The NFL’s 2022 regular season is barely half over and already two coaches have been dismissed, Matt Rhule by the Carolina Panthers and Frank Reich by the Indianapolis Colts.
Of course, the carnage almost certainly won’t end there, recent history suggesting there will be a half-dozen openings or more by the middle of January. (Ten HC jobs changed hands last offseason, though not all of them were created by a firing. Of the league’s 32 clubs, 24 have switched head coaches at least once since the 2018 offseason.)
So who might be coaching for their jobs over the next eight weeks (or less) – ample time for some boss men to rebound while others potentially unravel and find themselves on the firing line? Here are eight coaches (listed alphabetically) who could wind up on the hot seat … if they’re not there already:
Dennis Allen, New Orleans Saints
Replacing a local hero like Sean Payton was always going to be a tall order no matter the successor. But a team that finished a tiebreaker shy of postseason in 2021 and largely returned intact has been one of the league’s bigger disappointments after dropping seven of its last nine. The offense has been decent without Payton, though it’s perhaps a bit surprising that Allen continues to stick with QB Andy Dalton. However, a defense that Allen capably ran for more than a half-dozen years under Payton has struggled, only three teams allowing more total points thus far in 2022. Challenging circumstances to be sure, but it wouldn’t be a stunner if Allen winds up collateral damage for a veteran-laden roster that seems ripe for a massive overhaul in 2023 if this season continues to deteriorate.
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Dan Campbell, Detroit Lions
He’s 6-19-1 midway through his second season, and whatever momentum was built by a 3-3 finish in 2021 and some good vibes created during “Hard Knocks” was seemingly squandered by this season’s 1-6 start. The ever emotional and transparent Campbell, a tight end in the league for a decade, seems to have the backing of his players and owner Sheila Ford Hamp, who said last month: “I think we’ve got the right people in place to pull this off, and I truly believe that. I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t.” Presently, the Lions have won consecutive games under Campbell for the first time and can extend the streak to three by beating the New York Giants on Sunday. He probably needs to keep things on an upward trend heading into what will surely be a pivotal offseason, when Detroit seems likely to target its quarterback of the future and kick its rebuild into high gear.
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Nathaniel Hackett, Denver Broncos
It’s been a bitterly disappointing season under the rookie coach in the Mile High City. Hackett has been praised by Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who won league MVP awards in 2020 and 2021 with him as Green Bay’s offensive coordinator. However, Denver was not able to swing a Hackett-Rodgers reunion in Denver after last season, and the coach has evidently never been in sync with Plan B QB Russell Wilson. On the way to a 3-6 record, Hackett’s Broncos have been plagued by poor clock management and on-field decisions, injuries and an inability to leverage Wilson’s talents – and that formula has produced an offense that’s scored the league’s fewest points. Unsatisfactory by any measure – perhaps more so when you’re toiling under the watchful eye of a new ownership group that had nothing to do with your hiring.
Kliff Kingsbury, Arizona Cardinals
Reality: The fourth-year coach and GM Steve Keim agreed to contract extensions through the 2027 season in March. Perception: An organization that had shown incremental improvement during Kingsbury’s first three years and reached the playoffs last season is currently 4-6, already matching the regular-season loss total for 2021. Perhaps even worse are the optics, Kingsbury’s offense middling at best amid underachieving QB Kyler Murray’s constant ranting at his coach and teammates during games. Even if a leadership change is warranted, seems unlikely owner Michael Bidwill will pull the trigger … unless this mess disintegrates beyond the point of no return as “Hard Knocks” documents the final months of the season.
Josh McDaniels, Las Vegas Raiders
It seems improbable he’ll be let go after one season, but the situation is worth acknowledging. Only the lowly Texans have a worse record than the Raiders (2-7), who couldn’t beat an Indianapolis Colts crew in Las Vegas that was just trying to string together a game plan and hash out the coaching staff’s responsibilities under interim boss Jeff Saturday. Still, Raiders owner Mark Davis is supporting his embattled coach, who’s 13-24 all-time when including his abbreviated stint in Denver more than a decade ago. “We’re building an organization. We’re building a team. We’re building it for the future. Rome wasn’t built in a day,” said Davis. And, frankly, the struggles shouldn’t be that much of a surprise even though the Silver and Black reached the playoffs last season. McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler were plucked from the Patriots as a package deal in January and have been steadily transforming the Jon Gruden-era roster ever since.
Ron Rivera, Washington Commanders
In many ways, he’s anchored this organization – from a football perspective – during his three seasons, which included a surprise NFC East title in 2020 (despite a 7-9 record). Winners of four of their last five, largely thanks to QB2 Taylor Heinicke, the Commanders are 5-5, a half-game out of the NFC’s final wild-card slot and poised to exceed the seven wins Rivera notched each of his first two years outside the nation’s capital. However, Heinicke’s string of success also serves to underscore the ongoing mismanagement of the quarterback position under Rivera, who essentially admitted as much himself earlier this season. But perhaps more foreboding could be the potential sale of this franchise if besieged owner Daniel Snyder finally cashes out – the type of hypothetical that often leads to sweeping changes if it comes to fruition.
Lovie Smith, Houston Texans
At 1-7-1, his team sports the league’s worst record. Would it be fair to fire Smith after one season? Well, the Texans did just that to David Culley after a 4-13 campaign last year, when former QB Deshaun Watson was an overarching distraction. And going back to his time in Chicago and Tampa, Smith is headed for his fifth consecutive season as an NFL head coach that falls short of the playoffs.
Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns
The NFL Coach of the Year in 2020, when Cleveland won its first playoff game since the Bill Belichick era, Stefanski has certainly been hamstrung under center while trying to keep this team afloat until Watson’s suspension ends after Week 12. And yet the Browns’ overall talent suggests they should be better than 3-6 (or 8-9 in 2021). It stands to reason that Stefanski should get at least a full season with Watson … though that would also mean he’ll be the first coach under owner Jimmy Haslam to survive into his fourth year.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.