10 Early NFL Head Coaching Candidates For 2023

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

10 Early NFL Head Coaching Candidates For 2023


10 Early NFL Head Coaching Candidates For 2023


Mitchell Leff/Getty Images 

Every year there are teams that have coaches who don’t live up to expectations, and they end up getting fired. And every year, there are top coordinators, assistants, and other coaches on teams that end up being hired for those head coaching vacancies. If your team ends up being one of the teams in need of a new head coach, these are the top names to keep an eye on.


DeMeco Ryans- San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator 

If there is any candidate that should be one of the top ones teams try to hire, it is DeMeco Ryans. He brings a fire to his defense that keeps them motivated, and it has worked as they are currently a top unit in the NFL. For any team that has a young defense that is full of potential but hasn’t unlocked that yet, Ryans would be the guy to do so. In his first season taking over as the defensive coordinator in 2021, the unit ranked third in the NFL. Through six games this season, the unit is the best in the NFL, allowing only 255.8 yards per game. The scheme he brings is one that gets the most out of every single player. With Ryans he was also a former player himself, playing as a middle linebacker for the Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles from 2006-2015. He had the leadership ability on the field, and that would translate over into leading a team as a head coach. 


Shane Steichen- Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Coordinator 

Since taking over play-calling duties for the Eagles after Nick Sirianni gave them up, the offense under Shane Steichen has taken a huge leap. Jalen Hurts has made massive strides in his development under Steichen, and he isn’t the first. In 2020, he was the offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Chargers where he worked with Justin Herbert in his rookie season that saw Herbert complete 66.6% of his passes for 4,336 yards and 31 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. Now with the Eagles, he has built an offense that has worked for Hurts, one that has maximized his strengths as a dual-threat quarterback. Steichen is a great offensive mind that should be one of the top candidates. 


Jonathan Gannon- Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Coordinator 

On the topic of the Eagles, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jonathan Gannon garner interest as well. Gannon has plenty of experience in the NFL, starting as a quality control coach for the Atlanta Falcons in 2007, and then the Tennessee Titans from 2012-2013. From 2014-2017, he was the assistant defensive backs coach for the Minnesota Vikings and then became the defensive back’s coach for the Indianapolis Colts from 2018-2020. Now since 2021 he has been the Eagles defensive coordinator, and has this unit playing at a top-notch level. With additions like Hasson Reddick, James Bradberry, Jordan Davis, and Kyzir White, he has been able to run more exotic packages. This has helped the unit currently be in the top five. Gannon received interest last year, and now with the further defensive improvements he’ll get interest again. 


Dan Quinn- Dallas Cowboys Defensive Coordinator 

With losing some talent on the defense, some questioned if Dan Quinn would be able to sustain the same level of success he had in 2021. The unit has remained a top unit in the NFL, and Quinn is to credit for that. Quinn has shown the ability to adjust his coverage scheme from being primarily a Cover-1 scheme running it 37.29% of the time in 2021, to blending it between Cover-1, Cover-2, and Cover-3 at almost even rates. He creates chaos up front, which allows his secondary to thrive. From 2015-2020 as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons he had a 43-42 regular season record. With his ability to adjust and keep his defense playing at a consistent rate, along with his experience at the spot already, Quinn will be another top candidate this cycle.

Sean Payton

We have seen coaches like Doug Pederson and Mike McCarthy take a year off and then come back when the right opportunity comes up. The same will most likely happen with Sean Payton, and he will be highly sought after as well. His 152-89 regular season record as a head coach speaks for itself, along with his ability to set up an offense to get the most out of the quarterback. With Payton, the team that wants to hire him though will have to trade for him as he still has two seasons left on the contract with the New Orleans Saints.


Brian Flores- Pittsburgh Steelers Linebackers Coach

Let’s be honest, Brian Flores should still be a head coach and will be a head coach again. During his time as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, he exceeded expectations in 2020 leading the team to a 10-6 record after a rough 2019 season going 5-11. That 2019 season though, he was tasked with turning the culture around with the team after the Adam Gase era. Then last season in 2021 he helped lead the team to a 9-8 record after a 1-7 start. Having that head coaching experience and being able to lead a team is what will help Flores get back to being a head coach again. So far this season his impact has already been felt on the Steelers’ linebacker room with Myles Jack and Devin Bush off to a hot start. This isn’t the first time he’s been able to turn a unit around quickly, as he led the Dolphins defense from being ranked 32nd in DVOA to 11th and 10th in 2020 and 2021. 


Ken Dorsey- Buffalo Bills Offensive Coordinator 

There were questions heading into the season if Ken Dorsey would be able to help the Buffalo Bills offense maintain the same level of success early on, taking over the offensive coordinator role. He has, and then some. The Bills currently have the most offensive yards with 2,645, averaging 6.6 yards per play. They have the highest third down conversion percentage with 52.8%. Most importantly, if something isn’t working, Dorsey has shown the ability to adjust in the game. It also helps that Dorsey is a former quarterback himself, so he understands the position and how to get the most out of an offense. Dorsey has been coaching in the league since 2013, starting with the Carolina Panthers as the quarterbacks coach until 2017. In 2019 is when he joined the Bills staff for the same position until being promoted this year to offensive coordinator. He has the potential to come in and make an immediate impact for an offense, while effectively leading an entire team.


Mike Kafka- New York Giants Offensive Coordinator 

Working with Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City from 2018-2021 as the quarterbacks coach, with how Mahomes has played is a huge testament to the work Kafka is able to do to help young quarterbacks. His own experience playing quarterback helps him understand what is needed to get the most out of the player. Now this season he has taken over as the Giants’ offensive coordinator and has done as good of a job as you can with Daniel Jones and the offensive talent that is there in New York. If a team that is in need of taking a quarterback in the draft also needs an offensive minded head coach, Kafka should be a candidate. 


Lou Anarumo- Cincinnati Bengals Defensive Coordinator 

A name that isn’t being mentioned enough yet is Lou Anarumo. His defensive unit is allowing only 19.2 points per game on average, which is the 10th best in the NFL. Anarumo has been able to improve the unit each year since he took over as the defensive coordinator in 2019. To hold Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense to only a field goal in two games in 2021 is a testament to the adjustments he is able to make. Anarumo has shown he isn’t going to shy away from challenges, add that to his 30-plus years of coaching experience, and he will be a candidate to keep an eye on. 


Jonathan Cooley- Los Angeles Rams Defensive Backs Coach

It wouldn’t be the first time a person from Sean McVay’s staff will have received head coaching consideration, and it won’t be the last. Jonathan Cooley may not be a name many know, but he could start to be talked about more. He first joined the Rams in 2020, and last season helped play a part in coaching the secondary that had 19 interceptions and saw Taylor Rapp and Jordan Fuller take massive strides in their play. After originally being hired as a defensive assistant, he was promoted to the defensive back’s coach position for this season after Ejiro Evero left to be the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos. That Broncos unit currently ranks fifth allowing only 1,107 pass yards. Teams could look to Cooley to help, as he has shown the ability to get the best out of players, and is an up-and-coming coach to watch. 


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