Wednesday, August 8, 2012

2012 NFL Preview: Coaches on the Hot Seat

The seat is on fire...get it? 

Last week, I wrote about “make-or-break” time in regards to the many training camp positional battles. That “make-or-break” urgency isn’t isolated to just the players, though. The NFL is more and more becoming a revolving door of head coaches. “Win now” is in, patience is out, and with it a large number of coaches that fail to immediately produce results.

Today’s Topic: Coaches on the Hot Seat

In 2011, five different NFL teams made coaching changes prior to the regular season, and one additional team made a mid-season coaching change. This year, six teams will start the season with new head coaches. That’s over a third of the league’s head coaching jobs that have turned over in the past two years. With plenty of other guys nearing the proverbial chopping block, there’s no reason to think that trend will slow down this year. 

Counting down from 32 to 1, we’ll look at each and every coach in the NFL and rank them, starting with the most secure (#32) down to the hottest of hot seats (#1):

(Note: All résumés are specific to current team)

Buy a house, make friends, because you’re not going anywhere

32. Bill Belichick – New England Patriots
Résumé: 12 seasons, 139-53 (.724), 16-6 postseason (.727), 9 AFC East titles, 5 AFC titles, 3 Super Bowls

Belichick doesn’t technically own the Patriots…but he kinda owns the Patriots. Makes sense since he’s by far the most accomplished head coach of this era. Coming off another Super Bowl appearance, I’d say he’s about as safe as anyone could ever be.

What it would take for him to get canned: He would literally have to poison Robert Kraft’s oldest son. Even then…

31. Mike Tomlin – Pittsburgh Steelers
Résumé: 5 seasons, 55-25 (.688), 5-3 postseason (.625), 3 AFC North titles, 2 AFC titles, 1 Super Bowl

Tomlin is just the third Steelers head coach since 1969. If he keeps winning at this clip, he’ll continue being the third coach since ’69 for quite a while. 

What it would take for him to get canned: His very own Jerry Sandusky-like scandal.

30. Jim Harbaugh – San Francisco 49ers
Résumé: 1 season, 13-3 (.813), 1-1 postseason (.500), 1 NFC West title, 1 crazy handshake

His remarkable first year turnaround in San Fran, coupled with his high salary and ‘superstar persona,’ make him pretty much untouchable. In many ways, he’s kinda like a ‘rock god’ among head coaches.

What it would take for him to get canned: There’s one large caveat to everything I said above. Harbaugh is crazy and could kill somebody. No, seriously, he could actually kill somebody. (Serious question: Would they let him coach remotely from jail?)

29. Sean Payton – New Orleans Saints
Résumé: 6 seasons, 62-34 (.646), 5-3 postseason (.625), 3 NFC South titles, 1 NFC title, 1 Super Bowl

I could go on and on about Payton’s ability as a playcaller or his impressive resume, but only one thing can truly describe his job security. Sean Payton’s job isn’t remotely in danger after a scandal and a one year suspension.

What it would take for him to get canned: Apparently nothing can touch him. He’s like Superman flying close to the sun.

28. Jeff Fisher – St. Louis Rams
Résumé: First year with team

Fisher is one of the most successful and highly respected coaches in the business. Also, following the likes of Steve Spagnuolo will make Fisher seem like he actually invented the game of football. Given where the Rams are currently at, he’s going to have an extremely lengthy rope during this rebuilding process. 

What it would take for him to get canned: In all honesty, he’d probably have to be near winless in Year 2. Even a meager 10 combined wins in his first two seasons would get him comfortably to Year 3. Given the young talent on St. Louis and the return of Sam Bradford, there’s almost no way he doesn’t win more than 10 games.

27. Mike McCarthy – Green Bay Packers
Résumé: 6 seasons, 63-33 (.656), 5-3 postseason (.625), 2 NFC North titles, 1 NFC title, 1 Super Bowl

I don’t necessarily think McCarthy is the best game coach in the world, but he’s clearly doing something right. And by ‘doing something right’ I really mean ‘watching Aaron Rodgers light up the league and win games singlehandedly.’

What it would take for him to get canned: Forcing the team to practice too long in the cold, resulting in Aaron Rodgers losing his right arm to extreme frostbite.

