As the 2023 NFL season winds down with just four teams remaining in the playoffs, multiple franchises are still searching for new head coaches after firing their old ones. The Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Chargers, Tennessee Titans and Washington Commanders are all looking for their next head coach. With big names like Bill Belichick and Jim Harbaugh potentially changing teams, this could be one of the wildest NFL coaching carousels ever.
Background on the Openings
The Falcons, Panthers, Chargers, Titans and Commanders all moved on from their previous head coaches during or after the 2022 season after underwhelming performances.
The Falcons fired head coach Arthur Smith after three seasons where the team failed to reach the playoffs. There was hope Smith could lead a rebuild after the team moved on from veterans like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, but a 14-35 record was not enough for him to keep his job. The Falcons are looking for an offensive mind who can help develop young talents like tight end Kyle Pitts and receiver Drake London.
Carolina parted ways with Matt Rhule midseason after he started his Panthers tenure 11-27. Interim head coach Steve Wilks led the team to a 6-6 record to finish the season but was not retained as the full-time head coach. The Panthers have some nice young pieces in place but desperately need stability at head coach and quarterback.
Despite making the playoffs, the Chargers and Brandon Staley decided to mutually part ways after two seasons. Staley put together competitive teams but could never get Los Angeles over the hump. With Justin Herbert at quarterback, the Chargers job is viewed as one of the most attractive openings this offseason.
The Titans shockingly fired Mike Vrabel after back-to-back AFC South titles and 2021 AFC No. 1 seed. Tennessee overachieved behind Derrick Henry and a gritty defense but ownership felt a change was needed. Replacing Vrabel will be tough but the roster has enough talent that this opening should draw lots of interest.
Washington fired Ron Rivera after three underwhelming seasons where the team failed to win the weak NFC East. Rivera led the Commanders to just one playoff appearance and the offense stagnated in 2022. Finding the right coach to pair with young playmakers like Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson is critical for Washington.
Top Head Coaching Candidates
With five openings across the league, there are many rumored candidates who could fill these roles:
The long-time Patriots head coach would obviously be the crown jewel of any coaching search this offseason. After winning six Super Bowls in New England, there is rampant speculation Belichick could look to take on a new challenge with a team like the Chargers or Titans. At 70 years old though, retirement is also an option for him.
Harbaugh has turned down NFL opportunities before to stay coaching college at Michigan. But this might finally be the year he decides to leave Ann Arbor and return to the pros. His name has already been connected to the Broncos and Dolphins jobs last year, and he’d undoubtedly be near the top of every team’s wish list.
The former Ravens defensive coordinator has interviewed for NFL head coaching jobs before without being hired. But after the success Mike McDaniel and Kevin O’Connell had this past year going from coordinator to head coach, the NFL may be more willing to take a chance on an experienced guy like Martindale.
|Jim Harbaugh, Josh McDaniels, Raheem Morris
|Jim Harbaugh, Sean Payton, Dan Quinn
|Bill Belichick, Jim Harbaugh, Kellen Moore
|Bill Belichick, DeMeco Ryans, Leslie Frazier
|Eric Bienemy, Wink Martindale, Dan Quinn
There are also many top coordinators who could get opportunities this offseason like Eric Bienemy, Kellen Moore, and DeMeco Ryans. Established NFL names like Sean Payton, Josh McDaniels and Dan Quinn seem likely to get interviews too if they want to return to head coaching.
What Happens Next
The focus right now is finishing the 2022 season and playoffs, so no coaching moves can be made officially yet. But NFL teams have already started putting together lists of coaching candidates and requesting interviews. Those interviews will take place during the playoffs, but no coach can sign a contract until their current team’s season is over.
Here is the timeline to watch:
- Interview requests go out: Teams start reaching out to coaching candidates and agents to gauge interest
- Interviews happen in playoffs: Buzz will build in January as teams secretly interview assistants still in the playoffs
- Staying or going? Belichick, Harbaugh, Payton decide their 2023 plans
- Contracts get signed: Shortly after the Super Bowl when coaches are available, expect a fast signing frenzy
- Staff gets assembled: New coaches work fast to hire coordinators and build out coaching staffs
So while the head coach interviews happen behind the scenes over the next few weeks, big news on hirings won’t emerge until late February.
After that, it will be a rapid scramble for the new coaches to assemble their staffs and start preparing for free agency, the NFL Draft, and most importantly getting ready for the 2023 season. These five teams all expect to compete right away, so hitting the ground running will be essential.
The 2023 offseason promises to have fireworks with this wild head coaching carousel. Several big-name coaches like Belichick and Harbaugh could find themselves in new cities paired with talented rosters ready to win now. Other dark horse candidates will surely emerge too that no one expects right now. But one thing seems certain – the NFL landscape will look very different next season with so many iconic coaches potentially on the move to take on new challenges.
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