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When can NFL teams begin interviewing assistant coaches for head coach openings?

The NFL turns over coaches every year, with multiple teams starting a search process in January. We look at the timeline for beginning that process with assistant coaches employed elsewhere.

A general view of an NFL logo on the field during the game between the Washington Commanders and the Tennessee Titans at FedExField on October 9, 2022 in Landover, Maryland. Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The NFL regular season comes to a close in January each year, and with that comes Black Monday. The day after the regular season ends, teams that finished in disappointing fashion fire head coaches, assistant coaches, general managers, and anybody else as they look to rebuild their organization.

Some teams fire coaches well before the end of the season, while others wait until the regular season concludes. No matter when a head coach is fired, the same rules apply when a team is looking to interview a coach who is currently employed by another team.

The NFL has adjusted the rules over the years, but starting in January 2023, teams cannot interview a head-coaching candidate who is employed by another NFL team until at least the third day after the conclusion of that team’s Week 18 game. If a team plays their final game on Saturday, the third day would be the following Tuesday. If a team plays their final game on Sunday, the third day would be the following Wednesday.

We saw “at least” because that rule applies only to assistant coaches who work for teams that did not qualify for the playoffs or that earned a first-round bye. For teams that play in the Wild Card round, assistant coaches cannot be interviewed until after the first round ends. For coaches on teams that play on Saturday or Sunday, they can begin interviewing the following Tuesday. For coaches on teams that play on Monday, they can begin interviewing the following Wednesday.

Additionally, if a candidate is employed by another team, they cannot do an in-person interview until after the conclusion of the Wild Card round. That would suggest phone or video conference interviews only.

None of these rules apply to candidates who are not currently employed by another NFL team. For every Jim Harbaugh flirtation, a team could interview him whenever they want pending whatever needs to be resolved with Michigan. For every retired Sean Payton connection, a team could interview such a coach whenever the two sides agree to meet.