Months ago, the prevailing thought among those in the league—and especially those who desperately wanted to get back into the league—was that there'd be little turnover at general manager and head coach this winter.
The thinking went that with the prospect of such an aberrational season and revenues down, team owners would be less likely to pull the trigger on top positions and give a one-time, one-year pass to those who otherwise would be walking the plank in 2020.
So much for that idea.
There are three head coach openings with the potential for as many as six more, and interestingly there are already four (of five if you count Washington) GM openings with the potential for four or so more to open.
I've spent this week making calls around the league to personnel folks to gauge the GM openings specifically. I went into this idea thinking I'd come up with a consensus ranking of the five jobs, but what I found quickly is that the value of a certain job is in the eye of the beholder.
Here's what else I found: each of the jobs has "another man" that candidates may have concerns about. It'll be incumbent upon both the interviewee and that "other man" to express how they'll work together in 2021 and beyond, because that guy isn't going anywhere any time soon.
Why it's great: Among the open jobs, the Texans have, by far, the best quarterback. Deshaun Watson is 25 years old and playing the best football of his young career with less around him than ever before. To not have to worry about that position (or that contract) for years offers an incredible amount of security. You're in the AFC South, a division that you can win every year. And since owner Cal McNair will hire you before the head coach, you'll have say in who you partner up with.
Why it's not so great: This job is not without its detractions, which is a shame for a QB like Watson. McNair has made questionable decisions (to put it nicely) since taking over for his late father. The Texans have a poor cap situation and an even worse draft situation thanks to McNair empowering Bill O'Brien. Everyone I spoke with is concerned about how much input Jack Easterby has. The former character coach doesn't have a personnel background but clearly has the owner's ear, and he's worked his way through whatever Game of Thrones the Texans' front office has been playing. If Easterby weren't in the building, I've been told this would be the most attractive job to most candidates.
Why it's great: You have a load of draft picks and an equal amount of cap space for 2021 and beyond. You'll more than likely have the No. 2 pick in the draft, meaning you'll be able to draft any QB you want this side of Trevor Lawrence. You can build the roster in your image better here than anywhere else. There's a patient owner in Shad Khan, and the lack of success the last quarter-century means that, relative to peer positions around the league, it's low-pressure. Go to the playoffs once every three years and you're good. Also… no state income tax in Florida and the beach is right there.
Why it's not so great: I'm told the Jaguars are closer to the Bengals than the Patriots in terms of how much money they spend on football operations. If you want to build a strong front office and scouting staff, you'll need the owner to be more generous with salaries and perks. Historically you have to overpay to lure free agents there. Tony Khan is the team's SVP of football administration and technology. He's part owner of the team and Shad's son. Tony also has duties with Fulham FC and All Elite Wrestling, and two sources wondered if his focus would be with the football team, or if there'd just be too much "side commentary." (I'm told, though, that Tony has been more involved with soccer and wrestling lately and the Khans have left the head coach and GM to their own devices since firing Tom Coughlin.)
Why it's great: If you believe in Matthew Stafford, he's still only 33. There's talent on the roster with a decent cap situation and the ability to get out from under some underperforming contracts soon. As Aaron Rodgers ages, the NFC North becomes more winnable. And as my CBS Sports HQ colleague Erik Kuselias says, win there and they'll name schools after you.
Why it's not so great: The roster, including the quarterback, can easily be viewed as a glass half-empty deal. You could have as few as five draft picks in 2021. Then there's the decades of futility from the franchise. Sheila Ford Hamp is a complete unknown less than one year after taking the reins from her mother. And she's listening to Rod Wood, the team's president and CEO who's a business guy with no football background. This seems like a job for a more seasoned personnel chief than a young first-timer.
Why it's great: You're in one of the best cities in America. OK that's me editorializing. You have a team owner who doesn't meddle in football business and spends to make sure you have the resources. There's Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, though they're aging. A talented roster that Thomas Dimitroff put together, even if it has underperformed, including a solid 2020 draft class.
Why it's not so great: If you don't believe in Matt Ryan, you're stuck with him in 2021 because of his contract. The cap situation is bad thanks to the expected dip next year, so tough cuts will have to be made. And the sources I speak to all expressed concern about team president Rich McKay's involvement in football operations. McKay, a former GM with Tampa Bay and then Atlanta before Dimitroff's hiring, is well-liked around the league. Will football operations belong to the GM and not the GM and McKay? One source said this job "won't be attractive to top candidates" because of the structure, which is something that will have to be ironed out in the interview process.
Washington Football Team
Why it's great: A good coach in place with Ron Rivera and a good defense. You have Alex Smith on the final year of his deal to decide on his future or make a move, along with the ability to trade away Dwayne Haskins, whose attitude in the building has turned the corner for the positive since the trade deadline passed. You're in a major market with the opportunity to play marquee national games regularly in the NFC East. You have a chance to be part of a culture change.
Why it's not so great: First of all, the job may not even be open. Washington could very well turn to Kyle Smith, the team's VP of player personnel, to promote to the GM role after his work in previous drafts for the team. But beyond that… an owner in Dan Snyder who has a history of being meddlesome even though he says he's not now. Do you believe him? A team that has been drawn to controversy. Do you think it's over? Will things truly change? One source said this was the least "influential" job of those available. Washington has a GM by committee with Rivera, Smith, SVP of football administration Rob Rogers and SVP of player development Doug Williams. Rivera currently has veto power, but one source said to me "I don't think Ron is a power-needy guy" who can work with others, as evidenced by this season.
I could see the Bears, Eagles, Giants and/or Broncos jobs all open up in a few weeks, with an outside chance for a couple others. I'll have my list of top candidates for jobs later this month.
Week 13 picks
Let's get right to it. I had a great bounce-back Week 12 by going 11-5. Must have been all that great Thanksgiving grub that got my mind right. I'm 115-60-1 this season, so let's keep choppin' wood.
Browns at Titans
1 p.m., Sunday, CBS
I just don't trust the Browns. They have one good win (Indy) and have been outscored in their three losses — to superior opponents — 92-19. The Titans are bigger and stronger than Cleveland. I'm not sure this will even be a game.
The pick: Titans
Rams at Cardinals
4:05 p.m., Sunday, FOX
L.A. has trouble with the 49ers and Robert Saleh's defense. That's just a team they struggle with, but I still think the Rams can make some noise in January. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have head-scratching losses across their schedule and are two plays away from being 4-7.
The pick: Rams
Patriots at Chargers
4:25 p.m., Sunday, CBS
Bill Belichick knows better than any coach what Justin Herbert is. He salivated over him in the pre-draft period. That means he knows how to stop the future Offensive Rookie of the Year. After seeing New England winning despite Cam Newton's play last week, I can imagine them beating a team that has no clue how to win close games.
The pick: Patriots
Saints over Falcons
Colts over Texans
Dolphins over Bengals
Vikings over Jaguars
Bears over Lions
Raiders over Jets
Seahawks over Giants
Packers over Eagles
Chiefs over Broncos
Steelers over Football Team
Bills over 49ers
Ravens over Cowboys