The NFL head coaching cycle wasn't as active last season, as only five were relieved of their duties. Three of those were fired during the season, as those teams got a head start on finding their coach for the 2023 season and beyond. While there may not be any "one-and-done" coaches this year, a smaller head coach hiring cycle in 2023 means there could be significant change this year.
Plenty of coaches have to win this year in order to retain their job status past 2023, specifically coaches who have led teams to long playoff droughts. Being the head coach of a prestigious franchise and not getting the desired results doesn't help matters either. Some coaches have franchise quarterbacks and can't get their team to the next level, another sign their job status is in question.
With the 2023 season set to begin, these are the coaches who are on the proverbial hot seat this year. These coaches either have to win or need a deep playoff run in order to keep their jobs. These rankings are based on job security, followed by past performance, then what they need to accomplish in order to move down (or off) the list.
1. Ron Rivera (Washington Commanders)
- Career record with Washington (3 seasons): 22-27-1 (.450 win percentage)
- Playoff appearances: 1
Entering his fourth season in Washington, this is a year Rivera has to perform. Rivera has never had a winning record in Washington (won the NFC East in 2020 with a losing record), as the Commanders have missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons. The Commanders have undergone two name changes, eight starting quarterbacks, and an ownership change since Rivera arrived -- and Washington still hasn't won more than eight games under Rivera.
After another quarterback disaster last season that led to an 8-8-1 record, Rivera hired Eric Bieniemy as offensive coordinator and handed the starting quarterback job to Sam Howell. The Commanders have never ranked higher than 24th in points per game and 20th in yards per game under Rivera, which is why Bieniemy was brought in to freshen up the play-calling and design.
The Commanders have the talent to win in the NFC East and advance to the playoffs, but they haven't been able to get over that hurdle with Rivera. Another losing season and Rivera is certainly out with the change in ownership (new owner Josh Harris didn't hire Rivera). Bieniemy could be lurking over Rivera's shoulder too if the offense improves, but the team does not.
Washington hasn't had a winning season since 2016 and hasn't won a playoff game since 2005. The first one buys Rivera more time, while the second likely ensures his job security. Easier said than done.
2. Dennis Allen (New Orleans Saints)
- Career record with New Orleans (1 season): 7-10 (.412 win percentage)
- Playoff appearances: 0
Heading into his second season with the Saints, it's still amazing Allen got a second job as an NFL head coach. Allen's first venture as a head coach was disastrous, finishing 8-28 in lasting just 36 games with the Raiders before his dismissal in 2014. He still hasn't finished with a winning season as a head coach, with his best mark being 7-10 last season (his first with the Saints).
The Saints took a step back in Allen's first year as Sean Payton's successor, finishing with a losing record for the first time since 2016 and having an offense finish outside the top 20 in scoring for the first time since 2005 (the year before Payton arrived).
Not having a quarterback hurt New Orleans, but the Saints rectified that problem by landing Derek Carr this offseason. New Orleans has the top quarterback in a division that lost Tom Brady to retirement and had a champion with a losing record. The division is there for the taking in 2023, especially with every team in the division (not named the Saints) going through a transition phase in their franchise.
The Saints should benefit from having one of the easier schedules in the NFL (New Orleans plays the NFC North and AFC South in 2023). The quarterback matchups on the schedule significantly favor the Saints too, more of an opportunity to rack up wins and set themselves up to become a Super Bowl contender in the NFC.
If the Saints don't make the playoffs, Allen won't be back in New Orleans. There's too much talent on the Saints for them to significantly underachieve in 2023.
3. Brandon Staley (Los Angeles Chargers)
- Career record with Los Angeles (2 seasons): 19-15 (.559 win percentage)
- Playoff appearances: 1
Judging on the surface, the seat should be hot for Staley. The Chargers finished with consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 2017-18. Los Angeles made the playoffs for the first since since 2018 and finished with just its second double-digit win season since 2009.
So why is Staley's job in potential jeopardy? The Chargers have a franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert (who they just signed to an extension) and haven't won a playoff game with him yet in his three seasons with the team. Staley is partially responsible with his clock management, over-aggressiveness, and in-game decisions that have cost his team wins.
In the 27-point playoff collapse to Jacksonville, Los Angeles actually had a dropback percentage of 75% after building the 27-0 lead -- higher than Jacksonville at 70%. That's on Staley, who infamously had a collapse in Week 18 of the 2021 season (that cost the Chargers a playoff spot) despite Herbert being perfect on fourth down in the fourth quarter.
The Chargers not only have to get to the playoffs, but they have to win a playoff game in order for Staley to keep his job. There's immense pressure on Staley to win this year.
4. Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
- Career record with Tampa Bay (1 season): 8-9 (.471 win percentage)
- Playoff appearances: 1
Bowles had the keys to the car handed to him in Tampa Bay, a franchise coming off a Super Bowl championship and a divisional playoff round exit in the two seasons prior. He also had Tom Brady coming back with an offense ranked second and third in points per game in that same stretch. The Buccaneers were 21-13 in the two seasons prior to Bowles' promotion.
Tampa Bay's offense fell from second to 25th in points per game, as Brady arguably had the worst season of his career. The defense fell from fifth in points per game allowed to 13th, while falling from sixth to 20th in giveaway/takeaway ratio. The Buccaneers did win the NFC South, albeit with a losing record and -45 point differential (then fell 31-14 in the wild card round).
