NFL Coaches Who Could Be Next After Matt Rhule Firing
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Should Ron Rivera worry about his job? (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
We’re just over a quarter of the way through the 2022 NFL season, but we’ve already had our first head coach firing. The Carolina Panthers’ decision to show Matt Rhule the door Monday kicked off this season’s edition of the coaching carousel early.
Rhule’s struggles started much earlier than this season, but getting off to a 1-4 start didn’t help.
Now the question shifts to who will be next on the chopping block. Last season, the league saw 10 head coaching changes. Despite that much turnover, other jobs could still be available by the season’s end.
Based on this year’s results and each team’s outlook, these coaches all have a shot at being the next to go.
Dan Campbell, Detroit Lions
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Dan Campbell spent the preseason endearing himself to a national audience Hard Knocks. The coach’s gift for rousing speeches and hard-nosed approach to football is easy to like, and it led to some high-profile stories and hype surrounding the coach.
Unfortunately for the Detroit Lions, none of it has led to positive on-field results.
The Lions are 1-4, giving them a nearly identical win percentage as their 3-13-1 campaign last season. The Lions’ last loss came at the hands of the New England Patriots, who were starting a fourth-round rookie quarterback in Bailey Zappe for the first time.
Detroit was shut out 29-0. Campbell acknowledged that’s a new low.
“To me, it’s about as bad as it gets. This is the worst,” Campbell told reporters. “This is where we’re at, and sometimes it’s gonna get bad before it gets better and I believe we hit rock bottom. So, now the only place to go is back up.”
Going “back up” won’t be easy. According to Tankathon, they have the fourth-most difficult remaining schedule.
Better health should help the offense. They have a bye this week to get healthier after missing running back D’Andre Swift and receivers DJ Chark and Quintez Cephus in Week 5. They are still waiting for rookie first-round receiver Jameson Williams to make his debut as he recovers from a torn ACL he suffered in the national title game with Alabama.
There’s still hope for Campbell, and it’s tough to fire a coach in his second season, but they need to start showing improvement quickly.
Nathaniel Hackett, Denver Broncos
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Neither Russell Wilson nor Nathaniel Hackett has lived up to the hype with the Denver Broncos.
If one of them is going to go, it won’t be the star quarterback who just signed a contract with a guaranteed $161 million.
Hackett was brought on to revive an offense that was ineffective under defensive-minded coach Vic Fangio. So the fact that the Broncos are 31st in scoring, 18th in yards per play and last in red-zone touchdown percentage puts him squarely on the hot seat.
The offensive woes aren’t the only damning evidence against Hackett either. He has struggled to adapt to the quick decision-making required of a head coach.
The Broncos had to hire Jerry Rosburg as a game management coach after Week 2. It’s good that Hackett acknowledged a weakness and sought help, but the Broncos are 1-2 since the hire and suffered a dreadful overtime loss to the Colts on national television last week.
Jordan Schultz of The Score reported on Oct. 7 that an NFC executive told him he’d “give [Hackett] one more week, maybe two. Otherwise, this season’s over before it even started.”
The Broncos have put a ton of resources into bringing in Wilson and ostensibly becoming a contender. It’s not hard to envision Hackett becoming the scapegoat and the Broncos going right back into the coaching market.
Kliff Kingsbury, Arizona Cardinals
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According to Oddschecker, Kliff Kingsbury is the odds-on favorite to get a pink slip next.
The Arizona Cardinals sit at 2-3 and played the unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles tough last week. But there’s a good sample size that’s starting to show the fourth-year head coach might not be the answer in the desert.
For one, the Cardinals have been one of the league’s worst offensive teams in the first quarters. The opening frame is when they should be working off Kingsbury’s offensive scripts and establishing a rhythm based on their preparation throughout the week.
Instead, they were last in first-half scoring and had the third-most punts going into their game against Philadelphia, per Fox’s Warren Sharp, and were held scoreless once again in the first quarter against the Eagles.