26. Tom Coughlin – New York Giants
Résumé: 8 seasons, 74-54 (.578), 8-3 postseason (.727), 3 NFC East titles, 2 NFC titles, 2 Super Bowls

You can make the argument that Coughlin belongs higher on this list – and you might be right – but don’t forget where he coaches. Those crazy New York fans have the world’s shortest memory, by far. There were people who seriously wanted him gone not two years after his first Super Bowl! Still, with two of them now under his belt, there’s very little that could knock Coughlin off his perch.

What it would take for him to get canned: Not sure if this counts, but it’s entirely possible that Coughlin will drink himself to death. You don’t cheeks that shade of red from just the cold!

25. John Harbaugh – Baltimore Ravens
Résumé: 4 seasons, 44-20 (.688), 5-4 postseason (.556), 1 AFC North title

The ‘other Harbaugh’ has made the playoffs in each of his four seasons with the Ravens, and would have made the Super Bowl last year had Lee Evans been gifted with a decent pair of hands.

What it would take for him to get canned: Getting murdered by Ray Lewis. C’mon, this was an obvious one.

Don’t worry about it, you’re our guy…but don’t screw this up

24. Lovie Smith – Chicago Bears
Résumé: 8 seasons, 71-57 (.555), 3-3 postseason (.500), 3 NFC North titles, 1 NFC title

There’s been speculation about his job before, but I’m convinced Lovie is running the show in Chicago. The guy pretty much handpicked his own GM a year after missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five years! For better or worse, he seems to be on solid footing.

What it would take for him to get canned: It would take an absolute disaster season. Something along the lines of 3 to 5 wins. I suppose that’s possible if Forte and Cutler go down again, but I’m not betting on it. The team is talented enough to compete, so Lovie isn’t going anywhere.

23. Gary Kubiak – Houston Texans
Résumé: 6 seasons, 47-49 (.490), 1-1 postseason (.500), 1 AFC South title

Houston was remarkably patient with him through five mediocre seasons. Now, Kubiak is sitting pretty with a talented roster and a division just begging to be gobbled up by the Texans. Who knows, maybe Kubiak has found himself as a coach? (Or maybe he’s really lucky he didn’t get fired and that Peyton Manning died.) 

What it would take for him to get canned: What makes his dismissal improbable is that the Texans seem like a lock to win the division. They were arguably the best team in the AFC last year before Matt Schaub went down, so a disaster season would seem unlikely. But, I suppose anything is possible, and if Houston were to finish with 6 or 7 wins, I’d think Kubiak’s tenure would be over.

22. Marvin Lewis – Cincinnati Bengals
Résumé: 9 seasons, 69-74-1 (.486), 0-3 postseason (.000), 2 AFC North titles

I’m really not sure what to make of Lewis’ tenure with Cincy. Just three winning seasons and zero playoff wins in nine seasons isn’t great, but two division titles and *only* three losing seasons is a lot more than Bengals fans were used to. Mike Brown must be satisfied, I guess, since Lewis recently received another extension.

What it would take for him to get canned: Let’s face it, Lewis is never getting fired. Mike Brown loves this guy, despite the four win seasons and the utter incompetence with a red flag in his hands.

21. Jim Schwartz – Detroit Lions
Résumé: 3 seasons, 18-30 (.375), 0-1 postseason (.000), one epic confrontation with Jim Harbaugh

Schwartz is really crazy, and also pretty scary, but he’s proven to be one of the league’s better young head coaches. There’s definitely room for improvement, especially in discipline areas (ie. penalties), but no one can ever say that his guys don’t play hard for him.

What it would take for him to get canned: Winning isn’t going to be the issue here, given the talent he has and his ability to motivate. What knocks him down a few pegs is the discipline stuff. Not that all of it is on him, but the head coach tends to be the fall guy when things get crazy.

20. Mike Shanahan – Washington Redskins
Résumé: 2 seasons, 11-21 (.344)

At this point, I’m starting to think Shanahan has Dan Snyder under some voodoo spell. Not that he’s necessarily underachieved given the roster he’s had, but some of his decision have been bizarre. Nevertheless, the famously impatient Snyder has been remarkably patient and supportive of Shanahan. Maybe it has something to do with all the money he’s thrown at him. Or maybe it’s because Shanahan’s insanely red face allows Snyder to save money on a mascot.

