While some teams are still in Super Bowl contention, other teams are trying to figure out how to get there next year, and it starts with finding the right coach.

It seemed as though the minute the NFL regular season ended, teams and head coaches were instantaneously making their moves as if calculated for months. Teams fired coaches (or at least were rumored to), iconic coaching legends stepped down from their posts and one college football coach entered the already brewing conversation. 

With all the recent and immediate changes at head coach plus the shock that came with the departure of a few former Super Bowl favorites (yes, I know hard to believe), I thought it would be fun to see what students think. 

Here are a few coaching questions I threw out to them:


Will Jim Harbaugh go to the NFL? And if so, what team will he lead?

Context: Just after a few short weeks into celebrating his recent college football national championship with Michigan, Jim Harbaugh already has his eyes on the next year. Will that be returning with the Wolverines or could he be headed to the NFL come this upcoming fall?

A few things to consider: His quarterback, J.J. McCarthy, and leading running back, Blake Corum, have both announced that they would be declaring for the NFL Draft this spring. Also, next year, the College Football Playoff will transition to a 12-team format compared to the four-team format of the past few years. 

Plus, Harbaugh was in what you might say “the hot seat” for the majority of the season due to NCAA violations requiring him to miss six of their 15 games this year. One of those is an ongoing investigation into a sign-stealing scandal that forced him to miss the last three games of the regular season and could further penalize Harbaugh if he decides to return to Ann Arbor.  

Grayson Gifford (‘25): “I think he could still be at Michigan but I fully expect him to go to the NFL and I think he is going to end up with the Raiders.  I believe he will interview with them and take that job because they have the opportunity to draft JJ McCarthy. I believe he would love to coach the QB he personally called “a generational talent”, and “the greatest QB in Michigan history (where he and Tom Brady both played)”. I may be wrong but I have a feeling wherever he goes, it may be a place where he has the opportunity to ask to draft him at quarterbacks.”

Although the Raiders did just promote interim head coach Antonio Pierce to the full-time head coach job, Gifford is still confident that Harbaugh will be walking away from his alma mater, especially since they will be “left in good hands.”

Gifford (cont.): “While I would hate to see him leave (because we all love Harbaugh) it will not impact the program very much. Sherrone Moore has proven a leader for Michigan, won three enormous games and there wouldn’t be an expected transfer portal blow-up because that staff will stay very similar to the way it was, with just one or two minor adjustments.  It’s bittersweet if he leaves for the NFL because he delivered on his promise of bringing us back to prominence nine years ago.  We would miss him as fans, but we would be okay.  The process and culture on that team wouldn’t change.”

Adam King (Grad Student): “Personally, I think he can go one of two ways: try to defend the title or leave on a high note. There is no guarantee they make the CFB Finals, especially with the expanded playoffs next year, so I believe he should end on a high note and go to the NFL coaching scene. There have been a lot of rumors of him talking to the Chargers, so I believe he will go there.”

Andre Castillo (‘25): “As a Chargers fan I’m hoping Harbaugh will be coaching them in 2024 and the foreseeable future. I think Los Angeles is a perfect landing spot for Harbaugh, giving him an opportunity to come back to the NFL and fulfill his ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl. Jim Harbaugh is also a household name that will fill seats in SoFi Stadium which is another important aspect to consider when hiring a coach with a reputation like Harbaugh’s. Jim Harbaugh has the ability to bring his winning culture to Los Angeles, but his decision depends on whether he knows he can succeed in the situation he’s given. The Chargers currently have a lot of cap issues, aging players, but a star in Justin Herbert. We’ll just have to wait and see how this plays out…”

Current status: Harbaugh has not yet made a decision on where he will be next year. But, remember, Harbaugh has NFL experience which has likely helped him land interviews with the Los Angeles Chargers and the Atlanta Falcons (twice), assuming more teams will enter the mix for the highly decorated coach.


What should the Cowboys do with Mike McCarthy?

Context: The Cowboys at one point this early season looked unbeatable. They finished first in the NFC East but yet were sent packing in the first round of the playoffs, for the third straight year. Immediately following the team’s upset by Jordan Love and the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium, people were quick to chirp about what Jerry Jones should do about McCarthy. 

Under McCarthy, the Cowboys are 67-42 in the regular season and have won two NFC East titles in the past three years, but are just 1-3 in the playoffs. 

Maddox Oliver (‘27): “Something Cowboys’ fans and media members should ask is, ‘Who could come in and do a better job than what McCarthy is currently doing?’ The last three seasons the Cowboys have gone 12-5 in the regular season and have been the NFL’s number one overall offense in 2/3 of those years and top five for all of them. Not to mention he’s had a top-10-rated defense in those three years as well. But despite all this success, there have been zero playoff wins in this time with all those games being at home. While I admit it can seem hard to justify this, does it really make much sense to get rid of a coach who’s giving you 12 wins year in and year out? Most NFL franchises would sell their soul for that level of success. Further, Mike McCarthy has won a Super Bowl showing he is capable of reaching that level of success. It’s only a matter of time before the Cowboys breakthrough. If I’m Jerry Jones I’m saying look, “We have our QB in Dak Prescott, a great receiver core with a borderline top-five receiver in CeeDee Lamb and a defense who can shut down elite offenses.” With that much level of success in the past three seasons, it really doesn’t seem justifiable to let him go considering you can’t guarantee the next guy you bring in will be any better.”

Andre Castillo: “I think Mike McCarthy is a solid coach and has provided the Cowboys with hope, yet no results in the playoffs. Keeping McCarthy isn’t a bad decision at the moment, it’s actually a good move for the locker room and players. However, with this year’s coaching carousel including so many intriguing candidates, overlooking other coaching options had to have been a challenging decision for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys.”

