- Kevin Stefanski's seat is heating up: It’s not necessarily his fault, but the Cleveland Browns have heaped a whole lot of pressure on themselves with their moves over the last couple of seasons, and Stefanski will likely be the first sacrificial lamb if none of it works out.
- Mike McCarthy needs to get the Dallas Cowboys over the hump: McCarthy has assumed greater control of the offense this offseason due to Moore's departure, and with greater control comes greater responsibility for any success or failure.
- Brandon Staley running out of time in Los Angeles: Being in a division with Kansas City makes life perennially tough, but if Staley can’t show significant improvement in 2023, he will be facing calls for his job.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Between trades, free agency and the draft, the NFL offseason moves that will make the biggest impact on the 2023 season are complete, so it’s time to see which head coaches are under the most pressure given the current lay of the land.
There are multiple ways coaches can be under pressure in any given season, and for these purposes, we will exclude the likes of Sean Payton in Denver — under immediate pressure to right a sinking ship — or Bill Belichick in New England — it seems inconceivable that Belichick’s job would actually be at risk even as he struggles to find the same kind of success in a post-Brady landscape.
This article is for the coaches that could very well be at risk of a ‘Black Monday’ firing after the season if things don’t go their way.
Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns
It’s not necessarily his fault, but the Browns have heaped a whole lot of pressure on themselves with their moves over the last couple of seasons, and Stefanski will likely be the first sacrificial lamb if none of it works out. Deshaun Watson played his first games for the team last season and was disastrous, earning a 55.3 overall PFF grade, marginally worse than Desmond Ridder and Sam Ehlinger‘s scores. Watson may have thrown seven touchdowns to five interceptions but recorded just three big-time throws to nine turnover-worthy plays. Cleveland did major work this offseason to improve the defense and continue to add weaponry on offense, but if Watson doesn’t bounce back in a significant way and the Browns challenge for the division, it’s tough to see Stefanski making it to the 2024 season.
Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys
As much as Jerry Jones gives off the vibes of an impulsive and impatient owner/general manager, he is actually enduringly patient with head coaches that he throws under the bus on an annual basis. At some point, however, that patience runs out, and if Dallas has another typical underachieving season in 2023, it will be hard for McCarthy to hold onto his job. Kellen Moore has left to ply his trade with the Los Angeles Chargers, and Jones knows that Dallas has the talent to contend in a weaker NFC. The Philadelphia Eagles emerging as the class of the conference only adds to the embarrassment for Dallas if it can’t stop tripping up in the playoffs. McCarthy has assumed greater control of the offense this offseason due to Moore's departure, and with greater control comes greater responsibility for any success or failure. Jones is always more forgiving and patient with his coaches than you expect him to be, but another disappointing season would be tough for McCarthy to recover from.
Josh McDaniels, Las Vegas Raiders
McDaniels is already on the hot seat in Las Vegas. An unusual case as a head coach, McDaniels had a disastrous tenure in Denver over a decade ago before rehabilitating his reputation back in New England for another decade. The job in Las Vegas was his chance to prove he learned from the Denver experience and can excel as a head coach, but already things seem to be unraveling. Derek Carr was unceremoniously dumped as the team’s franchise quarterback and whatever the plans at the position were supposed to be, they came away from the offseason with Jimmy Garoppolo and a fourth-round rookie Aidan O’Connell as additions at the most important position in football. Garoppolo, it later emerged, may not even be healthy and the Raiders were concerned enough by that to have a clause in his contract that allows them to cut him relatively cost-free. As financially savvy as that may be, it would leave them with virtually no quarterback option to speak of in a make-or-break season for McDaniels the head coach. Add in the fact that they are in a division with the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and a Denver Broncos team now under Sean Payton, and the Raiders have their backs against the wall, with McDaniels an obvious fall guy should it spiral out of control.
Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Chargers
Sticking in the AFC West, Staley is under real pressure now to hit the potential of this group. Kellen Moore was brought in over the offseason to get the most out of Justin Herbert. A quarterback with as much talent as anyone in the league, Herbert has had the lowest turnover-worthy play rate in the NFL for the last two seasons, had the 39th-highest average depth of target last season and ranked just 29th in big-time throw rate. Whatever the cause, Herbert has been more conservative as a passer than he needs to be to rank among the very best in the game. On the other side of the ball — Staley’s specialty — the Chargers defense ranked below average in EPA per play against last season and 20th in the rate in which they allowed a scoring drive. Being in a division with Kansas City makes life perennially tough, but if Staley can’t show significant improvement in 2023, he will be facing calls for his job.
Todd Bowles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The irony here is that if you believe Bruce Arians, the reason he stepped back from the head coaching job was to give Todd Bowles a run with an elite team and quarterback precisely to prevent him from living through this situation. The Bucs never really got it together last season, and Brady’s great career seems to have ended with something of a damp squib. Now, the team faces a season with the remnants of a championship-caliber roster but with a quarterback competition between Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask likely determining how many games they can win. Bowles may be able to help keep the defense on track, but if the quarterback situation isn’t much better than it looks on paper, this could be a rough year for Tampa Bay. Back-to-back years with declining win totals would be a difficult outcome for Bowles to escape from, even if he was more a victim of circumstance than a root cause of the decline.