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2023 NFL Coaching Carousel
2023 NFL Coaching Carousel
Don't Overlook The Coordinators
Relatively speaking, the 2023 Coaching Carousel was a mild ride with just five head coaches replaced. That compares to seven changes in 2021 and a whopping 10 top spots changing hands in 2022. But there was ample enough change beyond the lead role with 15 teams making coordinator-level changes.
All of these moves will have some fantasy impact, so let's start getting a handle on it, shall we?
Incoming: Jonathan Gannon Outgoing: Kliff Kingsbury Back-to-back late-season collapses in 2020 and 2021 overshadowed whatever success the Cardinals had built under Kingsbury so the cord was cut. Gannon, 40, was the Eagles' defensive coordinator the last two seasons, both top-10 years for the unit. In 2022, the Eagles had an incredible 70 sacks and 17 interceptions. They finished second in the NFL in total defense.
Job 1: Returning Kyler Murray to his previous Pro Bowl level and building further on that.
As NFL.com understated it, "Things didn't work out in the end with Kingsbury and Murray." Looking ahead, the quarterback is likely to miss some portion of the 2023 season coming off a torn ACL. Still, the Cardinals are tied to Murray, who is in Year 2 of a massive $230 million extension the team signed him to last offseason, so figuring out if Gannon and Murray can coexist is vital for all involved.
Key Hires: With his past experience all on the defensive side of the ball, Gannon's choice of offensive coordinator, Drew Petzing, matters. As hinted at above, Petzing will be tasked with re-energizing an offense that took a massive step back during a surprising 4-13 2022 season. The unit ranked 21st in points scored and 22nd in yards, both its worst marks since Murray's rookie campaign.
Meanwhile, Gannon hired Nick Rallis as his defensive coordinator (making the 29-year-old the youngest coordinator in the NFL). Gannon said Rallis will be the defensive play caller. Rallis pointed to Cardinals Pro Bowl safety Budda Baker as an example of a player who "sets the standard in how you want to play this game" and how the coaches will push the players to be "violent" and "explosive" -- two of Gannon's favorite buzzwords. Rallis previously worked under Gannon as the linebackers coach for the Eagles.
Incoming: Frank Reich Outgoing: Matt Rhule/Steve Wilks
As the team's official website framed it, "The Panthers are trying something new, while going back to the future at the same time."
Reich, the starting quarterback for the first game in Panthers history in 1995, is now the team's sixth head coach. Owner David Tepper chose Reich, 61, after an extensive search that included nine candidates. According to ESPN.com's David Newton, it ultimately came down to Reich and Wilks, who went 6-6 after Rhule was fired following a 1-4 start.
Reich, fired as the head coach of the Colts in November, is the first offensive-minded head coach hired in Carolina history. That played a big role in the decision to hire him over Wilks, whose background is on defense.
Job 1: Developing Bryce Young, the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Over the last two seasons, the Panthers rank last in total QBR, touchdown to interception ratio and second to last in pass yards per game. Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and P.J. Walker all started games for the team last season. That will change this year. While it's possible veteran addition Andy Dalton could open the season under center, don't expect Reich to waste much time in getting Young up to speed and on the field.
Key Hires: Rams assistant head coach Thomas Brown is the team's new offensive coordinator. He spent three seasons with the Rams, his only NFL coaching experience. Most of his background is with running backs, but Brown coached the Rams' tight ends for most of this past season. Former head coach Dave Caldwell and former Lions assistant head coach Duce Staley are also on bard here.
Reich called plays when he was the Colts' head coach from 2018-22. Reich enjoyed calling plays in Indianapolis but would "continue to re-examine" his thoughts on those duties here. Expect him to keep that role.
Carolina also added former Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, a rising star in the coaching ranks after one season in Denver, in that same role. His Broncos defense consistently kept a struggling offense in games while ranking seventh in the league in yards allowed and 14th in points surrendered.
Incoming: Sean Payton Outgoing: Nathaniel Hackett
Broncos owner and CEO Greg Penner said at the start of the team's coaching search he wanted a "strong leader for this organization."
As a result, Payton is back in the NFL.
Payton was still under contract with the Saints despite stepping down after the 2021 season, necessitating a complicated trade between New Orleans and any potential suitor -- and there were a few. New Orleans received a 2023 first-round pick (No. 29 overall) and a 2024 second-round selection from Denver in exchange for Payton's services, as well as a future third-round pick.