What it would take for him to get canned: Hmm…this is an interesting one. Seems like the arrival of Robert Griffin will give Shanahan an extra year of patience due to “developmental needs.” Also, the arrival of Robert Griffin gives Shanahan a non-Rex Grossman option at QB, so he might actually win some games.

19. John Fox – Denver Broncos
Résumé: 1 season, 8-8 (.500), 1-1 postseason (.500), 1 AFC West title

Words cannot express my hatred for John Fox and his overly conservative ways, but a division title and an unlikely playoff win certainly bought him some clout within the organization. Fine, steal the credit from Tim Tebow if you must. Just know that I know the truth, John Fox!

What it would take for him to get canned: Fox is Elway’s guy, and Elway has far too much pride to dump his guy this early in the process. If Manning is healthy, the team will win games and Fox won’t have anything to worry about. If Manning gets hurt, Fox will get a pass and he won’t have anything to worry about.

18. Mike Smith – Atlanta Falcons
Résumé: 4 seasons, 43-21 (.672), 0-3 postseason (.000), 1 NFC South title

I’m probably not giving Smith enough credit given his overwhelming regular season success. Those playoff flops and fourth down debacles, though; they just stick in your head. 

What it would take for him to get canned: I honestly have no clue. At this point I’d think he’s fairly safe, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if we heard the old “Smith is a great coach but we just felt like we needed a new voice in the locker room” reasoning after another early exit from the playoffs.

17. Rex Ryan – New York Jets
Résumé: 4 seasons, 28-20 (.583), 4-2 postseason (.667)

One year ago, Ryan would have ranked much, much higher on this list. But that’s the nature of New York coaches, and that’s why I have him closer to the middle. The fact is that Ryan was always on a collision course with the hot seat, given his brashness. He’s not quite there yet, but it’ll happen sooner rather than later.

What it would take for him to get canned: 5 or less wins. Anything more than that and Ryan stays put. However, if the Jets miss the playoffs again, you can bet he’ll rank #1 on this list next year.

16. Pete Carroll – Seattle Seahawks
Résumé: 2 seasons, 14-18 (.438), 1-1 postseason (.500), 1 NFC West title

He’s such a terrible coach, but there’s no denying that he has clout in Seattle. Bonus points since he probably won’t be starting Tarvaris Jackson this season. (Negative points since he’s still “technically” considering starting Tarvaris)

What it would take for him to get canned: 4 or less wins. Landing Carroll was a super splashy move, and teams don’t backtrack from those very quickly. They’ll be looking for every excuse to make this work.

The New(er) Guys

15. Ron Rivera – Carolina Panthers
Résumé: 1 season, 6-10 (.375)

He may or not be a quality coach – we’ll see – but he’s certainly one of the luckiest guys in the NFL. It’s not often you walk into a situation where you inherit a young, dynamic, franchise QB like Cam Newton. But since I feel the need to say something nice about Rivera, I’ll give him this; he definitely got the most out of what he had. Carolina was way more competitive than they should have been.

What it would take for him to get canned: 3 or less wins. Don’t forget, Carolina was extremely patient with their previous coach, John Fox, so the precedent is there. Barring a complete disaster, he’ll get three years.

14. Mike Mularkey – Jacksonville Jaguars
Résumé: First season

This was a terrible hire. Completely and utterly awful. Mularkey sucked when he coached the Bills, he sucked as OC of the Falcons, and he’s going to suck in Jacksonville.

What it would take for him to get canned: Winless. Seriously, he’d have to go winless. Not because Jacksonville thinks highly of him, but because they’re too darn cheap to pay two coaches.

13. Greg Schiano – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Résumé: First season

I didn’t get this one at all, considering Schiano’s lackluster 68-67 record at Rutgers. I mean, in what world does a 28-48 record in the Big East – THE BIG FREAKING EAST – qualify you for a promotion to the NFL? Whatever. Ironically, it’s these types of gutsy hires that typically have the most early job security, since the respective team is eager to validate their decision. 

What it would take for him to get canned: 2 wins or less. This is really a good spot for Schiano considering how bad the Bucs were last year. They’re sure to bounce back a bit, which means Schiano has little to worry about.

12. Joe Philbin – Miami Dolphins
Résumé: First season

Doesn’t seem weird that the OC of the high powered Green Bay Packers settled for a crappy job like the Dolphins? Yeah, I think so too. Good hire for the ‘Fins, though.

