It's never too early to start examining next year's crop of NFL coaching candidates, especially in 2022. With just under half of the regular season remaining, we've already seen two head coaches—Frank Reich and Matt Rhule—fired.
Reich's interim replacement for the Indianapolis Colts, Jeff Saturday, threw a curve ball into the coaching carousel, as he was hired as a former Colts player with zero college or NFL coaching experience.
"It's a disgrace to the coaching profession," Hall of Fame coach and CBS Sports analyst Bill Cowher said of the hire.
The decision of Indianapolis franchise owner Jeff Irsay to hire Saturday out of the television booth may not sit well with men and women who have dedicated their lives to coaching. However, Saturday, like Cowher, is a former NFL player who knows how to connect with the players on his roster.
That was evident in Week 10, when the Colts put together an inspired performance against the Las Vegas Raiders, notching a 25-20 victory and making Saturday 1-0 in his new role.
There's something to be said for a coach having playing experience, something Doug Pederson, Mike Vrabel and Dan Campbell also possess. If Saturday's tenure is successful—and perhaps beyond this season—it could spark a trend of teams seeking out former NFL veterans specifically.
With this in mind, let's examine seven former players who could be legitimate coaching candidates in 2023. The majority of them, unlike Saturday, do have coaching experience, but we'll dive into the qualifications for each here.
Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has been a popular candidate over the past couple of hiring cycles, but he hasn't landed a head-coaching opportunity yet.
Bieniemy's draw is fairly obvious. Over the past five seasons, he has helped oversee Chiefs offenses that have ranked first, fifth, sixth, second and first in scoring. Granted, he's worked under an offensive coach in Andy Reid and with star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but it's an impressive resume nonetheless.
This could be the year in which Biemiemy finally gets his opportunity. If Saturday succeeds as a former player, that could play a role.
Biemiemy began his NFL career as a running back and a second-round draft pick of the Los Angeles (then San Diego) Chargers in 1991. He also spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles, playing for nine seasons in total. He knows the daily grind of being a player in the National Football League just as well as Saturday does.
According to Reid, Bieniemy is a beloved figure on the Kansas City sideline.
"You see the love that the players have for him. He's got all these guys standing up for him and saying positive things" Reid said, per ProFootballTalk's Michael Davis Smith. “He's a heck of a football coach and I’m disappointed that he hasn't had a chance and optimistic that he's going to have one in the future."
At the very least, we should see Bieniemy get another round of interviews during the 2023 cycle.
Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey is in his first year on the job, following Brian Daboll's departure to be the New York Giants' head coach. Dorsey spent eight seasons in the NFL, primarily as a backup quarterback.
As a coach, the 41-year-old has been employed since 2013. He served as a quarterbacks coach with the Carolina Panthers and Bills before becoming Buffalo's passing game coordinator last season.
Now, the transition from Daboll to Dorsey hasn't been flawless. The Bills have lost two straight, while quarterback Josh Allen has tossed 10 interceptions. However, Buffalo still ranks first in offensive yards and second in points scored this season.
Just as importantly, Dorsey had a hand in developing Allen into one of the league's most dangerous dual-threat signal-callers. He became the QB coach a year after Allen was drafted and a year before the quarterback notched his first Pro Bowl in 2020.
The former quarterback's passion for the game isn't lost on his players either.
"He gets fiery, man," Allen said of Dorsey, per Heather Prusak of News 4 Buffalo.
That fact won't be lost on franchise owners looking to develop their own young franchise quarterbacks. Daboll's work with Allen was a big draw for the Giants, and Dorsey's work with the Wyoming product will likely earn him a look or two after the season.