Every year the NFL sees a new round of head coaches fired and hired. The typical number is somewhere between 7 and 10, but the 2022 season saw just 5 total. Josh McDaniels was the first to go this year and more are sure to follow. So who is most in danger of getting the axe?
This is the first of two articles on potential firings and new hires for the 2024 season. Today we’ll look at who is in danger, and Part 2 will look at coaches who could be in line to take over those vacant spots.
Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
Just a few years ago this would have been totally unthinkable, but now it would be quite a shock if Belichick returned as head coach of the Patriots for the 2024 season. Arguably the greatest coach of all time and the current longest tenured coach in the league, it seems as if his time is done in New England after a brutal 2-8 start mostly due to a totally inept offense.
Will Belichick get another head coaching job somewhere else? I think it’s likely so long as he wants it. Despite the poor season, he still has a phenomenal and well-earned reputation around the league. Many might think the game has passed him by or he can’t win without Tom Brady, but some owner somewhere is likely to give him a try, hoping to recapture some of the magic. Washington would be my first guess.
Frank Reich, Carolina Panthers
It’s been another miserable season for Reich in his first year with the Panthers. He was one of the five head coaches fired just last year after his Indianapolis Colts completely collapsed after four moderately successful seasons. The massive trade up for Bryce Young looks like a total disaster and Reich is liable to take the fall for it despite the fact that reports before the draft suggested he preferred C.J. Stroud. It’s possible team owner David Tepper gives Reich another year, but he hasn’t been particularly patient in the past, giving up on Matt Rhule before the end of his third season despite handing him a massive seven-year contract worth $62 million.
If Reich goes, is he likely to land another head coaching position? Probably not immediately after his last two failures. I imagine he would land either an offensive coordinator or QB coach job and try to rebuild his reputation for a few years first.
Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Chargers
After 3 season Staley is currently 23-23 with a reputation for underachieving and routinely losing close games. Despite possessing one of the great young QBs in the league in Justin Herbert, Staley has been unable to get his team to the next level, mostly due to his poor defenses. The Chargers defense ranked 29th in scoring allowed during the 2021 season, 21st last year, and are currently 23rd this year. This is particularly egregious considering Staley was billed as a defensive genius when he was originally hired away from the Rams after they finished 1st in the league in scoring defense in 2020. If Staley and the Chargers don’t get it turned around in a hurry and finish the season strong, there’s a very good chance we’ll see Staley on the outs after the season is over.
If Staley is fired he is more likely to land a defensive coordinator job than another head coaching position.
Arthur Smith, Atlanta Falcons
Smith is 18-26 in his three years since taking over the Falcons. Admittedly he had a rough hand to start with. The Falcons were in salary cap hell and possessed very little talent at the time. However, Smith has been given several years now to bring in his guys and install his offensive system and the results haven’t been up to par. His hand-picked QB of the future, Desmond Ridder, has proven to be a backup level talent, and the team’s 2023 first round pick was completely wasted on a running back, a completely unforgivable sin in the modern NFL.
It’s possible owner Arthur Blank and GM Terry Fontenot will bring back Smith for one more year. Fontenot and Smith were hired together back in 2021 after all. The decision could very well hinge on how Smith finishes out the season though. The Falcons have seven games remaining and all seven of them look completely winnable, so a hot finish to end the year might save Smith’s job.
Mike Vrabel, Tennesee Titans
Vrabel is 51-41 since taking over the Titans with his best seasons being the 2020 and 2021 seasons going 11-5 and 12-5, respectively. However, he’s now lost 14 of his last 17 games including 7 straight to end the 2022 season after another promising start. Granted, a lot of this has to do with injuries to Ryan Tannehill, but things haven’t been any better with new starting QB Will Levis after an explosive entrance against the Falcons. The team has lost each of their last 3 games with Levis starting with the offense averaging a meager 12 points per game.
There’s no guarantee Vrabel is gone if things don’t get better soon, but it’s starting to feel that way. The AJ Brown trade is still haunting him and something feels odd about former GM Jon Robinson being fired in the middle of last season. We don’t know if that was a power struggle between Vrabel and Robinson or if perhaps Titans owner Amy Strunk was ready for a change, but either way he was replaced by Ran Carthon who came over from the 49ers and immediately started talking about updating the team-building philosophy. If Carthon is in charge he might be ready to dump Vrabel and bring in someone he’s familar with from the Shanahan tree. This is one of the less clear situations we’ve looked at.
Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys
This one might seem a little odd to more casual fans. McCarthy and the Cowboys are currently 7-3 with hopes to still catch the Eagles for a division title. Barring that they are in the driver’s seat for the top wild card spot in the NFC playoffs. So why might McCarthy be on the hot seat? For the same reason Jason Garrett ultimately got fired…not taking things a step further. Forget winning a Superbowl. Jerry Jones is desperate just to reach a conference championship game. If the Cowboys get knocked out in the wildcard or divisional round again, it might spell the end of McCarthy’s run.
Dennis Allen, New Orleans Saints
The Saints aren’t getting better under Dennis Allen. The offense is spinning its wheels yet again despite the addition of Derek Carr. The defense is still solid but somewhat inconsistent. This one feels like a bit of a reach, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that the Saints struggle down the stretch and the Falcons pass them up to win the West. That might be enough to prompt the Saints to move on for a fresh face.
Todd Bowles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What I said about Allen goes also goes for Bowles. An older, defensive coach takes over for the Superbowl winning offensive coach and the team falls into mediocrity. The team might be losing stalwarts Mike Evans, Lavonte David, and Devin White soon. Not only are they all very good players but they are also locker room leaders. That could be too much for this team to overcome, but it might be a season away. We’ll see how they finish out the season.
Matt Eberflus, Chicago Bears
Two seasons in and Eberflus is 6-22 overall. His inherited QB that he and GM Ryan Poles chose to keep, Justin Fields, is not improving as a passer. The defense also isn’t getting any better despite Eberflus supposedly being a defensive guru. It looks like Chicago is going to land the #1 overall pick in the draft courtesy of the inept Panthers. They almost have to ditch Fields and take Caleb Williams. Could Poles prefer to give Williams a new head coach, perhaps an offensive one to help him maximize his talent? I think he might.
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