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21 NFL head-coaching candidates you need to know

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Should Giants look to hire Harbaugh or Saban? (2:06)

The First Take crew debates who the Giants should replace former head coach Ben McAdoo and former GM Jerry Reese with. (2:06)

There's about a 25 percent chance your NFL team is going to have a new coach next season.

I don't know who your team is, but we're just looking at the numbers here. Last year, six teams changed head coaches. This year, league sources expect that number to possibly fall in the range of eight or even more. That'd be at least a quarter of the NFL.

The Giants got a jump on coaching-change season Monday with the firing of second-year head man Ben McAdoo, but they won't be the only team to relieve a coach of his duties this December or January.

So, if your team does need a new coach, who might it be? After canvassing league executives and others in the know -- and consulting with ESPN NFL Insiders Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen -- we've compiled a loose list of some of the most likely candidates to land head-coaching jobs this offseason.

Again, this is a loose list. There are guys on it who won't get head-coaching jobs. There might well be guys who aren't on it but will get head-coaching jobs. These things are unpredictable sometimes. But these are some of the hotter names right now, so we thought we'd fill you in on why. I'm sure we'll be discussing this further in the coming weeks. In the meantime, enjoy the appetizer:


Familiar names

Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator, New England Patriots

The failed former Broncos head coach is still only 41, and he has certainly repaired his reputation during his second stint in New England. McDaniels interviewed in a few places last year and could be the top candidate for several teams. He has shown, though, that he won't jump at just any opportunity. The job he has right now is likely better than a handful of potential NFL head-coaching jobs. There's some speculation that he could come as part of a package deal with Patriots personnel director Nick Caserio for teams looking for a head coach and general manager.

Jon Gruden, analyst, ESPN Monday Night Football

The former Buccaneers and Raiders coach is always a prime subject of speculation, but something about this year feels a little bit more realistic. Gruden is only 54, and his youngest child is finishing high school. He's also in a spot from which he doesn't have to jump at any old job, but there are a couple that could appeal due to location and quarterback situations. "I don't know what's going to happen in the future," Gruden said on ESPN radio on Nov. 15. "I just know this: I'm going to continue to give my best effort to the game, stay prepared. I love Monday Night Football, don't plan on leaving, but as you know in life, you never say never to nothing."

Jim Harbaugh, head coach, Michigan Wolverines

There has long been a sense that Harbaugh, who was 44-19-1 with one Super Bowl appearance in four seasons as coach of the 49ers from 2011-14, would like to try the NFL again. Should he make himself available, he'd be very intriguing to more than one team.

Hot coordinators

Teryl Austin, defensive coordinator, Detroit Lions

Austin has been a hot name on the interview circuit for a couple of years now and should get a shot at some point soon.

Matt Patricia, defensive coordinator, New England Patriots

The Patriots' defensive dominance in spite of the personnel losses they've sustained on that side of the ball is one of the underrated stories of the season.

Frank Reich, offensive coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles

He gets a lot of credit for his role in Carson Wentz's rapid development. The former Bills quarterback could appeal to teams looking for someone who can work magic with a young quarterback prospect.

Jim Schwartz, defensive coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles

Hey, when you're as hot as the Eagles are, your coordinators are going to get interviews. Schwartz was 29-51 with just one playoff appearance in five seasons as Lions head coach, but he has performed well as a defensive coordinator with Buffalo and Philadelphia since.

Pat Shurmur, offensive coordinator, Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are 10-2 with third-string quarterback Case Keenum throwing the ball and rookie Dalvin Cook, who opened the season as their starting running back, on injured reserve. Shurmur was just 9-23 in two seasons as head coach of the Browns from 2011-12, but everyone should get a mulligan after the Browns, right? Shurmur comes from Andy Reid's coaching tree and had some success under Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. He will probably get another shot at some point.

Mike Vrabel, defensive coordinator, Houston Texans

There's a lot of interest in the 42-year-old former Patriots linebacker, whose perspective and intelligence stood out when he played and who has risen quickly in the eyes of people who evaluate coaches. Might it make sense to try to pair him with former Patriots executive Scott Pioli if you need both a coach and a GM?

New names on the circuit

John DeFilippo, quarterbacks coach, Philadelphia Eagles

He's just 39 years old, but (A) that's not so young anymore for NFL head coaches and (B) he deserves a chunk of the credit for Wentz as well. He has had just one stint as a coordinator -- 2015 with Cleveland -- so this would be a big leap, but don't be surprised if he gets an interview or two.

Paul Guenther, defensive coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals

Guenther could be a candidate to take over in Cincinnati if Marvin Lewis moves on or moves up into the front office.

Kris Richard, defensive coordinator, Seattle Seahawks

Richard would follow in the footsteps of former Seahawks defensive coordinators such as Dan Quinn and Gus Bradley, who have earned head-coaching positions following the success of that unit under Pete Carroll.

Steve Wilks, defensive coordinator, Carolina Panthers

Wilks has done well in his first year running the defense in Carolina after Sean McDermott left for Buffalo.


Other names to watch