After an eventful last couple of weeks, we’re now starting to hear louder rumors of coaches who are on the Hot Seat, including Jim Schwartz and Jason Garrett if their teams miss the playoffs. Every year there are surprises – both from the fired side and for those not fired. Lovie Smith went 10-6 and Marty Shottenheimer went 14-2 the year they were fired. Even first year coaches can be fired, although that is the exception.
Also, the frenzy seems to alternate years. With 8 new head coaches last offseason, they will likely be less this year. Then again, the stakes keep getting raised, so maybe that’s no longer true either.
Here are my final predictions for the coaching carousel.
Gary Kubiak (Houston) – Head Coach Gary Kubiak was fired after the Texans’ week 14 Thursday night game. Although, McNair has proclaimed that the General Manager Rick Smith is safe, I feel that he is more of the problem that the coach. Look at the star players that have been traded or released – Mario , DeMeco Ryans, etc. No attempt to get a QB better than Matt Schaub. It was so bad that Ed Reed called them out about it earlier this year (and was subsequently released). Hopefully, they won’t make the obvious mistake of hiring interim HC Wade Phillips for their next permanent Head Coach.
Jim Schwartz (Detroit) – Jim Schwartz came into a very bad situation, taking over after the Matt Millen, General Manager experiment ended with a 0-16 season. Schwartz is now finishing up his 5th year as head coach of the Lions. And while he did an exceptional job at turning around a team that went 0-16 the year before he came, they appear to be stuck in neutral. They play like a very undisciplined team – which mirrors Schwartz himself. They had both the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers without their starting QB’s for extended periods this year, but have still not been able to take the division. He is almost certainly done in Detroit. There is some discussion about the GM also being fired, but it seems that he has done a good job of assembling the talent.
Leslie Frazier (Minnesota) – The Vikings have been much better over the last month with Matt Cassell playing QB. This has been the case all season, even though the always return to Christian Ponder when he’s healthy. It’s hard to say what the exact dynamics of the situation are, but it looks to me like the GM Rick Speilman is mandating that the coach play his high draft pick QB instead of the one that gives them the best chance to win. Couple this with his disastrous pick-up of Josh Freeman and immediately playing him and it looks like Speilman needs to be the one being fired. Unfortunately, he has the ability to fire the coach. This doesn’t bode well for Frazier, who may not have earned a longer tenure anyway. With the Vikings moving into a new stadium next year, something needs to change.
Mike Munchak (Tennessee) – The new ownership was willing to give Munchak a year to prove himself. Jake Locker has shown that he is capable when healthy, but hasn’t been healthy enough of the time. I think that they feel that they’ve seen enough.
On The Bubble:
Dennis Allen (Oakland) – GM Reggie McKensie fired the outspoken Hue Jackson even though he had been doing a better job in Oakland than anyone since Jon Gruden. Dennis Allen was hired as the youngest coach in the league (a familiar theme in Oakland) and was not considered a high quality hire. Allen has rewarded McKensie by publicly dissing his highly paid free agent QB Matt Flynn (forcing McKensie to release him), and generally doing a mediocre job. After a probable second straight 4-12 season, he seems to be the most likely of this group to get canned. Unless Allen can convince them that he will be able to do appreciably better with undrafted free agent Matt McGloin at QB, I don’t see them staying with him.
Rex Ryan (New York Jets) – Rex Ryan has been on the Hot Seat since the end of last year. Remarkably, a lot of NFL watchers have stated that keeping this team competitive with a rookie QB and it’s general lack of talent has been Rex’s best coaching job of his career. Even accounting for the hyperbole, Ryan has done an admirable job of motivating his players. However, Ryan is in a tough spot. After a new GM is appointed, he usually gives the existing coach one year before he’s fired. (See Lovie Smith last year). Owner Woody Johnson has intimated that he’s already made up his mind about Rex. That implies that he’s gone at the end of the season.
