With Jason Garrett finally, mercifully out in Dallas, the field is now set. There are four head-coach openings in the NFL in 2020 after a total of five (Washington) came open.

This comes one year after there were eight head-coaching openings in the league, a sign that teams were willing to be more patient than in recent years after franchises like Atlanta and Jacksonville held off.

Carolina has had an opening the longest, dating back to when owner David Tepper fired Ron Rivera on Dec. 3 to get a jump on things. Since then, the Browns, Giants, and Cowboys have come open, in that order.

Now for another order. I decided to rank these jobs in order of desirability. Not all of these gigs are created equally, and here’s where it shows.

1. Dallas Cowboys

Without question and by far, the Dallas job is the best available. A common theme you’ll see emerging here is the viability of the quarterback because every would-be head coach is told by their agent that they can’t go win somewhere without a quarterback. Of these four teams, the Cowboys have the best, most stable quarterback in Dak Prescot.

Since moving to Prescott in 2016, the Cowboys have gone 40-24, and Prescott was playing at an MVP-level going into November this year. His offensive line has taken a slight step back from atop its perch in the middle of the decade, but the group is still one of the league’s best along with running back Ezekiel Elliott. On defense, the future is bright on the second level with Jaylon Smith (locked up through 2025) and Leighton Vander Esch (just halfway through his rookie contract.)

Jason Garrett is officially out as Cowboys coach, and there’s a lot to go over. Will Brinson and Sean Wagner-McGough break it all down on the Pick Six Podcast; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.

The question, of course, is meddlesome owner Jerry Jones and how much a head coach wants to deal with such a cook in the kitchen. In short — and this may not be a popular thing to say on the internet — I don’t think it matters. Jerruh has built a consistent winner in Dallas that had the talent to lock up the NFC East in early December if not for the head coach. His Hall-of-Fame ways have also made the Cowboys a destination spot for free agents based on how well they treat players and their ability to monetize their career away from the field and the state-of-the-art facilities. That’s a whole lot of good to deal with the bad.

On top of everything, you’ll always have the most-watched team in the league. If you want to be seen — and believe me, there aren’t many people in this coaching profession that want to stay in the shadows — there’s no better place than Dallas.

2. New York Giants

I wrote this week that the Giants can’t simply ride on their reputation like before and think they’ll land their big fish. I still believe that. This gig does not have the same cache it did even five years ago.

It’s true that it’s clearly the second-best job available, but that may have more to do with the two jobs beneath it. For example, had Arthur Blank pulled the trigger on Dan Quinn, New York would not be No. 2 on this list.

The Giants have their quarterback of the future in Daniel Jones, and he’s locked up on his rookie deal for another three seasons before we begin talking about a fifth-year option and beyond. Saquon Barkley should return to form in Year 3 after that high-ankle sprain suffered in October had him looking less than until late in December. Then there’s a lot of young talent in the defensive backfield that has to take a step up next year in order for the Giants to be competitive.

One pro to this job is the likely security it will bring. I recognize that’s an odd thing to say after the Giants have fired their previous two head coaches after two seasons, but that’s actually the reason why. John Mara captains this proud franchise and can’t possibly want to make this next coach into another McAdoo or Shurmur by the end of 2021. The next head coach will likely get a five-year contract and see much more of it than his two predecessors.

And yet another thing that isn’t popular to say on the internet but I’m going to do it anyway: I, too, don’t believe that Dave Gettleman is difficult to work with. I do believe that, once you get to know him, you warm to him. That’s what I’ve heard from employees from the two franchises he’s been GM of the last several years. (Agents of impending free agents certainly have different experiences, to be clear.) But that doesn’t mean the perception isn’t there. And it doesn’t mean that fears will be alleviated in the time it takes to interview once or twice. Gettleman has done himself no favors in his public speaking, and simply relying on his record has become tougher to do as Carolina’s 2015 season gets smaller in the rearview mirror.

