The head coaching market is always agitated in the NFL. This week, the first firing of the season happened, with Matt Rhule being relieved of his duties for the Carolina Panthers. More dismisses are expected in the coming months.
And there are always potential head coaches emerging. Last month, former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton said he may come back to the sidelines "if the right opportunity arose". So, let's take a look at 10 possible head coaches for the 2023 season.
Former head coaches
Sean Payton, former New Orleans Saints head coach
As mentioned above, it's fairly certain that Payton will come back after a brief hiatus. There should be a run to hire him, as one of the most successful coaches of his generation. However, there's a caveat: he is still under contract with the Saints, so an interested team must negotiate with New Orleans to acquire Payton's rights. It shouldn't be as easy for a divisional rival like the Carolina Panthers.
Brian Flores, Pittsburgh Steelers senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach
Flores was fired by the Miami Dolphins under unconventional circumstances, to say the least. He was a finalist to land the Houston Texans' job this season, but the team went in another direction and hired Lovie Smith after Flores' lawsuit against the NFL and the Dolphins was filed. After a rebuilding year in 2019, the Dolphins under Flores had two positive seasons in 2020 and 2021, even though they didn't reach the playoffs in either of them.
Dan Quinn, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator
Quinn was a successful coach, taking the Atlanta Falcons to a Super Bowl. But the comeback loss to the New England Patriots took its toll, and the Falcons have had many mediocre at best years since. Quinn, however, revived his career as the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator. Even though he comes from the Seattle Seahawks' coaching tree, Quinn adapted his defensive philosophy to a new era, showing willingness to install a two-high based scheme. So far, in a little more than a full season in Dallas, he has led a top unit.
Rich Bisaccia, Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator
Bisaccia did a great job at keeping the Las Vegas Raiders on their tracks after Jon Gruden's firing in 2021, and led the team to a playoff appearance as an interim head coach. After being interviewed for the Jacksonville Jaguars' head coaching job this year, he was hired to turn the Packers special teams around after a series of failures by the franchise in this area. And he has done exactly that so far. The Packers are 11th in special teams DVOA through five weeks, after being 32nd last season.
DeMeco Ryans, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator
There was a concern around San Francisco that the defense could be worse after Robert Saleh left to be the New York Jets head coach. But the unit has actually been better. This year, for example, they are first in the entire league in defensive DVOA. And that improvement says a lot about DeMeco Ryans' coaching capacity. The former linebacker is still young and relatively inexperienced, at 38 years old and in his sixth season as a football coach. On the other hand, his playing years and his fast rise give him a bump compared to his peers.
Jonathan Gannon, Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator
Gannon was a popular interview name in 2022. The Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, and Minnesota Vikings considered him in the last cycle. This year, he has done an impressive job leading the Eagles defense, which is fifth in DVOA. He is young, 39 years old, but has coached in the NFL since 2007. He is in his second season as the Eagles defensive coordinator after three years as the Indianapolis Colts defensive backs coach.
Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator
Bieniemy should probably already be a head coach because of the job he does with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense, which he coordinates since 2018 after five years as its running backs coach. This year, though, has been particularly impressive for Bieniemy. He leads the third offense in DVOA, even after losing star wide receiver Tyreek Hill, traded to the Miami Dolphins. The Chiefs reinvented their offensive philosophy, and Mahomes is still the best quarterback in the NFL in EPA/play. Obviously it helps to have a generational talent at the most important position, but Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy's work has been imperative to sustain the Chiefs' recent success.
Mike Kafka, New York Giants offensive coordinator
The former NFL quarterback also took advantage of working with Patrick Mahomes — he was the QB coach in Kansas City for four seasons before accepting the Giants' offensive coordinator job. And, while he works under Brian Daboll, he is the playcaller. His capacity to run a system that blends various concepts has been impressive, and the Giants are 12th in offensive DVOA despite lacking personnel talent.
Ken Dorsey, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator
When a team has success for some time, the brain drain is real. And that's what might happen in Buffalo. Brian Daboll left to be the Giants head coach this year, and Ken Dorsey might be the next in line. Dorsey was the QB coach responsible for Josh Allen's impressive development, and was promoted to offensive coordinator when Daboll left. The Bills are still a good offense, running similar concepts, and Dorsey also has experience as an NFL quarterback, pro scout and as the Panthers QB coach, working with Cam Newton.
Ben Johnson, Detroit Lions offensive coordinator
No name on this list is more surprising than Ben Johnson. After seven years as an offensive coach in Miami, he was hired by the Lions in 2019 as an offensive quality control coach. He was promoted one year later, still under Matt Patricia, to be the tight ends coach. Ben Johnson wasn't fired with the coaching change above him, and was promoted to a de facto interim offensive coordinator in his first year under Dan Campbell. Officially promoted this season, Johnson became a well-known name for his ability to design run plays and to explore Jared Goff's abilities in bootleg and playaction. The Lions are third in points scored through five weeks.
Shane Waldron, Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator
Waldron had a rough first season as the Seahawks offensive coordinator last season, but in hindsight it's more plausible to argue that his scheme isn't a great fit for Russell Wilson, who has also struggled to run a similar version of it with the Denver Broncos. With Geno Smith, the offense has operated at a much higher level of competence (as bizarre as it may sound), and the team is first in offensive DVOA. Geno Smith has had the best numbers of his NFL career.
Mike Caldwell, Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator
Caldwell has a long experience as an inside linebackers coach in the NFL after a decade-long playing career in the league. After three seasons as a position coach in Tampa, where he won a Super Bowl ring, he was hired in the offseason to be the Jaguars defensive coordinator under Doug Pederson. Despite the talent not being that great, Caldwell has led an aggressive unit to the seventh place in DVOA rankings.