Mike Smith (Atlanta) – Mike Smith has done a very good job with the Atlanta Falcons over the last 5 years, getting into the playoffs 4 of those 5 years. However, it wasn’t until last year that they actually won a playoff game. The play of the Falcons this year has been abysmal. This was after they were expected to be a Super Bowl contender. Not only have they been losing, they don’t even seem to be trying in many games. It’s not unusual that one bad season would lead to the coach being fired unless the front office was already disenchanted with him. I don’t know that that is the case in Atlanta, but the magnitude of their collapse this year makes me think that this might be the end for Mike Smith.
Jason Garrett (Dallas) – The Cowboys are a mess, as they have been ever since Jerry Jones fired Jimmy Johnson as his coach. Although Jason Garrett is ostensibly the coach, it was Jones who mandated that Rob Ryan be fired as the Defensive Coordinator and replaced with the 167 year old Monte Kiffin. The result has been a predictably disastrous, as the Dallas D apparently can’t stop anyone (Meanwhile the afore mentioned Ryan has taken the Saints defense from a total disaster after Bounty-Gate to one of the best). Jones also demanded that Garrett be stripped on the play-calling ability and that it be given to Bill Callahan. Many believe that if he doesn’t win this weekend against the Eagles – and thereby miss the playoffs again – he’s outta there. However, Tony Romo’s back surgery may be Garrett’s saving grace. Still, another poor showing may be enough for JJ to pull the plug.
Greg Schiano (Tampa Bay ) – After the Josh Freeman debacle earlier this year, I was convinced that Schiano would be fired. There wasn’t much to change that view as the Bucs went 0-8 before winning a game. They then won 4 of their next 5 against the likes of Buffalo, Miami, Detroit and Atlanta. With blow-out losses to the Panthers and 49’ers, it’s really up in the air if the Glazors will feel that Schiano is the man to groom Mike Glennon and lead the Bucs back to the playoffs (or, at least, respectability).
Mike Shanahan (Washington) – Owner Dan Snyder wants to fire Mike Shanahan, but if he does that then he owes him $7 million for next year’s salary in addition to a separation buyout. Snyder was reportedly talking to Shanahan about taking a lesser sum (or preferably none), but Shanny wants the whole deal. [Remember that he already went through all this when Al Davis fired him in Oakland after ~20 games and didn’t pay him.] So Shanahan has decided that he’s going to pull a power play. He’s going to run the team as he sees best rather than acquiesce to whatever Snyder and GM Bruce Allen think he should do even if that includes benching his marquee player. In so doing he’s daring Snyder to fire him. The Endgame is still not settled. Football has been described as a chess match between coaches. Snyder has been caught in a game with a Master Chess player.
Tom Coughlin – Coughlin has won 2 Super Bowls, but consider this:
– In the last 5 seasons they have missed the playoffs 4 times. The other time they snuck in as the 6th seed and happened to win it.
– Six seasons ago, they also eked into the playoffs. Just making the playoffs probably would not have been enough to save Coughlin’s job. Only by winning the SB was he able to save his job.
– The Giants won both their SB’s against the NE Patriots against whom they match up extremely well. [They would never have manhandled the Ravens like they did the Patriots in 2012.]
My point in all this is to minimize the Super Bowl wins in order to allow the Giants to get rid of him. It should also be noted that Coach Coughlin is the oldest head coach in the NFL BY FIVE YEARS. (He’s 67, the next oldest coach is Pete Carroll at 62). A forced retirement would be a way of moving on while allowing Coughlin to save face. However, this is not a likely scenario.
Joe Philbin – With the Dolphins on the cusp of getting the last playoff position in the AFC, Philbin would not seem to be in any trouble. However, the Jonathan Harris has yet to be resolved and, although owner Stephen Ross publically backed Philbin after the story broke, that chapter has not yet closed. Interestingly enough, GM Jeff Ireland – whom most observers wonder how he keeps his job – was not also supported. The ironic part of this is that this past offseason may have been Ireland’s best with impact free agents and draft choices across the board.
