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NFL teams can begin interviewing head coaching candidates

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the NFL made a rule change effective immediately, which allows teams to begin interviewing candidates for head coaching jobs who are employed by other teams.

The new rule allows virtual interviews during the regular season of up to two hours, but applies only to head coaching vacancies. There are restrictions for other coaching positions and there are no in-person interviews permitted while the hiring club or candidate’s club is still playing.

Teams can deny the interview requests.

Before this rule change, teams had to wait until the end of the regular season to interview candidates employed by other NFL teams. However, teams could interview college coaches and candidates who were not employed.

How much of an impact will this have for a guy like, say, Robert Saleh? Let’s say the Lions want to interview him next Wednesday. That’s a workday for Saleh as San Francisco would be prepping for their season-finale against Seattle. Normal head coaching interviews can take a full day, upwards of eight hours, if they’re going well. Since these interviews are capped at two hours, however, it’s not as big of a commitment in the middle of the week as a normal head coaching interview would have been.

At least in Saleh’s case, the benefit is that he gets a head start on coaches such as Brian Daboll of the Buffalo Bills, who are poised to make a playoff run. With the 49ers eliminated from playoff contention, if Saleh crushes his interview, he’s a head coach. From a league-wide perspective, I’ve seen the argument made that this rule change is unfair since some teams may not know if there will be a coaching change until the end of the year, so it puts them at a disadvantage.

I’m curious to see how this affects coaches still in the playoff hunt and if teams aren’t interested in waiting. Daboll and Eric Bienemy are at a disadvantage in that regard. On Wednesday, Saleh said he hasn’t heard from any team yet:

“I’ve had no dialogue. Haven’t really spoken to anyone. I really haven’t thought about it. We play Saturday, and we have a game the following week against Seattle, so they have my full attention.”