The NFL head coach is one of the most important positions to fill in all professional sports. Aside from the quarterback, an NFL head coach can have the biggest impact on a team’s success.
Last season, Brian Daboll of the New York Giants, Mike McDaniel of the Miami Dolphins, and Kevin O’Connell of the Minnesota Vikings were all first-time head coaches who brought their respective teams to the playoffs. On the other hand, first-time head coach Nathaniel Hackett did not even finish the season with the Denver Broncos after being fired on December 26, 2022.
Heading into the 2023 offseason, five teams had head coaching vacancies: Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, and Indianapolis Colts. So far, three of the five teams have hired a new head coach. Below are the head coaching hires, ranked from three to one.
3. Frank Reich – Carolina Panthers
It’s easy to forget Frank Reich’s success in Indianapolis because of how badly it ended. However, Reich knows how to win games in the NFL. Over four and a half seasons, Reich’s record in Indianapolis was 40-33. Reich brought the Colts to the playoffs in two of those seasons, ending his tenure with a 1-2 postseason record. It’s hard to succeed in the NFL without a stable quarterback, so keep in mind that Reich had a new Week 1 starting quarterback in each of his five seasons. Plus, Reich brings Super Bowl experience to Carolina, having served as the Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator when they won Super Bowl LII.
2. DeMeco Ryans – Houston Texans
DeMeco Ryans was one of the most sought-after assistants during this coaching cycle. As the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, Ryans led a unit that finished first in total yards allowed (300.6) and points allowed (16.3). Ryans enters a promising situation as the Texans own 11 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, including the second overall pick. If the Texans find their quarterback of the future in this year’s draft, Ryans could have this team competing for the playoffs within a few years.
1. Sean Payton – Denver Broncos
Denver landed the top coaching name on the market in Sean Payton. The resume speaks for itself. In 15 seasons as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints, Payton went 152-89, highlighted by a Super Bowl win over the Colts during the 2009 season. Offense is Payton’s specialty, as he helped Drew Brees go from a talented quarterback to a Hall of Famer player. Last year was a disaster for Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, who had one of his worst years as a pro. The Broncos traded away five draft picks and three players for Wilson and then signed the quarterback to a five-year, $242,588,236 contract. Denver needs Wilson to return to an elite level, and if there’s any coach who has a chance to do that, it’s Payton.