In only a week from now, we will inaugurate a brand new NFL season. The New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns will clash in this year’s Hall of Fame game to kick off the preseason. Like New York and Cleveland, the head coaches of the 30 other franchises will use these next few weeks to finalize their 53-man rosters.
Each coach has his own approach to the game, but not all approaches are created equal. Names likes Kansas City’s Andy Reid, Seattle’s Pete Carroll, and Buffalo’s Sean McDermott set the standard for coaching. But there are also head coaches waiting to strike gold in 2023.
Here are four names that could take home this next season’s “NFL Coach of the Year” Award.
2023 NFL Coach of the Year Candidates
Doug Pederson: Jacksonville Jaguars
In 2021, everything that could go wrong for Jacksonville went wrong. The decision to hire Urban Meyer as head coach yielded a 2-11 outing that resulted in Jacksonville parting ways with Meyer. Something had to change, and that’s when Jacksonville turned to one Doug Pederson.
Pederson was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles for five seasons, one of which ended in winning Super Bowl LII. In his first season with the Jaguars, Pederson took the team from a laughing stock to divisional champs. Plus, he mounted a historic comeback against the Los Angeles Chargers in last year’s Wild Card Round.
If Pederson wants to replicate his Super Bowl-winning prowess in Jacksonville, much work has to be done. He and quarterback Trevor Lawrence need to continue building chemistry and create consistent victories down the stretch. In one of the worst divisions in the NFL, the AFC South, there are no excuses for Pederson and company to not at least return to the postseason.
Dan Campbell: Detroit Lions
Dan Campbell did not have the best start manning the helm in Detroit, ending his first season as head coach 3-13. But in 2022, he flipped the script midseason, and the Lions ended their season 9-8 after starting 1-6.
Yes, the Lions fell short of reaching the playoffs…again. But Detroit has plenty to thank Campbell for. He brought the team to its first winning season since 2017 and coached quarterback Jared Goff to his first Pro Bowl appearance since 2018. In addition, the Lions eliminated division rival Green Bay from the postseason in the final game of the regular season.
Campbell and the rest of Detroit need to come into the 2023 season with the same nothing-to-lose mentality they embraced last season. In the NFC North, Chicago and Green Bay are in the midst of rebuilding, and the Minnesota Vikings stand as the biggest threat to Detroit. If Detroit wants a spot in the playoffs, they have to start fighting for it now.
Mike McDaniel: Miami Dolphins
The former offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers came into Miami last year with a lot on his plate. It was difficult to replace Brian Flores, who took the Dolphins to back-to-back winning seasons. But McDaniel knew how to work with what he had. Plus, Chiefs star wide-receiver, Tyreek Hill, was becoming a Dolphin just in the nick of time.
Under McDaniel, the Dolphins orchestrated a potent offense led by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, running-back Raheem Mostert, and wide receivers Hill and Jaylen Waddle. But keeping Tagovailoa healthy was a big issue, with the signal-caller sustaining two concussions during the regular season. Plus, the Dolphins defense had a difficult time finding consistent success.
Fortunately, Miami ended their 2022 season 9-8 and appeared in the postseason for the first time since 2016. Not to mention they almost beat their division rival, the Buffalo Bills, in the Wild Card Round. If McDaniel carefully analyzes his team’s flaws between now and the upcoming regular season, he could transform the Dolphins into a playoff regular for years to come.
Kyle Shanahan: San Francisco 49ers
As one of the brightest head coaches in the NFL, Kyle Shanahan once again took the 49ers to the NFC Championship game last season. But this playoff run was different from 2021. Injuries put quarterbacks, Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance, out of commission during the regular season, forcing Shanahan to summon his third string and 2022’s “Mr. Irrelevant”, Brock Purdy.
But Purdy proceeded to thrive under Shanahan’s wing. The two would lead San Francisco to win their final five regular season games, clinching the #2 seed in the NFC. Having weapons like tight end George Kittle, running back Christian McCaffery, and wide receiver Deebo Samuel sure helped keep the offense firing on all pistons.
Coming into 2023, Kyle Shanahan will be without his trusted defensive coordinator, DeMeco Ryans, who is now the head coach of the Houston Texans. Shanahan will need to find more ways to keep his offense and defense performing at a high level in order to build upon the 49ers recent success and return to Super Bowl contention.
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