Payton, 59, spent 15 seasons as head coach the Saints, rejuvenating the franchise and, with QB Drew Bress, leading New Orleans to a 152-89 record, nine post-season appearances, seven division titles and the team's lone Super Bowl title during the 2009 campaign. After a 9-8 season in 2021, his first without Brees, Payton walked away. Though Payton left football, it was always assumed he'd return to the sidelines eventually. It was just a matter of when and where.
Job 1: Getting nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson back on track.
As NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman reported, Payton inherits an offense that "massively underwhelmed" in 2022. Despite the addition of Hackett and Wilson, Denver's offense was one of the worst in the league, ranking dead last in points scored (16.9) and third down percentage (29.1) and 21st in total offense. The attack led by Wilson, whose 11th season and first in Denver was unquestionably his worst, was notable for poor clock management, a lack of explosive plays, and turnovers. The talented defense was left out to dry, despite ranking 14th in points allowed and seventh in total yards allowed.
Key Hires: Payton named Joe Lombardi offensive coordinator and Vance Joseph defensive coordinator.
Lombardi, who served as the Chargers' offensive coordinator from 2021-22, spent 12 seasons with the Saints as an offensive assistant. Lombardi helped the Chargers to top-10 offenses -- and top-3 passing offenses -- in his two seasons in LA.
Joseph will rejoin the Broncos after serving as Denver's head coach from 2017-18. Since his stint in Denver, Joseph spent four years as the Cardinals' defensive coordinator and helped Arizona to a pair of top-15 scoring defenses and top-10 passing defenses.
Incoming: DeMeco Ryans Outgoing: Lovie Smith
Ryans, 38, spent the last six years coaching after starting as a defensive quality control coach for the 49ers in 2017. In 2018, he became the inside linebackerd coach and was elevated to defensive coordinator when Robert Saleh left to become the Jets' head coach in 2021.
Before becoming a coach, Ryans had a 10-year career with the Texans and Eagles. He was a second-round pick by the Texans in 2006 and was named Defensive Rookie of the Year after finishing second in league tackles (156). His 126 solo tackles were second-most for a rookie ever. The two-time Pro Bowler played for the Texans for six seasons and is currently the franchise's all-time leader in tackles.
Job 1: Total rebuild with the second, C.J. Stroud, and third, Will Anderson Jr., picks overall as the primary pieces.
According to ESPN.com's DJ Bien-Aime, one of the biggest tasks for Ryans will be fixing the league's worst rush defense, which allowed 170.2 yards per game. No team has allowed over 170 rushing yards since the 0-16 Lions (172.1) in 2008. The Texans also have finished 27th in points allowed per game three seasons in a row. In Ryan's first season, the 49ers allowed the third-fewest yards per game (310), and in 2022, San Francisco allowed the fewest points (16.8) and yards (300.6) per game. Ryans' unit also tied for the second-most takeaways (30).
Beyond fixing the defense's woes, Ryans must fix the Texans' offense. The unit averaged 17 points per game (30th), and the Texans' 19 interceptions were second most. Opening-day starting quarterback Davis Mills had 15 of those in 15 games and was tied for the league high, and Kyle Allen, who started when Mills was benched, threw the other four in two games.
The Texans will reboot that position with Stroud.
Key Hires: With a rookie at QB, Ryans choice of offensive coordinator, former 49ers offensive passing game coordinator Bobby Slowik, will be critical. Slowik, 35, spent two seasons in San Francisco and has 11 seasons of NFL experience. The 49ers had a high-powered offense that saw new additions Christian McCaffrey and Brock Purdy flourish in their first seasons with the team. Ryans hired Matt Burke as his defensive coordinator
Incoming: Shane Steichen Outgoing: Jeff Saturday/Frank Reich
As NFL.com reported, the Colts are turning to another Eagles offensive coordinator fresh off a Super Bowl appearance to lead the team into its next era.
Indianapolis will hire a rookie head coach to help stabilize the franchise after Andrew Luck's unexpected retirement in 2019. The Colts have struggled to find a consistent replacement for Luck, resulting in a 31-34 record and one playoff appearance (without a playoff win) in the post-Luck era.
Steichen replaces Reich, who joined the Colts in 2018 after serving as the Eagles' OC and winning Super Bowl LII against the Patriots. Saturday, who acted as the Colts' interim coach following Reich's departure, was among the candidates to receive a second interview for the head coaching position.
Job 1: Develop the raw but highly-athletic rookie QB, Anthony Richardson.
