Each team may have its coaching staff for the 2023 NFL season set, but it won’t be long before rumblings of potential firings start back up.
While the coaches who have earned their tenure won’t be going anywhere unless they retire and others like the five who were hired this offseason deserve at least a full season to evaluate, there are plenty of coaches between these stations who are heading into a make-or-break campaigns.
Whether they’ve been saddled with weak rosters, constrained by the salary cap or had to deal with devastating injuries to key players, they have all managed to keep their jobs despite failing to bring consistent success in recent years. That could change in 2023 as owners grow impatient and want to see results.
With that in mind, here are the coaches with the hottest seats in the league heading into the upcoming campaign.
Dennis Allen took on one of the toughest jobs in the league when he inherited a New Orleans Saints squad that was mired in salary-cap hell and lacking a franchise quarterback.
The 50-year-old did his best to keep the organization competitive in his first season as head coach following an eight-year run as the team’s defensive coordinator, finishing with a 7-10 record in 2022.
Despite missing the playoffs for the second straight year, things are looking up for the Saints thanks to a strong offseason. They remedied their most glaring roster flaw with the acquisition of veteran quarterback Derek Carr and reinforced a depleted defense through the draft, selecting Bryan Bresee and Isaiah Foskey with their first two selections. They also found a potential heir to Alvin Kamara—who is facing a lengthy suspension for his role an alleged assault in a Las Vegas nightclub in 2022—with the third-round selection of Kendre Miller.
The Saints couldn’t afford to make too many splashes on the open market, but they did manage to upgrade the backfield by signing Jamaal Williams—the league’s rushing touchdown king—and the defensive trenches with Nathan Shepherd and Khalen Saunders.
Now that the dust of free agency and the draft has settled, New Orleans appears to have a roster that can contend in a wide-open NFC South.
While he has a 15-38 lifetime record across his tenures with both the Oakland Raiders and Saints thus far, Allen is getting one more chance to justify his role. He’ll need to show that record isn’t indicative of his abilities and shepherd this squad to at least a wild-card berth to keep his job.
It’s been nearly three decades since the Dallas Cowboys last competed in an NFC Championship Game. That is an excruciatingly long time to go without even earning a chance to compete in a Super Bowl, especially for an organization that dominated on the biggest stages in the 1990s.
The team may be doing well enough in the regular season to seem like contenders, but Dallas has been consistently outfoxed in the playoffs during the Mike McCarthy era.
The 59-year-old shook off a disappointing 6-10 first season with the Cowboys to post back-to-back 12-5 records in 2021-22. Despite those successful campaigns, Dallas has just a single playoff win to show for it—having beat up on a severely outmatched Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that limped into the playoffs with a losing record this past January—and was eliminated by the San Francisco 49ers on both occasions.
It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly has gone wrong, as Dallas has been faring well in nearly every facet of the game during the regular season. It rated as both a top-five scoring offense and defense this past season and has stars across the roster, including a competent quarterback in Dak Prescott.
While Prescott may not be in the very upper echelon of NFL passers and has dealt with some injury woes over the past few years, he’s also earned a pair of Pro Bowl nods and boasts a respectable 61-36 record across his seven seasons as a starter.
The Cowboys have crumpled when their season is on the line, though, which may be an indictment of McCarthy’s game-planning and preparation. When comparing his regular-season numbers to his playoff stats, Prescott’s completion percentage and yards per attempt have dipped while his interception rate has risen. The high-powered Cowboys offense, which averaged 27.5 points last year and a league-best 31.2 points in 2021, scored a combined 29 points across their two season-ending defeats to the Niners.
While McCarthy said he’s in an “excellent spot” with Jerry Jones and claimed that the team owner wants to have him on the Dallas sidelines for as long as Tom Landry was—the Hall of Famer was at the reins of the organization for 29 years and won two Super Bowls and an NFL Championship—it’s hard to envision a scenario in which he continues in his current role without at least getting to a conference championship game this year.
The Las Vegas Raiders went into 2022 with plenty of hype. The team secured a hot head coaching candidate in longtime New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, brought in a star edge-rusher in Chandler Jones and reunited collegiate teammates Derek Carr and Davante Adams to form the nucleus of a team that appeared capable of usurping the Kansas City Chiefs atop the AFC West.
That would not come to pass, however, as the first year of the McDaniels era got off to an awful 1-4 start and ended with three consecutive losses to cap off a 6-11 campaign. Longtime quarterback Derek Carr lost his starting job and left the team as a result, leaving the Raiders to scramble to find a replacement this offseason. While Las Vegas couldn’t secure a prized prospect, it did come to terms with a capable veteran in Jimmy Garoppolo, a passer who is intimately familiar with McDaniels’ system after starting his career in Foxboro.
Garoppolo will have plenty of support around him with Adams and Hunter Renfrow serving as his top pass-catchers and rushing crown-winner Josh Jacobs leading the backfield. The offense should be fine as long as its signal-caller can stay healthy—which is far from guaranteed after Garoppolo had three of his last five seasons cut short with injury—but the defense must show marked improvement after an unsightly showing last year.
