NFL Hot Seat Predictions

Image Credit: Chuck Cook

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.

Arizona Cardinals

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.

Carolina Panthers

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.

Denver Broncos

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.

Houston Texans

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.

Indianapolis Colts

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.


The NFL’s Coaching Carousel: Who’s On, Who’s Off?

Black Monday is coming. When the regular season comes to a close, most teams will be clearing out the locker rooms as they look forward to next year. However, for some of these teams, next year will come with a new face at the helm.

The end of the season is a time of speculation in itself. What’s the playoff field going to look like? What will teams need for next season? Who will claim the number 1 pick? For coaches, however, there is another question that floats over for them: are these last games of the season my last ones here?

Two teams have put an early end to the mystery, as the Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers have already pulled the trigger and will be looking for a new coach next season. For other teams across the league, however, there are varying levels of intrigue. Some seats have gotten so hot that the firing feels more like a formality at this point. Others come as more theoretical options and require a decent amount of thought before coming to a decision. Regardless, for the next few weeks, while some teams are battling for playoff positioning, other coaches are fighting for their jobs.

Who are the lucky candidates on the carousel this year?

Atlanta Falcons: Dan Quinn

The skinny: 28-3 somehow feels like ages ago, but that should tell you how quick time goes by in the sports world. Ever since then, Quinn and the Falcons have trended in the wrong direction, despite all of the talent the team boasts on offense. While the Falcons are making a mad dash towards respectability in order to save Quinn’s job, it’s fair to wonder if the coach is a day late and a dollar short.

Who’s in charge: Eric Bieniemy, offensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs. Bieniemy was on the short list of coaching candidates from last season after Patrick Mahomes’s MVP campaign in 2018. He didn’t get a job last time, something that’s sure to change this year. After years of going after defensive-minded coaches, Bieniemy would represent a change of pace that the Falcons could use. Getting to play with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and others should also be a nice incentive.

Carolina Panthers: Vacant

The skinny: It felt like Ron Rivera was on shaky footing for quite a while now. Despite the success Riverboat Ron has had in his tenure in Charlotte, recent history had not been too kind to him. With the search already on, the Panthers will likely search for a candidate who can build an offense around Christian McCaffrey and whichever quarterback is under center in 2020.

Who’s in charge: Kevin Stefanski, offensive coordinator, Minnesota Vikings. There are plenty of options the Panthers can circle for their next coach. Bieniemy, Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, and even two college coaches in Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma) and David Shaw (Stanford) deserve at least a look. With Bieniemy out of the running, though, Stefanski takes his spot as the next “rising star” coordinator hire. What he’s done with this Vikings offense this year, and Case Keenum before that, has been nothing short of incredible.

Cleveland Browns: Freddie Kitchens

The skinny: The Browns have been, quite frankly, this season’s biggest disappointment. What was expected to be a playoff contender has looked like largely the same team that slogged through last season. Kitchens has not been the only factor in this failure, but he’s played a significant role in it. Let’s just say that the whole “Pittsburgh Started It” shirt debacle has been the least of his concerns.

Who’s in charge: Kitchens. Regardless of Cleveland’s troubles, they still have a chance to make the playoffs, and they have won four of their last five as of this writing. A strong finish to 2019, even if it does not result in a playoff berth, should be enough to give Kitchens a second year. Pencil him in as a hot seat option for 2020.

Dallas Cowboys: Jason Garrett

The skinny: How many times has Garrett been in this position now? Sure, they’re tied for the division lead, but that’s been more on how bad the NFC East as a whole is rather than how good the Cowboys are. With how the Cowboys have been content to throw the division away, Garrett is one successful sabotage away from being shown the door. The nine lives may finally be up.

Who’s in charge: Lincoln Riley, head coach, Oklahoma Sooners: Let the record show that I vehemently disagree with this move. I think the Cowboys would be wiser to look at internal options like Kris Richard or even Kellen Moore. There are coordinators like Josh McDaniels from New England who pose less risk. Even college coaches like Jim Harbaugh (Michigan) and Urban Meyer (formerly Ohio State) are more sure things than the hotshot offensive wizard Riley. That said, the Cowboys instantly become the highest-profile job opening in the league if Garrett goes, and Jerry Jones will likely waste no expense in trying to land Riley. This may be the only opportunity Riley has to get into the NFL this season, but does he take it?

Detroit Lions: Matt Patricia

The skinny: Patricia is dangerously close to adding his name to the list of former New England coordinators who turned out to be bad NFL head coaches. With the Lions in freefall, last place in the NFC North for the second straight year feels like a given. With GM and fellow New England transplant Bob Quinn also on the hot seat, it makes sense that moving on from one will mean the other is out as well. It feels like being the NFC Patriots has failed to work out.

