Predicting the Hires For Each Open NFL Head Coaching Job in 2023 OffseasonJanuary 24, 2023
Predicting the Hires For Each Open NFL Head Coaching Job in 2023 Offseason
In the 2023 NFL head-coaching hiring cycle, five teams will look to fill vacancies. The Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos didn't wait until the offseason to make a change at the position. The Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals fired their lead skippers shortly after the 2022 season came to end.
Among the handful of openings, the Cardinals have a unique situation because they have a new general manager in Monti Ossenfort, who's set to steer the franchise in a new direction.
Coordinators, assistants and former head coaches have made their rounds in interviews to find the right fit as teams whittle down a list of candidates.
We've matched each team with a candidate from its interview list (h/t NFL.com). Our projections take multiple factors into account, including the candidate's expertise (offense or defense), head-coaching experience and past accomplishments.
Arizona Cardinals: Frank Reich
The Arizona Cardinals need a head coach who's going to elevate Kyler Murray. Team owner Michael Bidwell told reporters that the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback will have some say in the search for a new lead skipper.
Sure, an offensive coordinator can help develop Murray, but past concerns about the signal-caller's leadership skills may influence new Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort to hire a head coach who brings experience in a CEO-type role.
While Sean Payton would also make sense in Arizona, the Cardinals wouldn't have to give up premium draft capital in a trade to bring Reich aboard.
This past season, we saw Murray butt heads with former head coach Kliff Kingsbury, which isn't uncommon for a quarterback and head coach, but Reich isn't known for shouting at his players publicly in a combative fashion. With his calm demeanor, he can foster a smoother coach-to-quarterback relationship.
According to The Athletic's Zak Keefer, Carson Wentz's "lack of leadership, a resistance to hard coaching and a reckless style of play" frustrated people within the Indianapolis Colts organization. Yet Reich nearly led that team to the 2021 playoffs and finished 9-8. He can guide a team that has a quarterback who's still trying to find his voice as a leader in the locker room.
Lastly, the Cardinals may open the 2023 season without Murray, who tore his ACL in December. Reich started each of his five seasons in Indianapolis with a new starter under center and went 40-33-1 during his tenure. He's equipped to handle temporary uncertainty in the most important position.
Carolina Panthers: Shane Steichen
The Carolina Panthers don't have a clear-cut starting quarterback for the 2023 season. Sam Darnold will become a free agent in March, and PJ Walker is set to become a restricted free agent. The Panthers hold the No. 9 overall pick in the 2023 draft, which puts them slightly outside a comfortable spot to land a top quarterback prospect.
Barring a trade up for a top-five pick, Carolina will likely acquire a veteran signal-caller who's looking for a change of scenery or a high-upside rookie in serious need of refinement. With those probable scenarios, the front office must go with an innovative offensive head coach. Shane Steichen fits the bill.
Only 37 years old, Steichen has called plays for three seasons, one with the Los Angeles Chargers and two as an offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles. In those years, he helped Justin Herbert post-record-breaking rookie passing numbers and aided Jalen Hurts' ascension to a 2023 MVP candidate before the third-year quarterback suffered a shoulder injury that cooled his buzz.
Keep in mind that Herbert went third among quarterbacks in the 2020 draft, and the Eagles selected Hurts in the second round of the same class. Steichen isn't a play-caller who had the luxury of coaching surefire Hall of Famers or No. 1 overall picks. Yet he's worked well with two young signal-callers on the rise.
For the 2022 term, Steichen's offense ranked third in points and yards. One can argue that Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni's decision to give him more play-calling responsibilities in the second half of the 2021 campaign and allow the young coordinator to maintain those duties worked wonders for Hurts and that offense, which is an appealing factor in his head-coaching candidacy.
Carolina may not have the ideal quarterback situation or the means to select a top passer in the draft, but Steichen has shown he can develop talent at the position, which is important for the Panthers because they've been searching for answers since the end of Cam Newton's first stint as a starter.
Denver Broncos: Sean Payton
The Denver Broncos have a chance to land the prized head-coaching candidate in Sean Payton.
According to 9News' Mike Klis, Payton's interview with the Broncos went well, and the two sides came away from the meeting with mutual interest. Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd had dinner with Payton and confirmed it.
Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson has an affinity for Payton as well.
