Where Things Stand With Two Weeks Left

The end of the NFL season is near, which means the 2023 NFL hiring cycle is about to begin.

Estimates are between five and seven teams will change coaches in the new year. Two already have, getting extended auditions from potential candidates. So who are the NFL coaches on the hot seat as the regular season winds down? Let’s recap.

NFL Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 16

On Oct. 10, the Carolina Panthers officially kicked off this year’s hiring cycle by firing Matt Rhule after a 1-4 start to the season. Steve Wilks has served as Carolina’s interim since.

Then, four weeks later, Frank Reich joined Rhule in unemployment, with Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay making the shock hire of Jeff Saturday as the replacement.

So what’s next for the Panthers, Colts, and the other NFL teams with decisions to make at head coach?

Dennis Allen, New Orleans Saints

Overview: Allen coaching in 2022 was not the plan this time last year. But opportunity is borne of necessity. Allen was the obvious heir when Sean Payton stepped down.

The transition has had its bumps. Like Allen, Andy Dalton was an unexpected face of 2022, taking over for an injured Jameis Winston early in the year. There has been a lack of week-to-week consistency at the quarterback play, and basically in every other aspect of the game.

The Saints’ current two-game winning streak is their first stretch of consecutive wins this season. The defense couldn’t get stops early, the offense didn’t score late.

But Allen deserves to continue to get great effort after a 4-9 start. He inherited a flawed roster, and those flaws were apparent this year.

Odds of being fired: Low.

Todd Bowles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Overview: Bowles’ situation is a lot like Allen’s only more fraught because of the people and expectations involved. Tom Brady retired and then unretired. Bruce Arians retired and stayed.

That meant it was up to Bowles to make it work with an aging roster that was still close enough to a Super Bowl championship that the playoffs were just assumed, particularly in a terrible NFC South.

But nothing’s been easy for the Bucs, even if they are still likely to return to the postseason. The journey has been a slog. The Bucs have needed late-game Brady magic in come-from-behind victories against the Rams, Saints and Cardinals — three bad teams — just to get to 7-8.

Odds of being fired: Low.

Matt Eberflus, Chicago Bears

Overview: The Bears set out to be bad this year. And things went as planned. They’ve now lost eight straight games to move into the No. 2 spot of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Most teams picking second need a quarterback. The Bears seem to already have one in Justin Fields, but it’s hard to tell because he’s surrounded by so much failure.

There should be brighter days ahead for the Bears. They have nine figures in cap space and what looks to be a premium first-round draft pick. Eberflus will likely get a chance to prove what he can do with a real roster.

Odds of being fired: Low.

Nathaniel Hackett, Denver Broncos

Overview: No need to beat a dead horse with this one. This is ground covered time and time again.

But you needed one last reminder that things are beyond saving for Hackett in Denver, the Broncos’ Week 16 debacle on national TV should have done the trick.

The Broncos got humiliated by a bad Rams team starting Baker Mayfield. And the guy they gave up a ton of draft picks to acquire and a bunch of guaranteed money to secure was awful. Again.

Russell Wilson threw three picks on Christmas. He’s bad. But he’s not going anywhere. Hackett will be the one who pays.

Odds of being fired: High

Kliff Kingsbury, Arizona Cardinals

Overview: The season is spiraling, the quarterback is hurt and the general manager is gone. It is a tidal wave in the desert. And Kingsbury has done nothing to prove over the last four seasons that things will get appreciably better next year.

There are reasons to consider the remote possibility that Kingsbury survives, however. The owner is cheap. And the Cardinals’ situation might be the least appealing of all the openings this cycle.

Odds of being fired: Moderate/High

Jeff Saturday, Indianapolis Colts

Overview: Like the Bears’ situation, you’ve gotten what the market would expect given the set of circumstances.

If you ask a former player/TV analyst with no ciaching experience to take over a bad team with a broken quarterback, you’re going to get some losses. The only question is how ugly they get.

And with two epic second-half meltdowns, one of which involved blowing the biggest lead in NFL history, Saturday has really leaned into the role.

Bad situation. Unprepared coach. Youre getting what you pay for.

Odds of being retained: Very Low

Lovie Smith, Houston Texans

Overview: Smith was another fallback plan hire, and his was the worst situation of them all. But Smith made things worse by benching a demonstrably bad but functioning quarterback in Davis Mills for a player who probably shouldn’t be in the league in Kyle Allen.

Like Allen, Smith deserves kudos for keeping his team engaged. In the last three weeks, they came within a score of the Cowboys and Chiefs and beat the Titans. But the Texans were no better this year than last. And that’s saying something.

Odds of being fired: Moderate

Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns

Overview: The Browns took much-deserved heat for their decision to not only trade for Deshaun Watson but give him the most guaranteed money in NFL history. Critics would say karma is real.

Because the Browns are worse with Watson on offense than they were without him. Watson has been among the NFL’s worst-performing quarterbacks since his return, and the Browns’ playoff hopes formally ended on Christmas Eve.

Stefanski was the NFL coach of the year in 2020. He would go into 2023 with the hottest seat — if he even gets there.

Odds of being fired: Moderate

Steve Wilks, Carolina Panthers

Overview: At the very least, Wilks deserves a whole round of interviews in the coming cycle. And the Panthers might ultimately decide he’s their best option.

What Wilks has done since taking over for an out-of-his-depth Rhule is remarkable. The Panthers enter Week 17 having won three out of four. They’re two wins away from the NFC South title. And they’re doing it with Sam Darnold.

Odds of being retained: Moderate

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