It’s a new year and a new NFC North. As the Minnesota Vikings wrapped up the number two seed in the playoffs and will be enjoying their bye week, the rest of the division began their front office makeovers. The Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions both removed their head coaches while the Green Bay Packers are making a change at general manager and at both coordinator positions. There has been continuity within the division over the past three years so it’s shocking to see such vast change all at once. The current vacancies throughout the NFC North are worth monitoring in the coming weeks as most of the division starts looking towards 2018.
NFC North Head Coaching Vacancies
Chicago Bears (5-11 Last Place in NFC North)
- Head Coach John Fox
The Bears removed Fox after three seasons and a combined 14-34 record with the team. He failed to get the Bears out of the NFC North cellar, finishing last in the division each season. A promising young quarterback and improved defense weren’t enough for Fox to earn another shot with the organization. He had his team overachieving to begin the year but fell flat as the season progressed.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio‘s contract is expiring, but he recently interviewed for the head coaching position. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is visiting with the Miami Dolphins about a role on offense, so at this point whomever will be running the Bears in 2017 is unknown.
Green Bay Packers (7-9 Third Place in NFC North)
The Packers are known for having strong continuity in the front office and on the coaching staff. Although offensive coordinators have left the team for other organizations, Capers has remained with the Packers for nine seasons. Yet, the Packers haven’t had a top tier defense since their Super Bowl victory in 2010. The Packers missed the playoffs for the first time in Capers’ tenure this year which proved enough for the team to envision a change.
The case with Thompson is a bit more undefined at this moment. What is for certain is that the team is searching for a new general manager after 12 seasons. There were rumors that Thompson would either retire or change roles before the 2017 season. He will remain with the organization in a less demanding role more than likely. The expectation is that the Packers already have an idea of who their next general manager will be and all signs indicate an internal hiring.
Just days after Capers and Thompson were removed from their current roles with the team, the Packers also let go of Bennett and a number of other offensive coaches. Backup quarterback Brett Hundley‘s development, or lack thereof, could have been a primary factor in most of these changes, but the team still has faith in their offensive-minded head coach Mike McCarthy. There has been some speculation that past coordinators Joe Philbin or Ben McAdoo could return to Green Bay.
Detroit Lions (9-7 Second Place in NFC North)
- Head Coach Jim Caldwell
Caldwell was given three seasons to turn this team into a Super Bowl contender. After posting an 11-5 record and clinching a Wild Card berth in his first year, the Lions have posted consecutive 9-7 seasons and barely missed the playoffs. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has lobbied for the Lions to retain offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who recently interviewed for the team’s head coaching vacancy. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin also interviewed for the position.
Whoever fills the position of head coach of the Lions will be under a lot of pressure to win the division in 2018. Stafford is in the prime of his career and playing better than ever, so a defensive minded coach that could balance the team could be necessary.
Minnesota Vikings (13-3 1st Place in NFC North)
- No Removals Thus Far
The Vikings secured the number two seed in the NFC after recapturing the North. Head coach Mike Zimmer is an underrated candidate for Coach of the Year after his team’s success with a rash of injuries at quarterback and running back. The only problem that arises from such a dominant season is that both offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and defensive coordinator George Edwards will be strongly sought after for head coaching vacancies. As it currently stands, the Vikings are the most complete team in the NFC North and should feel confident about their organization moving forward.
All three NFC North teams in flux will look quite different in 2018. The Bears and Lions coaching jobs should be well coveted as they have quarterbacks in place for the future. Both have holes and issues at other areas but the hardest work is done. The new Packers coordinators will inherit promising young players on defense and Aaron Rodgers on offense. The general manager transition should go without too many hiccups. Although each of these teams is facing substantial change this off-season, all three have the ability to be competitive next year. The Vikings will have tougher competition for the NFC North crown in 2018.