Frank Reich and Josh McDaniels have already been handed pink slips this season, by the Carolina Panthers and Las Vegas Raiders, respectively, but pressure is mounting for several other head coaches across the NFL.
Just as teams at the top of both conferences are immersed in big games with major implications as they jockey for postseason positioning, other teams face the difficult reality of how far away they are from playing meaningful December football.
Ahead of Week 13 getting underway, FanBuzz spoke to several NFL executives and sources around the league to get a sense for which coaches are on the hot seat, and facing the most pressure, as the stretch run shifts into hyperdrive.
1) Matt Eberflus, Chicago Bears
Somehow, Chicago escaped Monday night's game against the Minnesota Vikings with a victory, despite not scoring a touchdown. A division victory might have delayed the inevitable, but all signs point to sweeping changes for the Bears looming this offseason, if not before.
"It just seems like they don't have any idea what they're doing," a prominent agent told FanBuzz, in regards to Eberflus hasn't already followed McDaniels' and Reich's footsteps out the doors of Halas Hall and onto the unemployment line.
Given the uncertainty surrounding Justin Fields' long-term future, the likelihood that the Bears will be selecting No. 1 overall in next spring's draft, via Ryan Poles' trade back from the top-selection last spring with the Panthers, the most likely outcome is a new coaching staff leading the new-look Bears in 2024.
2) Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Chargers
Each week it seems the Chargers find new ways to lose, and the questions about Staley's future grow louder.
There is a belief among rival AFC executives that the Chargers will be among the most interested teams in Bill Belichick, should he become available — either by being relieved of his duties before season's end or following a mutual parting of the ways as the offseason gets underway. Meanwhile, one AFC evaluator believes there could be a bidding war between the Chargers and Commanders for Belichick's services.
Given quarterback Justin Herbert's immense talent, rising young receivers, and a defense with enough playmakers at all three levels to be better than it is, it would seem that Los Angeles perennially underachieving and failing to capitalize on Herbert's potential will be Staley's undoing. Sooner rather than later.
3) Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
The unwinding of "The Patriot Way," has been one of the biggest storylines of the 2023 season.
There had always been whispers from players, and their agents, about how difficult it was to play in New England but that the wins and championship rings made dealing with Belichick's methods worth it. However, Belichick hasn't delivered since future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady's departure.
Since 2020, when Tom Brady retired before ultimately landing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Belichick and the Patriots are just 27-34, with this season's 2-8 start the obvious low-water mark of the Hall of Fame coach's career. If Belichick wants to continue coaching in 2024, there will likely be a market for his services, but the clock seems to be ticking exceedingly quickly on his reign of terror in New England.
4) Ron Rivera, Washington Commanders
Sam Howell has shown plenty of promise this season, but even the young quarterback's improvement might not be enough to stave off a new ownership group from installing their desired head coach, especially for an organization that hasn't won a playoff game since 2005.
Entering Week 13, Rivera's record as Washington's head coach is just 26-35-1, and the Commanders have lost three straight games and five of their last six. Sunday, the Commanders face the daunting task of slowing the explosive and prolific Miami Dolphins.
If Sunday's game gets out of hand, it feels like there is a very real possibility that the Commanders pull the plug on the Rivera regime entering the bye week, which would give likely interim head coach Eric Bienemy extra time to prepare for a four-game finishing stretch that could serve as his audition to secure the head coaching job full-time.
Seats That are Heating Up
In addition to the coaches who could theoretically be fired at any moment, giving their teams the chance to get a head start on evaluating potential replacements, there others who are just beginning to feel the heat.
1) Robert Saleh, New York Jets
The Jets' offense is an embarrassment to modern football, and along with general manager Joe Douglas, Saleh shares some blame for his insistence on playing Zach Wilson in place of Aaron Rodgers from the fifth snap of opening night through his eventual Week 11 benching in Buffalo. Rodgers' injury might buy Saleh some time and goodwill, but if the Jets aren't competitive in games down the stretch, that could change quickly.
2) Dennis Allen, New Orleans Saints
Following New Orleans' Week 12 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, it's becoming pretty obvious that Saints aren't improving. Derek Carr has been a square peg trying to be jammed into a round hole of the Saints' offense, and now the defense is beginning to leak oil, as well. If the Saints don't make the postseason, Allen might be packing his bags by season's end.
3) Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns
Similarly to Saleh, Stefanski might get some leeway for navigating much of the season with P.J. Walker, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, or Joe Flacco as quarterback with Deshaun Watson sidelined with a fractured shoulder. However, the Browns have a loaded defense, have boasted a talented offense with explosive potential the past several years which is rarely realized. Stefanski just doesn't win. If the Browns don't finish strong, the sand might be speeding down the hourglass of Stefanski's tenure.
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