As an NFL coach hits full speed, teams must avoid the mistakes that put the Cardinals in a bad spot last year.
Soon, six to eight head coaching jobs in the NFL will be vacant, and team owners will be placing permission slips with competing teams to interview their talented coaches.
Whether or not the owner has his eye on a specific candidate, it would be a good idea to simply cast as wide a net as possible due to NFL rules regarding interview timelines.
The NFL is recommending that teams try to interview — either in person or virtually — with as many candidates as possible in the coming weeks so they don’t get stuck once the conference championship games are played. It’s a rule that got the Arizona Cardinals into an awkward position last year, and it’s one that these other teams will have to avoid in 2024.
Second interviews will only be permitted with coaching candidates whose teams are playing conference championship week that week. So, teams have part of this week and all of next week to conduct preliminary interviews before having to wait until after the Super Bowl on February 11.
If a team wants to interview a head coaching candidate who is currently working for another team but is not in the playoffs, they can do so approximately midweek this week. This timeline also applies to the coaches on the Ravens and 49ers, who each have a bye in the first round. If this coach were on any other playoff team, he would not be able to interview until after the wild card game was played. By the way, all of these interviews will be virtual.
Once the calendar reads January 22, teams can conduct personal interviews with the same coaches working at other clubs. This year, NFL owners voted to postpone the in-person interview by a week in an attempt to slow down the hiring process.
But once we get to the conference title games, that’s when things change. If a team has not conducted a preliminary interview with a candidate, and that coach’s team is in the conference championship game, they cannot conduct a preliminary interview (either in-person or virtual) until the end of that team’s season.
In essence, if you don’t connect with a coach virtually between the middle of next week and January 22, and his team is in the conference championship game, you can’t talk to him until his team loses in the conference championship or wins/losts the Super Bowl.
This was the problem the Cardinals faced last year during the head coaching hiring process. The team hired Monte Ossenfort as general manager on January 16 during the week of divisional round games. When the Eagles got their start, the Eagles were headed to the conference championship game, and after that, the Cardinals were unable to ask then-Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon for an initial interview.
Arizona had to wait until the end of Philadelphia’s season, which was the Super Bowl, before they could interview Gannon. They did, of course, but the league ultimately ruled that the Cardinals manipulated Gannon by communicating with him during an impermissible time and some mid-round draft status was ultimately revoked.
Suffice it to say, interview request slips will be posted in the coming days as teams with open positions hope to secure an initial interview with as many candidates as they won’t be stuck two weeks from now.