Early 2023 NFL Coaching Carousel Predictions After Frank Reich FiringNovember 9, 2022
Early 2023 NFL Coaching Carousel Predictions After Frank Reich Firing
Even though we're only halfway through the 2022 NFL season, the 2023 coaching carousel is already starting to turn.
The Indianapolis Colts fired head coach Frank Reich on Monday after their 3-5-1 start, making him the second coach to be fired this season. They proceeded to tab Jeff Saturday as their interim head coach even though he has zero coaching experience in college or the NFL, which serves as a reminder of just how unpredictable the process of hiring a coach can be.
While Saturday is one of the top players in Colts history, he is the first head coach to be hired without college or pro coaching experience in 61 years, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Saturday is only taking over in an interim capacity, though, so the Colts might be looking for their long-term leader this offseason.
With the Carolina Panthers already joining the Colts in the search for a new head coach, here are six early predictions for the 2023 hiring cycle.
Arizona Cardinals Fire Kliff Kingsbury, Hire Philadelphia Eagles OC Shane Steichen
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni has done a tremendous job turning his team from a fringe playoff squad to a Super Bowl contender, but offensive coordinator Shane Steichen deserves a lot of credit as well.
Transitioning more responsibility to Steichen last season was a turning point for the Eagles.
“So as the season got going on, I ended up taking over more of the play-calling midseason," Steichen said before the season. "Then again, Nick has a stamp on every single thing we do. So, in the meeting rooms he has a stamp on everything we do, every play that's on that call sheet, he makes sure it's justified, boom, and we're good to go."
After starting 2-5 last season, the Eagles went on a 6-3 run to snag a playoff spot. They've carried that momentum straight into this season, where they're the last remaining undefeated team at 8-0.
The Arizona Cardinals would love to see that kind of second-half surge under Kliff Kingsbury's watch. The Cards went 4-6 after a 7-0 start last season. They're 3-6 this year, and it's now fair to wonder if Kingsbury will make it through the season.
Steichen has done a great job of utilizing Jalen Hurts' dual-threat ability to build an offensive juggernaut. Taking over as the head coach of a team with Kyler Murray under center could yield similar results.
Carolina Panthers Hire Cowboys DC Dan Quinn
Panthers owner David Tepper took a big swing on Matt Rhule and got burned.
Rhule had a hard time transitioning from the college ranks to the pros. He left the Panthers earlier this year with an 11-27 record and a $40 million buyout, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Given how the Rhule experiment flopped, Tepper is likely to prefer a coach with NFL head coaching experience. He won't want to buy out another contract, so the candidate figures to have proven himself as an NFL head coach.
Of the former head coaches who are angling for a second chance, Dan Quinn could make the most sense.
Quinn was the Atlanta Falcons' head coach for five-plus seasons, so he already has experience in the NFC South. The Falcons parted ways with him after an 0-5 start to the 2020 season, but he finished with a 43-42 regular-season record and a Super Bowl appearance in 2016.
The Panthers job could be attractive to Quinn based on the defensive personnel in Carolina. The Panthers have an elite young pass-rusher in Brian Burns, an elite defensive tackle in Derrick Brown and a potential shutdown corner in Jaycee Horn.
Carolina's young collection of talent and the draft capital it acquired in the Christian McCaffrey trade could make this an appealing job for someone like Quinn, who could craft an elite defense right away.
Denver Broncos Fire Nathaniel Hackett, Hire Former Saints HC Sean Payton
The Denver Broncos have a lot riding on making the Russell Wilson era work. After giving up three players and multiple draft for Wilson this past offseason, they are only 3-5.
First-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett deserves some of the blame for that. His in-game management has been a point of concern, and his offense has failed to live up to the promise he showed as the offensive coordinator in Green Bay.
The Broncos are first in defensive EPA per play, but they're 31st on offense. If Hackett isn't delivering results in his area of expertise, it's hard to see him coming back next year.