The Raiders were a bottom-five defense last year and were especially vulnerable against opposing passing attacks, allowing 242.9 yards per game and 25 touchdowns through the air while only securing a league-low six interceptions. Their 27 sacks were the third fewest in the NFL, an embarrassing figure given the team employs star edge-rushers like Jones and Maxx Crosby.
After similar issues cropped up during his first coaching stint with the Denver Broncos over a decade ago—he was axed after the team gave up the most yardage in the league in 2010—McDaniels still hasn’t shown he can lead a team that is able to perform at a league-average level or better defensively.
The Washington Commanders have been mired in mediocrity for much of head coach Ron Rivera’s tenure with the organization. Since he was hired in 2020, the Commanders have gone just 22-27-1 with a single postseason appearance that resulted in a Wild Card round exit. It doesn’t appear the team will be able to improve much upon the 8-8-1 showing—the best season in the Rivera era—it cobbled together last year either.
Washington has been plagued by an inability to find a franchise quarterback. In the last three seasons alone, the Commanders have deployed eight different starters and will likely end up going through a few more in 2023.
While Rivera deserves some praise for keeping his squad competitive—especially on the defensive end—it’s also the reason this organization is stuck in the NFL’s version of purgatory.
It appears Washington is staying this familiar course for the upcoming season, which will only lead to another disappointing near-miss or early exit in the postseason and an inability to draft a game-changing passer like Caleb Williams or Drake Maye without hamstringing the club’s future with a trade-up.
If the Commanders don’t drastically improve with Sam Howell as their starter this year, Rivera should just be let go at the conclusion of the campaign. He deserves a chance to ply his talents with a more ready-to-win organization, a move that would let the Commanders bottom out and rebuild from the ground up.
Rivera’s seat seems particularly hot this year after the Commanders brought in longtime Andy Reid understudy Eric Bienemy. While he’ll initially work under Rivera as the team’s offensive coordinator, Bienemy is also a potential head coach waiting in the wings. He would make a perfect replacement for Rivera if Washington elects to go a different direction in 2024.
The Los Angeles Chargers have shown they are more than capable of hanging with the league’s top teams over the last two seasons, but mismanagement by head coach Brandon Staley has limited their potential and consistency.
In that span, the 40-year-old has gone a middling 19-15 despite inheriting one of the game’s best young quarterbacks in Justin Herbert. While Herbert earned a Pro Bowl nod two seasons ago, his yardage and touchdown numbers both fell in 2022. If the 25-year-old doesn’t show growth in his impending fourth NFL campaign with Kellen Moore now running the offense, L.A. may need to make more than just an offensive coordinator change.
Considering Staley’s background as a defensive coordinator—the Bolts haven’t exactly dominated in that department. Only two teams gave up more points in Staley’s first season and the unit ranked in the bottom half of the league in terms of both scoring and total defense last season.
Staley’s decision-making also deserves criticism, namely a questionable timeout he took at the end of the 2021 regular season that had playoff implications and playing his starters in a meaningless finale last year where Mike Williams ultimately suffered an injury.
The Staley era hit its lowest point during his first trip to the postseason this past January. After building a seemingly insurmountable 27-0 first-half lead on the Jacksonville Jaguars, Staley’s squad mustered a meager three points over the final 30 minutes of regulation on their way to a historic loss.
The Bolts must show some significant growth on both sides of the ball after that humbling experience. A slow start could lead to Staley being axed before the 2023 campaign even concludes, making his the hottest seat in the NFL right now.
It’s time for Kevin Stefanski to prove his value to the Cleveland Browns. The coach has been with the club since 2020 but hasn’t had a winning season since his first year. While that inaugural campaign was a special one—resulting in Cleveland’s best record since it returned to the league in 1999 and it’s first postseason berth since 2002—the Browns have regressed in each of the last two years.
While much of the blame for Cleveland’s 15-19 record in that span can be directed towards quarterback woes, injuries and suspensions, the team is heading into 2023 with stability under center and a roster built to contend. It’s now up to Stefanski to maximize that talent and show he is the right guy for the job on a long-term basis.
Deshaun Watson’s presence should elevate the Browns significantly. Although he joined the team last offseason, an 11-game suspension limited the impact the star quarterback was able to make in 2022. With a full season finally ahead of him for the first time since 2020—the last of his three Pro Bowl campaigns—the quarterback will be expected to deliver plenty of W’s this season.
The Browns also made moves to upgrade their defense, bringing Za’Darius Smith over via trade to give Myles Garrett a suitable pass-rushing partner. The Browns took a step back on this side of the ball last year, ranking in the bottom half of the league in scoring defense while recording a meager 34 sacks.
If Stefanski fails with this group, the team will likely be forced to go a different direction in the offseason. Given the Browns lack salary cap flexibility and won’t have a first-round pick again in 2024, a coaching change would be the most sensible path forward.