Five candidates to be Falcons next head coach


The search is on.

The Falcons are looking for a new head coach after owner Arthur Blank fired Arthur Smith this week after three seasons. While the process is just underway, here are five possible candidates for the vacant position. Most currently have jobs. Some do not or will not in the near future. It’s early, but never too early to speculate who the Falcons might have interest in for the job.

The Falcons will announce head coach interviews in the coming weeks. But in the meantime, here’s our list.

Mike Vrabel

The Titans fired Vrabel on Tuesday. He led the Titans to four consecutive winning seasons upon arriving in 2018. However, they have had back-to-back losing seasons, including 6-11 this season. That and a new general manager will get you fired. Lest we forget, Vrabel guided the Titans to back-to-back AFC South championships in 2020 and 2021. They were the AFC’s No. 1 seed in 2021 and Vrabel was named NFL Coach of the Year. The Falcons plucked Arthur Smith from his offensive coordinator role from the Titans three years ago. They might not be so willing to go that route with the fired head coach. However, Vrabel is a former player. He would have the respect of the locker room. He’s had success. If Blank is looking for someone with head coaching experience, Vrabel certainly has it.

Bill Belichick

He still has a job. He has said publicly he expects to continue in that job. However, there has been speculation surrounding the future of the head coach as the Patriots struggled through a 4-13 record this season, the latest in a downhill trend. The Boston Globe has linked Belichick to the Falcons. If the most successful head coach of all time becomes available, the Falcons should be interested. Stand in line. The Patriots have not won the AFC East in the past four years. Before that, Belichick led the Patriots to division titles in 17 of 19 years, including 11 consecutive from 2009-19. During that run, the Patriots went to nine Super Bowls and won six. There was a memorable comeback against the Falcons, you might remember. If the Falcons want to change the culture to something different than their own recent downhill trend, Belichick will certainly carry that cachet.

Eric Bieniemy

The Commanders fired Ron Rivera this week, and that leaves Bieniemy in limbo. While still under contract, his status is uncertain as the organization looks for its next head coach. The offensive coordinator came over from the Chiefs after he was passed over for several head coaching positions. There was an issue early in the season after Rivera said that players did not like Bieniemy’s coaching style. That could be a hindrance to a head coaching position. However, he’s had success running a high-powered offense. He was the Chiefs’ running backs coach and then offensive coordinator from 2013-22, and he won two Super Bowls. Sure, it helps to have Patrick Mahomes as your quarterback. One oddsmaker set odds of Bieniemy being hired by the Falcons at 20%.

Ben Johnson

The Lions offensive coordinator is one of the hot names in the current coaching cycle. He already has garnered interest from the Commanders, Chargers and Panthers. Johnson was a strong candidate for the Panthers job last season before Frank Reich was hired. He also interviewed for the Texans and Colts vacancies. Johnson has been a big part of the Lions rebuild that had them finish the regular season at 12-5 and win the NFC North for the first time since 1993. Under Johnson, the Lions have finished fifth in points scored in the NFL each of the past two seasons. Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn also is getting lots of interest. One oddsmaker set odds of Johnson being hired by the Falcons at 12%.

Steve Wilks

The 49ers defensive coordinator has head coaching experience. He was head coach of the Cardinals in 2018, a one-year stint that ended with a 3-13 record. He served as the interim head coach of the Panthers last season after Matt Ruhle was fired. He led the Panthers to a 6-6 record in his stint and many believed he should have gotten the chance to continue with great support from players. 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said this week he has fielded several phone calls from teams interested in Wilks. The Chargers have formally requested to interview Wilks. Under Wilks, the 49ers ranked third in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing just 17.5 points per game.