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NFL head coaches on the hot seat: Ron Rivera joins growing list

Heading into Week 18, the list of NFL head coaches who have been fired is now at three after Nathaniel Hackett got his walking papers from the Denver Broncos following an humiliating Christmas Day loss to the Los Angeles Rams. He joins the likes of Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts) and Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers) in being fired this season.

There’s other coaches who find themselves firmly on the hot seat now that we’re heading down the stretch of the regular season. Below, we look at several NFL head coaches who are on the hot seat and where they stand right now.

Related: Sportsnaut’s updated NFL power rankings

NFL head coaches with hot seats blazing

Ron Rivera, Washington Commanders

nfl head coaches hot seat: ron rivera
Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Unacceptable. Following Sunday’s loss to the Cleveland Browns, Rivera expressed surprise that his Commanders could be eliminated from playoff contention before Week 18. How in the world does a head coach not know this?

As for the Commanders’ playoff hopes, they are now dead following the aforementioned loss. Washington finds itself at 7-8-1 on the season. It has not won a game since all the way back on Nov. 27. For a team that was 7-5 and controlling its own destiny, this can’t be seen as a good thing.

As for Rivera’s complete body of work on D.C., Washington is 21-27-1 since he was hired ahead of the 2020 season. With a talented young defense and some good skill-position players, this is not what we’d call a success. It wouldn’t be a surprise if embattled owner Daniel Snyder does in another direction in his final move in that role.

Kliff Kingsbury, Arizona Cardinals

nfl head coaches on hot seat: kliff kingsbury
Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

An argument can be made that Kliff Kingsbury is one of the worst NFL head coaches today. Here’s a guy who has posted a 28-36-1 record since joining the Cardinals. Arizona has also lost 16 of its past 21 games dating back a calendar year. He’s currently mired in a rift with quarterback Kyler Murray, who the Cards inked to a long-term deal this past offseason and is sidelined with a torn ACL.

Sure Kingsbury signed an extension himself. But it’s becoming readily apparent that he’s in over his head in the NFL. That has the embattled head coach firmly on the hot seat and it could lead to him getting those walking papers come “Black Monday.” That’s magnified now that Arizona is in the process of replacing general manager Steve Keim.

Lovie Smith, Houston Texans

nfl head coaches on the hot seat; lovie smith
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

David Culley went one-and-done with the Texans a season ago. Is it possible that Smith could now follow suit? We wouldn’t put it past joke of a franchise. After all, the decision to hire Smith in the first place last winter didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.

Houston heads into Week 18 with a league-worst 2-13-1 record. It ranks 31st in the league in scoring and is being outscored by more than a touchdown per game. Quarterback Davis Mills has proven he’s not the long-term solution. Flush with two first-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, it might actually make sense for the Texans to move off Smith for a younger, offensive-minded head coach. Sunday’s brutal 31-3 loss to the division-rival Jacksonville Jaguars adds another layer to this.

Related: Sportsnaut’s updated NFL Playoff and Super Bowl predictions

Josh McDaniels, Las Vegas Raiders

nfl head coaches hot seat: josh mcdaniels
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

McDaniels’ seat seemed to cool off a bit after a three-game winning streak for the Raiders heading into a Week 14 matchup with the injury-plagued Los Angeles Rams. A win in Southern California would have kept Vegas in playoff contention.

Instead, the Raiders blew a late-game lead to Baker Mayfield mere days after he landed on the roster via waivers from the Carolina Panthers. Vegas was up 16-3 with 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, only to allow two touchdown drives to conclude the game. This represents the fourth time McDaniels and Co. have blown a two-score lead on the season.

After a shocking win over the New England Patriots in Week 15, Vegas blew an opportunity to remain alive in the AFC Playoff race via an ugly loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Christmas Eve. It’s a game that saw Derek Carr throw three second-half interceptions as the Raiders literally gave away any hope of earning a postseason spot.

The only thing potentially saving McDaniels is the fact that he’s in the first year of his contract and owner Mark Davis might not want to eat the final four years of said deal. Now officially eliminated from playoff contention and with Carr’s tenure in Vegas over, there’s a chance Davis changes his mind.

