The latest candidates to ride the NFL head coach carousel

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Twelve teams are preparing for the NFL playoffs. Six clubs are searching for a new head coach. Ah, yes, it must be the first week in January.

With close to 20 percent of the league needing to fill a vacancy, the quest for the best candidate should be just as competitive as usual . Here's a glance at the favorites for 2017, as Buffalo, Denver, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco sift through interviews, recommendations and resumes:

TERYL AUSTIN

Current job: Detroit defensive coordinator. Previous NFL head coach experience: No.

A candidate for vacancies with about a quarter of the league over the last two years, Austin has overseen a defense that has ranked fourth in the NFL in fewest rushing yards allowed and eighth in fewest total yards allowed since 2014. The secondary is his specialty.

Best fits: Los Angeles, San Diego.

HAROLD GOODWIN

Current job: Arizona offensive coordinator. Previous NFL head coach experience: No.

Four seasons with the Cardinals have yielded one of the league's most dangerous offenses, despite a down year in 2016. His specialty is the offensive line.

Best fits: Denver, Jacksonville.

ANTHONY LYNN

Current job: Buffalo offensive coordinator/interim head coach. Previous NFL head coach experience: No.

On almost every team's list, Lynn was promoted twice in his first year with the Bills after starting as running backs coach. Their offense led the league in rushing for a second straight season.

Best fits: Buffalo, Jacksonville.

JOSH MCDANIELS

Current job: New England offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Previous NFL head coach experience: Yes.

His first try as a head coach with Denver was a failure, but he just turned 40 so the dream is far from dead. Thirteen seasons under Bill Belichick can't hurt his acumen.

Best fits: Los Angeles, San Francisco.

SEAN MCVAY

Current job: Washington offensive coordinator. Previous NFL head coach experience: No.

McVay, who turns 31 later this month, has held his current role for three seasons in supervision of quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has twice broken franchise records for completions and yards. Head coach Jay Gruden is a former offensive coordinator with heavy influence on the scheme, but McVay eventually assumed play-calling responsibility.

Best fits: Denver, San Francisco.

VANCE JOSEPH

Current job: Miami defensive coordinator. Previous NFL head coach experience: No.

A contributor to a playoff team in his first season in the role with the Dolphins, Joseph's specialty is the secondary, having played two years in the league himself.

Best fits: San Diego, San Francisco.

DOUG MARRONE

Current job: Jacksonville interim head coach/offensive line coach. Previous NFL head coach experience: Yes.

Buffalo went 9-7 in 2014 with Marrone in charge, the most wins by the Bills since 2004.

Best fits: Los Angeles, San Francisco.

MATT PATRICIA

Current job: New England defensive coordinator. Previous NFL head coach experience: No.

No team allowed fewer points this season than the mighty Patriots, whose defense has been directed by Patricia since 2012. The Bill Belichick coaching tree will almost certainly sprout a Patricia branch at some point.

Best fits: San Diego, Buffalo.

KYLE SHANAHAN

Current job: Atlanta offensive coordinator. Previous NFL head coach experience: No.

Nine years as an NFL coordinator at age 37 is a resume standout, as is learning from a father, Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls as a head coach.

Best fits: Denver, San Francisco.

MIKE SMITH

Current job: Tampa Bay defensive coordinator. Previous NFL head coach experience: Yes.

His first season in the role helped steer a sharp turnaround by the Buccaneers, who went 6-2 in the second half while averaging 17.1 points allowed over the last eight games. Atlanta won two division titles and made four postseason appearances in his seven years as the head coach.

Best fits: Jacksonville, Los Angeles.

ALSO IN THE MIX

Seattle assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tom Cable: Best fits: San Francisco, Jacksonville.

Former New York Giants and Jacksonville head coach Tom Coughlin. Best fits: Jacksonville, Buffalo.

Los Angeles interim head coach/special teams coordinator John Fassel. Best fits: Los Angeles, San Diego.

Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. Best fits: Buffalo, San Diego.

Kansas City special teams coach Dave Toub. Best fits: Denver, San Diego.

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