By Owen Kutlu, Staff Writer
As always, the end of the NFL regular season means one thing: teams are looking towards the future and making coaching changes to reflect that. A total of eight teams are moving in a new direction, trying to find the next man to lead them into battle on Sundays.
It wouldn’t be an article about the 2024 NFL head coaching cycle without mentioning one of the greatest to ever do it, Bill Belichick. Belichick and the New England Patriots mutually parted ways in a decision that seemed to be a long time coming after a miserable season for the franchise.
Considering his hall-of-fame career experience, it is relatively shocking that no team jumped at the opportunity to hire Belichick as their new coach. The landscape of the league appears to be shifting more towards a younger generation of coaches and general managers as the years progress. If Belichick does not return to coaching, he will go down as arguably the best head coach in NFL history, winning six Super Bowls in tandem with Tom Brady.
The Patriots looked internally to find Belichick’s successor and landed on linebacker coach Jerod Mayo. Mayo had been pinned as the person to follow Belichick, as he had developed in the depths of the Patriots staff for years as an apprentice-like figure to Belichick.
Other teams that moved on from their head coaches during or after the season include the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers, Tennessee Titans, Washington Commanders, and Seattle Seahawks.
The Falcons fired Arthur Smith after a less-than-average season in a wide-open division. After casting a wide net of candidates, they settled on former Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. Morris brings past head coaching experience, as he coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2009 to 2011. As a well-respected defensive mind throughout the league, Morris should provide a strong presence to steer the Falcons down the right path.
Frank Reich was out as the Panthers’ head coach after just 11 games with the franchise; a failed experiment of sorts. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor stepped in as interim head coach for the remaining schedule but did not stick on staff once the season wrapped up. The Panthers turned to former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dave Canales. Though an unfamiliar name to many, Canales had an impressive season working with Baker Mayfield and leading the Bucs to a division title.
The Raiders had a similar situation to the Panthers, but theirs resulted in a different outcome. Head coach Josh McDaniels was let go mid-season after only one year in the organization. Linebackers coach Antonio Pierce filled the role of interim head coach and absolutely shined. The locker room got behind Pierce and the team looked much improved. After impressing the Raiders’ brass, Pierce was hired as the permanent head coach for the foreseeable future.
One of the biggest disappointments of the year came with the Chargers. With a talented roster and star quarterback Justin Herbert, this was supposed to be the Chargers’ year to finally break through. However, the opposite happened and a majority of blame was placed on head coach Brandon Staley. After a few outbursts with the media, it was clear Staley’s time in Los Angeles was coming to an end, which it did before he could last the whole season. The interim coach for the remainder of the season was Giff Smith, who was not retained at the season’s end.
The wildest splash in this year’s head coaching carousel was in the form of the Chargers roping in University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. Speculation had been building for years about a return to the NFL for Harbaugh, and he finally jumped at the chance to work with Herbert and the Chargers after marching to a national championship with the Wolverines.
A shocker came to Seattle when it was announced that Pete Carroll would not be returning to his position as head coach. Carroll had an extremely impressive tenure in Seattle, coaching a consistent winner and helping build the famous Legion of Boom secondary. While he will not be head coach anymore, Carroll will still be in the Seahawks organization in the role of an advisor and executive vice president. The Seahawks also hired an under-the-radar candidate in former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, who had a solid year heading one of the league’s best defenses.
Another surprise came out of Tennessee when the Titans fired well-respected head coach Mike Vrabel. Vrabel had been with the Titans for over five years and was considered to have done a very good job making the team competitive within their division and the league as a whole. While this spot was not expected to be open, both sides seemed like they wanted a fresh start. That fresh start ended up being former Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. Callahan is known for overhauling the Bengals’ offense and turning it into a top unit with stars such as Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase.
The Commanders are the final team that threw their head coach to the wolves, firing Ron Rivera after a brutal season. Rivera is a veteran of the league and many have a fond view of him; however, something was obviously not clicking in Washington. The Commanders found their replacement in former Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Quinn had a subpar year in Dallas, but he brings respectable experience as a head coach to a team about to go through a rebuild. While many may be confused about the hire at first, Quinn is more than capable of changing the Commanders’ culture.
In a league where change is constant, these eight teams are trying to get ahead of the curve in terms of coaching. Only time will tell if these hires pan out the way each organization hopes they do.