What it would take for him to get canned: 2 wins or less. Miami blew up the roster and drafted a new QB, so Philbin’s got some leeway here. At the very least they’ll give the noted “QB guru” a few years to work with Tannehill, before they consider axing him.

11. Mike Munchak – Tennessee Titans
Résumé: 1 season, 9-7 (.563)

Munchak did a really nice job last year, especially considering the injury to Kenny Britt and the struggles of Chris Johnson. I didn’t think Tennessee would win 6 games, much less 9! Plus, Munchak is a franchise legend, having made 9 Pro Bowls for them. So he’s got that going for him.

What it would take for him to get canned: 4 wins or less. While I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s on the hot seat, per se, I will caution that the current QB situation could make things dicey. What happens if Locker isn’t ready, but the franchise wants to move forward with him? What happens if Locker stumbles out of the gate? It’s possible, not likely, but possible, that Munchak would be the fall guy.

10. Chuck Pagano – Indianapolis Colts
Résumé: First season

I didn’t like the Pagano hire at all. With Andrew Luck coming in and with the league being very offense based, it would have made a lot more sense to go after a Joe Philbin or somebody like that. Still, I’ll freely admit that I know very little of Pagano, so my opinion is pretty much worthless. As usual. Carry on.

What it would take for him to get canned: Probably winless, maybe even with 1 win. The fact is that Pagano is the first hire of the new regime, and it’s going to take something very drastic for them to clean house after just one year. No worries here, Chuck.

9. Dennis Allen – Oakland Raiders
Résumé: First season

Dennis Allen, huh? Fine. Whatever.

(Seriously, who is this guy?)

What it would take for him to get canned: The answer to this depends on whether or not you believe Al Davis’ re-animated corpse is still running things. But since I would never believe in such nonsense (at least not that you know of), I’ll assume that’s not the case. Let’s stick him in league with Pagano and say it would take close to a winless season to end this after one season.

8. Romeo Crennel – Kansas City Chiefs
Résumé: 1 season, 2-1 (.667)

What is there to say about Romeo Crennel that hasn’t already been said? He’s extremely fat, he’s almost never spotted talking into his headset (is it even on?), he looks mostly clueless and/or asleep during the games, and his play sheet is rumored to actually be the menu of a local restaurant. Nevertheless, his players reportedly love him. Whatever that means…

What it would take for him to get canned: Of all the guys in this group, Crennel is by far the most likely to be canned. Of course, that’s mostly because there are very real (and mostly unfair) expectations for him and his team. He’d almost certainly be canned for five wins or less, and might even get it for six. Important to note, however, Crennel and GM Scott Pioli have a relationship dating back to New England. 

Win now, or else

7. Andy Reid – Philadelphia Eagles
Résumé: 13 seasons, 126-81-1 (.609), 10-9 postseason (.526), 6 NFC East titles, 1 NFC title

(Note: I wrote this before the recent tragedy in the Reid family. Not that it makes any difference in his long term job situation, but still…)

Reid’s tenure with the Eagles has been…complicated, to say the least. Lots of good times, very few bad times, but also very few ‘great’ times. Rightly or wrongly, fans are focusing more and more on the latter, choosing to dwell on his notable game day shortcomings. This, of course, made him a convenient scapegoat for last season’s debacle. Again, I’m not sure whether that’s the right or wrong way to look at it. What I am sure of, however, is that Philly better win big this season, or the league’s longest tenured coach might find himself in the unemployment line.

What it would take for him to keep his job: The one thing Reid has going for him is organizational support. Ownership and front office executives withstood a lot of pressure to can Reid this past offseason, but you can bet the pressure will increase exponentially should the Eagles flounder again. Anything shy of a division title and/or a deep playoff run will be considered a disappointment. 

(Note: Reid ranks as the most secure in this tier because he has the best roster, and thus the best chance of winning.)

6. Chan Gailey – Buffalo Bills
Résumé: 2 seasons, 10-22 (.313)

For the first time in a long time, there are expectations for the Buffalo Bills. Not Super Bowl expectations, mind you, but the expectation that this team will compete for a playoff spot. Given that, this is really a make-or-break year for Gailey.

