Black Monday is here.
The 2023 NFL regular season has come to a conclusion and while 14 teams will continue their quest to win the Super Bowl, 18 others are left looking toward next year.
For certain clubs, changes are coming. Sure, each team undergoes personnel switches in the offseason, but we are not talking about the players — we are talking about head coaches.
Week 18 could very well have been the last game for a number of football bosses on the sidelines. The rumors have been swirling for weeks, and there are quite a few coaches who are believed to be on the hot seat, including one of the winningest coaches of all time.
The Sporting News is tracking this year’s Black Monday purge. Follow below as the drama unfolds.
MORE: The top rising NFL coaching candidates for 2024
NFL coaches fired in 2023-2024
Falcons fire Arthur Smith
Date: Jan. 8
Black Monday is officially upon us as the Falcons announced at 12:02 a.m. ET that they have dismissed Arthur Smith as the team’s head coach.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank made a swift decision to move on from their head coach after Smith had registered three consecutive 7-10 seasons in which Atlanta missed the playoffs.
Report: ‘Few will be surprised’ if Falcons fire Arthur Smith
Date: Jan. 7
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported on NBC that the future of coach Arthur Smith is still up in the air but “few will be surprised” if Atlanta makes a change after a third consecutive 7-10 finish.
Smith was in the headlines earlier Sunday when he lashed out at Saints coach Dennis Allen over a last-second touchdown out of a victory formation that extended New Orleans’ lead to 31. His job status, meanwhile, has been a topic of conversation since owner Arthur Blank admitted he had a decision to make at the end of the season.
After back-to-back blowout losses to close out the year, Smith could find himself on the wrong end of that decision.
Bill Belichick to meet with Robert Kraft on Monday
Date: Jan. 7
Belichick’s future with the Patriots has been up in the air for a majority of the season. It sounds like a decision to either keep or move on from the legendary head coach will come Monday, as NBC Sports Boston’s Albert Breer reported the two sides are set to meet after the conclusion of the regular season.
Breer added that “it certainly sounds like this is it” in terms of Belichick’s time in New England, meaning Sunday’s game against the Jets would be the coach’s last game at the helm of the Patriots.
This is what Belichick had to say on the matter after the Patriots loss to the Jets to end the regular season:
“It’s a disappointing year for all of us… As far as the future goes, I’ll sit down w Robert (Kraft) as I do at the end of every year and talk about things. That’s really all I have to say about that right now because that’s all there is to talk about.”
Ron Rivera ‘expected’ to be fired by Commanders
Date: Jan. 7
Entering Week 18, the only coach that seemed to be surely headed out the door was Rivera. That was essentially confirmed by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, who reported on Sunday morning that the Commanders are “expected” to part ways with the head coach after Sunday’s game against the Cowboys.
Prior to Black Monday, these coaches were already fired earlier in the season:
Josh McDaniels (replaced by Antonio Pierce): McDaniels was the first head coach fired this year, with the decision coming after the team’s Week 8 loss to the Lions. McDaniels continuously played Jimmy Garoppolo and Brian Hoyer over rookie Aida O’Connell, leading to the decision to fire him and GM Davie Ziegler.
Frank Reich, Panthers (replaced by Chris Tabor): Reich’s time in Carolina was extremely short, as the head coach was fired just 11 games into his tenure with the Panthers due to the impatience from team owner David Tepper.
Brandon Staley, Chargers (replaced by Giff Smith): Staley was on the hot seat for awhile, but after the Chargers were blown out 63-21 by the Raiders on “TNF” in Week 15, Los Angeles finally cut ties with the head coach.
NFL coaches on the hot seat
Bill Belichick, Patriots
The break-up between the Patriots and Bill Belichick has been discussed for practically the entire 2023 season. While the legendary coach helped lead New England to six Super Bowls during the Tom Brady dynasty, things have not clicked in the post-TB12 era.
The Patriots enter Week 18 tied for the second-worst record in the league at 4-12. It has been anything but smooth sailing since the Brady departure, and this year marks a low point in Belichick’s coaching career.
