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Raiders 2024 head coach candidates: Could Jim Harbaugh finally join the Silver and Black?

A few names to keep an eye on after Josh McDaniels is fired

Big Ten Football Media Days
Jim Harbaugh
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Las Vegas Raiders fans came knocking at Mark Davis’ door on Halloween and Davis gave Raider Nation the treat they’ve been asking for by firing Josh McDaniels as the team’s head coach. Below is a quick snapshot of a few names to keep an eye on over the coming months as potential options to replace McDaniels.

Ben Johnson

Current position: Detroit Lions OC

Ben Johnson was rumored to be a head coach candidate last offseason as he’s played a big part in the Lions’ turnaround. Johnson has been with Detroit since 2019, starting as an offensive quality control coach before moving to tight ends and taking over as offensive coordinator last season. His offense ranked fourth in yards and fifth in points last season, and is second and eighth, respectively, this season. Previously, Johnson coached at Boston College and spent seven years with the Miami Dolphins in a variety of roles.

Frank Smith

Current position: Miami Dolphins OC

If I’m making lines for who takes over, Frank Smith would be one of the favorites. He currently helps orchestrate the best offense in the NFL—ranking first in yards and points scored—and has a connection to the Raiders. Smith was the team’s tight ends coach from 2018 to 2020 and was an integral piece in developing Darren Waller into one of the league’s best tight ends. Smith has also coached for the Saints, Bears, Chargers and a couple of stops at the college level.

Jim Harbaugh

Current position: University of Michigan HC

The last few times the Raiders’ have had a vacancy at head coach Jim Harbaugh’s name has floated around as a candidate. Obviously, nothing ever came to fruition but Davis seems to have an affinity toward Harbaugh so I’d expect the rumors to start swirling again. Also, he had a 44-19-1 record during a four-year span as the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach, and Michigan is currently under investigation for a serious cheating scandal. The latter comes after Harbaugh served a suspension at the beginning of the season for a recruiting violation, so the timing might be right for him to head back to the NFL and finally join the Silver and Black.

Brian Flores

Current position: Minnesota Vikings DC

Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the NFL and three of its teams may complicate things, but he did have a solid run as the Dolphins’ head coach. Flores went 24-25 in three seasons and was over .500 during his final two years, posting records of 10-6 and 9-8 in 2020 and 2021, respectively. He’s in his first year as the Vikings’ defensive coordinator and ranks 11th in yards and 15th in points allowed this season.

Rich Bisaccia

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Las Vegas Raiders v Cincinnati Bengals
Rich Bisaccia
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Current position: Green Bay Packers Special Teams Coordinator

This would take a lot of pride swallowing on both sides, but maybe Davis realizes he made a mistake by letting Rich Bisaccia go and hiring McDaniels, so Davis opts to right his wrongs. Bisaccia did prove to be a good leader by inheriting a complete mess and still managing to take the team to the playoffs.

Raheem Morris

Current position: Los Angeles Rams DC

Raheem Morris has plenty of experience as an NFL head coach, filling the role for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2009 to 2011—after Jon Gruden was fired—and as the interim for the Atlanta Falcons in 2020. However, he doesn’t have a good track record of success with a career record of 21-38 and only one winning season in four tries. Morris was the Rams’ defensive coordinator when they won the Super Bowl in 2021, though.

Brian Callahan

Current position: Cincinnati Bengals OC

Brian Callahan has strong connections to the Raiders as his father, Bill, had a two-year stint as the organization’s head coach in 2002 and 2003. Brian was also the team’s quarterbacks coach in 2018 before he landed the Bengals’ offensive coordinator job a year later. He has experience working with a young quarterback having coached Joe Burrow since Burrow entered the league in 2020. After struggling while Cincinnati was rebuilding during his first two years as OC, Callahan’s offenses ranked seventh in both 2021 and 2022.

Bill Belichick

Current position: New England Patriots HC

Davis might be scarred from hiring Bill Belichick’s disciples, but maybe the owner goes after the head honcho this time. Belichick might want out of New England after the last couple of years have been disastrous, and if that happens, he’ll be the most coveted head coach candidate in the league’s history. Granted, a recent report revealed that he did sign an extension in the offseason and is unlikely to get fired, but Belichick infamously left the New York Jets at the alter before taking the Patriots’ job. So, maybe history repeats itself and Robert Kraft is on the wrong side of that situation this time.

Jon Gruden

Current position: New Orleans Saints consultant

Like Flores, Jon Gruden’s lawsuit against the NFL could complicate things. And of course, the email scandal that led to him resigning in disgrace would be a big hurdle as well. However, Davis has always wanted Gruden as the Raiders’ head coach, so who knows, maybe he feels enough time has passed to give Chucky a third shot at the job.

David Shaw

Current position: NFL Network analyst

If Davis can’t land Harbaugh, David Shaw might be his second option as Shaw was Harbaugh’s partner in crime for several years. Shaw also has ties to the Raiders, having served on the team’s coaching staff from 1998 to 2001. He eventually became Stanford’s head coach for 12 years before stepping down at the end of last season. While his last few seasons were ugly, Shaw posted a 96-54 record at Stanford and left with the most wins in school history.

Deion Sanders

Current position: University of Colorado HC

Deion Sanders was the talk of college football during the first month of the season as he quickly turned around Colorado, which had just one win the year before. The Buffaloes have cooled down since September and are currently 4-4, but that’s still an impressive improvement given where they started. Sanders is another long shot but don’t be surprised to hear his name floating around.

Jerod Mayo

Current position: New England Patriots Linebackers coach

This will really test how much Davis is scarred from the “Patriots Way”, but Jerod Mayo is another popular name as a potential up-and-coming head coach. New England hasn’t had a defensive coordinator since Matt Patricia left in 2017 as Belichick has been primarily tackling that responsibility. But Mayo is seen as Belichick’s right-hand man and the Patriots’ defense ranked eighth in yards allowed last season.