NFL head coaches on the hot seat: Temperature turning up

Dennis Allen, New Orleans Saints

nfl head coaches hot seat: dennis allen
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans’ late-game meltdown against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 13 could act as a precursor to Allen going one-and-done. The Saints were up 16-3 with three minutes left, and ended up losing by the score of 17-16.

This is the latest reason to believe that Allen just doesn’t have what it takes. New Orleans is now 7-9 on the season and eliminated from playoff contention. Dating back to his days as the then-Oakland Raiders head coach, Allen boasts a career 14-38 record. With the Saints likely set to tear it down this coming offseason, Allen is on the hot seat. An upset Week 17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles doesn’t change the dynamics too much here.

Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns

nfl head coaches hot seat: kevin stefanski
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Despite Cleveland’s win over the Washington Commanders on Sunday, there’s no guarantee that Stefanski will rerturn for a fourth season as its head coach. The team is 7-9 on the season and officially eliminated from playoff contention.

It’s been completely downhill for Stefanski since he led the Browns to a surprise 11-5 record and playoff spot back in 2020. Since then, the Browns have gone 14-18 to return to irrelevance. This has Stefanski squarely on the hot seat.

Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys

nfl head coaches hot seat: mike mccarthy
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

McCarthy has Dallas at 12-4 on the season and 24-9 since the start of the 2021 campaign. How in the world can he be among the NFL head coaches on the hot seat? Well, it’s rather obvious. For owner Jerry Jones, it’s going to be all about playoff success following Dallas’ meltdown against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs last season.

Dallas has won all of three playoff games since the end of the 1996 season. It has not been to the conference championship since 1995. The pressure is squarely on McCarthy to change this narrative. And with one big-name head coach candidate on his radar, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Jones moved on from McCarthy if the Cowboys experience another premature playoff exit.

NFL head coaches fired during 2022 season

Nathaniel Hackett, Denver Broncos

nfl head coaches hot seat, fired: nathaniel hackett
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Denver’s decision to fire Hackett after just 15 games can’t be considered too much of a surprise. The Broncos dropped their 11th game of the season Christmas night, losing to the injury-plagued Los Angeles Rams by the score of 51-14.

As humiliating as the final score might have been, what we saw from Broncos players tells us another story. Backup quarterback Brett Rypien was seen going after the team’s offensive line after it struggled protecting Russell Wilson. Meanwhile, Randy Gregory was suspended a game for fighting after the clock struck zero in the fourth quarter.

From an on-field perspective, Denver ranks dead last in the NFl in scoring at 15.5 points per game. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Russell Wilson is putting up, by far, the worst performance of his career. From an in-game coaching perspective, we saw Hackett make mistake after mistake.

Denver’s new ownership group will now likely take a leading role in finding a new head coach to replace Hackett. Simply put, the status quo was not sustainable.

Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts

nfl head coaches on the hot seat: frank reich
Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Indianapolis’ latest loss to the New England Patriots by the score of 26-3 was simply humiliating. With Sam Ehlinger under center, the Colts put up 121 total yards of offense. This seemed to be the final straw for owner Jim Irsay.

Indianapolis had done everything to stay loyal to Reich. It simply had no other choice than to fire him following a disastrous 3-5-1 start to the season in which the Colts rank dead least in the NFL in scoring at under 15 points per game.

While Reich ends his Colts tenure with a winning 40-33-1 record, they’re a mere 12-13-1 since the start of the 2021 campaign. That’s the definition of average, something Irsay is not OK with. Whether Jeff Saturday (of all people) changes the dynamics as the interim coach remains to be seen.

Matt Rhule, Carolina Panthers

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Rhule was viewed as a lame-duck before the summer even began and he was among the favorites to be one of the first NFL coaches fired in 2022. Entering Week 5 with his job at stake, the Carolina Panthers lost 37-15 on Sunday and owner David Tepper fired him less than 24 hours later.

It’s not a surprise. Rhule went 1-27 when opponents scored at least 17 points, including 25 consecutive losses. One of the highest-paid coaches in the NFL never established his footing, going through multiple offensive coordinators and even more starting quarterbacks. While his time in the NFL is over, Rhule immediately becomes the most coveted coach in college football and should be among the leading coaching candidates for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Wisconsin Badgers.

Bookmark this page for continued updates on NFL head coaches on the hot seat throughout the remainder of the season.