5. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons present a similar dilemma to the Lions. Matt Ryan has proven to be extremely durable and is coming off a solid 2020 campaign. But he’s also entering his 14th season. Ryan has expressed his desire to remain in Atlanta, and if that is the case, the Falcons will go into next season with some stability at quarterback.
The Falcons were a bit better than their record last year. They suffered some unusual, mind-bending defeats. But they certainly have talent. Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones jump off the screen for the offense, while Deion Jones and Grady Jarrett highlight the defense.
One problem with this Falcons team is, similar to the Lions, the team’s direction will largely depend on the route the front office takes. On the one hand, the Falcons have the tools on offense to compete. On the other, they’re coming off a 4-12 season, which in itself should question whether a sizable rebuild might be in the works. Ryan may play a couple more years, but the overall landscape of this team feels unclear.
The Falcons are in a pinch cap-wise, too, currently sitting at around -$24.5 million in cap space. This would complicate the task of retooling the defense.
The greatest challenge Bieniemy would face in Atlanta is remaking a culture that has become synonymous with close losses. The 28-3 Super Bowl choke jobs torments seem to have had a residual impact for the Falcons. Whether this trend reflects coaching, talent, or a real cultural issue is unknown; either way, Eric Bieniemy will be tasked with overhauling a team with a miserable, haunting history of loss.
4. New York Jets
The good: The Jets have a quietly impressive array of young talent. Mekhi Becton, Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder, and Breshad Perriman all played well this year. The Jets also draft at No. 2 overall, which should land them a quarterback like Justin Fields or Zach Wilson, assuming Trevor Lawrence goes #1.
But there is something strangely unsettling about the Jets job. The first issue is the QB decision. While it seems probable that the Jets would nab one at number 2, it’s also reasonable to wonder if GM Joe Douglas would want to give Sam Darnold one last opportunity to at least compete for the starting job.
That’s a unique feature about the Jets job: they already have a GM in place. I don’t know if that complicates the situation or not, but I do know that Bieniemy would instantly be inserted into some difficult discussions about personnel. These discussions regarding Darnold have been ongoing all year. That presents a possibly messy situation for the next Jets coach. But regardless, Bieniemy is uniquely equipped to deal with the New York media (he’s an adult), so some of the pitfalls of previous coaches probably won’t be an issue with Bieniemy.