The NFL season is nearing its midpoint, with owners and executives closely evaluating their teams to see which moves are needed to maximize their potential. Whether it is realizing a playoff dream in 2023 or tearing down the squad to help spark a resurgent run in 2024 or later, a handful of head coaches are sitting squarely on the hot seat heading down the stretch.
Though a dramatic turnaround down the stretch could spare some of these coaches from dismissal, here are five head coaches working to save their jobs:
Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
It is hard to envision the Patriots without Bill Belichick on the sidelines, but the franchise could part ways with the legendary coach after a disappointing four-year run following the end of the Tom Brady era. The NFL’s No. 2 most-winning coach of all time is under .500 since TB12’s departure, and his lack of success without the G.O.A.T. has led to questions regarding his methods and the “Patriot Way”.
From the team’s draft failures and talent acquisition miscues to the suspect coaching appointments and faulty execution, the current version of the Patriots looks nothing like the squad that dominated from the 2000s through the 2010s.
With the rapid decline and the growing talent disparity between the Patriots and the rest of the league suggesting Bill the general manager failed Bill the head coach, Robert Kraft might part ways with the six-time Super Bowl winner to start the rebuilding process in New England.
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Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Chargers
The ultra-aggressive Stanley could get his walking papers at season’s end due to his team’s underachievement and wacky analytical guesses overshadowing his tenure. Although Justin Herbert has blossomed into a top-five quarterback under his direction, the coach’s belief in his QB1 has led to a series of reckless decisions that have led to questions about his leadership skills.
As the leader of a struggling defense featuring a collection of playmaking veterans and instinctive youngsters, Staley’s experience and expertise have not produced the consistent results expected from a team with a top-five roster. With last season’s epic playoff meltdown hovering over the franchise, the Chargers might elect to move on from Staley after a three-year roller coaster ride.
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Frank Reich, Carolina Panthers
Very few analysts forecasted a one-and-done tenure for Reich when he joined the Panthers as a quarterback whisperer with a No. 1 overall pick at his disposal. Still, the offense’s disastrous results and Bryce Young’s struggles could prompt the owner to pull the plug on the experiment.
With an 0-6 record and Reich handing off play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, questions persist about the veteran coach’s relationship with the quarterback and his adaptability as a schemer and tactician.
Throw in the defense’s regression with a talented but oft-injured lineup featuring blue-chip players at marquee spots (Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, JayCee Horn and Jeremy Chinn), the Panthers look nothing like the playoff contender that was expected to take the NFC South by storm in Reich’s first season.
Ron Rivera, Washington Commanders
The two-time NFL Coach of the Year was expected to bring stability and a winning pedigree to an organization that endured two decades of chaos under Daniel Snyder. Despite guiding the Commanders to a playoff appearance in 2020, the team has never posted a winning mark under his direction, and the underachievement could result in a pink slip from new ownership at season’s end.
Perhaps Sam Howell’s emergence as an intriguing QB can buy Rivera some time to fix an underachieving defense loaded with first-round talent. As a former defensive coordinator, Rivera must help defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio push the right buttons to unlock a defense that was supposed to be the squad’s strength. If the Commanders post another sub-.500 mark or miss the playoffs for the third straight season, it will be hard for Washington’s new ownership group to keep Rivera around, considering the lack of wins throughout his tenure.
Matt Eberflus, Chicago Bears
The team’s futility and mismanagement of Justin Fields could put Eberflus and Co. on the hot seat without a drastic turnaround down the stretch. The third-year quarterback has regressed after an encouraging 2022 campaign that raised expectations in the Windy City. With questions about Fields’ fit within the scheme, the Bears could also swap out their offensive play-caller to see if they can salvage Eberflus as the team leader.
Given the defense’s woes under his direction following the mysterious departure of his former defensive coordinator (Alan Williams), the Bears could blow up the entire staff and start from scratch with a new head coach and quarterback ushering in a new era in Chicago.
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Bucky Brooks is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He also breaks down the game for NFL Network and as a cohost of the “Moving the Sticks” podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.
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