Adam King:  “This one is kind of a coin toss. While they have had rocky postseason appearances the past three years, they have also been a consistent 12-win/season team the past three years under McCarthy, which a lot of teams would love to have that level of consistency. It is tough because everything does gear up for the playoffs, but I think if he can lead the Cowboys to that many wins in the regular season, then it is only a matter of time before they put it together in the playoffs. However, three in a row is a lot, so how many more chances are the Cowboys willing to give him? I think he should try to stay and that is the right decision for himself, but for the Cowboys franchise having him as the HC may not be the best option.”

Current status: Just three days after the Cowboys’ disappointing loss to the Packers, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones announced that McCarthy would in fact be returning for the 2024 season however…Mike McCarthy is not expected to receive any sort of extension from the Dallas Cowboys and will coach the 2024 season on an expiring contract, league sources told ESPN.


Where will Bill Belichick go?

Context: On Jan. 11, it was announced that legendary coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots would be parting ways for the next season after 24 seasons including six Super Bowl titles. The announcement comes on the heels of a grueling 4-13 season this year. Since Tom Brady left the franchise just four “short” years ago, the Pats have only put together one winning season and one playoff berth. 

While it is unclear whether Belichick will even be on the sidelines come the first game of the season, he did interview with the Atlanta Falcons just a week after his break up with New England.

Adam King: “It will be weird to have a Patriots team without him as the coach, but I think he has been there for so long that he does need something new in his life, especially since the Pats are not where they used to be. He is pretty old, and while he is a great football coach, I think he will be watching the games from his couch rather than from the sidelines.”

Andre Castillo: “After mutually parting ways with the Patriots, I thought it’d be a good time for Belichick to retire as one of the greatest, if not greatest coach in NFL history. However, as of now, he’s had two interviews with the Falcons and I think he ends up in Atlanta. The next question to ask is whether he will have full roster control like he did in New England or if he gives up that power to continue coaching.”

Current status: Belichick has only been interviewed by one franchise so far, the Atlanta Falcons, (twice) and while no one else has scheduled a ~known~ interview, five others have yet to fill their head coaching positions: the Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans and Washington Commanders. But for all we know, Belichick might not even be on the sidelines next year and might just be stepping away indefinitely.


Should the Eagles fire Nick Sirianni?

Context: After the Eagles’ surprising (or not surprising depending on how you see it) early exit in the NFC Wild Card round, many started to wonder where change needs to happen. Some started to even point fingers at Sirianni. 

It’s hard to believe that the team that started 10-1 just a few short months after making a Super Bowl appearance would fall so far and so fast from glory. If you watched the Eagles’ past six games leading into the Wild Card round, then you wouldn’t be that surprised to see their season finished by Baker Mayfield and the Bucs. The 32-9 loss was their sixth loss in seven games dating back to December.

The team looked sloppy, they’d been injury-struck for weeks on end and they looked like they’d “lost their identity completely.” But in my opinion, it wasn’t a Sirianni thing. 

Adam King: “No, he led them to the Super Bowl last year where it was a close game, proving he can take a team deep into the playoffs, so one bad season that fell apart should not mean they part ways.

Current status: While no one in the front office has addressed the future of the franchise since the end of their season, multiple Eagles players have shared that they don’t expect Sirianni to go anywhere. Jason Kelce on the other hand? That might be a different story.


Reactions to Pete Caroll stepping down from Seattle:

After 14 seasons, 10 playoff appearances, and the team’s only Super Bowl Championship in 2014, the Seattle Seahawks “mutually agreed” to move on from Pete Carroll as head coach. The news broke on January 10th, the same day Alabama head coach Nick Saban announced his retirement and just one day before the Patriots also parted ways with Belichick.

While the decision comes on the heels of a 9-8 season which caused the Seahawks to miss out on the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, it’s hard not to mourn the loss of such a longstanding figure as the winningest coach Seattle has ever had. So now what?

Andre Castillo: “As Pete Carroll steps down, I believe Mike Vrabel is the right guy to replace him. He is a great defensive mind who would be a perfect fit and has the ability to bring back a defensive culture to Seattle, similar to the Legion of Boom from the 2010s.”


Other coaching changes that need to be made:

Mike Vrabel: Speaking of Mike Vrabel…the Tennessee Titans fired Vrabel on Jan. 9th. This was Vrabel’s first head coaching position where he led the Titans 54-45 but even after two straight AFC South titles in 2020 and 2021, Vrabel’s Titans missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, going 6-11 in 2023. Vrabel is expected to interview with the Falcons soon and has already met with the Chargers as well.

Maddox Oliver: “A firing I was very shocked by was Mike Vrabel of the Tennessee Titans. While Tennessee was not very competitive this year. The last two years they have finished 1st and 4th in the AFC and made an AFC championship in 2021. In that same season, Vrabel was named NFL coach of the year. So after one subpar year cutting him loose seems shocking. Especially because he was dealing with a rookie quarterback in Will Levis and overall not a strong roster. Mike Vrabel should be at the very top list of all NFL teams looking for a new coach. He has a very successful track record in the NFL and is a proven leader.”

Antonio Pierce: After the Raiders fired head coach Josh McDaniels in early November, linebackers coach Antonio Pierce was made interim coach for the remainder of the season where he led the team to a 5-4 finish. Even in his short time as interim head coach, many instantly noticed a shift in the team culture, one Raiders fans hadn’t seen in a long time. 

For this reason and more, the Las Vegas Raiders removed Pierce’s “interim” tag and hired him as full-time head coach as of Friday. With looming questions for the upcoming season (especially on offense), Pierce can officially get to work.

Adam King: “I most definitely think Antonio Pierce earned his spot as the Raiders HC with how different the team looked once he took over.”