What it would take for him to keep his job: I don’t think Buffalo necessarily must make the playoffs for Gailey to keep his job, but another late season collapse like last year is just not gonna cut it. An 8-8 record would likely keep him safe, but another 6-10 season would probably result in a coaching change.

5. Jason Garrett – Dallas Cowboys
Résumé: 2 seasons, 13-11 (.542)

If I were Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett would have been canned after the cowardly mismanagement at the end of the Cardinals game. That’s not just me speaking either, that’s the majority of Dallas fans. Nevertheless, Jerry is a stubborn old man, and Jason Garrett is his golden boy/puppet. 

What it would take for him to keep his job: Make the playoffs. The flip side of the golden boy/puppet thing is that Jerry is also notoriously impatient. This current group has underachieved wildly over the last five or so years, and I have to think Jones is near the end of his rope. If they miss the playoffs again, could this finally be the year he cleans house? At the very least, you have to think Garrett would be ousted. There’s just no way he would survive another debacle.

4. Norv Turner – San Diego Chargers
Résumé: 5 seasons, 49-31 (.613), 3-3 postseason (.500), 3 AFC West titles

If this were a “Worst Coach Alive/Ever” list, Norv would be a serious candidate for the top spot. In a related story, he was a serious candidate for the top spot on this current “Coaches about to get fired because they suck at their jobs” list. Imagine that.

What it would take for him to keep his job: Win the division, or a deep playoff run as a wild card. Look, I would have thought missing the playoffs two years in a row in the easiest division in the AFC when you clearly have the most talented roster would have been enough to get fired, but I guess it takes a truly special effort to get fired in San Diego. (What’s that? Marty Schottenheimer got fired after a 14-2 season? In San Diego? Huh. Weird.)

3. Ken Whisenhunt – Arizona Cardinals
Résumé: 5 seasons, 40-40 (.500), 4-2 postseason (.667), 2 NFC West titles, 1 NFC title

Speaking of make-or-break seasons, this is definitely one for Whisenhunt. With the “glory days” of Kurt Warner seeming like a million years ago, the Cardinals have fallen back to also-ran status and Whisenhunt has faced increasing scrutiny of his management skills and game day ability. A surprising 8-8 record bought him some extra security, but that will go away quickly if Arizona falls off again.

What it would take for him to keep his job: Let me be frank with you; I think Whisenhunt is screwed. Arizona’s 8-8 record was mostly “smoke-and-mirrors,” as evidenced by their -36 scoring differential (21st), their -18.4% offensive DVOA (28th), the fact that their largest margin of victory was 7 points, and the fact that they needed timely return TD’s in order to beat the 2 win Rams. Also, they are choosing between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton as their starter. Bad. Basically, there’s a really, really good chance Arizona wins 5 games this year. If so, Whisenhunt is gone.

Here’s a box…you know, in case you need to put your stuff in it

2. Pat Shurmur – Cleveland Browns
Résumé: 1 seasons, 4-12 (.250)

Talk about being screwed! On the field, Shurmur will have to work in a rookie QB, a rookie RB, and a rookie WR (all behind a terrible offensive line) to an offense that was perhaps the worst in the league, while also replacing the second or third most irreplaceable player on their defense (Phil Taylor). If that weren’t enough, Shurmur has off the field problems now that a new owner is in town. You don’t think this Jimmy Haslam guy will be eager to get his own guys in place?

What it would take for him to keep his job: 8-8 or better. Shurmur probably would have been safe with 6 or 7 wins had the team not been sold, but that’s just not the case anymore. A losing season of any kind will be more than enough pretext to clean things out. 

1. Leslie Frazier – Minnesota Vikings 
Résumé: 2 seasons, 6-16 (.272)

It takes a special kind of bad to make Vikings fans pine for the ‘good old days’ of Brad Childress. Not sure if they’re quite there yet, but it has to be close. On the plus side, at least Frazier hasn’t publically urinated on a third round pick…yet.

What it would take for him to keep his job: Zygi Wilf, “I expect to be division champs.” OK then. Thanks for playing, Leslie Frazier.

Seriously though, I doubt Wilf actually expects to win the divison. Not with this roster, not in that division. But winning 4 or less games is also something he probably doesn’t expect, and that’s exactly what the Vikings are destined for. Shy of a miracle, the Leslie Frazier era will be ending sooner rather than later.

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