Insider notes on NFL head coaches: Bill Belichick's Patriots in crisis, pressure growing on Chargers' Brandon Staley

Insider notes on NFL head coaches: Bill Belichick
Insider notes on NFL head coaches: Bill Belichick's Patriots in crisis, pressure growing on Chargers' Brandon Staley

We are just past the midpoint of the 2023 NFL season, and a number of franchises are slogging through a season of disappointment. And as you would expect, there are a number of coaches and front-office personnel on the hot seat. After numerous conversations with people inside the league, here’s the latest on who is on the outs.

I penned two articles over the past month, one on the situation in New England and the other dealing with Las Vegas. Thus far, those articles have rung true to form.

The situation is getting worse for the Patriots as the season has progressed, and while he may remain in a front-office role, no one expects Bill Belichick to be on the sidelines next season regardless of any contract extension he may have signed in the offseason. More on Belichick later.

Commanders Patriots Football
Commanders Patriots Football

Conversely, the Raiders are on a two-game winning streak since the firing of Josh McDaniels. As I mentioned two weeks ago, interim general manager Champ Kelly has supporters within the organization and the league who believe he should retain the job on a full-time basis. Antonio Pierce has reclaimed the Raiders’ locker room, and there is a groundswell of support for the new head coach. Assuming the Raiders continue their positive trajectory, owner Mark Davis will have a big decision to make.

Two years ago, he failed by bringing in McDaniels after Rich Bisaccia salvaged the team midway through the 2021 season and brought them to the playoffs. Will history repeat itself?

Here's is the hotseat watch list in the middle of November.

Washington Commanders: How the Montez Sweat and Chase Young trades came long

The Commanders tipped their hand on future plans with the trades of Montez Sweat and Chase Young. As one source told me, the goal in Washington is to “get rid of the Daniel Snyder stench”. Obviously this means a complete cleansing of the front office and coaching staff at the end of the season, if not beforehand.

So what does owner Josh Harris have planned for the Commanders?

Harris, who has a basketball background and was managing partner for a group that purchased the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011, has reached out to people in the NBA on structuring the Washington Commanders’ front office similar to what we see in the NBA. They have consulted with former 76ers star Elton Brand on the potential future setup of the front office. Sources speculate that the new organization won’t be as cutthroat as the Snyder regime and could offer players a voice in decision-making.

How much do the Commanders want to rid themselves of the prior regime?

Reportedly, the trade for Chase Young happened only after the Commanders lowered their asking price. Originally demanding a second-round pick as well as a Day 3 selection, Young was ultimately traded to the San Francisco 49ers for a third-round pick. I’m told Washington was done with Young and wanted him gone. The franchise was sick and tired of Young improvising and freelancing on the field rather than staying within the defensive scheme, and it let him know about it.

Los Angeles Chargers: Is Bill Belichick a long shot to replace Brandon Staley?

This past January, I mentioned that the Chargers would not make a change at head coach due to finances. They are one of the most cash-strapped franchises in the league and weren’t interested in paying the buyout to Brandon Staley.

That won’t happen again if the Chargers don’t make the playoffs this season.

Time and time again, sources tell me the Chargers should be much better than their record and that the roster has a lot of talent. Many in the league believe that if the Chargers don’t make the playoffs, the front office and coaching staff will be cleaned out. Privately, I’ve also been told the front office has closely monitored how Staley relates to players, as they feel he’s a young and inexperienced coach.

Rumors have run rampant over the past few days that Bill Belichick will end up with the Chargers. Sources tell me that’s complete speculation at this point, and they question whether Chargers ownership would be willing to pick up the hefty price tag that comes with Belichick.

Also read: Inside Patriots’ crisis: Bill Belichick’s ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ approach causing friction with Robert Kraft’s heir apparent

Carolina Panthers: Will Frank Reich survive the season?

Two years ago, I was the first to report that David Culley would be fired after just one season as head coach of the Houston Texans, as shocking as I found the story to be. Could another first-year coach get the axe in the coming months? Possibly.

Panthers Bears Football
Panthers Bears Football

It’s been a horrible season for the Carolina Panthers -- worse than expected -- and everyone is under the microscope. There is speculation that head coach Frank Reich could be fired after just one season, but it has more to do with owner David Tepper versus Reich’s performance.

Tepper has not been bashful in voicing his desire to make bold moves and going after the hot name, player, or coach. He shocked people with the contract handed to Matt Rhule in January of 2020 when the former Baylor coach was coveted by a number of franchises. Hence, if there’s a big-name coach available, many believe Tepper could go get him. Jim Harbaugh’s name has been thrown around, though that is just speculation at this point.

At the very least, no one expects general manager Scott Fitterer to survive. The Panthers’ roster is full of holes, and the optics of Carolina possibly trading away the first pick of the 2024 NFL Draft and giving away the opportunity to select Caleb Williams for a lesser-rated quarterback will not go unpunished.

New York Giants: Is Brian Daboll on the hot seat?

Few expected the Giants’ season to turn out as it has, especially after a terrific performance last year when they surprisingly made the playoffs. The Giants have suffered from injuries and terrible play on the offensive line, which has also experienced injuries. Hence there is the expected talk of the head coach and general manager getting axed.

Giants Raiders Football
Giants Raiders Football

I’m told it won’t happen.

After firing Joe Judge in 2021, CEO and team President John Mara said he was looking for continuity in the front office and head-coaching positions. Firing general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll in year two goes against that strategy, especially considering the team made the playoffs in 2022, as previously mentioned.

What is expected is the release of assistant coaches and coordinators. Few expect defensive coordinator Wink Martindale or offensive coordinator Mike Kafka to be retained. People from Kafka’s team confide in me that they don’t expect the former college quarterback to survive.

New York Jets: Latest on Robert Saleh's future

The New York Jets’ season literally turned on a dime when quarterback Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon during the team’s first offensive series of the season. The team has played sporadically since, coming away with a few outstanding wins (Buffalo in Week 1, Philadelphia Eagles in Week 6) yet laying down an even greater number of duds on the field. The season has been a culmination of bad quarterback play, even worse play on the offensive line, and undisciplined, mistake-filled football.

Los Angeles Chargers v New York Jets
Los Angeles Chargers v New York Jets

Talk to people in the league, and they will tell you the Jets should clean house, but they probably won’t. In fact the number of people who believe the Jets should clean house is stark as not a single person of the more than the half dozen I spoke with believes Robert Saleh or Joe Douglas deserve to be retained.

They believe the franchise should clean house because three years in, Robert Saleh has proven little as a head coach. Questionable decisions, poor clock management, and untimely penalties week after week have killed the Jets this year. This is on the heels of losing seven of their final eight games last season and missing the playoffs.

Joe Douglas has not been much better. Many point to his transformational draft of 2022 as the highlight of his time with the Jets. And while that draft speaks for itself, there’s been little else Douglas can hang his hat on. His drafts from 2020, 2021, and 2023 have produced little, and many of his free-agent signings, especially on the offensive line, have been complete busts.

But the promise of Aaron Rodgers returning to the team in 2024 will leave the status quo for the Jets front office and coaching staff. At this stage of his career, Rodgers is unlikely to be open to starting over with a brand-new head coach. And truth be told, Saleh was part of the sales team that helped bring Rodgers to the Jets.

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Edited by Tony Pauline
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