Who will be the first NFL coach fired? Matt Rhule, Mike McCarthy sit on hottest seats entering 2022 season

Black Monday won’t come until the day following the NFL regular season, but that doesn’t mean that league’s more embattled coaches are safe for the entire 2022 season.

The NFL always seems to have at least one coach on the outs during the regular season. Last season, Urban Meyer was dismissed by the Jaguars after just 13 games in charge of the team. The year before, Bill O’Brien was axed by the Texans after and 0-4 start. And in 2019, both Jay Gruden and Ron Rivera were let go before their respective seasons came to an end.

So, if the 2022 NFL season follows recent trends, at least one coach could be sent packing at some point during the season.

And as the season draws nearer, there are a handful of coaches that are definitively on the hot seat as the season arrives.

The coaches facing the most pressure in 2022 are mostly leading an ecclectic bunch of middling teams that are trying to break through and make it to the postseason. However, at least a few coaches of recent playoff teams are facing a heavier burden to prove that they are the right person to lead their teams on a Super Bowl run.

Which NFL coaches are on the hottest seats as the 2022 NFL season arrives? Here’s a run-down of which coaches could be among the first fired if their squads fail to live up to expectations this season.

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NFL coach hot seat rankings 

Hot seat coaches


1. Matt Rhule, Panthers

Rhule came into the NFL with fanfare, but he has yet to live up to the hype. Through two seasons, Rhule has posted a record of just 10-23; his teams have faded badly down the stretch, as the Panthers are 3-14 in games played in November or later under Rhule’s guidance.

Carolina is hoping that Baker Mayfield can help fix things at quarterback. He will be Rhule’s third different Week 1 starter, joining Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darnold on an ignominious list of Cam Newton replacements. If Mayfield struggles to turn the Panthers into a winner, Rhule will almost certainly be let go, especially considering that he was on the hot seat at the end of the 2021 season.

2. Mike McCarthy, Cowboys

It’s never a good thing when your boss gives you a vote of confidence and then immediately follows it up with a veiled threat. That’s what Jerry Jones did to McCarthy during a news conference at the beginning of training camp.

Let me be real clear: He wouldn’t be sitting here today if I didn’t think he was the man to lead this team to a Super Bowl. He would not be, and I have choices. That’s not meant to be insensitive to anybody. That’s a fact.

The Cowboys have disappointed during McCarthy’s two seasons in charge of the team. In 2020, they failed to make the playoffs with a 6-10 record. Last year, they went 12-5 but lost in the first round of the playoffs after the team committed 14 penalties while McCarthy committed several coaching blunders.

Every year, Cowboys fans think it’s ‘our year.’ 

So, if Dallas stumbles at any point in 2022, Jones and Co. will likely move on. And the recently retired Sean Payton would likely represent the Cowboys’ top target if McCarthy is fired.

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Seats that are warming up


3. Frank Reich, Colts

Reich has posted a respectable 37-28 record with the Colts, but the team had one of the most disappointing finishes to the 2021 NFL season of any team. Indianapolis needed only to win against the Jaguars in Week 18 to make the postseason; the team was unable to do it, and thus began speculation that the Colts could move on from Reich after four seasons.

Indianapolis stuck by Reich, but his margin for error is thin. He’s onto his fifth different starting quarterback in as many seasons, so if Matt Ryan can’t carry the Colts into the playoffs and to consistent success, the blame may finally circle back to Reich and general manager Chris Ballard.

4. Ron Rivera, Commanders

Rivera was brought to Washington in the hopes of bringing some respect to the franchise. He has navigated well through various scandals involving owner Daniel Snyder and members of the previous regime, but at some point, his team needs to have more success on the field.

Washington built some optimism in Rivera’s first year by going 7-9 and finishing the year strong, especially on defense. However, they plateaued in 2021 and went 7-10, as the team’s defense regressed. Rivera will look to get that back on track in 2022 while also hoping that Colts reject Carson Wentz can serve as an upgrade over what the team has had at quarterback. If those two things don’t happen, Rivera may be looking for another opportunity in 2023.

5. Pete Carroll, Seahawks

How hot is Carroll’s seat with the Seahawks? Well, they are set to rebuild in the post-Russell Wilson era and Carroll, 71, has coached the team since 2010. Both sides could desire a change if the Seahawks bottom out this season.

