NFL Teams Who Need to Find a New Head Coach in 2022
The NFL coaching carousel is often as wild as the draft and free agency, and 2022 should be no different.
When an NFL team needs to make a change, it's usually obvious. Sometimes, the rebuild just hasn't worked. Other times, the results on the field are too poor and/or players are lacking effort.
There always seem to be big surprises with regard to coaching turnover, too. The "what have you done for me lately?" nature of a league that quickly churns through starting quarterbacks does the same for head coaches.
Not every coach can pull a Zac Taylor in Cincinnati, going 6-25-1 over two seasons and getting a third chance. One-year tenures are becoming more common.
Below, we'll outline the teams that clearly need to go in a new direction starting in 2022. These teams don't necessarily need to fire their coaches midseason, but it wouldn't be surprising if it ends up happening, either.
The Miami Dolphins might need an overhaul from top to bottom.
They're 2-7 heading into Week 10, and their two wins were a one-point squeaker over the New England Patriots in Week 1 and a 17-9 victory over the 1-8 Houston Texans this past Sunday.
Brian Flores went from Coach of the Year contention last season to flopping hard this year. It's looking like his the Dolphins' 10-6 season in 2020 was the anomaly, not their five-win campaign in 2019.
Flores isn't responsible for the Dolphins' misuse of a massive draft stockpile (five first-round picks over the past two years) that hasn't provided much return yet. Nor is he to blame for the Philadelphia Eagles owning their 2022 first-round pick, which would currently be third overall.
But second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has yet to develop under Flores' watch—the 2020 No. 5 overall pick has thrown seven touchdowns and five interceptions this season—and Miami ranks 28th in points scored and 27th in points allowed.
Barring a stunning turnaround, Miami needs a reset after this season.
The Cincinnati Bengals got off to a 5-2 start this year, nearly matching head coach Zac Taylor's win totals from his first two seasons combined.
However, the Bengals of old have re-emerged in recent weeks.
The Bengals were double-digit favorites over the New York Jets in Week 8, as they had won four of their past five games while the Jets were giving Mike White his first start under center. White lit up Cincinnati for 405 yards and three touchdowns, fueling a furious fourth-quarter rally.
Rather than bounce back after such a deflating loss, the Bengals got blasted by the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. They allowed the Browns to run for 153 yards and two scores while averaging 6.7 yards per carry.
No. 5 overall pick Ja'Marr Chase spent the first seven weeks of the season blitzing his way through the record books while rejuvenating the Joe Burrow-led offense, but he's cooled off with his two lowest-yardage outings of the season in the past two weeks. With a dramatic regression already underway, the Bengals may need to surround Burrow with a new staff before his development begins to suffer.
Dan Campbell is a good example of the tug-of-war that comes with the decision to fire head coaches.
The Detroit Lions have the worst roster in the NFL, and it's going to take years for them to rebuild. But should they keep the coach for the duration of that process, or should they hope a new one can take over and accelerate the rebuild?
Campbell hasn't done himself many favors. After a pair of heartbreaking 19-17 losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings in Weeks 3 and 5, respectively, the Lions lost 34-11 to the Bengals in Week 6, 28-19 to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 7 and 44-6 to the Eagles in Week 8.
The Lions are 29th in points scored and 31st in points allowed, so there isn't much hope on either side of the ball. Quarterback Jared Goff is getting predictably exposed with a dismal supporting cast around him, although running back D'Andre Swift has been one of the few bright spots with a team-high 704 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns through eight games.
But with Detroit looking unlikely to match last season's five-win mark, Campbell could be one-and-done as the Lions instead turn to an offensive-minded coach who can develop the next potential franchise passer.
The further Matt Nagy gets from the 12-4 start to his Chicago Bears tenure in 2018, the worse things look.
The Bears went 8-8 under Nagy in both 2019 and 2020, and they started this season 3-2 before suffering four straight losses. However, his job security depends on more than the win-loss column.
Nagy was the Kansas City Chiefs' quarterbacks coach from 2013-2015 and their offensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017, but that side of the ball remains a work in progress in Chicago. The Bears headed into Week 9 ranked 31st leaguewide in points scored per game (15.4), while they were 29th in 2019 and 22nd last year.
Rookie quarterback Justin Fields, whom the Bears traded up for at No. 11, has completed only 60.1 percent of his passes for 921 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions over his first six starts. Although his dual-threat skill set is what made him such an appealing first-round target, the Bears largely limited him to being a pocket passer in his first few starts.
If Nagy can't design a Fields-specific game plan over the second half of the season, there's little reason for the Bears to run it back with him next year.
San Francisco 49ers
Coaches rarely get to enjoy the benefit of the doubt given to San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Shanahan has posted the following records to date with the 49ers:
- 2017: 6-10
- 2018: 4-12
- 2019: 13-3
- 2020: 6-10
- 2021: 3-5
On one hand, Shanahan was the proof of concept for the idea that coaches should get three years to let the program blossom. After cobbling together only 10 wins during his first two seasons combined, he led the Niners to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl appearance in 2019.
However, Shanahan and the Niners have fallen from grace over the past season-and-a-half. Injuries have played a huge role in that decline, but they aren't solely to blame.
Although the Niners traded up to the No. 3 overall pick to select Trey Lance this past April, Shanahan continues to roll with veteran Jimmy Garoppolo under center. Garoppolo is averaging only 250.6 passing yards per game and has thrown eight touchdowns to five interceptions.
San Francisco has lost five of its last six games and is now 0-3 in the NFC West. Its lone wins game against winless Detroit, three-win Philadelphia and three-win Chicago.
While Shanahan's offensive acumen might seem like an asset to Lance's development, it hasn't shown up enough this year to keep him in place for another season.
It's starting to feel like the Mike Zimmer era in Minnesota has run its course.
Since taking over as the Vikings' head coach in 2014, Zimmer has gone 67-52-1 with a pair of playoff victories in three appearances. But after last year's 7-9 campaign, the Vikings are off to a 3-5 start and don't seem likely to hit that seven-win mark again.
The Vikings have been all over the place during the first half of the season. They escaped winless Detroit by only two points, but they also played 8-1 Arizona within a point on the road.
When a team continually loses close games to contenders (Arizona, Dallas and Baltimore) and looks good enough in most statistical areas (Kirk Cousins has 16 touchdowns and two interceptions, the defense allows 23.9 points per game), most of the finger-pointing goes to the head coach.
Looking ahead, the Vikings have a free-agent list that includes Everson Griffen, Anthony Barr, Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland and Sheldon Richardson. It would be hard to blame them for trying to wiggle out of Cousins' $45 million cap hit in 2022 as well.
Onboarding an offensive-minded coach in the hope that he can develop the next franchise passer might help the Vikings turn a corner.