With Week 15 all wrapped up outside of "Monday Night Football" between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Seattle Seahawks, we're more than three-quarters of the way though the 2023 NFL season. First-year head coaches DeMeco Ryans and Shane Steichen have the Texans and Colts out to 8-6 starts and very much in the mix for a wild card spot in the neck-and-neck AFC playoff field. However, there are also plenty of NFL head coaches on the other side of the performance spectrum. Those are the coaches who will be spotlighted here.
Below, we'll rank the ones who are squarely on the hot seat and in jeopardy of losing their jobs come January. Three head coaches have already been fired this season: Josh McDaniels (Raiders), Frank Reich (Panthers) and Brandon Staley (Chargers). Here is a look at the top five coaches who fit this hot seat criteria and how they reached this point.
5. Arthur Smith (20-28 with Falcons)
Record in 2023: 6-8
Arthur Smith is the Atlanta Falcons' offensive play-caller, but he has been resistant to going out of his way to feature the three offensive skill position players the team 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 playing fantasy football. However, utilizing three of the team's most talented playmakers sure could help an offense that averages 18.4 points per game in 2023, the seventh-worst scoring offense in the league.
Atlanta's season hit a new low in Week 15, as their 9-7 loss to the NFL's worst team, the 2-12 Carolina Panthers, will likely put an end to their NFC South division title hopes, which appears to be their only route to the postseason. The trio of Robinson, London and Pitts combined for a paltry 75 scrimmage yards in the defeat. The loss was the Falcons' fourth when leading in the fourth quarter since the start of November, the most such losses in this span in the NFL.
Smith's chosen quarterback, Desmond Ridder, a player whose development the team chose to prioritize over pursuing 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson this past offseason, has six red zone turnovers this season, the most in the NFL. Those six giveaways inside the 20 are also tied for the third-most by any player in the last 10 seasons. A stale offense and a refusal to put the ball in the hands of his top players after three seasons without a playoff appearance could be grounds for dismissal.
4. Matt Eberflus (8-23 with Bears)
Record in 2023: 5-9
The Bears have lost 15 of quarterback Justin Fields' last 18 starts, and their defense, Eberflus' side of the football, is allowing 23.5 points per game, the 11th-most in the NFL.
Offensively, Luke Getsy appears lost as a play-caller, leaning heavily on screen passes as 3.1% of their routes run this season have had a screen target, the sixth-highest rate in the NFL. Wide receiver DJ Moore has been electric with the ball in his hands this season, but the offense struggles to get him the rock in favorable positions on a regular basis. At this point, it's unclear if Fields can be their long-term answer at quarterback, which is partially an indictment on the coaching staff and front office for not putting Fields in better spots to succeed or at least be evaluated.
The team will likely stumble into the first overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft thanks to its trade down with the Carolina Panthers last April, but there's a good a chance Eberflus may not be around to see what Chicago does with that selection.
3. Robert Saleh (16-33 with Jets)
Record in 2023: 5-9
The 2023 season began with so much promise for the New York Jets, but as Week 15 wraps up, Gang Green's nightmare scenario has unfolded. Four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback savior New York traded for in the offseason, suffered an Achilles injury four plays into the season.
With Rodgers no longer in the picture, the offense has been atrocious, averaging 14.4 points per game, the third-fewest in the league. In a game they needed win against the Dolphins in Week 15 in order to remain in playoff contention, they were embarrassed, losing 30-0. That extends the Jets run of missing the playoff to 13 years in a row, making theirs the longest active playoff drought in all four major North American professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL). Losing that poorly in a game Gang Greenis a scathing indictment on how Saleh's players are feeling about the season.
The dysfunction on offense is partially caused by Saleh's mismanagement of the quarterback position. He stuck with Zach Wilson despite his performance issues until benching him in Week 11. Career backup quarterback Tim Boyle then was declared the team's new starter for Weeks 12 and 13, but in three games this season, two starts, he has thrown for 360 passing yards on touchdown and four interceptions. He was then benched for Trevor Siemian in Week 13's 13-8 home loss against the Atlanta Falcons.
Saleh had Wilson return to the starting lineup in Week 14. New York put together its best offensive performance of the season in Week 14 as they defeated the Houston Texans 30-6 in a game in which Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud left early with an injury. Wilson tied his season-high with two passing touchdowns.
Week 15 marked another confusing series of events with Gang Green's quarterback position. Wilson exited the game early toward the end of the first half at Miami with what ESPN reported as "dehydration." However, Wilson didn't re-enter the game as Siemian played the second half. Reporting initially indicated Wilson wasn't in the NFL's concussion protocol, but the Jets then said he did indeed undergo testing for a concussion.