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Carroll has led the most successful era of Seahawks football in the team’s history. He has a 119-73-1 record in charge of the team and has posted a winning season nine times in 12 attempts. Seattle also won a Super Bowl under his watch.

That said, even if Carroll’s seat heats up, he may not be fired. The team may simply ask him to retire to put a bow on what has been a positive, 12-year relationship so far.

Seats that could warm up quickly


6. Kliff Kingsbury, Cardinals

Kingsbury certainly has a strong offensive mind and has gotten the Cardinals off to a strong start in each of his first three seasons with the team. It’s the finishes Arizona is worried about, as Kingsbury’s record in the second half of the season tends to be worse than it is in the first half.

Month Kingsbury’s record Winning %
September 5-4-1 0.550
October 10-4 0.714
November 3-6 0.333
December 5-8 0.385
January 1-3 0.250

This trend dates back to Kingsbury’s college days, so if he can’t change it, the Cardinals may look for a coach that can have more sustained success throughout the year.

7. Robert Saleh, Jets

Saleh has only been in charge of the Jets for one season, but the team didn’t find much success during that campaign. They went 4-13 and ranked dead-last in total defense despite Saleh’s background as a defensive coordinator.

New York has made several upgrades to its stop unit for the upcoming season. This includes signing DJ Reed and Jordan Whitehead as well as drafting Sauce Gardner and Jermaine Johnson. The Jets need to take a step forward on that side of the ball bare minimum for Saleh to stick around. It would also help his cause to improve upon the team’s record.

8. Kevin Stefanski, Browns

It’s hard to gauge exactly how hot Stefanski’s seat will get in 2022. He led the Browns to an 11-5 record in 2020 and their first playoff win since 1994, and at that time, it looked like he would be safe for a long time. Instead, the Browns stumbled to an 8-9 record in 2021 because Baker Mayfield played poorly while dealing with a shoulder injury.

Stefanski should be safe even if they don’t make the playoffs this season. That said, the Browns aren’t exactly known for their patience. They gave up on Baker Mayfield quickly after he helped them earn their first playoff win in 27 years. Their replacement? That was Deshaun Watson, who has now been suspended for 11 games.

Stefanski could get similar treatment to Mayfield if Cleveland’s offense sputters even without Watson. But his seat won’t really heat up unless the Browns fall well out of the wild-card race.

9. Brandon Staley, Chargers

Staley is one of the most aggressive coaches in the NFL. He goes for it on a lot of fourth-down attempts, and that is part of what makes his play-calling so explosive.

Of course, his willingness to go for it on fourth down also comes with risk. His in-game play-calling has backfired enough that if things go awry in 2022, the Chargers could consider either asking him to tone it down or make a change.

The Chargers have high expectations in 2022 and are expected to be a Super Bowl contender. If they fall flat and the fourth-down issue comes into larger focus, Staley’s seat would at least get warm by the end of the year.

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Seats that are neither hot nor cold


10. Arthur Smith, Falcons

Smith posted a respectable 7-10 record last season with Matt Ryan at quarterback. Now, he has to guide the Falcons with Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder at the position.

If the road gets bumpy for those two young quarterbacks and Smith’s offense doesn’t operate effectively, Smith’s seat could warm up a bit. Even still, it would take a major decline for Smith to find himself on a very hot seat considering that Atlanta is rebuilding. 

11. Dan Campbell, Lions

Campbell is another second-year head coach whose seat could get hot but is more neutral at this time. Detroit posted a record of just 3-13-1 last season, but six of their losses were by one score or less.

The Lions played hard every week in 2021 and it seems like Campbell has won over the team’s locker room with his coaching style. If that wears thin this season and Detroit’s record doesn’t improve, then he might find himself under pressure. But any amount of improvement should allow Campbell to remain on a neutral-to-cool seat.

12. John Harbaugh, Ravens

Harbaugh is a polarizing coach, as some will argue that he belongs in the category above this or in the cold category. He fits somewhere in the middle. Why? Well, the Ravens logged a losing season last year, marking their first since 2015.

That alone isn’t the problem; the bigger issue is that the Ravens have won just one playoff game in the last eight years. If they don’t have playoff success at some point soon, Baltimore could look to change things up and move on from the man who has coached them since 2008.