Fortunately, Steichen, 37, has played a significant role in developing young QBs during his 11-year NFL coaching career. Before his time in Philadelphia, he was the coordinator of the Chargers' offense that facilitated Justin Herbert's record-setting rookie season in 2020. Herbert set all-time rookie records with 31 touchdowns, 396 completions, and 289.1 passing yards per game. In the following season, Steichen contributed to the development of Jalen Hurts in Philly, guiding him to 3,928 offensive yards (3,144 passing, 784 rushing) and leading the league's top rushing offense. Under the leadership of a first-year starting QB and rookie head coach, the Eagles earned a playoff berth in 2021. The Eagles continued their success in 2022, with Steichen calling the plays for Hurts, averaging 389.1 yards and 28.1 points per game and achieving the league's best regular-season record (14-3).
Steichen aims to replicate his success with Herbert and Hurts by unleashing the immense potential of this year's fourth overall pick, Richardson.
The positive news is that most of the Colts' offensive line will return, and star running back Jonathan Taylor, the league's rushing champion in 2021, is expected to be fully healthy after an injury-plagued 2022 season. The Colts also have key pieces on defense, with Gus Bradley retained as the coordinator.
Key Hires: While Steichen will lead the offense, he has brought in Jim Bob Cooter as the coordinator. This marks a reunion between Cooter and the Colts, as he previously served as an offensive assistant with Indy from 2009-2011. Cooter proved to be a perfect complement to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford during his three-year tenure as coordinator in Detroit. Stafford thrived under Cooter, throwing for 12,550 yards, 74 touchdowns, and 31 interceptions with a 94.2 passer rating in three full seasons working together.
Incoming: Ryan Nelson Outgoing: Dean Pees
Nielsen, formerly with the New Orleans Saints, joins the Falcons after six seasons as a defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator under Saints head coach Dennis Allen in 2022. He replaces Pees, who retired following the conclusion of the Falcons' 2022 season.
Job 1: Head coach Arthur Smith aims to bolster the defense with Nielsen's arrival. The Falcons struggled in pass rushing, ranking second to last in the league with 21 sacks in 2022 (an improvement from their league-worst 18 sacks in 2021). Under Nielsen's guidance, the Saints' defensive front has been among the best in the NFL. In 2022, New Orleans boasted a top-5 defense in yards allowed per game (314.8), passing yards allowed per game (184.4), and sacks (48).
Incoming: Todd Monken Outgoing: Greg Roman
Monken, returning to the NFL after two seasons at the University of Georgia, takes over as the Ravens' offensive coordinator.
During his successful stint at Georgia, Monken led an explosive offense that topped the nation in total net yards and total points in 2022. He relied on personnel and packages that will fit the Ravens' physical style and personnel. In his previous NFL seasons, Monken guided the Browns' offense in 2019 with notable performances from running back Nick Chubb and quarterback Baker Mayfield. He also played a key role in Tampa Bay's top-ranked passing offense in 2018.
Monken replaces Roman, who left the Ravens after six seasons.
Job 1: Monken's main task is to revitalize the Ravens' passing attack and reduce reliance on Lamar Jackson's rushing ability. The Ravens have added Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers, and Nelson Agholor to support Jackson's development as they move into a new phase of the QB's career after signing a record-setting contract.
Incoming: Sean McDermott Outgoing: Leslie Frazier
Frazier surprised everyone by stepping down as Buffalo's defensive coordinator, prompting McDermott to add defensive play-calling duties to his head coaching role.
Job 1: McDermott aims to maintain the high standard set under Frazier. In 2021, they allowed the fewest passing yards and points per game. Last season, Buffalo's defense continued its excellence, ranking fifth in rushing yards allowed per game and second in points allowed per game.
Incoming: Brian Schottenheimer/Mike McCarthy Outgoing: Kellen Moore
Dallas kept their offensive coordinator search in-house after parting ways with Moore by handing the job to Schottenheimer, who served as team consultant during the 2022 season. The 49-year-old coach has spent 12 of his 22 years in the NFL as an offensive coordinator, most recently with the Seattle Seahawks from 2018 to 2020.
While McCarthy will take over play-calling, Schottenheimer will have a role in directing an offense that led the league in total yards and points per game just two seasons ago. How much of a difference will that make? Dak Prescott has put a number on it. "Right now, Mike told me [about] 20-30 percent change," Prescott said recently. "I think if anything, it's things that need to be changed. It's great to dial in, fix some things, get sharper and crisper."
One of the approaches Schottenheimer wants to focus on is forcing defenders to cover the entire field -- something the Cowboys have the talent to do.