Jeff Fisher (Saint Louis) – The Rams are one of the most enigmatic teams in the NFL – you never know what you’re going to get on any given Sunday. Still, Fisher has them playing hard and winning occasionally despite losing starting QB Sam Bradford midway through the season.
Mike McCarthy (Green Bay) – Despite losing Aaron Rodgers for ½ the season, the Packers are still playing for the division title in week 17. With an improved defense and bell cow Eddie Lacy at RB, this team looks set for the future if they can keep Rodgers healthy.
Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh) – Earlier in the year, I was close to putting Tomlin on the Hot Seat. The Thanksgiving Day kick-off return was the tipping point for me. However, it was mostly wishful thinking on my part. With their late season resurgence, even to the point of having a chance at a wild card, he’s not going anywhere.
Ron Rivera (Carolina) – With Ron Rivera’s week 3 epiphany about taking more chances earlier in games, “Riverboat Ron” was born. With an improved Cam Newton under center and 2 rookie NT studs allowing MLB Luke Keuchley to make the kind of plays that have brought him into the DPOY conversation, the Panthers are one win or a New Orleans loss from winning the division.
Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati) – In the playoffs for the 3rd straight year with their first division win since 2009. Marvin Lewis has done a credible job as Head Coach over his tenure in Cincinnati, even when he didn’t have much to work with. Andy Daulton continues to be the most maligned winning QB outside of Dallas.
Sean Payton (New Orleans) – With the hire of Rob Ryan as the new Defensive Coordinator – taking over from the disgraced Greg Williams after the 2011 bounty scandal – Sean Payton has the Saints right back in the thick of things. Although they have lost 3 of their last 4 games and could miss the playoffs if they lose to Tampa on Sunday, Payton is the man in NO.
Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco) – In the playoffs for the 3rd straight year and after a loss to his brother in the Super Bowl last year, Jim Harbaugh would be considered untouchable if he was so prickly. Still safe for the foreseeable future.
John Harbaugh (Baltimore) – This has probably been the hardest year of John’s head coaching career as the team had a major makeover during the offseason. While all the attention was being paid to the defense, GM Ozzie Newsome has retooled that side admirably. However, we now see how much Matt Birk deserved his 6 Pro Bowls with the Minnesota Vikings. It’s a shame that he wasn’t as appreciated when he was in Baltimore. You don’t play 15 years in this league without being stellar. The Offensive Line has been a shadow of its championship play last year. It will be a point of overwhelming attention this offseason.
John Fox (Denver) – Doubly lucky this year as he survived a scary heart problem and he has Peyton Manning as his QB. However, he’ll need to take some lessons from his successor in Carolina if he wants what he and Payton crave – a Super Bowl ring.
Pete Carroll (Seattle) – I always felt that Carroll was given short shrift in his previous NFL Head Coaching stints. He has really come through for Seattle. I think that he has the same advantage that Jimmy Johnson had coming into the league – he knows the college players intimately and can draft more astutely than most others. Although he’s the second oldest coach in the NFL, I don’t see him retiring for a while.
Bill Belicheck (New England) – What can you say about this guy. Not only is he one of the best coaches of all time, but he continues to be that while handling GM duties. That’s something that most great coaches want, but ultimately ruins them (Mike Holgren, Mike Shanahan, many others). By starting off this season with an inexperienced receiving crew, he was able to coach them up. They won a lot of close games early because of that inexperience, but when Gronkowski came back they took off. Now that Gronk is back on IR, they’re capable just in time for the playoffs.
I don’t see any of the first year coaches getting fired this year. Two of them are in the playoffs and 3 more still have a chance. The others are on such bad teams that they will need multiple years to rebuild (Cleveland, Jacksonville, Buffalo).
On the Bubble:
(in order of likelihood of being fired)