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NFL: Coaching Update

It's two-and-a-half weeks since the end of the regular season and there are still five NFL head coaching vacancies to fill.

Some highly-respected names have been added into and out of the mix for certain teams while a number of candidates from the staffs of the four remaining Super Bowl contenders can expect to start doing the interview rounds soon.

High-profile head coaches size up the openings

Jim Harbaugh's name crops up at this time on an annual basis but, although everyone still thinks he has unfinished business in the NFL, he's sticking with his alma mater Michigan for the time being.

The biggest fish in the head coaching pool this year is Sean Payton, who led the New Orleans Saints to Super Bowl glory at the end of the 2010 season.

He's 59 now and probably too picky to walk away from a cushy job as a TV analyst to be tempted by one of the five ailing franchises currently seeking a saviour.

Staying close to his home in Los Angeles and inheriting a quarterback that can win playoff games would be his two priorities and only maybe the Arizona Cardinals could come close on either of those prerequisites.

The Cardinals are looking for an experienced NFL mind to take them as far away from the Kliff Kingsbury era as possible, but their attention seems to have been taken by ex-Miami Dolphins HC Brian Flores.

Flores the best fit in Arizona

Flores won eight of his last nine games in Miami before being controversially sacked and spent the 2022 season on the Pittsburgh Steelers' staff. 

Two factors would seem to make him an ideal candidate for the Arizona vacancy. Firstly, he interviewed for the role in 2018 and finished runner-up for the job behind Steve Wilks. But he impressed Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill so much that he gave glowing reports to other owners that resulted in four interviews and Flores landing the Dolphins job.

And there's also the fact that Flores came up through the New England Patriots' scouting department at the same time as new Cards general manager Monti Ossenfort, who will know him well.

Texans, Colts and Panthers desirable because of QB-laden draft

The Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans have not been on many coaches' lists of desirable destinations until this year because they are poised to get their hands on two of the best quarterbacks in the upcoming draft.

The Texans pick at No.2 in the draft order, but the Chicago Bears are unlikely to be targeting a triggerman after Justin Fields' incredible development in 2022. So they could have a free run at Bryce Young, 10/13 to be the first overall selection, or 7/4 Chris Stroud.

The Indianapolis Colts' picture is slightly clouded as it is not easy to anticipate what owner Jim Irsay will do after he appointed ex-player Jeff Saturday, a man with no adult coaching experience at the time, as interim coach last year.

Saturday remains in the running for the Colts job, but he will need to put together a high-level staff to have a chance of surviving more than a few months.

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Indianapolis hold the fourth overall pick, but could be trade partners with the Bears to jump ahead of Houston if there's a quarterback they really like in the draft.

Carolina, who pick at No.9, may have to settle for the third QB to come off the board, but it's meant to be a deep draft and that may not put off an ambitious coordinator looking to make his first move into head coaching.

Rich seam of coordinator talent to be tapped

Everyone thought last year would finally be the time for Kansas City Chiefs' OC Eric Bieniemy to move up and take over a top job somewhere else.

Bieniemy, who signed a one-year contract to return to Arrowhead Stadium last offseason, is the most successful offensive coordinator in Chiefs' history.

He's helped the team to eight playoff wins, a Super Bowl victory and a league-best regular season record of 64-18 while paving the way for Patrick Mahomes to win one - and soon to be two - regular season MVP awards.

But Bieniemy has been stalled in his attempts to move up with USA Today reporting last week that the 53-year-old has now interviewed for 15 head-coaching jobs since 2019, including the current vacancy with the Colts.

Quinn and Kafka get first run at openings

Like Philadelphia Eagles OC Shane Steichen, DC Jonathan Gannon, San Francisco 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans and Cincinnati Bengals OC Brian Callahan, Bieniemy must focus on his current role until his team are out of Super Bowl contention.

That could allow Dallas Cowboys DC Dan Quinn and New York Giants OC Mike Kafka the first run at some of the interviews and we have seen before how a good first impression can have a lasting impact on a team's outlook during the process.

Quinn has completed his first interviews with the Denver Broncos and Colts while he has another one scheduled with the Cardinals.

Kafka has also spoken to the Panthers and Colts while he did enough during his first round of talks with the Texans to warrant a second interview.

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