Job 1: Prescott threw a league-leading 15 interceptions in 12 regular-season games and another two in two post-season games. That's too many for the Cowboys to get to where they want to go.
Kansas City Chiefs
Incoming: Matt Nagy Outgoing: Eric Bieniemy
The Chiefs stayed within the organization for their new offensive coordinator, promoting Nagy as the replacement for Bieniemy.
Nagy, 44, was also the Chiefs' offensive coordinator on Andy Reid's staff in 2016 and 2017, their last two seasons with Alex Smith as starting quarterback. The Chiefs were 20th in the league in yards and 13th in scoring in 2016 but made a jump the next season to fifth in yards and sixth in scoring. Nagy then left for four seasons to be the head coach of the Chicago Bears. He returned to the Chiefs last year as quarterbacks coach and senior offensive assistant.
Job 1: Stay the course. Nagy's hire signals that the defending Super Bowl champions are sticking with continuity. Reid is the team's offensive play caller and Nagy has in-depth knowledge of Reid's coaching philosophy from his time spent working for him.
Los Angeles Chargers
Incoming: Kellen Moore, Derrick Ansley Outgoing: Joe Lombardi, Renaldo Hill
The Chargers hired Moore as offensive coordinator to accelerate Justin Herbert's development. Moore had been Dallas' offensive coordinator for four seasons, with Dallas twice finishing with the league's top total offense. The Cowboys also finished No. 6, No. 1, and No. 4 in points in the three seasons quarterback Dak Prescott finished the season healthy.
Ansley was promoted from DBs coach in the aftermath of the Chargers mutually agreeing to part ways with former defensive coordinator, Hill.
Job 1: Herbert has emerged as one of the league's top young quarterbacks in his first three seasons, so Moore doesn't want to completely reinvent the wheel when it comes to the offensive system. Herbert completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 4,739 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season. But his yards per attempt sat at a career-low of 6.8. That number should go up significantly with Moore calling the offensive plays in 2023.
Head coach Brandon Staley also wants a more potent rushing attack in 2023, and with the addition of Moore comes someone that has seen success in this aspect as well. A running game would be big as it can create a balance that doesn't take away too much from Herbert.
Ansley will lead a defense that was a top-10 unit in DVOA against the pass in 2022 but struggled against the run (29th). The Chargers' defense also gave up 22.6 points per game, so there is some work to be done as Ansley now takes over.
Los Angeles Rams
Incoming: Mike LaFleur Outgoing: Liam Cohen
There's going to be a LaFleur on the Los Angeles Rams sideline holding the role of offensive coordinator - but unlike 2017 when it was now-Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur, it's his younger brother, Mike. The opportunity to join the Rams came after LaFleur's second season with the Jets unraveled under the stress of starting three different quarterbacks and struggling to develop Zach Wilson. The former No. 2 overall pick threw for 1,688 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions with a 54.5 completion percentage in nine starts in 2022, and New York finished fourth in its division for the sixth time in seven years.
Job 1: LaFleur's relationship with Matthew Stafford and working to implement the offensive philosophy might ultimately become the OC's most vital aspect of his new position. Although he was the play caller with the Jets, Sean McVay handles that here. Starting with LaFleur's brother Matt in 2017, McVay has had three other offensive coordinators. None of them called plays, and the Rams didn't even fill the position in 2018 or 2019.
Incoming: Brian Flores Outgoing: Ed Donatell
The Vikings hired Flores to replace the fired Donatell as defensive coordinator. Flores spent last season as the Steelers' senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach after being fired as head coach by the Dolphins following the 2021 season. Flores has a years-long relationship with Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell, who was drafted by the Patriots as a quarterback in 2008 when Flores was a special teams assistant there.
Job 1: Fix it. The Vikings finished No. 31 in the NFL in yards allowed and is on the cusp of a significant personnel overhaul.
New England Patriots
Incoming: Bill O'Brien Outgoing: Matt Patricia/Joe Judge
O'Brien will be the Patriots' new offensive coordinator. This is his second turn as the Patriots' offensive coordinator, a title he previously had in 2011. He also spent 2007-2010 with the Patriots in various offensive assistant roles. For the last two seasons, O'Brien has been offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama.
Job 1: Last year the Patriots didn't have anyone with the title of offensive coordinator, but the unit was led by Patricia and Judge. The result was a disaster. O'Brien's job will be undoing the damage from last year's failed experiment.
