We’ve reached the end of the regular season, and for all but 14 NFL teams, that means looking ahead to the 2024 season. Often, the day after the season is dubbed Black Monday as Head Coaches get their walking papers. This year was no exception. In addition to mid-season firings, we have eight openings in the NFL. Below, I look at each opening, the big questions for fantasy, and what we might expect. Openings appear in alphabetical order.
2023 Finish: 7-10, Third in the NFC South
About: This felt like a long time coming. Arthur Smith has struggled in Atlanta, going 7-10 and racking up Top 10 picks throughout his tenure. He also seemed to be the enemy of fantasy players due to his use—or lack of use—of players like Bijan Robinson, Drake London, and Kyle Pitts. Now, the Falcons will be moving on.
Fantasy Implications: The Falcons have a number of good, young offensive-skill players. That includes Robinson, London, and Pitts. Many in the fantasy community were excited to see the Falcons make a change, hoping it opens the door to better production from those three and players like Tyler Allgeier. But the biggest issue in Atlanta remains the lack of stability at the quarterback position. Desmond Ridder—a Third Round Pick in 2022—doesn’t appear to be the answer. Whoever gets the job in Atlanta will need to figure out an answer at quarterback to maximize the talents of the Falcons’ skill-position guys in a winnable division.
The Search: The Falcons had a defensive guy in Dan Quinn for a long time before transitioning to Smith. Smith’s ultimate undoing was not figuring out the quarterback position, though it’s fair to wonder if the Falcons should have done more than drafting Ridder and signing veteran journeyman Taylor Heinicke. My gut says they will look at an offensive-minded coach who can develop a quarterback to win with the weapons in place.
2023 Finish: 2-15, Fourth in the NFC South
About: This is a rough situation. The Panthers fired Matt Rhule mid-season in 2022. They brought in Frank Reich this off-season, but it became clear he didn’t gel with management. David Tepper is an owner who seemingly has little patience and has churned through coaches, which doesn’t help things. The Panthers also lack a First-Round pick, making it tougher to rebuild quickly.
Fantasy Implications: Bryce Young was the first overall pick, but he suffered through a rough rookie season. When Reich was fired, it because clear Young wasn’t his preferred pick. A new coach will need to invest in Young and build an offense around him if the Panthers hope to compete. The team seemed to find something with third-year back Chuba Hubbard, and rookie receiver Jonathan Mingo showed flashes. Aside from that, the cupboard is somewhat bare. Veteran Adam Thielen had a strong start to 2023, but that’s a short-term option at best. Fantasy players have to hope a new coach might be able to get more out of Miles Sanders, too.
The Search: This is going to be a hard opening to fill. The Panthers’ roster isn’t great, and there aren’t many resources to improve. The Front Office/Owner situation won’t be that appealing, either. My guess would be the team looks for an offensive-minded coach to help develop Young because they need that pick to work out.
Las Vegas Raiders
2023 Finish: 8-9, Second in the AFC West
About: For the second time in three seasons, the Raiders parted ways with a Head Coach mid-season. This time, it was Josh McDaniels, who, at 3-5, had lost the locker room. Antonio Pierce stepped in as the Interim Coach and went 5-4. At times, the Raiders looked decent down the stretch, leading to questions about whether he might get the permanent job.
Fantasy Implications: The back half of the season was an audition for rookie Aidan O’Connell, too. He finished 5-5 as a starter with 2,218 yards, 12 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Some of his fate—and whether he gets a shot at the full-time job—might well be tied to the coaching opening. In addition, star running back Josh Jacobs is likely to depart. The team got a good audition for second-year man Zamir White, but it’s unclear if he’ll get the full-time job. The Raiders also have passing game weapons in veteran receivers Davante Adams and Jakobi Myers, along with rookie right end Michael Mayer. Mayer will be back, but it’s unclear what role Adams, Myers, and veteran Hunter Renfrow might have. The coaching decision and the new General Manager will likely have something to say about that.
The Search: Two years ago, the Raiders had a popular Interim Coach who finished well. They moved past him and hired McDaniels. Will history repeat itself? Pierce seemed to do a good job and was popular with players. The Raiders have talent, and continuity could help. The team will doubtless consider some big names, but I think Pierce has a decent shot at the job. Pierce is also a candidate for the opening in Tennessee and the Defensive Coordinator opening with the Giants. Either way, the biggest looming roster questions will be the possible departure of Jacobs and Adams in addition to what the team does at quarterback.
Los Angeles Chargers
2023 Finish: 5-12, Fourth in the AFC West
About: After being on the hot seat for a few years, it was a historic loss against the Raiders that seemed to be the final straw for Brandon Staley with the Chargers. The team didn’t win in the three games after his firing, but they were down a number of players, including star quarterback Justin Herbert. The opening leaves the future of Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore in flux, too.
Fantasy Implications: In addition to the question of Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator, the Chargers are heading into an uncertain space with their skill-position players. Austin Ekeler is a free agent and isn’t expected back. The team is also mulling moving on from Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, along with veteran tight end Gerald Everett. That, combined with the poor production from recent draft picks like Isaiah Spiller and receiver Quentin Johnston, and the Chargers aren’t quite as loaded as they once appeared. But they do have a franchise quarterback in Herbert, which gives them a great building block.
