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Opinion: Four Coaches to Watch in Commanders’ Head Coach Hunt

As the Commanders prepare for a new era, these coaches have the best chance at leading the team to a winning season.

Photo of Washington Commanders helmet from Getty Images.

Rejoice, Commanders fans – the Ron Rivera era has come to an end after his third consecutive year finishing at the bottom of the NFC (National Football Conference) East. The Commanders are gearing up for a potential comeback that will return them to contention.

Diving into the 2024 NFL offseason, the Commanders are armed and ready to change the culture of their franchise. They’ve got the second pick in the draft, $77,125,534 in cash, and a dynamic offensive squad led by the receiving duo of Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. 

In a coaching carousel featuring defensive gurus, young offensive geniuses and some national championship winners, the Commanders are on the hunt for the perfect leader to guide them to victory.

Meet The Candidates!

1. Ben Johnson: Detroit Lions Offensive Coordinator

Johnson’s coaching lineage can be traced back to offensive wizards like Sean Payton through his work under Dan Campbell. With current trends favoring the offensive side of the ball, franchises are scrambling to find the next Sean McVay or Kyle Shanahan. Young offensive-minded coaches who can light up the scoreboard are taking the league by storm. Ben Johnson has proven to be exactly that, leading the Lions’ offense to third in total yards and fifth in points per game this season. Hiring Johnson would be an amazing addition to the offense and could help develop the quarterback of the future.

The biggest mysteries in Johnson’s game come in the forms of experience and defensive aptitude. The league has seen plenty of amazing coordinators who don’t pan out as head coaches and can’t figure out both sides of the football. Even with his relative lack of experience or defensive resume, Johnson’s work on offense transformed the Lions’ passing game, and the Commanders could be looking for something similar in Washington.

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2. Dan Quinn: Dallas Cowboys Defensive Coordinator

Where’s a better place to poach a head coach than from your NFC East rival, the Dallas Cowboys? When Dan Quinn took over in Dallas as the defensive coordinator in the 2021 season, the team was coming off a year where they gave up 29.6 points per game, 28th in the NFL at the time. 

Quinn flipped their roster around, moving them up into the top ten in points allowed in the league. After surrendering the most points per game in the 2023 season, the Commanders could be looking for a defensive coach like Quinn to come in and make an immediate impact.

Quinn’s resume is as extensive as any coach available. He’s won a Super Bowl as a coordinator with the Seahawks and led the Falcons to one as a head coach. But be cautious; this move feels eerily similar to picking up Rivera. The league is moving forward to offense; it’ll be hard to convince a fan base to move backward with another defensive head coach.

3. Eric Bieniemy: Washington Commanders Offensive Coordinator

Sometimes the best guy for the job is the in-house candidate. 

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After winning two Lombardi’s over in Kansas City, Eric Bieniemy spent last season as the offensive coordinator for the Commanders and could be due for a promotion. Yes, the Commanders were 4-12, but the lackluster defense was the problem. 

The Commanders’ offense certainly wasn’t the best in the league under Bieniemy, but it was improving. He was equipped with Sam Howell at quarterback and a deteriorating offensive line, and he tried to turn water into wine. Bieniemy is a decorated offensive coordinator with two Super Bowls to show for it – but he’s not a miracle worker. That’s what it would take to turn this Commanders team into the Kansas City Chiefs in a year.

Not moving Bieniemy up to head coach would likely mean losing him as a coordinator, and all the offensive progress along with him. Keeping him could be a stagnant move relegating you to the same Commanders of 2023. Josh Harris will have to pick his poison.

4. Jim Harbaugh: Michigan Head Coach

Fresh off a Michigan national championship run, Jim Harbaugh could be looking to pursue his next challenge in the NFL. The last time Harbaugh was a head coach in the league, he was leading San Francisco to Super Bowl appearances. He’s the most proven winner of all coaches available and could give Washington the best chance to improve immediately. Harbaugh provides experience on both sides of the ball and could be the exact coach Washington needs for a rebuild.

This coach hunt should mark the beginning of a new era for the Commanders. For too long, the fan base has been relegated to subpar play. Josh Harris has the chance to turn this boat around, and it starts with finding the right head coach.

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Jeffrey Jones is a sports reporter for The Hilltop

Copy edited by Jasper Smith 

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