Why There Isn't a Clear Front Runner for Packers Head Coach Job

Michigan head coach  Jim Harbaugh  may one day return to the NFL, but it appears he is content staying in college for the time being.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh may one day return to the NFL, but it appears he is content staying in college for the time being.

With as many as a fourth of NFL teams looking for a new head coach this offseason, the Packers have had just about a month to plan, interview out-of-work candidates and prepare for a furious start to 2019.

Live sports remain the most valuable commodity for television networks, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has leveraged TV contracts to grow the league’s revenue. Each team has more cash than ever before, and this offseason could reveal a major consequence from reckless spending.

In the eight offseasons since the new money has been pouring in, 26 teams have fired and hired 57 head coaches. Excess money meant owners were willing to pay fired coaches and assistants in the search for a newer, shinier staff.

There are two types of coaches, you’ll hear. Coaches who have been fired or coaches who are going to be fired. As much as that saying is true, the past decade has proven time and again how teams are simply unwilling to hire a head coach who has been a head coach in the league previously.

The result of all this, a prominent agent told Sports Illustrated, is that this year’s collection of coaching candidates is the weakest in decades. Football simply isn’t producing promising young coaches as fast as the NFL needs them.

Undoubtedly, team president Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst have figured this out by now.

Alabama’s  Nick Saban  will likely remain in college for the rest of his coaching career.

Alabama’s Nick Saban will likely remain in college for the rest of his coaching career.

College football has also experienced the sudden windfall in new money from television deals, and it’s made it more difficult for NFL teams to lure successful college coaches to the pros. For nearly a decade, teams have been pining over the prospects of interviewing Stanford head coach David Shaw and Alabama head coach Nick Saban

Both are making as much (or more, considering lucrative university benefits like Alabama paying for Saban’s mortgage) as they would in the pros and are coaching in their dream destination. Recruiting is a time consuming task, but Gary Myers’ book Coaching Confidential described how a majority of NFL coaches sleep in their offices. It’s not as if coaching in the pros gives a man a better work-life balance.

Look beyond the head coaches, though. High-profile college coordinators like LSU’s Dave Aranda and Clemson’s Brett Venables make more than $2 million annually. Salary details for NFL coordinators are hard to come across, but New England offensive coordinator (and Packers head coaching candidate) Josh McDaniels is reportedly the highest-paid coordinator at around $4 million annually. It was such a lucrative offer that it may have been part of the reason why McDaniels reneged out of an agreement to become the Colts head coach this past offseason.

There’s no salary cap for coaches and assistants in the NFL, but teams have generally watched their staff sizes grow in recent years and owners have cut more and more checks to fired coaches. The Packers make their fair share of money, but few teams have the cash and willingness to pay top dollar for a head coach and coordinators.

Unexpected cash has helped teams move on from poor performing coaches faster in recent years, and the Packers have spent nearly a month wandering through its now-barren wasteland looking for their next head coach.

It’s now up to Murphy to find the diamond in the desert.