NFL Rumors: Recent Chatter Surrounding 2023 Head Coaching Vacancies

Jake RillJanuary 17, 2023

NFL Rumors: Recent Chatter Surrounding 2023 Head Coaching Vacancies

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 09: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 9, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
    Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

    It's not yet known who will be the head coaches for the five NFL teams that have openings at the top of their staffs. But none of them will be hiring Jim Harbaugh.

    On Monday, Harbaugh confirmed that he'll be returning to the University of Michigan for the 2023 season, which will be his ninth leading the Wolverines. The news came after Harbaugh had been tied to several of the NFL head coach openings in recent weeks.

    With Harbaugh out of the running, some teams may need to pivot. The five franchises seeking head coaches are the Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans.

    The Cardinals could be getting closer to hiring a head coach, as they no longer have an opening at general manager. On Monday, Arizona announced it had hired Tennessee Titans director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort to serve as its GM.

    As coaching rumors continue to swirl, here's some of the latest buzz from around the NFL.

Payton Not Actually Interested in Chargers?

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    ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JANUARY 09: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints on the sidelines before the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 09, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
    Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Chargers don't have an opening at head coach, and they could enter the 2023 campaign with Brandon Staley (who just completed his second season) still at the helm. But there had been some buzz that the Chargers were a team that former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton may have interest in leading.

    That may not be the case, though. An NFL executive recently explained to The Athletic's Mike Sando why Payton actually does not want to end up in Los Angeles.

    "I'm sure Sean Payton would love to have Justin Herbert as his quarterback," the executive told Sando, "but I don't think he actually wants to deal with the ownership there and the spending issues they have had over the years. All that comes with that organization."

    Payton, who retired while still under contract with the Saints following the 2021 season, could still soon be back on the NFL sidelines. The Texans announced they interviewed the 59-year-old on Monday. And earlier in the day, Payton said during an appearance on The Herd with Colin Cowherd that he also plans to meet with the Broncos and Panthers this week.

    Any interested team will need to work out a trade with New Orleans in order to sign Payton. It could be a hefty price, too, as Payton said on The Herd with Colin Cowherd that he thinks the Saints will receive "a mid- or late-first-round pick."

Lions OC 'Has the Lead' for Panthers' Opening

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    FILE - Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson watches from the sideline during an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Dec. 24, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. The Carolina Panthers have requested permission to interview four different NFL offensive coordinators for their head coaching vacancy, including Johnson, Philadelphia’s Shane Steichen, Buffalo’s Ken Dorsey and New York Giants’ Mike Kafka, according to a person familiar with the situation. (AP Photo/Brian Westerholt, File)
    AP Photo/Brian Westerholt, File

    Carolina may be getting closer to hiring its new head coach. And it could end up being somebody who has never previously held that title at any level.

    According to Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson "has the lead" for the Panthers' opening. The 36-year-old just completed his first season as the top offensive assistant on the Lions' staff.

    Johnson has been in Detroit since 2019, as he previously served as an offensive quality control coach (2019) and as the tight ends coach (2020-21). Before that, he was a longtime assistant for the Miami Dolphins, working in various roles from 2012-18.

    The Athletic's Joseph Person reported that Johnson is "an in-demand candidate" and that "the buzz in league circles is that [Carolina owner David] Tepper is enamored with Johnson." If that's the case, it may not be too long before Johnson is named the Panthers' new head coach.

Kafka Emerging as a 'Hot Candidate'?

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 28:  New York Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka prior to the National Football League game between the New York Jets and the New York Giants on August 28, 2022 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.   (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The New York Giants are in the midst of an incredible turnaround, as they made the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season and just won their first postseason game since the 2011 campaign. So it's not a surprise that one of the Giants' top assistants could be garnering some interest in head coaching searches.

    NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported that New York offensive coordinator Mike Kafka is a "hot candidate," with the Colts putting in a request with the Giants to interview him. The Panthers and Texans are also interested in speaking with Kafka, per Pelissero.

    Kafka is only in his first season as an offensive coordinator. The 35-year-old was previously on the Kansas City Chiefs' staff from 2017-21, serving in various roles over that span.

    However, teams interested in hiring Kafka to be their head coach will have to be patient. New York head coach Brian Daboll shared on Monday that Kafka won't be interviewing this week as the Giants' prepare for their divisional-round game against the Philadelphia Eagles, per Ralph Vacchiano of Fox Sports.

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