"He's competitive as can be, he's a winner and obviously won a Super Bowl, and then at the highest level, I was able to be around him at the Pro Bowl and just the wizardry that you would have on the field was just magnificent," Wilson said to reporters.
While doubters think Wilson will continue to trend in the wrong direction after his worst statistical season, throwing for 3,524 yards, a career-low 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a personal single-season worst 60.5 percent completion rate, Payton talked about his potential plan to get the nine-time Pro Bowler back on the right track while on Cowherd's show (h/t John Sigler of Saints Wire).
"You correct flaws immediately, and then we don't worry about how long the process is going to take. In other words, I'd want to cutup today, I'd want a cutup of all of Russell's pass plays of 30 or more yards from the field, and I'd want to see, 'Are there are some schemes that he felt very comfortable with?'
"Like I know they did a great job in Seattle of bringing him in off of a naked boot and then pulling up, and we all saw that throw back to [Tyler] Lockett across the field where the ball traveled 60 yards in the air."
If the Broncos land Payton, he would come at a hefty cost in both salary and draft capital.
In a discussion with Cowherd (h/t ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio), Payton said he and New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis came to an understanding that a team would have to give up a mid-to-late first-round pick for him since he's still under contract with the NFC South club. On top of that, the Super Bowl-winning head coach wants $20-25 million on a new deal, per Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Advocate.
Because of its trade deal with the Miami Dolphins that involved edge-rusher Bradley Chubb, Denver has the San Francisco 49ers' 2023 first-round pick.
Even with Payton's reported salary demand, the Broncos should certainly go all in for him because he could possibly fix Wilson, who's on their books for $49 million annually.
Houston Texans: DeMeco Ryans
For consecutive offseasons, DeMeco Ryans has generated interest during the head-coaching hiring cycle. While we've seen a recent trend in offensive coordinators and play-callers getting those jobs, the Houston Texans may be open to another lead skipper with a defensive background.
Though the Texans fired Lovie Smith after just one season, Ryans is a much younger coach on the rise with a couple of top-nine scoring defenses on his two-year resume as a coordinator.
Houston holds the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 draft, which gives the club a shot at Bryce Young, who's widely regarded as the top quarterback in this year's class. If the Texans strongly approve of Ryans' choice of an offensive coordinator, they could have a quality coaching staff that can get more out of their 27th-ranked scoring defense, which features two top-40 draft picks from 2022, and a 30th-ranked scoring offense.
Lastly, Ryans has a connection to the Texans organization. Houston selected him in the second round of the 2006 draft, and he went on to have two Pro Bowl campaigns with the team. If Ryans wants to bring his NFL life to a full circle, he could re-energize the franchise.
Indianapolis Colts: Dan Quinn
After a disastrous run with interim head coach Jeff Saturday, the Indianapolis Colts should go with an experienced candidate.
The Colts fired head coach Frank Reich in the middle of the 2022 campaign. General manager Chris Ballard could be next on the chopping block if the team doesn't improve next season. So, he may not want to experiment with an outside-the-box hire.
According to ESPN's Todd Archer, Dan Quinn interviewed for Indianapolis' head-coaching opening last week. Without an all-star lineup of candidates on their interview list, the Colts may go with a practical option—a coach with a winning record (43-42), two playoff appearances, which include a run to the Super Bowl, and a recent history of fielding stifling defenses.
Yes, Quinn had quarterback Matt Ryan in his prime while leading the Atlanta Falcons to back-to-back postseason appearances, but he has shown the ability to assemble a quality coaching staff with bright offensive minds. In 2016, Quinn worked with Kyle Shanahan (offensive coordinator), Matt LaFleur (quarterbacks coach) and Mike McDaniel (offensive assistant), who all have become full-time head coaches and led their respective teams to the playoffs.
If Quinn brings a quality offensive play-caller with him to Indianapolis, the Colts could finally develop a young quarterback as opposed to cycling through veterans, which hasn't worked out for them over the past four years. Remember, they have the No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 draft, which means quarterbacks CJ Stroud and Will Levis could be on their radar.
Meanwhile, Quinn can focus on his expertise on the defensive side of the ball. In his last two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, he's fielded units that have ranked seventh and fifth in scoring and first in takeaways.
Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.