As the old adage goes, "Coaches are hired to be fired" — and just as optimism rules the day with training camps in full swing across the league, some NFL head coaches enter the 2023 campaign coaching for their jobs.
There will be five new head coaches following a 2022 season that saw the Carolina Panthers fire Matt Rhule, Indianapolis Colts fire Frank Reich and the Denver Broncos fire Nathaniel Hackett during the season. And multiple coaches will undoubtedly be feeling some pressure when this season begins.
To get a feel for which coaches have the most at stake this season, FanBuzz spoke to several NFL executives and coaches in buildings across the league to find out which coaches are beginning 2023 sitting on the hot seat. The individuals were granted anonymity to speak freely about other teams.
Here are their answers:
Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Chargers
"The Chargers would be a situation to watch. They're cheap, so I don't think they want to actually fire him, and he's a really nice guy. But, Brandon Staley is a really bad coach with a great roster. They just paid that quarterback, and if they don't win now, Justin Herbert isn't getting any younger. It blows my mind that they don't win. If Jerry Jones had Justin Herbert, that head coach would have been fired two years ago. Guaranteed. What's the difference between Herbert and Troy Aikman? Nothing, in my opinion. They're smart, accurate, big arm, great guys and leaders off the field. They should be rolling, but they haven't been." — NFC personnel executive
Staley seemed to narrowly avoid being shown the door on Black Monday, back in January. And it might be time to deliver results with one of the most talented rosters in the league or look for new employment if this season doesn't show significant progress.
It certainly doesn't help Staley's cause that the Chargers surrendered a 27-10 halftime lead to the Jaguars in the AFC Wild Card Round, as their season ended with a whimper rather than the franchise's first postseason win since 2018.
Staley and the Chargers hired offensive coordinator Kellen Moore to rebuild the offense around Herbert's skill set and prolific wide receivers including Mike Williams, Keenan Allen and incoming rookie Quentin Johnston. But the buck could ultimately stop with Staley if Los Angeles doesn't make a run.
Dennis Allen, New Orleans Saints
"I know for a fact Dennis Allen is on the hot seat. Even with a new quarterback, I think he has to win big to keep his job. I'm not sure he's going to. Honestly, I feel like Dennis got the job so they could keep some sort of continuity when Sean left, and so far that just hasn't worked." — NFC North executive
Dennis Allen was Sean Payton's hand-picked successor, but after going 7-10 last season and missing the postseason, the pressure is on for the Saints to have the kind of season that matches their star power on both sides of the football.
While the Saints finished fifth in total defense in 2022, New Orleans won just seven games and finished with the league's 28th-ranked offense while averaging a meager 21.4 points per game. Quarterback Derek Carr should provide some much-needed veteran stability, but it remains to be seen if the Saints can keep pace with the Panthers and Falcons, who suddenly boast two of the more exciting young rosters in the NFL.
Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns
"Kevin Stefanski would be the first name on my list. The Browns have had a loaded roster the last several seasons and they just don't win." — NFC coach
It's high time for the Cleveland Browns to make a serious run at competing in the AFC North, especially with quarterback Deshaun Watson primed to be available Week 1.
Entering the 2023 season at 26-24, the bloom is off the Stefanski rose. That's despite a roster that includes arguably the game's premier running back in Nick Chubb, a playmaking wide receiver in Amari Cooper, and Myles Garrett as potentially the top pass-rusher, among other marquee-caliber players.
The Bengals, Ravens and Steelers all boast rosters that are capable of winning the division, as Cleveland does. But Stefanski may need Watson to lead the Browns to a much better division record than last season's 3-3 performance in order to save his job.
Ron Rivera, Washington Commanders
"The NFC East may be the most competitive division in football. But, I think Washington could really struggle, and it wouldn't surprise me if they make an in-season coaching change." — AFC coach
Ron Rivera weathered the Daniel Snyder storm and was Washington's face of the franchise since his arrival in 2020.
Rivera's roster isn't short on young talent, and Eric Bieniemy's presence as offensive coordinator could elevate the likes of Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Brian Robinson Jr. and others. But the Commanders' ceiling hinges on whether Sam Howell is ready to be a starting quarterback.
Still, with a new ownership group headlined by Josh Harris and Magic Johnson, will Rivera need to show signs of success in a hyper-competitive division in order to keep the new owners from wanting to put their fingerprints on the franchise by hiring their own head coach?
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