April 24, 2024

2024 NFL head coaching tracker: Three jobs open as Bill Belichick’s future up in the air at Patriots

With the 2023 regular season coming to an end on Sunday, 18 of the NFL’s 32 teams are done for the year. That means it’s time to turn our attention to the league’s coaching carousel, where there are currently three vacancies: the Carolina Panthers, the Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers.

Current openings

The Panthers made Frank Reich the first coach fired, letting him go on Nov. 27 after Carolina started the year 1-10 in his first season in charge. Reich’s eleven-game tenure is the shortest with any team since Pete McCulley played nine games with the 1978 San Francisco 49ers. Carolina finished the season with the NFL’s worst record, 2–15, and the nation’s worst scoring offense the league (13.9 points per game) in the rookie season of 2023, the first overall pick of quarterback Bryce Young.

The Raiders fired Josh McDaniels on Halloween after a 3-5 start. He went 9-16 in two seasons as head coach of the Raiders. McDaniels reportedly lost the locker roto while his players criticized his leadership approach. Las Vegas went 5-4 under linebackers and interim head coach Antonio Pierce and finished the season 8-9 overall. Their 15.9 points allowed per game from Weeks 9 through 18 under Pierce ranked as the fewest in the NFL.

The Chargers fired Brandon Staley on December 15 after a 5-9 start, including being blown out 63-21 in his final game in charge. Los Angeles was without quarterback Justin Herbert, who was out with a broken index finger on his right hand. The Chargers ranked 28th in both scoring and total defense under Staley in 2023, a far cry from when he coached the league’s top scoring and total defense as defensive coordinator with the Rams in 2020.

Potential openings

There have been at least five new head coaches in each of the past eleven years. As for which teams could join the Panthers, Raiders and Chargers with openings, four teams come to mind: the Washington Commanders, New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears.

Ron Rivera’s time with the Washington Commanders is likely over. The team went 4-13 this season, year 1 of the new Commanders ownership group led by Josh Harris, not a great first impression. The Commanders defense, Rivera’s side of the ball, was the worst across the board in the NFL in 2023.

Commander defense this season

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* Washington’s worst season since 1954

The biggest sign that Washington is ready to move on is a report from Diana Russini of The Athletic that the Commanders hope to meet with six-time Super Bowl champion head coach Bill Belichick.

Speaking of Belichick, there’s a real possibility he enters the offseason without his long-held title, since 2000, of head coach of the New England Patriots. Russini reported that the Patriots will have a meeting between owner Robert Kraft, team president Jonathan Kraft and Belichick next week to determine Belichick’s future with the future team. He reportedly wants to continue coaching, but Russini also wrote that some who work for the team “expect changes” and are starting to network elsewhere. In addition to the Commanders, the Raiders, who recently hired and fired former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, are interested in meeting with him and potentially bringing the architect of “The Patriot Way” west.

Both losses (13) and points per game (13.9) are the worst for the Patriots since the 1992 season, when they went 2-14. The following season, New England fired head coach Dick MacPherson and hired Bill Parcells.

Earlier this season, New England became the first team to lose three straight games by 10 or fewer points since the 1938 Chicago Cardinals did so nearly 100 years ago. This season the team was eliminated twice. During the Brady era, the Patriots were shut out twice in 20 seasons, including the postseason.

Considering Belichick won an NFL-record six Super Bowls for New England, he has had some wiggle room in the post-Brady era, but outside of a 10-7 year in 2021, New England has had a losing record in three of the four games. years, Brady has been gone. With the lack of on-field success and poor roster construction that has forced Belichick to make multiple free agency spends to paper over poor draft classes, his time in New England may have been used up.

The Atlanta Falcons finished 7-10 in each of head coach Arthur Smith’s first three seasons, making him the first Falcons head coach to ever lose 10 games in three consecutive seasons. Game management has not been his strong suit this season as Atlanta has suffered four losses this season when ahead in the final minute of a game. That’s the most by any team since the 2015 New York Giants.

His biggest shortcoming as a head coach is his resistance to including the three offensive skill position players the team has drafted in the top 10 in each of the last three drafts: tight end Kyle Pitts (fourth overall pick in 2021), wide receiver Drake London (eighth overall pick in 2022) and running back Bijan Robinson (eighth overall pick in 2023). In the past, Smith has said his job as an NFL head coach is about finding a way to win and not about playing fantasy football. However, bringing in three of the team’s most talented playmakers certainly could have helped an offense that averaged 19.6 points per game in 2023, the ninth-worst scoring offense in the league.

The Chicago Bears could also be in the market for a new head coach if they decide to replace head coach Matt Eberflus, who is 10-24 in two seasons. Eberflus cut his teeth as a former defensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts, but his Bears defense was the worst in the NFL on third down, allowing opponents to convert first downs at a 43.8% rate.

His coaching work in Chicago also failed to elicit efficient play from quarterback Justin Fields, the 11th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, while failing to protect him up front. Fields has the highest pressure rate (46.2%) and sack rate (12.4%) among 38 qualified quarterbacks as of 2021.

Justin Field’s career in the NFL has been in the rankings since 2021

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*Out of 38 qualified QBs in the period

Here’s a quick breakdown of what awaits potential candidates for each of the current head coaching vacancies.

NFL hiring and firing

Carolina Panthers


Bryce Young’s 5.5 yards per pass attempt in 2023 ranked as fourth-worst in NFL history with a minimum of 500 pass attempts. He also ranked last in the NFL in passer rating (73.7) in his rookie year. Whoever takes the job will need a contractual guarantee from owner David Tepper that he will have at least a few years. Under Tepper, they have had six different head coaches in six seasons. The franchise had four in its first 23 seasons.

Las Vegas Raiders

Josh McDaniels

Whoever takes on the job has building blocks on both sides of the ball with All-Pro wideout Davante Adams and Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby. However, the quarterback of the future is likely not on the roster, with the AFC West going through Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs for the foreseeable future.

Los Angeles Chargers

Brandon Staley

The Chargers are the rare team with a coaching vacancy that has secured its franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert. The problem is that a large part of the selection is injury-prone and/or expensive. Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa hasn’t been able to play double-digit games in the last two seasons. Wide receiver Mike Williams suffered a torn ACL three games into 2023. Center Corey Linsley has struggled with injuries since becoming a Charger. Los Angeles is expected to be about $35 million over the salary cap in 2024, forcing them to turn over their roster as quickly as possible. Like the Raiders, they also have a Chiefs problem.

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