doesn’t love Cousins, the Vikings can either trade him this offseason, or use him as a stopgap. At the end of the day, talent is the name of the game in the NFL, and the Vikings have by far the most to offer among these teams.