None of this is to say that Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley or Baylor’s Matt Rhule will drop everything to go to Dallas or New York. Just because these are the top jobs of the new decade doesn’t mean Riley or Rhule will improve their lives or their standing by taking these jobs. But with the young pieces on this Giants team, plus the changes being made in football operations and the apparent willingness by Mara and Steve Tisch to hear out the next coach on what changes he thinks should be made in the personnel department, this job is clearly No. 2 on the list.

3. Carolina Panthers

My apologies to Charlotte and Panthers fans everywhere. Earlier this week on Twitter I ranked you behind the Cleveland Browns in this lineup. I meant it then, but after the firing of John Dorsey and Jimmy Haslam shouting from the rooftops what kind of NFL team owner he is, I can’t go on without admitting this mistake.

The Carolina job is better and more desirable than the Browns.

But for as many pros as the Carolina job offers, there are just as many cons or, rather, uncertainties for a prospective new head coach.

Pros: You take over a franchise that has an overall history of mediocrity but is still not far removed from the greatest stretch in its history. You have the ability to build another consistent winner and reach new heights with the organization. You’re in a city with a great climate, livable and great for family life. You have the richest owner in the NFL willing to pour resources into analytics and facilities (as well as [likely] your contract).

But there are two big unknowns with this franchise. First and foremost, you do not know with any level of certainty who will be your quarterback on Week 1 of the 2020 season. The Panthers have three quarterbacks under contract and it has been proven beyond a doubt that Kyle Allen and Will Grier are not fit to be the guy come Labor Day. Cam Newton has one year remaining on his deal, will be 31 this season and is coming off foot surgery. It is still unclear whether Tepper will keep or trade Newton. And in the event Newton isn’t on the team, you truly don’t know who your quarterback will be, which is the most daunting thing that could face a brand-new head coach.

Secondly, the personnel structure is still unclear in Carolina. Tepper wishes to add an assistant GM/president of football operations. That person will work with GM Marty Hurney, who may or may not still retain full GM power. That person will also be picked by a group that will include Hurney and the new head coach. But who reports to whom and how that work flows through will have to be determined. No one could blame the new head coach for wondering if he can buy the groceries and cook the meal.

Not knowing who the most important player on your team will be while also not knowing who all of your bosses will be and how they’ll work together isn’t the easiest sell.

4. Cleveland Browns

In some alternate universe, Dan Snyder continued his communications business and never bought the Washington NFL team in 1999. And in that universe, Jimmy Haslam is the worst owner in the NFL.

We know that’s not the case. Haslam is just the second-worst. Snyder has picked Ron Rivera to be his next head coach, and thus the Cleveland Browns have the worst job opening of them all.

Haslam is about to be on his sixth head coach and sixth general manager since taking over the Browns in 2012. At this point, his serial dating with coaches and GMs is comical to anyone not in Browns colors. There is no loyalty from ownership, and that makes it impossible for any coach with options to take.

At least there’s talent, right? Baker Mayfield took a big step back in his sophomore year but he’s not unsalvageable. At least for now, the Browns have Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry, and Odell Beckham Jr. We assume Myles Garrett will be able to play Week 1 and the defensive backfield has Denzel Ward and young stud Greedy Williams. The top six-to-eight players on this roster are about as good as any in the league.

It appears Paul DePodesta has won the tug-of-war in the front office. Similar to the Panthers, what will the structure be? Who will report to whom and will the head coach have any say in the new general manager or personnel structure? And, honestly, how well will all this work with DePodesta still working from his California home?

Tugging at every coaching candidate for this job will be the allure of turning the franchise around and getting the Browns back to glory. But that’s what Pat Shurmur thought, too. And Rob Chudzinski. And Mike Pettine. And Hue Jackson. Freddie Kitchens, too. And Haslam fired them all rather quickly.

A coach’s ego will make the person believe they can turn this around. But recent history tells you that’s a fool’s errand. Imagine having all this talent and still being the worst job available. 

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