Looking at the AFC coaching and G.M. hot spots for 2023

Miami Dolphins v Chicago Bears
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Three jobs already are open. When the coaching (and G.M.) carousel starts to fully spin as soon as tonight, how many more will there be?

The league hopes it’s as few as possible, based on the effort last month to appeal to the greed of the owners by pointing out how much money they’ve spent in recent years paying out the balance of contracts for coaches and front-office executives. (The presentation apparently glossed over factors like offsets based on future earnings and potential revenue losses from standing pat with a struggling football operation, but that’s for the owners to figure out on their own, apparently.)

So how many jobs will become open in the current cycle, in addition to the head-coaching jobs with Panthers, Colts, and Broncos?

One source with extensive knowledge of the annual firing-and-hiring spree predicted recently that there won’t be many this year. There have been other years that felt that same way, however, and then one after another after another spots spring open, often with a surprise or two.

Here’s the places we’re watching in the AFC, either because a change arguably needs to be made — or because ownership (the core problem for plenty of dysfunctional teams) may do something dysfunctional.

The Jets: The impressive start to the season made expectations for the team unreasonable. Did owner Woody Johnson get swept up in that mindset, and will he be looking for someone to blame for the way things fell apart? Are G.M. Joe Douglas and coach Robert Saleh on the same page, or will one blame the other if/when it becomes clear ownership is looking for a scapegoat? The smart move would be to stand pat. But some owners often don’t make smart moves. A few rarely do.

The Dolphins: A five-game losing streak surely has created some frayed nerves. The handling of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa‘s concussions could prompt extra scrutiny from owner Stephen Ross. Ross also may be looking to blame someone for the tampering sanctions imposed on the organization for repeatedly trying to land quarterback Tom Brady and, more recently, coach Sean Payton. Could G.M. Chris Grier be on the hot seat? Could first-year coach Mike McDaniel fall under scrutiny for the Tua situation? Could Ross want to complete unfinished business with Brady and/or Payton? Not having a first-round pick due to the tampering situation and trading their other one to the Broncos (who are already flirting with Payton) would complicate any such effort. Regardless, Even with a Week 18, slip-under-the-wire playoff berth, Ross likely won’t be happy with how the season went. We’ve seen what he’s done in the past when he wasn’t happy.

The Patriots: There likely will be plenty of changes made on the coaching staff, possibly starting with the return of Bill O’Brien as offensive coordinator — unless O’Brien becomes a head-coaching candidate elsewhere. Although a divorce is unlikely between Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft (a showdown over the coaching staff could, in theory, spark one), the pressure will mount in 2023, absent making the playoffs and winning a postseason game for the first time in four years.

The Ravens: John Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in the NFL. The Ravens would have no reason to move on from him. After 15 years in the same job, could Harbaugh be thinking about a fresh start elsewhere? No coach has won a Super Bowl with two different teams. Every coach who has won a Super Bowl would like to be the first to do it, whether they’d admit it or not. And it generally makes sense, after Sean Payton’s departure from the Saints, to generally keep an eye on every coach who has been in the same place for so long.

The Steelers: Again, the raw duration of Mike Tomlin’s time with the team makes it an annual spot to watch, until he leaves. There’s no specific reason to think he would.

The Browns: At one point this year, it would have been not impossible to envision owner Jimmy Haslam making a change, with the goal of getting more from new quarterback Deshaun Watson. But Kevin Stefanski, the 2020 coach of the year, and Watson seem to be clicking. The Browns also have been competitive during the five-game pre-preseason for 2023. It would make little sense to make a change.

The Titans: Tennessee last won a game a week before Thanksgiving, on the same night offensive coordinator Todd Downing was arrested for DUI under a timeline that made it obvious he was drinking on the team plane from Green Bay and/or the team bus from the airport to the facility. When G.M. Jon Robinson was fired, it seemed at first that Mike Vrabel would emerge with more power — and as the person in charge of the football operation, vindicated by personnel moves gone wrong. Now, as the losses pile up and the division title was lost one year after Tennessee won the No. 1 seed, who knows what owner Amy Adams Strunk will decide to do? Through it all, she should remember what Vrabel has managed to do with an ever-revolving roster door, and what happened with moves that he opposed. Including the decision to trade receiver A.J. Brown to the Eagles.

The Colts: Owner Jim Irsay repeatedly has said G.M. Chris Ballard will return for 2023. We should know by now to never take seriously anything Irsay says about his team.

The Texans: After a one-and-done with David Culley and given their involvement in the Brian Flores suit for failing to hire him a year ago, would they dump Lovie Smith after only one season? Much of that depends on how sweeping the changes will be elsewhere in the organization. Is owner Cal McNair, who fired Jack Easterby during the season, waiting to make a clean sweep after the season ends? Beyond the team being the worst in the NFL in recent years, the football operations cost McNair in the form of thirty-plus settlements for failing to spot and remedy Deshaun Watson’s massage-therapy habits. Don’t overlook that as a factor when it comes to the big decisions McNair needs to make.

The Broncos: Is G.M. George Paton truly safe? That could hinge on the coach that new ownership hires. If the Wal-Mart conglomerate settles on a CEO for the football operation who wants his own G.M., Paton could be gone. Or at a minimum re-assigned, and necessarily stripped of much authority.

The Chargers: Coach Brandon Staley seems to be safe, given that the team made the playoffs. But there are deeper issues regarding perpetual injury problems that compel a closer look at the overall football operations, top to bottom and inside-out.

