NFL Coaches on the Hot Seat: How Will the Bill Belichick-New England Patriots Marriage End?

Which NFL coaches are on the hot seat after Week 6? Bill Belichick is an icon, but his leash with the New England Patriots is getting shorter by the week.

Two contradictory statements can be true at the same time.

Bill Belichick is arguably the greatest coach in NFL history. And Belichick’s New England Patriots are also 1-5 and nowhere near the AFC playoff race.

Rumors about Belichick’s long-term status in New England have swirled since the offseason, but this year’s dismal start has brought that speculation into focus. Heading into Week 7, Belichick is squarely among the NFL coaches on the hot seat.

From the current NFL standings to team depth charts to coverage of every game in the 18-week NFL schedule, we have all the news from around the league to keep you up to speed!

Patriots HC Bill Belichick Among NFL Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 6

No one expects the Patriots to fire Belichick during the season. NFL teams don’t do that to franchise icons, let alone head coaches who have created dynasties and earned six Super Bowl titles.

Still, it feels like a divorce is coming at the end of the year, doesn’t it?

Patriots owner Robert Kraft wasn’t happy that his club missed the playoffs in two of their first three seasons without Tom Brady. How do we think he feels about a 1-5 start and a seemingly directionless roster?

Sunday’s loss to the Las Vegas Raiders wasn’t a disaster on the level of Weeks 4 and 5 when the Patriots lost to the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints by a combined score of 72-3.

Those were the worst defeats of Belichick’s career, but New England’s 21-17 loss to the Raiders was littered with penalties and offensive ineptitude.

Belichick’s most immediate concern is under center, where Mac Jones hasn’t been playable over the last several weeks. Among 33 qualifying quarterbacks, Jones ranks just 30th in adjusted net yards per attempt, 30th in QBR, and 31st in EPA per dropback.

Even if Will Grier, Malik Cunningham, or Bailey Zappe don’t profile as obvious upgrades, the Patriots might consider making a change just for the sake of it.

Belichick hired Bill O’Brien to replace Matt Patricia as New England’s offensive play-caller this offseason, but that was another continuation of the Belichick Friends and Family Plan. It seems as though the 71-year-old coach has lost interest in adding new ideas and concepts to his existing plan.

In that same vein, Belichick’s in-house successor is believed to be inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, who turned down head-coaching interviews in favor of staying in the New England fold.

This spring, Kraft suggested he viewed Mayo — whose entire tenure as an NFL player and coach has come under Belichick — as a “potential heir,” but how would that alignment change if Belichick is fired?

Long-term, Kraft has to decide if he’s willing to let Belichick cook during the 2024 offseason. The Patriots project to have nearly $100 million in cap space next year, second most in the NFL, per Over the Cap.

MORE: Could Belichick Be the First Head Coach Fired in 2023?

The last time Belichick dove into the free agent market (2021), he overspent on Nelson Agholor and Jonnu Smith but found contributors in Matthew Judon and Hunter Henry.

Will New England feel comfortable letting Belichick call the shots in what could be a transformative offseason? Or would 2024 be the perfect time to make wholesale changes?

More NFL Hot Seat Updates

Frank Reich, Carolina Panthers (0-6)

Frank Reich directed the spotlight on his relationship with Panthers owner David Tepper last week after suggesting his meetings with the hands-on Tepper are not “fun.” We’re guessing those meetings will be excruciating after Carolina fell to 0-6 on Sunday, remaining the NFL’s only winless team.

Maybe Tepper is already forcing changes — on Monday, Reich informed the Panthers’ players that he will turn over offensive play-calling duties to OC Thomas Brown, per NFL Network.

Sean Payton, Denver Broncos (1-5)

The Denver Broncos are not about to fire Sean Payton after giving him a five-year contract reportedly worth $18 million per season.

MORE: Jerry Jeudy Might Be the Best WR on the Trade Market

But the Broncos are 1-5 and could begin selling off parts after losing to the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night. Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Garett Bolles, Josey Jewell, and Justin Simmons are just a few of the Denver veterans who could attract interest on the trade market.

Matt Eberflus, Chicago Bears (1-5)

The Bears have never fired a head coach in-season, so Matt Eberflus might be safe this year, no matter how poorly Chicago performs. But that won’t save him after the campaign concludes, especially if Justin Fields — who might miss time with a dislocated thumb — doesn’t keep improving.

Arthur Smith, Atlanta Falcons (3-3)

This isn’t so much about Arthur Smith, who seems to be a creative offensive play designer and well-respected in the Falcons’ locker room.

This is more about Desmond Ridder, who tossed three interceptions in a loss to the Washington Commanders after playing the best game of his career in Week 5.

Taylor Heinicke, the NFL’s second-highest-paid backup quarterback, is waiting in the wings. It might be time for Smith to pull the trigger.

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