NFL coaching candidates we'd hire in 2019: ESPN panelists make their picks

Riley has no interest in Browns, loves Oklahoma (0:48)

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley explains why he currently has no interest in the Browns' head-coaching job. (0:48)

The ground rules are simple: We asked a panel of our NFL experts -- reporters, analysts, former players -- to play general manager and rank five candidates who aren't currently head coaches in the NFL whom they'd try to hire for hypothetical franchises.

In other words, voters could nominate Mike Leach (current head coach at Washington State) but not Matt Nagy (current NFL head coach). Got it? In total, 25 names were nominated on our ballots, with a certain coach from the college ranks topping five of them.

Point system explained: First-place votes are worth 5 points, second-place worth 4, third-place worth 3 and so on. Full results of all coaches who received votes can be seen at the bottom of this story.

The top 10

1. Lincoln Riley: 33 points

Current job: Head coach, Oklahoma Sooners

NFL experience: None

The 35-year-old just pulled off a top-10 recruiting class, but could the lure of the NFL -- and potentially coaching his former quarterback in Cleveland -- make him think about leaving OU? Riley said Tuesday that he's not interested in the NFL "right now."

2. Josh McDaniels: 18 points

Current job: Offensive coordinator, New England Patriots

NFL experience: Former Broncos head coach (2009-10)

After jilting the Colts at the altar last offseason, is McDaniels ready for another go with a different team? Are other teams ready to commit to him?

T-3. Vic Fangio: 16 points

Current job: Defensive coordinator, Chicago Bears

NFL experience: Defensive coordinator for five NFL teams since 1995

A popular candidate years ago, Fangio has seen his stock rise again thanks to the Bears' throwback "Monsters of the Midway" defense in 2018.

T-3. Mike McCarthy: 16 points

Current job: Waiting for next gig

NFL experience: Former Packers head coach (2006-18)

A 135-85-2 career record -- and Super Bowl XLV title -- lend credence to the idea that McCarthy won't be unemployed for long.

5. Jim Harbaugh: 13 points

Current job: Head coach, Michigan Wolverines

NFL experience: Former 49ers head coach (2011-14)

The No. 1 name on this list one year ago, is this the year in which Harbaugh finally makes his NFL return?

6. David Shaw: 10 points

Current job: Head coach, Stanford Cardinal

NFL experience: Former assistant for Ravens (2002-05), Raiders (1998-2001) and Eagles (1997)

Shaw's work at Stanford is exemplary, and he has been a rumored NFL target for years. His background is on offense, which is where teams could look again this offseason after the Rams, Bears and Colts found success the past two seasons after hiring from that side of the ball.

T-7. Dave Toub: 9 points

Current job: Special-teams coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL experience: 18 years of experience as an NFL coordinator

Under Toub, the Chiefs (and previously the Bears) have held a distinct advantage on special teams. Is he the next coordinator from the "third side of the ball" to get a shot at a head-coaching gig?

T-7. Matt Eberflus: 9 points

Current job: Defensive coordinator, Indianapolis Colts

NFL experience: Linebackers coach for Browns (2009-10) and Cowboys (2011-17)

Having just ascended to a coordinator-level job, Eberflus is one of the more inexperienced coaches on this list. But teams looking for the next rising hotshot might have seen enough, as Eberflus worked wonders with the Colts this season.

9. Mike Munchak: 8 points

Current job: Offensive line coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL experience: Titans head coach (2011-13), Pro Football Hall of Famer as a player

Notice how the Steelers' running game hasn't missed a beat as it went from Le'Veon Bell to James Conner to Jaylen Samuels this season? Munchak's work with the O-line has a lot to do with that.

10. Eric Bieniemy: 7 points

Current job: Offensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL experience: Running backs coach for Vikings (2006-10) and Chiefs (2013-17)

Like Eberflus, Bieniemy is a hotshot coach on the rise in his first year with a coordinator title at the NFL level, and he could be the next Andy Reid protégé to ascend to head coach. The Chiefs' offense is humming under his watch, leading the league in total yards and points.

The full results