With the NFL regular season coming to a close, playoff contenders eye their chances at the coveted Super Bowl. For those eliminated from contention, front offices will have the opportunity to address the state of their organization. With the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, and Indianapolis Colts all departing from their previous head coaches partway through the season, a variety of candidates are expected to meet with teams around the league in hopes of taking over.
Here, we discuss the top 10 candidates for a head coaching gig in 2023:
10. Ben Johnson (Detroit Lions Offensive Coordinator)
Since taking over play-calling duties for the Detroit Lions, Johnson has emerged as a young, offensive-minded candidate for teams to consider. The 36-year-old has elevated the Lions offense to a top five team in points (26.1) and total yards (375.5) per game this season. Previously, Johnson served as the team’s tight end coach dating back to the 2020 season. Prior to his time in Detroit, Johnson was an assistant with the Miami Dolphins before being promoted to the wide receivers coach in 2018. For a team that entered the 2022 season with low expectations, Johnson deserves recognition as a promising candidate.
9. Jerod Mayo (New England Patriots Linebackers Coach)
The New England Patriots have undergone a roller coaster-type season, but Jerod Mayo has been the bright spot among their coaching staff. As a former top 10 selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, Mayo spent the entirety of his eight-year playing career with the Patriots. Prior to the 2019 season, Mayo was named as the team’s inside linebackers coach. Following the 2021 season, he started to receive head coaching buzz, specifically from the Philadelphia Eagles. Mayo additionally met with the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders in the previous offseason. The 37-year-old has spent time with bright football minds and will likely be considered a head coaching candidate in 2023.
8. Jonathan Gannon (Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Coordinator)
The Philadelphia Eagles have one of the most complete rosters across the NFL, and their coaching staff has taken full advantage. Gannon, 39, has led the Eagles defense to becoming the top-ranked passing defense in the league. The top teams typically have a number of coaching staff members interviewed, and Gannon should be no exception. He previously served as the Indianapolis Colts defensive backs coach before joining head coach Nick Sirianni in Philadelphia. His NFL coaching experience dates back to 2007, where he split time on staffs in Minnesota, Tennessee, St. Louis, and Atlanta. Last offseason, Gannon emerged as one of multiple candidates to interview with the Denver Broncos.
7. Leslie Frazier (Buffalo Bills Defensive Coordinator)
For teams seeking experience on their coaching staff, Leslie Frazier has spent time on seven different coaching staffs dating back to 1999. Most recently, the 63-year-old has spent each of the last six seasons as the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills. He will also be one of the select candidates with head coaching experience, with Frazier serving as the Minnesota Vikings head coach from 2010-13. During his time with Minnesota, Frazier put together a 21-32-1 record, reaching the playoffs in 2012 with Christian Ponder under center. Frazier was a part of the interview cycle last offseason, interviewing twice with the New York Giants and once with the Miami Dolphins. Teams have recently sought out offensive-minded coaches, despite scoring being down across the NFL. If there is a shift back to “defense winning championships”, Frazier may be the answer.
6. Frank Reich (Former Indianapolis Colts Head Coach)
Often an overlooked name, Reich should generate some buzz as a head coaching candidate in 2023. After being let go from the Indianapolis Colts, Reich has expressed his interest in returning to coaching. Following the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck, Reich has found ways to win games with Jacoby Brissett, a declining Philip Rivers, and Carson Wentz among others under center. During his five-year tenure with Indianapolis, Reich had a head coaching record of 40-33-1, reaching the playoffs in 2018 and 2020. If he isn’t immediately re-hired as a head coach in 2023, I fully expect Reich to serve as an offensive coordinator.
5. Shane Steichen (Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Coordinator)
Following his second season as offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles, Shane Steichen should receive serious consideration as a head coaching candidate. The Eagles score at the highest rate in the NFL, and are also a top five team in the run game. The experience for Steichen dates back to the 2011 season, where he spent time with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers and Cleveland Browns. He has been surrounded by great NFL quarterbacks, including the likes of Justin Herbert, Philip Rivers, and of course Jalen Hurts.
4. DeMeco Ryans (San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator)
The success of the San Francisco 49ers has stemmed primarily from their defense, and that is in large thanks to DeMeco Ryans. Drafted in 2006, Ryans spent his 10-year playing career alongside the Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles. In 2017, Ryans joined the San Francisco 49ers coaching staffed and was ultimately promoted in 2021 as a defensive coordinator. At the time of his promotion, Ryans was filling a large void with the 49ers, considering Robert Saleh departed for a coaching gig with the New York Jets. Prior to returning to San Francisco last offseason, Ryans received interviews with the Las Vegas Raiders and Minnesota Vikings. This season, the 49ers have the top-ranked scoring defense. The interest in Ryans will likely be on the rise in the upcoming offseason.
3. Dan Quinn (Dallas Cowboys Defensive Coordinator)
As one of the top defensive coordinators in the NFL, it won’t be a surprise to see Dan Quinn re-appear in the rumor mill. The former Atlanta Falcons head coach established himself by turning the Dallas Cowboys defense into one of the top units across the league across the last two seasons. As a head coach in Atlanta from 2015-20, Quinn had a head coaching record of 43-42, bringing his team to the playoffs in both 2016 and 2017. He was close to landing the head coaching gig in Denver before returning to the Cowboys coaching staff this past offseason, but we will see if a more appealing opportunity presents itself.
2. Eric Bieniemy (Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Coordinator)
Another upcoming offseason will result in further speculation in whether Eric Bieniemy will be given a chance as a head coach in the NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs once again have one of the top offensive units across the league, and their success dating back to the 2013 season on the offensive side of the ball has been in large thanks to Bieniemy. With Patrick Mahomes among the MVP contenders, it’s only a matter of time before Bieniemy is given a chance to lead as a head coach.
1. Sean Payton (Former New Orleans Saints Head Coach)
According to reports throughout the regular season, former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton will pursue a head coaching job this offseason. In preparation, Payton is reportedly putting together his own variety of assistants to join him if given the opportunity. He is still under contract with the Saints, but a front office will be willing to pay to acquire his rights. Payton has experience in both the playoffs and Super Bowl, leaving him as the top potential head coaching candidate of 2023.