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Still, Harbaugh has coached just two losing seasons for the Ravens and has a career coaching record of 137-88. If he can get Baltimore to the playoffs in the stacked AFC North, the team may be reluctant to part with him.

13. Mike Vrabel, Titans

Vrabel has posted a winning season in each of his four years in charge of the Titans, so it may seem strange to include him here. However, the Titans have lost some talent and have only won a playoff game in one of their three appearances under Vrabel’s watch. They were the No. 1 seed in the AFC last season but failed to beat the Bengals in their first playoff contest.

If the Titans can’t find playoff success — or don’t make the postseason at all, they could consider moving on from Vrabel. Still, he has probably bought enough goodwill with his first few seasons to stick around Tennessee for a while.

14. Nick Sirianni, Eagles

Sirianni led the Eagles to a 9-8 record during his first season as coach. That was good enough to make it to the playoffs, so his seat will be pretty cool beginning his second season. However, it could warm up a bit if the Eagles fail to live up to higher expectations. So, he’ll stay on the cooler side of the neutral tier for the time being.

First-year coaches


15. Lovie Smith, Texans

It’s always hard to gauge just how safe each first-year head coach is, but Smith would seemingly be in the most difficult situation. The Texans are on their third full-time coach in as many years and they just fired David Culley less than a year after he became head coach of the team.

Smith was promoted from within to replace Culley. While he has been a good defensive coordinator, he hasn’t had much success as a head coach in recent years. He posted an 8-24 record in his last NFL head coaching stint with the Bucs from 2014-15. He then coached at Illinois where he posted a 17-39 record over five seasons with the team.

If Smith comes out of the gate slowly, the Texans could pull the plug on his tenure. They have done that often enough lately so it can’t be ruled out.

16. Nathaniel Hackett, Broncos

Hackett is a first-time head coach and he is coming into a pressure-packed situation in Denver. The Broncos just traded for Russell Wilson and have a win-now roster. They have endured a handful of mediocre years since Peyton Manning’s retirement, but now, they are expected to compete for a playoff spot in the AFC.

Hackett helped Aaron Rodgers win back-to-back MVP awards and will hope that offensive success carries over to Denver. However, if he doesn’t mesh with Wilson or struggles to win over the Broncos’ locker room, Denver’s new ownership could quickly move to remedy things. That seems unlikely but makes him one of the riskiest new hires.

17. Mike McDaniel, Dolphins

Like Hackett, McDaniel is risky. He is joining a Dolphins team that has high expectations after a free-agent spending spree. The only problem is that Tua Tagovailoa has yet to prove himself at the NFL level, and the offensive-minded McDaniel will be tasked with unlocking his potential. McDaniel could do that, but he and Kyle Shanahan never quite got there with Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco.

If Tua flounders, McDaniel may catch some of the blame. It probably won’t be enough to make him a one-and-done though, unless the team really collapses under his watch.

18. Josh McDaniels, Raiders

McDaniels faces a tough task. He is replacing Rich Bisaccia, who did an excellent job as the Raiders’ interim coach in place of Jon Gruden last season. Some players wanted to keep Bisaccia, so McDaniels may be combatting some initial resistance in that realm.

The other issue is that the Raiders were a playoff team last season but face a tough path back there in 2022. The AFC is a lot stronger and Las Vegas plays in the loaded AFC West, where they are largely considered to be the fourth-best of the four teams.

Mark Davis didn’t lure McDaniels to Las Vegas to give up on him after one year, but if the Raiders disappoint, that could create some tension between the two parties.

19. Todd Bowles, Buccaneers

The Buccaneers are dealing with some unexpected challenges to start the 2022 season. Tom Brady has been away from the team in training camp; center Ryan Jensen went down with an injury and may be done for the season; and Tampa Bay doesn’t have its full complement of pass catchers available, as Chris Godwin is recovering from a torn ACL.

So, Bowles’ situation is far from perfect, as he has to lead a potential contender on the decline to a Super Bowl to be deemed a success. Still, this is the most talented roster he has had during his coaching career so he should improve upon his 27-42 record and keep his seat cool enough.


20. Dennis Allen, Saints

Allen is positioned similarly to Bowles. The only difference is that the Saints are expected to challenge for a playoff spot, not a Super Bowl win. So, the pressure is a bit lower for Allen.

Allen’s main goal will be keeping the New Orleans defense at the level it was last year. Even if he can’t, the Saints will almost certainly give him more than a year to prove himself in the head coaching role.

