The NFL is approaching the final month of the regular season, and it culminates with arguably one of the most exciting days of the year: Black Monday.
Black Monday is usually the day after the conclusion of the season where underperforming head coaches and general managers are given the axe. From there, teams will begin the search to fill the job openings, which could take months as most candidates would be in the playoffs. While teams like the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts have already fired their coaches, they will not be the last.
Here, I will discuss some potential openings that either have already opened up or could be up for grabs this offseason. There will be one candidate that I expect each team will hire, and another logical choice that would make sense. There will be some overlap between the two categories, but this is to show that there are multiple approaches to how a team can find their new coaches.
So which jobs are going to open come Black Monday? Who will be taking those positions? Let’s find out.
Who they will hire: Sean Payton, former New Orleans Saints head coach
Who they should hire: Shane Waldron, Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator
While every team will do their due diligence when it comes to Payton, the Cardinals are one of the very few teams that have a reasonable pitch. The Cardinals are one of the few teams on this list who have a set franchise quarterback in Kyler Murray, as well as have the necessary compensation to give the Saints what they want for the rights to bring Payton into their organization. For a team that’s been struggling to sustain any sort of long-term relevance, landing Payton would give the Cardinals some level of menace again.
If the Cardinals swing and miss on Payton, however, they aren’t completely out of options. Waldron would be an underrated option for many teams this offseason, and this season with Seattle has boosted his stock dramatically. While Waldron does have two great receiver in Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf at his disposal, his scheme has been responsible for resurrecting the career of Geno Smith, as well as allow for strong performances from a rookie running back and two rookie offensive tackles. The running game and offensive line are two problems for Arizona’s offense, so having someone like Waldron would be helpful in helping those areas grow. If the Cardinals also fire GM Steve Keim, they could do a lot worse than going for a candidate from a mode of organizational stability like Seattle. It’s an interesting organizational fit, but it could be just what Arizona’s looking for.
Who they will hire: Leslie Frazier, Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator
Who they should hire: Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator
While Steve Wilks has done fine in the interim for new Nebraska coach Matt Rhule, I find it hard to believe David Tepper won’t use any resources he has to find a capable head coach. I don’t think Carolina’s current situation will warrant an elite option, so Tepper will have to do his homework. With the Panthers keeping Brian Burns and other defensive pieces at the trade deadline, that could indicate the Panthers look for a rebuild centered around a strong defense. There wouldn’t be many stronger options than Frazier, who has taken the Bills defense and turned it into the top-5 unit over the past couple of seasons. While his first coaching run in Minnesota was forgettable, Frazier has learned plenty of lessons in the past decade. He’s ready to be back in the mix.
However, an interesting part of the Panthers’ coaching search will be Matt Corral, a third-round rookie who would likely be starting if he hadn’t suffered a season-ending foot injury in the preseason. I think he’s solid enough to warrant the Panthers holding off until 2024 to start a quarterback search, so an offensive-minded head coach would make sense. Why not place Corral’s development in the care of someone who’s watched the best quarterback in the league? Bieniemy has helped Andy Reid steer the ship in Kansas City for the past few seasons, but he’s never been able to land a coaching job for a supposed multitude of reasons. After this season, however, with Bieniemy’s offense leading the league in passing yards despite losing Tyreek Hill, the excuses are starting to wear thin. Bieniemy will get more interviews this time around, and Carolina could do much worse than being the team that finally gives him his chance.
Who they will hire: Ejiro Evero, Denver Broncos defensive coordinator
Who they should hire: Evero
The Broncos have easily been the NFL’s biggest disappointment this season. The Russell Wilson-Nathaniel Hackett duo that was supposed to guide Denver to the postseason has been an objective disaster. There have been multiple games this season that the Broncos have let slip through their fingers as a result of offensive ineptitude, and that result should be completely unacceptable. Hackett will almost certainly be one-and-done, but Wilson’s new extension means the Broncos will be stuck to him for the foreseeable future. If reports are to be believed and Denver’s situation will scare top candidates away, that leaves them in an unenviable position.
The good news for the Broncos is that their best option might already be in the building. While the offense has been putrid, Evero’s defense has been superb, headlined by a passing defense that has allowed the fewest touchdowns in the NFL. The defensive success will see Evero get some calls for interviews and, with Denver likely missing the postseason, other teams can begin the process with him immediately. With that said, it would be smart for the Broncos to promote Evero and give him the chance to rebuild the team. Whether his new coordinators comes from within (Broncos running back coach Tyrone Wheatley and defensive backs coach Christian Parker would be good choices) or outside of the organization (Evero is part of the Sean McVay coaching tree), he deserves the chance to get this team off the ground.