Last offseason, Kingsbury inked an extension that will keep him in town through 2027. It was strange timing given the team’s late-season collapse and short playoff appearance. After a 10-2 start, the Cards lost four of their last five before getting blown out by the Rams in the playoffs.
This year, the Cardinals’ only two wins have come against the Raiders and Panthers. Each has just one win. The Raiders are breaking in a new coach, and the Panthers were the first to make a coaching change this season.
The case is building for Kingsbury to be next.
Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts
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When the Indianapolis Colts imploded against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 18 last season, much of the blame was placed on Carson Wentz.
Well, the quarterback is gone and the Colts are an underwhelming 2-2-1. If owner Jim Irsay is looking for someone to place the blame on, it’s likely to fall on head coach Frank Reich.
The Colts acquired Matt Ryan last offseason in hopes that he could be the missing piece to propel the team to the playoffs. Sure, he’s been far from a savior, leading the league in interceptions, fumbles and sacks taken through Week 5. And a .500 record is not usually concerning this early in the season.
But when you consider where the Colts were expected to fit within the AFC South and how those wins have come, it’s not too early to start wondering if Reich is still the right guy to lead the team.
The first win was a 20-17 triumph over the Chiefs in which Kansas City was much more successful on a per-play basis. The Chiefs offense averaged 5.2 yards per play, while the Colts were scraping by with 3.8 yards per play. Two Chiefs turnovers were key in the upset.
Then came the 12-9 overtime win in the sloppy Thursday night game against the Broncos.
Now consider the two losses and the tie have come against the 1-3-1 Texans, 2-3 Jaguars and 3-2 Titans. There’s trouble brewing in Indy.
Ron Rivera, Washington Commanders
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Matt Rhule went 11-27 as the Panthers head coach. The man he replaced has gone 16-23 as the leader of the Washington Commanders.
There isn’t much difference in the results, and neither team has much to be happy about in 2022.
Ron Rivera’s Commanders did just eke out a 12-7 win over the Chicago Bears on Thursday Night Footballbut that’s not exactly a job-saving victory.
In fact, the story quickly shifted from the result of the game back to the controversy surrounding Rivera’s comments about the play of quarterback Carson Wentz. When asked after a Week 5 loss why his team was behind others in the NFC East, he responded “quarterback.” The next day, he told reporters he cleared the air with Wentz.
Following Thursday’s win, he stormed out of his postgame press conference while addressing an ESPN report that it was owner Dan Snyder who wanted Wentz in the first place.
Wentz had just 99 passing yards in the win over the Bears. The Commanders won seven games in each of Rivera’s first two seasons. They’re on pace to fall under that number.
The improvement under Rivera isn’t there, and the frustrations are only going to continue to mount as they play three teams with winning records over the next four weeks.
Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
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This is easily the longest shot on the list. It just isn’t in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ DNA to make hasty decisions regarding coaches.
They have been the model of continuity for decades. Going back to 1969, they’ve only had three head coaches: Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Tomlin. However, the current head coach remains a surprise candidate to find an early exit or at least be on the hot seat by the end of the season.
The campaign started off well enough with a three-point win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Since, they’ve lost four straight and are last in the AFC North. It’s an unfamiliar place. The Steelers haven’t finished fourth in the division since before the advent of the four-team division setup in 2002.
A 38-3 blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills put the magnifying glass on their troubles. Even former Steeler and ESPN analyst Ryan Clark was critical of the team’s effort:
There are a lot of mitigating factors for Tomlin’s culpability. They are breaking in a rookie quarterback in Kenny Pickett behind an offensive line that has had plenty of growing pains. TJ Watt has been out for most of the year because of a torn pectoral and Matt Canada’s tenure as offensive coordinator has been disappointing.
Still, the Steelers are clearly transitioning into the post-Ben Roethlisberger era, and the possibility that Tomlin isn’t the coach for that is starting to become a reality worth considering.