The Search: This is the team that has most been associated with Jim Harbaugh. He’s been good at developing quarterbacks and could help Herbert reach his peak. You’d think if the team hires a big-name Head Coach, that will likely mean the end for Moore with the Chargers. His first season was under-whelming, so perhaps it isn’t a good fit. Either way, the Chargers have some good pieces; they just need someone to fill the holes and help them be competitive again. That especially means getting more out of the stars on defense.
New England Patriots
2023 Finish: 4-13, Fourth in the AFC East
About: This was both a surprise and has been expected for a few weeks. It’s a surprise because it’s hard to believe Bill Belichick, who has been in New England for 24 years and won six Super Bowls, won’t be the Patriots’ coach next season. But the team has struggled for the past few seasons, bottoming out with a horrendous season in 2023. The team is in need of a reboot, and a new coach will likely help with that.
Fantasy Implications: The Patriots really only have one great fantasy asset—running back Rhamondre Stevenson. And even his value took a dip in 2023. The team needs to find an answer at quarterback, but having the third overall pick should help. The Patriots also need help at receiver and tight end, which has been a constant issue the past few seasons. There are some interesting role players, like Demario Douglas, but New England’s offense is really a blank slate.
The Search: This is still raw, with the news just breaking on Thursday. But some rumored candidates include Mike Vrabel and Jerrod Mayo. This should be a job that attracts some good talent. But it’s also a spot where the coach steps into big shoes. It’s easier, given that the Patriots need to rebuild and haven’t been in the playoffs the past few seasons, but Belichick casts a big shadow on whoever takes the position.
2023 Finish: 9-8, Third in the NFC West
About: This one came as something of a surprise as Pete Carroll was removed as Head Coach on Wednesday. Carroll is remaining with the organization as an Advisor, which adds an interesting wrinkle to the move. The Seahawks have been competitive with Carroll but haven’t won a Super Bowl since 2013. They are also locked into what appears to be a very competitive division in the NFC.
Fantasy Implications: The Seahawks have a lot of pieces for an up-tempo offense. D.K. Metcalf and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, along with veteran Tyler Lockett give them three good receivers. They also have two good backs in Ken Walker and Zack Charbonnet. The question is, what happens at quarterback? Geno Smith is still under contract as of now. He had a great 2022 season and an OK 2023 season. He fits the style Carroll wanted to run, but will a new staff want to open things up and better utilize this group of weapons? If so, that might mean needing an upgrade at the quarterback position.
The Search: Early buzz suggests the Seahawks might be looking at Dan Quinn. If so, that could mean improvements on defense with an offense that remains relatively similar to what’s been run. Or it could mean pairing Quinn with a more aggressive Offensive Coordinator. If the Seahawks’ search goes toward a more offensive-minded selection, I would expect the team to look at the quarterback position.
2023 Finish: 6-11, Fourth in the AFC South
About: Another mild surprise: the Titans moved on from Mike Vrabel on Tuesday. He was Coach of the Year in 2021 but won just 13 games total in the past two seasons. That leaves the Titans on the verge of a rebuild after slipping to the bottom of the division this season. Vrabel, meanwhile, figures to be a hot candidate for teams with openings.
Fantasy Implications: The cupboard isn’t well stocked in Tennessee. The team appears headed to Will Levis as its new franchise quarterback. Meanwhile, veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill, running back Derrick Henry, and receiver DeAndre Hopkins could all be gone next season. That leaves some young players like Tyjae Spears and Chig Okonkwo, who have flashed at times, and others like Treylon Burks, who have yet to provide a good return on draft investment. Either way, a new coach will need to re-load this Titans’ offense.
The Search: The early buzz has the Titans focusing on defensive-minded coaches like Pierce. That could mean the plan is to pair a defensive coach with a veteran Offensive Coordinator. It’s early yet, so things could change. Either way, the Titans need to find someone to develop Levis, need to add weapons, and need to make big swings to compete in the suddenly loaded AFC South.
2023 Finish: 4-13, Fourth in the NFC East
About: This is hardly a surprise. When Josh Harris bought the Commanders just prior to the 2023 season, it seemed likely big changes would come this off-season. That, combined with a woeful performance from the Commanders, made it easy to predict the team would move on from Ron Rivera.
Fantasy Implications: The Commanders have some good pieces, like receivers Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson, and some possible contributors, like running back Brian Robinson, Jr. But the big question is quarterback. Sam Howell, a Fifth fifth-round pick, likely stays on the roster, but it seemed clear he isn’t the answer. With the second overall pick, it’s likely the team will grab its franchise quarterback. That makes Washington an intriguing fantasy spot for 2024.
The Search: It’s unclear where the Commanders will go. The team has reportedly been interested in Belichick or perhaps Vrabel. It’s a team with major holes to fill but some assets and some draft potential. The NFC East isn’t an easy division, so whoever gets the job will have work to do building around a young quarterback and trying to get a woeful defense back in shape.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.