The Broncos are pot-committed to Wilson after signing him to a five-year, $240-plus-million extension in early September. They have to find a coach who will build a successful offense around him.
No one is more qualified than Sean Payton. The former New Orleans Saints head coach has intimated that he could return to coaching next season after taking a year off to recharge.
With the Broncos looking to establish themselves under new ownership, Payton would be a home run hire who would bring hope back after a frustrating season. The only problem is that Payton is still under contract with the Saints, so they would have to work out a trade.
The Broncos might be willing to part with the 2023 first-round pick they got in the Bradley Chubb trade if it lands them a coach like Payton.
Houston Texans Fire Lovie Smith, Hire San Francisco 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans
It was perplexing when the Houston Texans tabbed Lovie Smith as their next head coach in the offseason. The 64-year-old served as the Texans' associate head coach and defensive coordinator in 2021, but they weren't very good on defense.
This season has done little to assuage those who were concerned about the move. The Texans have the NFL's worst record at 1-6-1, putting them in pole position for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft.
It would be hard for the Texans to justify bringing back Smith for another season. They interviewed former quarterback Josh McCown in 2020 before they hired David Culley and again in 2021 before they ultimately turned to Smith.
That seemingly shows their desire to hire a young, energetic coach who can turn things around. Unfortunately for them, McCown is a tough sell because he—like Jeff Saturday—has no coaching experience beyond high school.
DeMeco Ryans checks many of the same boxes. The San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator is young and energetic. He even was a two-time Pro Bowl linebacker in Houston during the late 2000s.
The Texans have some exciting pieces to build around. They are stocked up with draft picks from the Deshaun Watson trade and have exciting young players such as Derek Stingley, Jr., Jalen Pitre and Dameon Pierce.
With multiple first-round picks, the Texans could look a lot like the 2022 New York Jets under former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh by 2024.
Indianapolis Colts Hire New York Giants OC Mike Kafka
Whoever takes over the Indianapolis Colts will inherit an underachieving offensive line, an elite running back in Jonathan Taylor and serious questions at quarterback. That sounds a whole lot like the New York Giants in 2022.
Brian Daboll came over to the Giants after serving as the Buffalo Bills' offensive coordinator, and he lured Mike Kafka away from the Kansas City Chiefs to be his offensive coordinator. Kafka called plays throughout the preseason, and Daboll was impressed enough that he handed over play-calling to him for the regular season.
He won over the players in the preseason, too.
“[Kafka] knows how to get guys matched up,” rookie receiver Wan’Dale Robinson said, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. “He’s going to get us in a groove and get us going; knows when to take the shots and get us in the best plays.”
Through nine weeks, the Giants' offense is 12th in EPA per play. Saquon Barkley is back to being one of the best running backs in the league, and quarterback Daniel Jones is having his best season.
Kafka could take the lessons he's learned from working with Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid in Kansas City as well as the quick turnaround in New York and get the Colts right back into contending in the AFC South.
New Orleans Saints Fire Dennis Allen, Hire Pittsburgh Steelers LB Coach Brian Flores
The New Orleans Saints bet on Dennis Allen being able to hold together their current run of success based on continuity and plenty of defensive talent. So far, that hasn't been the case.
The Saints are now 3-6 with Allen at the helm. While the carousel of Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton at quarterback and injuries to wide receivers Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry haven't helped, Allen has made it easy to remember that he went 8-28 in just over two years as the Raiders' head coach from 2012-2014.
Last offseason, executive vice president and general manager Mickey Loomis said he was impressed in interviews with now-Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker coach Brian Flores and Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. Pederson was the only one to get a head coaching gig.
Glenn's defense in Detroit has been one of the league's worst. The Steelers haven't been great either, but Flores won't take most of the blame for that as the linebackers coach.
Loomis said Allen would get an interview in part because of his experience as a head coach. In Flores, he would get a candidate with head coaching experience who posted winning seasons in two of his three years with the Miami Dolphins.
Flores' brand of defensive football would give the Saints a new identity as they rebuild from the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era.