Who they will hire: Jonathan Gannon, Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator
Who they should hire: Gannon
The Texans have been an outright disaster up to this point, and there’s a strong chance they will have the first overall pick in the 2023 Draft. While that pick will be used on a quarterback (most likely Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud), the problems in the organization extend far beyond that. With the Texans firing Jack Easterby earlier this season, they have the chance to free themselves entirely of the Patriots influence and start fresh. That would likely spell the end of GM Nick Caserio and coach Lovie Smith, both of whom have frankly done little to justify keeping their jobs.
Meanwhile, a finalist for the Texans’ job last season is shining in Philadelphia. Gannon’s defense has been lights out for the 11-1 Eagles this season, and they are at or near the top of the league in many different areas. They are second to only San Francisco in yards per game, seventh in points per game, and first in both passing yards per game and QBR. For a team that invested heavily on defense in the draft last season, especially in the secondary with Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre, those are numbers worth paying attention to. There may not be much in Houston at the moment, but Gannon and whoever Houston hires at GM will have at least some time to work with to turn things around.
Who they will hire: DeMeco Ryans, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator
Who they should hire: Ryans
Another opening with a clearly logical candidate! Firing Frank Reich was a fair choice for the Colts, but hiring Jeff Saturday came completely out of left field. The past few weeks have proven the confusion was correct, especially the blowout loss the Colts suffered against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. The experiment seemed destined to struggle from the start, and Saturday will likely be headed back to the ESPN booth in the offseason. While GM Chris Ballard’s job is certainly in danger, he has to know that he needs a clear plan to stick around. That not only includes at quarterback, which has been a revolving door since the retirement of Andrew Luck, but he needs a home run hire at coach.
While some Colts fans would clamor for a bright offensive coordinator to help their new quarterback, the defense has shown that they miss linebacker Shaquille Leonard and former defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. Ryans would instantly bring back the fire on the defensive side of the ball, and the success of former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh in New York should only help his successor’s case. Ryans’s defense is leading the league in yards per game, rushing yards per game, and points per game. With the Niners now on third-string quarterback Brock Purdy, the impetus for a deep playoff run rests on the defense. If they can succeed, Ryans will vault to the top of many teams’ lists, which is exactly why Ballard (or whoever replaces him as GM) should target him.
Los Angeles Chargers
Who they will hire: Dan Quinn, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator
Who they should hire: Sean Payton, former New Orleans Saints head coach
Brandon Staley’s defense has once again completely struggled to stop opposing offenses, and the Chargers have once again completely fallen below expectations. With far and away the most apathetic fanbase in the league and needing to make good on the window of Justin Herbert’s rookie deal, the Chargers have no choice but to be aggressive if they start a coaching search. Payton stands out as the obvious choice, between his Southern California roots, desire to work with a franchise quarterback, and his long track record of success. It’s been widely reported that Payton and the Chargers would be a perfect marriage, and continued struggles will only give the team even more reason to pursue it.
Still, there’s a chance that the Chargers don’t want to pay the asking price the Saints will be asking, but multiple failures with first-time head coaches should have them looking for experience. Look no further than Quinn in that case, as the former Atlanta Falcons coach has turned the Cowboys defense from a turnstile to one of the league’s most fearsome units. Quinn’s watch has turned Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs into household names, while also getting the best out other players. While Quinn will have to show an offensive plan to maximize Herbert’s abilities, the idea of a quick turnaround on defense should be more than appealing to the Chargers.
New Orleans Saints
Who they will hire: Shane Steichen, Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator
Who they should hire: Steichen
When Sean Payton moved on from the Saints, Dennis Allen justified taking his place with a strong season. Unfortunately, that result has not taken place this season, as the Saints have struggled to gain any sort of traction. A large part of this problem has been at the quarterback position, where neither Jameis Winston or Andy Dalton has done anything of note. It hasn’t been helped by Michael Thomas’s foot injury and movement on the offensive line, but first-round pick Chris Olave has been enjoying a quality rookie season. If the Saints do have a new franchise receiver on their hands, they need to make good on this, and neither Winston or Dalton have proven they can accomplish that.
What the Saints need is a proven quarterback whisperer who can work with younger players. Steichen should immediately jump to the top of the list in that regard. He worked wonders with Justin Herbert during his rookie season in 2020, and he’s now enjoying similar success with a potential MVP candidate in Jalen Hurts this season. The Saints don’t have their first-round pick this season, so they will have to work with somebody like a Hendon Hooker or Anthony Richardson who will be a project. The good news is that Herbert and Hurts were both projected similarly, and both are amongst the top young quarterbacks in the league. That’s good news for a potential pairing between the Saints and Steichen.