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As playoffs loom for Los Angeles Rams, NFL coaching carousel speeds up

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With eight head coaching vacancies, candidates across the NFL and college landscape are getting pulled into those teams’ orbits as the playoffs are set to begin.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in the midst of one of the more interesting periods in the NFL: the window between the end of the regular season and the divisional round of the playoffs in which coaches for teams with a first-round bye can be interviewed.

It was this window that led the Los Angeles Rams to ultimately hire Sean McVay as their head coach two years ago.

The Rams spent the Thursday in this window interviewing McVay, then the Washington McVay Employers offensive coordinator, to replace Jeff Fisher. They then flew out to Boston to meet with the New England Patriots’ two coordinators: Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels and Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia. With the Patriots on a first-round bye, it was key for the Rams to talk to any candidates in this window as they wouldn’t be able to otherwise until that team was out of the playoffs. Getting acquainted with these candidates was crucial to determine whether or not they were legitimately interested in them to wait out the playoffs for their candidacies at the potential expense of missing out on other candidates...like McVay. As is now the stuff of legend, the Rams got snowed in in Boston and were unable to meet with another candidate who was a coach on a first-round bye team: Kyle Shanahan. Then the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator, Shanahan was a hot commodity as a potential head coach. After the Rams were unable to meet up with him, they met with McVay for a second time before naming him their new head coach on January 12, 2017. Shanahan wasn’t available thereafter until the Falcons lost Super Bowl LI to the New England Patriots on February 5. He was named the San Francisco 49ers head coach the next day.

So it’s worth considering how vital this period can be for teams looking for a new head coach. As of right now, there are eight such teams: the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The four teams with a first-round bye? The New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Patriots and Rams. So coaches from those teams are available to be interviewed this week before they’ll have to turn their attention back to their current employers for playoff game preparations next week. Candidates like McDaniels, Saints TE Coach Dan Campbell and Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Eric Bienemy all have meetings set up as do Rams TE Coach/Pass Game Coordinator/Co-OC Shane Waldron and QB Coach Zac Taylor.

Waldron is set to talk to the Bengals’ representatives while Taylor is going to be interviewed by the Cardinals, Broncos and Bengals. And that’s just what’s been reported to this point. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn of other discussions before Friday and Saturday when the talks are expected to be held.

So keep an eye on the NFL coaching rumors this week. If any other Rams coaches are going to be among the other hot candidates like former Rams and current Tennessee Titans OC Matt LaFleur, they’re going to pop up before we head into practices next Tuesday.

The coaching carousel is speeding up...