How the Jets quarterback situation has unfolded can also be heavily blamed on general manager Joe Douglas. Both the Vikings (7-7) and the Browns (9-5) made external free agent signings and/or trades to bolster their quarterback positions. Both of those teams would make the postseason if the 2023 regular season ended today. Douglas' insistence on attempting to give Wilson every opportunity to show something when he ranked dead last in the NFL in passer rating in both 2021 and 2022 doomed New York's offense.
The offense was also done in by the offensive line Douglas constructed. Their right tackle position has been a rotating turnstile, and former first-round pick Mekhi Becton has struggled at left tackle after suffering injuries in prior seasons. The Jets' 42.3% quarterback pressure rate allowed is the third-highest in the NFL this season. Their third-down conversion rate of 25.5% for the entire season would go down as the sixth-lowest in NFL history if the year ended today.
Saleh's bread and butter, the defense, has continued to be mostly a bright spot excluding Sunday, but their overall metrics have declined from last year to this year because of the offensive ineptitude. When Rodgers went down in Week 1, it was thought Saleh would be given a mulligan for this season. However, after the bungling of how to handle replacing Rodgers in 2023, Saleh's seat may be warmer than it was initially thought to be.
2. Ron Rivera (26-37-1 with Commanders)
Record in 2023: 4-10
The Rivera Era in Washington was never easy. He was hired in 2020, and he has dealt with uneven quarterback play for his entire tenure. He has rotated from the late Dwayne Haskins, to Alex Smith after his gruesome leg injury, to Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke, Garrett Gilbert, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Carson Wentz and presently Sam Howell. Rivera also had to deal with reporting to former owner Daniel Snyder, who has one of the most embattled, disliked owners in the league in years.
The Commanders haven't had a winning record in any of Rivera's four seasons at the helm as their postseason appearance in his first season occurred in 2020 when Washington won the NFC East with at 7-9. They lost in the NFC wild-card round to the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Fast forward to this season, and it's once again not going great. Rivera fired defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio after Washington entered Week 13 allowing a league-worst 29.2 points per game. His return to calling defensive plays went poorly as Washington allowed 45 points in a 45-15 defeat to the Dolphins in Week 13.
The Commanders allowed 45 or more points in consecutive games for the second time in team history during Weeks 12 and 13, and the only such previous occurrence came in 1954. They have lost 10 of their last 12 games after starting 2-0. Their secondary has struggled all year, allowing eight passing touchdowns of 50 yards or longer, which is the most by any team in the last 30 seasons. Their 30.2 points per game allowed across the entire season overall ranks dead last in the NFL.
First-round pick cornerback Emmanuel Forbes, the 16th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, has been benched and was inactive for the loss against the Dolphins in Week 13. He only played six defensive snaps in Washington's 28-20 loss at the Rams in Week 15. Another Commanders corner, Benjamin St-Juste, is also struggling. His 828 passing yards allowed are the most in the NFL this season. Washington needs a reset, and with a new ownership group in town, Rivera is likely to be shown the door once the season ends.
1. Bill Belichick (265-119 with Patriots)
Record in 2023: 3-11
Belichick's defense is league average in 2023, allowing 21.4 points per game, making the unit the No. 16 scoring defense in the NFL. However, the offense that he built -- Belichick is also the de facto general manger -- is the worst in football, averaging an NFL-worst 13.3 points per game.
That has led to New England becoming the first team to lose three consecutive games with 10 or fewer points allowed since the 1938 Chicago Cardinals did so nearly 100 years ago. This stretch occurred from Weeks 10-13 in losses versus the Colts (10-6 in Week 10), at the Giants (10-7 in Week 12) and versus the Chargers (6-0 in Week 13). The Patriots are 1-3 in 2023 when allowing 10 or fewer points in a game while the other 31 teams are a combined 53-0. After the 6-0 home loss in Week 13 against the struggling Los Angeles Chargers, who would eventually fire head coach Brandon Staley, the team has been shut out twice this season, the first time that has happened in a season of Belichick's career.
During the Tom Brady era, the Patriots were shut out twice in 20 seasons, including the postseason. The 3-11 start is the worst of Belichick's coaching career and the Patriots' worst 14-game start since going 3-11 in 1993, a season before owner Robert Kraft bought the team in 1994. The 11 losses are tied for the most in season under Bill Belichick in his head coaching career, matching the loss totals from his 1995 season with the Cleveland Browns and his first season with the Patriots in 2000.
Given Belichick won an NFL-record six Super Bowls for New England, he has had some leeway 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 years Brady has been gone. Between the lack of on-field success and the poor roster construction that has forced Belichick to go on multiple free agency spending sprees to paper over bad draft classes, his time may be running out in New England.
indicates Kraft has already made that call and is just waiting for the season to conclude.