Frank Reich wasn’t the first and won’t be the last NFL coach fired because of the 2023 season.
The fact is, practically every season ends with a handful of coaches and their assistants being fired/relieved or replaced in some form or fashion. This season will be no different.
What is different about this firing and hiring cycle is there are so many coaches who could be out after all the games have been played. This cycle includes up to a dozen possible coaching changes, including the two already made.
So, yes, it could get bloody.
And now you’re wondering what teams? What coaches?
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And what scenarios would lead to changes? Well, consider:
Saleh, Belichick, Maybe Even McDermott At Risk
Jets: Robert Saleh has said he’s not concerned about job security. And, fair enough, he needs to be more focused on finding a functional quarterback and offensive line to score some points and win some games. But if the Jets don’t do that, Saleh is at risk. And his current 4-7 record and 15-30 since 2021 isn’t helping.
Patriots: They have the worst record in the AFC and owner Robert Kraft was displeased with the club’s lack of recent playoff success before this season even began. Now the Patriots are missing the playoffs and will be under .500 for the third time in four years. So a mutual parting of ways, crafted because Bill Belichick has won six Super Bowls for the franchise, is in the offing. One thing that perhaps would keep a change from taking place is if Belichick agrees to the hiring of a general manager. That GM would answer only to Kraft and address the need for a starting quarterback as well as manage the $90 million in cap space the club will have next year. That, however, is a big if because Belichick has been buying his own proverbial groceries in New England for nearly a quarter century.
Bills: This one is admittedly unlikely because the Bills believe they generally have the right formula to keep their championship window open as long as a few adjustments are made. But what if a closing schedule that includes Kansas City, Dallas and Miami collapses the remainder of this season? The Bills, eliminated from the playoffs in the divisional round the last two seasons, are struggling with a 6-6 record and might miss the postseason altogether. That’s when McDermott is going to need to show ownership he has a good plan for getting the team back to Super Bowl contention to keep his job.
Brandon Staley Hasn’t Maximized Chargers
Raiders: They’ve already fired Josh McDaniels and interim coach Antonio Pierce is 2-2. So there will be a search that will likely include Pierce being interviewed for job.
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Chargers: The clock is ticking on Brandon Staley because he has what NFL people believe is a talented roster, including the NFL’s second-highest-paid defensive unit and quarterback Justin Herbert. Staley’s problem is the investment hasn’t paid off. This club has no excuse to be three games under .500. The only thing that could save Staley is ownership not loving the idea of having to pay the remaining portion of his contract plus the contract for a new coach. Yes, terrible reason for keeping a coach but, the Chargers.
Cowboys Need To Win In The Postseason
Commanders: Ron Rivera was on precarious footing before his team lost five of its last six games and he fired defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. The fact is new owner Josh Harris has spent this season examining how the franchise operates and what’s needed to turn it into a winner. And several NFL people believe Harris hiring a coach of his choosing after the season is going to be a significant part of the process.
Cowboys: Crazy right? Not crazy. The Cowboys are playing very well now, having won five of their last six games. Mike McCarthy’s offense has taken flight, averaging 42.3 points the past three games. But all of that doesn’t guarantee McCarthy will remain the coach because club owner Jerry Jones is convinced the Cowboys must be a team that not only gets into the postseason but wins in the postseason. And failing that would put McCarthy at risk, regardless of the regular-season success.
Entire NFC South Might Go Coach Shopping
NFC SOUTH (A potential nightmare)
Falcons: They’re leading the division today. But their 5-6 record is testament to the fleeting nature of the standings. There has been no endorsement from ownership about 2024 for Arthur Smith. So it may sound obvious, but his team needs to win to keep him at his post because three losing seasons in a row is tough to defend.
Panthers: Reich was fired on Tuesday, after only 11 games on the job. Owner David Tepper has now fired his last two coaches before the season closed on consecutive years. That should give anyone interviewing for this opening pause. It may for some but the Panthers don’t think it will for most coaching candidates this cycle. Why? Because the job is only one of 32. And a lot of people would jump at the opportunity.
Saints: Dennis Allen was something of a prodigy in 2012 when the Raiders hired him at age 40. He was fired four games into his third season. The Saints saw him as a mature and natural handoff after Sean Payton left. But Allen, at age 51 now, has fumbled the baton. Saints ownership, patient and even-keeled, believes the talent to win is on the roster but Allen’s team is 5-6. This after a 7-10 season in 2022 doesn’t feel like serious improvement. Allen needs to win to solidify his spot.Matt Eberflus Target Of Persistent Rumors
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Buccaneers: Todd Bowles won the division last year, but the club was below .500 even with Tom Brady at quarterback. This season the issues seem to run deeper than injuries on the offensive line. The defense, which Bowles runs, makes mistakes and repeats them. Ownership recognizes the team is aging but seems unsure about wanting to hold on to veterans or opting for a full-on rebuild. If full rebuild is the choice, Bowles may not survive.
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Bears: Eberflus won his first game within the division on Monday night and while that seems like an accomplishment it’s a rough statement considering he’s been coaching with the division for nearly two seasons. Eberflus has seven wins in 29 games. And three of those — against Lovie Smith, Josh McDaniels and Frank Reich — came against coaches who have been fired. So Eberflus is safe, but only if he can guarantee ownership the Bears will only play against coaches who are about to be fired. NFL rumors persist Eberflus is likely out after the season.