O'Brien's familiarity with quarterback Mac Jones should help the offense get off to a more productive start. O'Brien and Jones worked together during Bama's National Championship season in 2020 and Jones helped familiarize O'Brien with the Crimson Tide's system when he arrived.
New York Jets
Incoming: Nathaniel Hackett Outgoing: Mike LaFleur
Hackett replaces LaFleur after spending the first 15 games of the 2022 season as the head coach of the Broncos. He was fired with two weeks left in the season after he made a series of in-game blunders and was unable to put together a capable offense after the off-season trade for Russell Wilson. The Jets had their own disappointing Wilson at quarterback in 2022, but the Hackett hiring more about Zach Wilson's replacement than with Wilson himself.
Job 1: Make Aaron Rodgers feel at home.
Fortunately, he's got a head start. Hackett was the offensive coordinator in Green Bay before taking the Broncos job and Rodgers loves the playcaller. Really. "Love Hack. Hack is my guy," Rodgers said. "We really bonded when he was in Green Bay. He made it fun. He made the room fun. He made the weeks fun."
Incoming: Brian Johnson, Sean Desai Outgoing: Shane Steichen, Jonathan Gannon
The Eagles lost both their coordinators to head coach positions. Johnson is officially the new offensive coordinator and the team hired Seahawks associate head coach and defensive assistant Desai as their new defensive coordinator.
Job 1: Johnson spent the last two seasons as the quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia and he was previously an offensive coordinator at Florida, Houston, and Utah at the collegiate level. The Eagles also announced that Alex Tanney will be taking over as the team's quarterbacks coach. Head coach Nick Sirianni will continue to handle the play calling on offense while the personnel on defense give Desai an opportunity to start his career in Philly on a strong note.
San Francisco 49ers
Incoming: Steve Wilks Outgoing: DeMeco Ryans
The 49ers decided to go with an external candidate to be their next defensive coordinator. San Francisco hired Wilks for the position. Wilks served as the Panthers' interim head coach after Matt Rhule was fired during the 2022 season, compiling a 6-6 record with the club. The 49ers needed a new defensive coordinator after DeMeco Ryans departed the organization to become the Texans' head coach. This might be great news for Wilks. The last two 49ers' defensive coordinators - Robert Saleh and Ryans - have both left the organization to become head coaches.
Job 1: Wilks has previously run a 4-3 base defense, which provides some continuity and plays into the talents of the team's current strengths.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Incoming: Dave Canales Outgoing: Byron Leftwich
Though the question remains as to who the next Buccaneers' quarterback will be, Canales will be the man responsible for guiding him and the offense. Canales, most recently Seattle's QBs coach, spent 13 seasons as an assistant of Pete Carroll. Now he joins Todd Bowles' staff, replacing Leftwich, who was dismissed after the 2022 campaign.
Job 1: Canales played a vital role in Geno Smith's career renaissance in Seattle last year and will now be tasked with resurrecting the Buccaneers' quarterback spot post-Tom Brady. Currently, free-agent addition Baker Mayfield and 2021 draft pick Kyle Trask, who has played in just one game in two seasons, will compete for Brady's role.
Incoming: Tim Kelly Outgoing: Todd Downing
The 36-year-old Kelly, who joined Tennessee's coaching staff a year ago with the title of passing game coordinator, has served as an offensive coordinator once before, for three seasons with the Texans from 2019 to 2021. The Titans fired their previous offensive coordinator, Downing, after the season. Tennessee also hired Charles London as pass game coordinator/quarterbacks coach.
Job 1: Keep feeding Derrick Henry.
Incoming: Eric Bieniemy Outgoing: Scott Turner
The Commanders hired Bieniemy as their next offensive coordinator. He spent the past five seasons as the Chiefs' offensive coordinator, helping oversee an offense that powered two Super Bowl championships -- including this February. But he was not the primary play caller on Andy Reid's staff. In Washington, Bieniemy will be in complete charge of the offense and call plays. Bieniemy replaces Turner, who was fired on Jan. 10 after three seasons.
Job 1: Pick up the pace.
During Turner's tenure, Washington ranked 27th in yards per game and 28th in points per game. Last season, the Commanders were 20th in yards and 26th in points. Washington will enter a crucial fourth season under head coach Ron Rivera. The Commanders have gone a combined 22-27-1 in his first three seasons, winning the NFC East with a 7-9 record in 2020.
-- Harris is Senior Editor at FootballDiehards.com and a host on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports and NFL Radio. Bob is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Associated Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter @footballdiehard.