The drop off from Bruce Arians to Bowles was significant, as the Buccaneers ended up firing longtime offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and hiring Dave Canales. Brady retired and Baker Mayfield was brought in for a last opportunity to start in the NFL. The Buccaneers are likely in the initial stages of a rebuild, but the NFC South is up for grabs and Tampa Bay has enough talent to win the division for a third consecutive year.
If the Buccaneers decide to speed up a soon-to-be rebuild after this season, the performance on the field will be the determining factor. Another losing season will speed up the process, and Bowles will be out. The Buccaneers have a reason to dismiss Bowles if this season is a failure, considering Bowles is just 34-50 as a head coach (.405 win percentage) with four losing years \in his his five full seasons.
The pressure is on Bowles to win a division that's certainly winnable.
5. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys)
- Career record with Dallas (3 seasons): 30-20 (.600 win percentage)
- Playoff appearances: 2
Perhaps McCarthy should be higher on this list considering the franchise that employs him. The Cowboys haven't reached the conference championship game since the 1995 season, but McCarthy has led Dallas to consecutive 12-win seasons for the first time since the 1994-1995 seasons. He has won 60% of his games since arriving in Dallas, but the Cowboys are just 1-2 in playoff games under McCarthy.
This year's version of the Cowboys is more talented than a team that arguably should have beaten the San Francisco 49ers last season, making ending that conference championship game drought a priority.
McCarthy put even more pressure on himself this offseason by firing Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator and making himself the play-caller, putting himself in charge of revitalizing Dak Prescott, who is coming off his most turnover-prone season of his career. Aaron Rodgers became an MVP candidate again the following year after the Green Bay Packers fired McCarthy and hired Matt LaFleur, so McCarthy will have to prove a lot of doubters wrong if he wants to fix Prescott's mistakes from last year.
The Cowboys should win games and make the playoffs, but it's how far Dallas goes in the postseason that will determine McCarthy's fate -- in addition to Prescott improving from a rough 2022 season. Dallas should be a Super Bowl contender with this roster, so a deep playoff run by McCarthy is paramount.
6. Josh McDaniels (Las Vegas Raiders)
- Career record with Las Vegas (1 season): 6-11 (.353 win percentage)
- Playoff appearances: 0
McDaniels falls into the Allen dilemma. How did he manage to land a second head coaching job, especially after turning down the Indianapolis Colts head coaching job after initially accepting it? The first year in Las Vegas was a disaster, as the Raiders finished with a losing record (a year after making the playoffs) and were one of the most disappointing teams in the league.
Derek Carr was told to go home prior to the year ending, ending a decade-long reign as the Raiders quarterback. McDaniels brought in Jimmy Garoppolo and Jakobi Meyers to help out an offense that already has Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams. Both players were with McDaniels in new England, so his stamp has been placed in Vegas.
Are the Raiders even going to be competitive in a loaded AFC? The offense should be good, but is the defense any better than the 28th-ranked unit that finished last year? Vegas should score points and be excited to watch, yet the defense could be McDaniels' downfall. Then there's the whole relationships with players issue that resides with McDaniels, along with his 17-28 record as a head coach (.373 win percentage).
A winning season should be enough to keep McDaniels around for a third season, as the Raiders don't want to pay his buyout if he struggles again. If the Raiders are 6-11 again (or worse), owner Mark Davis won't have a choice.
7. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns)
- Career record with Cleveland (3 seasons): 26-24 (.520 win percentage)
- Playoff appearances: 1
Stefanski bought himself time with the Browns after leading the franchise to their first playoff victory since 1994 in 2020, yet that time is screeching to a halt. The Browns have a $230 million investment in Deshaun Watson who's entering his first full season in Cleveland (Watson was suspended the first 11 games last season), along with a talented roster that's built to win in 2023.
Cleveland has decreased its win total in every season under Stefanski, dropping to a 7-10 season in 2022. The Browns are just 15-19 over the last two seasons despite having a strong roster. Stefanski has gotten a pass for getting Cleveland a playoff victory, but he also hasn't had his quarterback for the full season until this year (Watson's suspension and legal issues pretty much made last season a wash).
Not only does Watson have to play well, but the Browns should contend for the AFC North title. Stefanski doesn't have to do much to retain his job, as long as the Browns have a winning record and qualify for the postseason. Remember, this is Cleveland (the franchise has just three winning seasons since returning in 1999).
Another seven-or-eight win season may force Cleveland to make a change. There's pressure on Stefanski to return to the glory of his first season. Watson returning to form should get the Browns there.
8. Robert Saleh (New York Jets)
- Career record with New York (2 seasons): 11-23 (.324win percentage)
- Playoff appearances: 0
Of course there's pressure on Saleh to win, which comes with the territory when the franchise trades for Aaron Rodgers. The Jets are probably a playoff team last season if the quarterback play wasn't so bad, which is why the franchise took the gamble and added Rodgers.
The Jets have built a team with a collection of young talent led by a future Hall of Fame quarterback. A winning season isn't going to cut it with Saleh, as the Jets have to at least make the postseason (have an NFL-long playoff drought of 12 years). Considering the talent on the Jets roster, they should at least accomplish that feat.
Whether Saleh can actually coach will be discovered this season. He has the quarterback, skill-position players, and defense to make a deep playoff run. Would the Jets actually move on from Saleh if they win 10-plus games and a playoff game in 2023? Saleh would leave his fate to chance with those results, but that's not enough justification for termination of employment.
The only way the pressure falls on Saleh is if the Jets get off to a slow start with their tough schedule at the beginning of the year. After a few games, Saleh's "hot seat" can be reevaluated.