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NFL: Coaching Carousel Update

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

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

Wanted: High-profile head coaches 

Jim Harbaugh's name pops 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 glory at the end of the 2010 season.

He's 59 now and may not be inclined to walk away from his current role as TV analyst with FOX for a head coaching job with a struggling franchise, although he could be poached by a team already on the verge of the playoffs or better.

Flores the best fit in Arizona?

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 won eight of his last nine games in Miami before being controversially fired, 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 QB after Justin Fields' incredible development in 2022. So they could have a free run at Bryce Young, -130 to be the first overall selection, or CJ Stroud at +175.

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, who had no NFL 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 achieve more success than he did at the end of last season.

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Indianapolis holds 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.

Plenty of coordinators available

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 ring 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 contention.

That could allow Dallas Cowboys DC Dan Quinn and New York Giants OC Mike Kafka the first run at some of the interviews. 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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