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Best candidates for an NFL head coaching job in 2023

We discuss the best candidates to get a new head coaching job in 2023.

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton reacts during an NFL game against theMiami Dolphins at Caesars Superdome on December 27, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Each offseason, there are head coaching opportunities that open up around the NFL. This season, we have already seen Matt Rhule and Frank Reich lose their jobs, and there are likely more firings coming. With Steve Wilks and Jeff Saturday serving as interim head coaches, there are at least two jobs that will likely hold a head coaching search ahead of the 2023 season. Here is an overview of some of the top candidates that should be getting interviews for head coaching gigs.

Best Options

Sean Payton

It didn’t take long for Sean Payton to want to come out of retirement and get back to coaching. He has said that he prefers to coach in New Orleans or Los Angeles, but if a team needs a new coach, Payton is likely at the top of the list. There are two problems with Payton that a prospective team has to figure out. The first is that he is likely going to require the most money to hire, and some analysts are thinking it could take the largest coaching contract in history to make it happen. The second is that the New Orleans Saints still have the rights to Payton, and it is expected that if he goes to coach for another team, they will need to trade a first-round pick to New Orleans to “acquire” Payton.

Eric Bieniemy

There is usually one reason or another that teams are giving for not hiring Bienemy. Even if he isn’t the primary play caller for the Kansas City Chiefs, he is still the offensive coordinator that has been in charge of an offensive unit that apparently didn’t get worse from losing Tyreek Hill. In the past, if offensive coordinators have shown the continued success that Bienemy has, they likely get shots at being a head coach. Sure, there are times we see Patrick Mahomes arguing with him on the sideline, but that happens with everyone, and it doesn’t take away from the team’s success. He will certainly receive more interviews this offseason, but will he finally get his deserved shot?

Time to See What They Can Do

Kellen Moore

Moore snagged an interview last season with nearly every team that had a coaching opening. While he didn’t get any of the jobs, he has another year of experience under his belt as the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive coordinator. Moore helped the offense not miss a beat when quarterback Dak Prescott suffered an injury, meaning that Cooper Rush had to take over. It seems like only a matter of time before he gets his shot, so why not see what he can do?

DeMeco Ryans

Ryans has been the brainchild behind the San Francisco 49ers' dominant defense for the last few years. When former DC Robert Saleh was hired as the new head coach for the New York Jets, Ryans was promoted and hasn’t looked back. He may not get hired this cycle, but he is one of the several young coaching candidates that have already proven themselves and have a bright future.

Ken Dorsey

Dorsey is the Buffalo Bills current offensive coordinator. He joined the team in 2019 as their quarterbacks coach and then got promoted to passing game coordinator in 2021. This is his first year as OC, which could be a knock on him, but the fact is that he has worked with Josh Allen for the last four seasons, a.k.a. when Allen took a noticeable step froward in his game play. Dorsey is going to have some risk associated with him whenever he does get a head coaching gig, but his ability to build a relationship with his quarterback should serve him well.

Second Chances

Frank Reich

Reich got a bad rap this season for the Colts. It seemed like Indy was a quarterback away from competing deep into the postseason, and that wasn’t the case. The QB they went with was Matt Ryan and he has now been benched multiple times. With injuries and a worse offensive line than expected, Reich was the casualty from a slow start to the season. In his five years with the team he managed a 40-33-1 record with two postseason appearances. He should get another shot.

Dan Quinn

Speaking of second chances, the Cowboys could be losing both of their coordinators this cycle. Quinn was last the head coach for the Atlanta Falcons from 2015-2020. He totaled a 43-42 record with a division title and a loss in Super Bowl LI to the New England Patriots. Quinn nearly was hired as a head coach last year after only one season as the Cowboys OC. With another year under his belt and another solid defensive unit, Quinn is likely to be a head coach next year.

Jim Harbaugh

I mean good luck getting him away from Michigan, but Harbaugh has been getting some interest from teams in the NFL. He interviewed for some jobs in the 2021 offseason, but came out of them saying he was closing the door on the NFL. While he is focusing on building the program at Michigan, it is hard to think that the door to the NFL is every fully closed for him.

Brian Flores

Flores has spent this season under the radar. He filed a class action lawsuit against the NFL claiming racial discrimination, but has been working as the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker coach and senior defensive assistant. Flores coached the Miami Dolphins from 2019 to 2021. He amassed a 24-25 record, and helped Miami finish in second place in the AFC East, narrowly missing out on the playoffs in 2020. Put Flores in charge of a team with an established offense, and watch his defensive mind go to work.

Let’s Not But Say We Did

Hue Jackson

Jackson has been reported as saying that he wants another head coaching gig in the NFL. He has been a head coach twice in the NFL. First, he coached the then-Oakland Raiders to an 8-8 record in 2011. He then coached the Cleveland Browns from 2016-2018 and had a 3-36-1 record. Since then, he coached Grambling State to a 3-8 record in 2022. His tenure in Cleveland will likely keep him away from a head coaching gig this year as it likely should.

Josh McCown

McCown had his name floated around when the Houston Texans were looking for a head coach last year. They ended up going with Lovie Smith and that has turned into a 2-12-1 record. McCown played all over the league during his career, but hasn’t had a coaching position yet. Vaulting him all the way up to a head coaching gig is a mistake if a team decides to make it. I’m not saying that McCown doesn’t have what it takes to be an NFL head coach, it just sets a bad precedent to have him take over a team with no prior coaching experience other than being a perennial backup.