However, when it comes to his job security, it’s completely up in the air. There have been conflicting reports for months about Belichick potentially being shown the door by Robert Kraft.
The latest from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is that while it’s “highly unlikely” the Pats straight-up fire Belichick, there could be changes. Either the two sides may agree to mutually part ways and New England works out a trade elsewhere for Belichick, or the Pats bring in someone to take over his general manager duties, allowing him to focus more on coaching.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio shared some insight on the situation before “Sunday Night Football,” explaining that there is a sense Belichick is “too resistant to change” and citing the decision to make Matt Patricia his offensive play-caller in 2022 as the beginning of the end for the six-time champion. Florio added that a trade, however, is “highly unlikely.”
If New England does elect to go in a different direction, there will no doubt be plenty of suitors lining up for Belichick’s services, including the Chargers and potential teams in the NFC South.
Ron Rivera, Commanders
A Ron Rivera firing seems all but guaranteed. His tone in the lead-up to Week 18 was one of reflection, as he discussed his time with Washington and the team.
“Well, I’d like to think we’re in a better place, probably a fair way to say it,” Rivera said on Tuesday. “I most certainly do appreciate my time here, and we’ll see what happens. And again, we’ll focus in on what’s coming first on Sunday, and that’s getting ready for Dallas.”
It’s been a tumultuous four seasons with the Commanders under Rivera, but ultimately, the team drastically underperformed in 2023, entering Week 18 at 4-12. With a new owner at the helm looking to go in a different direction, the writing has been on the wall for Rivera.
“What we’ve done with the culture,” Rivera said when asked what he’s most proud of during his time with Washington. “I think that was one of the things that somebody asked me the same question, I said, the biggest thing more so than anything else I think is I kind of like where we are. Obviously, it’s not where we want to be, but that’s just the nature of this game sometimes.”
The new ownership group, led by Josh Harris, is expected to make major changes this summer, including creating a separation between head coach and general manager. Offensive coordinator Eric Biennemy seems like the logical replacement for Rivera.
Arthur Smith, Falcons
It’s never a good thing when the owner of the team comes out publicly and says that a coach’s future with the club will be evaluated at the end of the season. That’s the case in Atlanta with Arthur Smith.
NFL Network’s Mike Garofalo said earlier this week that he believes Smith “is on the shakiest of grounds.” This comes after rumors were swirling once Falcons owner Arthur Blank stated that the head coach’s status would be taken into consideration at the conclusion of the 2023 campaign.
Smith has been criticized for his usage of certain offensive personnel, including 2023 first-round pick Bijan Robinson, as well as his constant rotation at quarterback between Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke.
There is a chance Smith pulls out some magic to save his job. The Falcons still have a shot at winning the NFC South, and a playoff berth certainly would bode well for Smith’s job security. However, a Week 18 loss would undoubtedly put his employment in jeopardy.
Mike Vrabel, Titans
There hasn’t been a ton of buzz surrounding Mike Vrabel’s job in Tennessee, but he is a name to watch as the Titans’ season comes to a close.
Tennessee enters the final week of the regular season at 5-11, set to miss the playoffs for the second consecutive year, and third time in Vrabel’s six-year tenure with the organization. While Vrabel earned Coach of the Year in 2021, the team’s production has deteriorated over the last two years.
Vrabel’s run-heavy scheme worked well with Derrick Henry in his prime, but the 30-year-old running back isn’t getting any younger, and the Titans have floundered as a result. Ahead of Week 18, Vrabel was asked if he did want to come back for another year with the Titans, which he answered unsurprisingly, “Of course.”
“Be here as long as we can win, as long as we can do this thing, and it’s been great. But it also has been just this year,” Vrabel said. “And nobody wants to be where we’re at.”
While Vrabel may be committed to Tennessee, it’s easy to see why there is speculation he could leave. If a head coaching job opens up in New England, Vrabel, a former Patriot, would be a logical candidate for the vacancy.