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Current Updates on Commanders’ Head Coach Search

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Ben Johnson loomed as the favorite for the Commanders’ HC job for over two weeks, but a curveball looks to have disrupted the NFC East franchise’s search process.

Despite being interested in the North Carolina native since last year and being prepared to pursue him for a second straight offseason, the Panthers did not wait for the Lions’ season to end, instead hiring Dave Canales last week. That seemed to be a prelude to Johnson’s Washington arrival, but the prominent HC candidate has once again pledged to stick with Detroit. This creates uncertainty for Josh Harris‘ club.

Although ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter indicates Johnson did not appear a slam dunk for the Washington job, he mentions Commanders brass was en route to Detroit to interview Johnson and Aaron Glenn when word emerged the Lions’ OC was bowing out of another search. Johnson’s decision surprised many, per Schefter, even though the young play-caller made the same move last year.

The Commanders indeed had Johnson installed as the frontrunner here, per Fox Sports’ Ralph Vacchiano. As for who is most likely to land the job now, Vacchiano indicates Dan Quinn and Mike Macdonald have been viewed as sleepers during this process. These two have been sought-after candidates, but the “sleeper” label appears to have been applied because Johnson was viewed as a borderline prohibitive favorite to become the next Commanders HC. Quinn has interviewed twice with the Commanders, Macdonald once.

Johnson, 37, received a raise to stay in Detroit last year. Another pay bump is not believed to be forthcoming, Schefter adds, noting Johnson’s current Lions deal runs through the 2025 season. The Lions should again be expected to field a quality offense. Jared Goff is signed through 2024, though he is on track to become a higher-paid QB before next season. Pass-catching pillars Amon-Ra St. Brown and Sam LaPorta remain on rookie deals, though the former is a clear extension candidate in 2024. Three of Detroit’s five O-line starters — Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Penei Sewell — are under contract for 2024 as well.

More attractive jobs could also open up in 2025. The Cowboys and Eagles spent time deliberating about their head coaches, and although Mike McCarthy and Nick Sirianni are returning, they are going to do so on hot seats (McCarthy especially, as he is a lame duck). The Jaguars’ patience with Doug Pederson could wear thin as well, given the disappointing season the team just completed. Although no head coach has been fired following a playoff berth since Mike Mularkey (Tennessee) six years ago, the Bills just became the third team in the home-field advantage era (1975-present) to lose back-to-back home divisional-round games. Sean McDermott‘s seat has likely warmed as well, though it might not rival the two coaches overseeing NFC East powers presently.

As the Commanders continue their search, they do still have Texans OC Bobby Slowik in the mix. While Slowik has only been a play-caller for one season, he joins Adam Peters in having spent extensive time in San Francisco. Here is how the Washington search looks following Johnson’s surprise exit:

  • Bill Belichick, former head coach (Patriots): Team not believed to be interested
  • Eric Bieniemy, offensive coordinator (Commanders): Interviewed
  • Aaron Glenn, defensive coordinator (Lions): To conduct second interview 1/30
  • Jim Harbaugh, head coach (Michigan): Mentioned as candidate
  • Ben Johnson, offensive coordinator (Lions): To conduct second interview 1/30; hire expected?
  • Mike Macdonald, defensive coordinator (Ravens): Interviewed 1/29
  • Raheem Morris, defensive coordinator (Rams): Conducted second interview 1/24
  • Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator (Cowboys): Conducted second interview 1/30
  • Bobby Slowik, offensive coordinator (Texans): Conducted second interview 1/23
  • Anthony Weaver, defensive line coach (Ravens): Conducted second interview 1/29

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