Who’s in charge: Robert Saleh, defensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers: There’s a real chance Patricia does survive for another season, but it appears doubtful at the moment. While an offensive coordinator might make sense, Saleh has come up as a hot coaching name for the last couple of months now. A native of Dearborn, Saleh has overseen the rebuild of the San Francisco defense over the last few years. Some of that probably has to do with the influx of talent, but Saleh has some merit. While Atlanta could be in play, the Lions seem to have the best chance to land Saleh.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Doug Marrone

The skinny: You would be forgiven for thinking the Jaguars’ 2017 season was a fluke. Marrone’s goodwill from that year looks to have run out, and with the embarrassing blowouts that have become routine this year, the fire looks to be strong to put out. Of all the coaches yet to be fired, Marrone is one of the safer bets to be out on Black Monday. The only real controversy is if Tom Coughlin ends up joining him.

Who’s in charge: Ron Rivera, former head coach, Carolina Panthers. There’s little doubt in my mind that Rivera will bounce back on his feet somewhere. Another head coaching job this early might be a bit odd, but Jacksonville probably doesn’t have the pull to land an attractive coordinator hire. With Rivera working to restore Jacksonville’s greatness on defense and getting Nick Foles or Gardner Minshew going, he’s probably one of the safer hires in the cycle. Jaguars offensive coordinator John DeFilippo is also an option, and if Coughlin does stick around, Baylor head coach Matt Rhule is a name to watch.

Los Angeles Chargers: Anthony Lynn

The skinny: Lynn’s had an overall alright tenure as the Chargers head coach, leaps and bounds ahead of his predecessor Mike McCoy. However, this season has been one of trials and tribulations for the Chargers, and the seat is starting to heat up. Ken Whisenhunt’s firing might have smoothed things over, and the Chargers look like they’re trying to make up for lost time. If things take a turn for the worst, however, there’s reason to think that Lynn and quarterback Philip Rivers could be in for a power struggle, with the loser leaving town.

Who’s in charge: Lynn. Sure, Rivers has some clout, but the Chargers will probably end up staying the course and keep both around next year, although there’s a real chance the Chargers are in for another draft shock and have Joe Burrow fall in their laps. If Lynn does leave, though, the Chargers have options. Ron Rivera would fit in well here, as would former quarterbacks coach and current Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni.

New York Giants: Pat Shurmur

The skinny: As sure a firing as it gets. With the Giants needing to see progress and failing to get it, Shurmur will need a miracle to stay with Big Blue. Daniel Jones has shown signs of life in the NFL, but even that looks like it won’t be enough. Expect the next coach to be more willing to develop young players, as well as getting the added bonus to work with a hopefully healthier Saquon Barkley.

Who’s in charge: Matt Rhule, head coach, Baylor Bears. Basically take the main candidates mentioned for Jacksonville, add Jason Garrett (for some reason), and there’s the shortlist. After two straight offensive-minded blunders in Shurmur and Ben McAdoo, a more well-rounded option looks like it should be the play. Enter Rhule, a former Giants assistant who has done exemplary work at Baylor and previously Temple. With coaching experience on both sides of the ball, he’d fit the bill for what the Giants should be looking for. College coaches are always gambles, but Rhule looks like one of the better chances to stick.

New York Jets: Adam Gase

The skinny: One-and-dones usually signify serious internal turmoil, but Gase hasn’t exactly done himself any favors. Giving the Dolphins and Bengals their first wins of the season has turned the fanbase against him. The trade rumors of Le’Veon Bell and Jamal Adams haven’t helped matters either. CEO Christopher Johnson has publicly stated Gase is sticking around for 2020, but a string of losses to end the year could put that plan in jeopardy.

Who’s in charge: Gase. While fans may question what the Jets are doing by keeping Gase, there are more questions about what happens if they fire him. Showing Gase the door just a year after hiring him gives off a damning statement about the Jets: they have absolutely zero plan. It just feels less controversial to give Gase another year to right any wrongs he’s made. If he fails, at least an attempt was made?

Washington Redskins: Vacant

The skinny: At this point, it would just be better for Dan Snyder to sell the team, Bruce Allen to get kicked to the curb, and start directly from the ground up. While Snyder won’t happen anytime soon, Allen leaving would at least be a step in the right direction. Needless to say, the next coach of the Redskins will have to be willing to put up with at least a fair amount of controversy in their tenure. The idea of molding Dwayne Haskins into a franchise quarterback can help ease that red flag a bit.

Who’s in charge: Kris Richard, passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach, Dallas Cowboys. Richard’s been closely attached to head coaching jobs for a while now, and this feels like the year he finally breaks through. Richard has been responsible for the development of the likes of Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Xavier Woods. He has also become the passing game coordinator just this past season, where he has enjoyed moderate success. That kind of experience is something the Redskins should not pass up on, especially given the fact that it would hurt a division rival in the process.