The Raiders: Changes would be made if owner Mark Davis could afford to make them, I believe. He either can’t or he won’t pay coach Josh McDaniels and/or G.M. Dave Ziegler to leave, after writing checks to Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock a year ago.

The Chiefs: Andy Reid turns 65 on March 19. He’s been with the Chiefs for 10 years. He’s been an NFL head coach for 24 straight seasons. If they win another Super Bowl, would he decide to walk away? It would be very tempting to stick around indefinitely, given the presence of Patrick Mahomes on the team. But it makes sense to keep an eye on the possibility that Reid will decide it’s time — especially if he can exit with Super Bowl win No. 2.

That’s it for the AFC. In a separate item, we’ll do the same thing in the NFC.

21 responses to “Looking at the AFC coaching and G.M. hot spots for 2023

  1. Branden Staley should be fired if they don’t win a playoff game. He is Kliff Kingsbury the II, does very little with a ton of talent. If coached properly I wouldn’t want to face Chargers in the playoffs.

  2. GM Grier in Miami has once again constructed a roster made up of often injured players through the draft and free agency, how does he survive another non playoff season?
    He missed on 3 #1 picks in 2020.

  3. The Dolphins coach has done a great job under the circumstances . Get him a offensive line and a quarterback who can stay healthy and this guy can win you a Super Bowl.

  4. I think there’s a good chance 2023 is BB’s last season as Patriots HC and GM no matter what. He will be 72.

    There’s a reason why coaches older than 70 haven’t won anything in this league. Even if they’re one of the all time greats.

  5. Jets : Saleh deserves a shot with a legitimate qb at the reigns. If they had a franchise qb this year they were playoff bound

  6. The Jets will not fire Joe Douglas or Robert Saleh this year.
    If the Jets fail to make the playoffs in 2023 then both will be fired.
    Joe Douglas came to the Jets in 2019 and different 5 years He can’t rebuild the team then he has not done his job.
    The new GM will want to hire his own head coach.

    The offensive coordinator Mike lafleur may well be fired this offseason.

  7. I don’t think the Browns will make a change, but I disagree that it would “make little sense”. Our coach has no leadership ability, is not the brilliant offensive mind we thought he was, and has lost the locker room two years in a row. First he chased OBJ out of town, then he played the blame game with Mayfield and called him immature in the local media. Now he’s chased away Clowney with his lack of ability to lead me. The DC is a failure, and he continues to stick with him for unknown reasons. The players don’t want to play for him. If I were Haslam, I would definitely show him the door.

  8. Houston needs to blow it up. Bring in the coaching staff and the young QB at the same time. Giving a young QB a new OC every year does him no good.

    SD should have hired Daboll. Staley needs to go. As does Saturday in Indy and Kliff in Arizona.

  9. I wish the NFL coaching carousel was less of a carousel.

    Every candidate who was hired presumably had exceptional success somewhere and excellent football acumen. If most are qualified, why do a third of NFL coaches get fired each year?

    I’d argue that fans have an impatience with bad teams which leads to too quick personnel changes which makes teams stay bad. So what if a coach has a bad couple of seasons?

    Stick with who you hired, and you’ll probably have more long-term success than not.

  10. If there is one thing we absolutely know, it is that someone thought to be secure will be gone and someone who is unmistakably about to be fired will stay.

    Let the games begin.

  11. The Raiders should find money and get rid of McDaniels and Ziegler before they completely destroy the team. With all the craziness the Raiders had to deal with last year they still had 10 wins (Gruden, Ruggs, etc). McDaniels comes in and gets 6 wins and destroys the team spirit. The Raider fans flipped all their tickets to the opposition the last two games (it was the red hole).

  12. Shouldn’t be any surprise that everyone who came from New England is on the hot seat, except maybe Daboll. Guys from the Parcells and Walsh trees, like Payton and Reid, are thriving. Belichick is the Phil Jackson of the NFL.

  13. Cleveland for sure should get an upgrade at HC and DEFINITELY need a new GM. That GM they have is horrible and one of the worst in the NFL

  14. Ravens GM should be top of the list. No other team would go from a respectable offense (12th in ppg) to the worst offense in since the 2009 St.Louis Rams just because their QB is injured. A QB that they foolishly kicked the can down the road on a contract extension.

  15. Given the FACT that as a head coach, BB has a LOSING record sans Brady, the Pats may want to move on with someone that is capable of winning without the GOAT at QB.

  16. Chill_Mickelson says:
    January 8, 2023 at 2:38 pm
    Given the FACT that as a head coach, BB has a LOSING record sans Brady, the Pats may want to move on with someone that is capable of winning without the GOAT at QB.


    I had no idea BB coached Otto Graham, I thought that was Paul Brown?

  17. More fantasizing from the author. Harbaugh signed an extension and he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Which will not be the fate of his run game coordinator, whose days masking as a NFL offensive coordinator will be ending soon.

  18. onewarriornation says:
    January 8, 2023 at 6:38 pm
    Chill_Mickelson says:
    January 8, 2023 at 2:38 pm
    Given the FACT that as a head coach, BB has a LOSING record sans Brady, the Pats may want to move on with someone that is capable of winning without the GOAT at QB.


    I had no idea BB coached Otto Graham, I thought that was Paul Brown?

    Bill Walsh coached the GOAT.

    Belichick and Arians coached a guy that proved this year that he’s nothing without those coaches and therefore not in the top 10 of the greatest of all time.

    And that’s not factoring in his cheating. If I factor that in maybe he shouldn’t even be in the top 40.

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