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21. Brian Daboll, Giants

Daboll did amazing work with Josh Allen during his time with the Bills. He will be asked to do the same with Daniel Jones, but if that doesn’t pan out, Daboll probably won’t be sent packing.

If Jones doesn’t pan out, the Giants will probably invest in a new signal-caller in 2023. Daboll will almost certainly have a chance to develop him provided that his first season in New York doesn’t go completely off the rails.

22. Matt Eberflus, Bears

The Bears’ rebuild is expected to be a long one. They have Justin Fields but not much else in terms of future building blocks. As such, Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles are likely looking at a multi-year window to mold the team into a contender. He enters the season with his seat pretty cold overall.

23. Kevin O’Connell, Vikings

O’Connell is only the 10th head coach in the history of the Vikings. All but one of them have coached the team for at least four years. The lone exception is Les Steckel, who lasted just one season with the team in 1984.

O’Connell isn’t the same type of old-school disciplinarian that Steckel was. In fact, he comes from the new-school, offensive-minded philosophy popularized by Sean McVay. O’Connell comes from his coaching tree, so he will almost certainly be given a few years to prove himself.

24. Doug Pederson, Jaguars

The Jaguars had to fire Urban Meyer after 13 games because his tenure was an unmitigated disaster. They won’t do the same with Pederson, as he was brought in to both fix the culture in Jacksonville and lead them to eventual success.

Pederson is a coaching veteran who won a Super Bowl with the Eagles in 2018. He has a career record of 42-37-1 and logged winning seasons in three of his five campaigns in Philadelphia.

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Cold seats


25. Matt LaFleur, Packers

LaFleur is a bit of a tough coach to figure out. He has been elite in the regular season, as the Packers have won 13 games in each of his three seasons as head coach. However, the postseason has given him some issues, as the Packers are just 2-3 under his leadership despite getting a first-round bye three times.

Still, LaFleur won’t be going anywhere unless the Packers completely fall apart or there is a blow-up with Aaron Rodgers. That remains unlikely.

26. Kyle Shanahan, 49ers

When Jimmy Garoppolo stayed healthy, the 49ers posted records of 13-3 and 10-7. In those seasons, they made the Super Bowl and NFC Championship Game respectively. Trusting Trey Lance is a gamble on the part of Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, but if the former No. 3 overall pick finds success, Shanahan’s seat should stay cold. Even if he doesn’t, Shanahan’s playoff performance has bought him a couple of seasons to figure things out with Lance.

27. Zac Taylor, Bengals

Taylor posted a 6-25-1 record in his first two seasons combined, so many believed he was one of NFL’s hottest seats entering the 2021 season. He delivered and got the Bengals all the way to the Super Bowl. If that turns out to be a flash in the pan, Taylor’s seat could heat up again, but more likely, he has bought himself a couple more years to work with Joe Burrow at the very least.

28. Mike Tomlin, Steelers

Tomlin has been coaching the Steelers since 2006. He has helped them win a Super Bowl and has yet to post a losing season during his career. The two sides could near a split if the Steelers finally enter a true rebuild, but that’s unlikely with Tomlin and his 154-85-2 record leading the way.

29. Sean McDermott, Bills

McDermott has posted a winning record in four of his five seasons as Buffalo’s head coach. The Bills had just one winning season in the previous 12 before McDermott took over. Enough said.

Ice cold seats


30. Bill Belichick, Patriots

Belichick has led the Patriots to six Super Bowl titles and has made the playoffs in 17 of his 21 seasons in charge of the team. The team will almost certainly let the 70-year-old coach until he is ready to retire.

31. Andy Reid, Chiefs

The Chiefs have had a winning record in each of Reid’s nine seasons with the teams. They have made the playoffs eight times, posted at least 11 wins eight times and won the Super Bowl in 2020. The Chiefs will be in no hurry to break up the Reid and Patrick Mahomes combination.

32. Sean McVay, Rams

McVay just led the Rams to the Super Bowl. It was his second appearance in his five years as a head coach. He has posted 55-26 regular-season record and has never had a losing season with the Rams. Oh yeah, he’s also just 36 years old.

It’s safe to say that the Rams will be looking to keep The Sporting News’ No. 1 coach for the 2022 NFL season around for quite a while longer.

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