We're approaching the juncture of the NFL season where front offices and owners of teams that have fallen out of contention begin to put their coaching staffs under a microscope, particularly with head coaches on the hot seat.
Whether it is high priced rosters that are underachieving, or teams led by coaches who entered the 2023 campaign sitting on the hot seat, but haven't turned things around through the first seven weeks of the season, the winds of change could begin blowing.
In Chicago, it's difficult to imagine head coach Matt Eberflus having much job security amid a floundering 2-5 start, pressure could be mounting for Dennis Allen, especially if the bottom falls out of the Saints' season, and Todd Bowles might be a name to watch if the Buccaneers fall out of contention.
But, is the pressure for those coaches real or simply perceived from the outside?
As the season reaches its midpoint, FanBuzz spoke to coaches, prominent agents with players in buildings around the league, and other sources for insight on which coaches are facing the most pressure, and could be the first to be fired during the season.
Ron Rivera, Washington Commanders
The Commanders were sold to an ownership group headlined by Magic Johnson and Philadelphia 76ers owner Joshua Harris prior to the season, and it's hard to imagine they are happy with the 3-4 start or how Ron Rivera got Washington there.
Be it kicking an extra point attempt, playing for overtime, rather than going for a two-point conversion, and the win, as time expired in an eventual 34-31 OT loss to the Philadelphia Eagles or uncharacteristically conservative 4th down decisions, Rivera's performance has been underwhelming this season. Likewise, second-year quarterback Sam Howell hasn't shown any signs of growth through the season's first two months.
Multiple league sources named Rivera as the most likely coach to be the first let go during the season.
"Magic Johnson keeps calling the staff and team out," a prominent agent told FanBuzz. "Makes you think Rivera's on the hottest seat. And, it seems like Eric Bieniemy is already running the show there, anyway."
An underachieving roster, with a young quarterback who hasn't made strides, and new owners eager to change the culture isn't exactly a recipe for a coach those owners inherited sticking around for long.
If the Commanders do move on from Rivera, one coach believes getting the chance to see Bieniemy in the top job for up to half a season, as an audition to be hired in a permanent role, might be ownership's preferred option.
"If Bieniemy does well," an offensive coordinator told FanBuzz. "I'm guessing he'd get that job."
Josh McDaniels, Las Vegas Raiders
Josh McDaniels was another popular name among those inside the league, who could be coaching for his job over his team's final ten games.
The Raiders have been wildly inconsistent this season, and with the opportunity to build some momentum and make some strides towards a possible AFC Wild Card berth on Sunday afternoon, Las Vegas feel to the Tyson Bagent quarterbacked Chicago Bears.
Beyond a middling 3-4 record, there has been significant turmoil in the Raiders' locker room, including star wide receiver Davante Adams griping about both his role and Las Vegas' struggles since his arrival prior to the 2022 season.
However, there is a feeling inside the league that Raiders owner Mark Davis might not have the capital to move on from McDaniels, who reportedly signed a four-year contract prior to 2022 worth $10 million per season, while still paying former head coach Jon Gruden, who's $100 million deal runs through 2028.
Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Chargers
Brandon Staley began the season arguably facing the most pressure of any head coach in the league, with a more talented roster than most others, and the Chargers are just 2-4.
That the Chargers haven't achieved more with quarterback Justin Herbert, and a receiving corps with stars like Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and rising rookie Quentin Johnston buttressed by a defense that's loaded with young talent is befuddling.
After limping across the finish line to a 31-17 loss in Arrowhead that saw the offense shut out by the Chiefs in the second-half on Sunday afternoon, Staley might be approaching an inflection point.
-"I know for a fact that Staley has some heat on him," a league source told FanBuzz.
Herbert is one of the brightest stars, and most gifted passers, across the entire league but he has minimal margin for error because of the Chargers' inability to close out games, part of that lays squarely at Staley's feet.
The Chargers are just 19-21 in Staley's two-plus seasons as head coach with only one postseason berth, a historic collapse to the Jacksonville Jaguars in January's AFC Wild Card round. If Staley doesn't quickly get the Chargers back on a path to a possible playoff return, it's easy to see Los Angeles pulling the plug at some point this season and hiring an offensive-minded coach to shepherd the next phase of Herbert's career.
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