Insider: Whose Seat Is Hottest?
There have been 15 head coaching changes in the NFL over the past two seasons. There will likely be at least a handful more following the 2012 season. We will count down which coaches are on the hottest seats and what they need to do to retain their positions.
Playoffs or Pink Slip
1. Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers
Marty and his general manager, A.J. Smith received a Presidential Pardon after 2011’s second straight non-playoff season. Another missed postseason will not save either Norv or the “Lord of No Rings” for another season.
2. Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles
Although the Eagles likely couldn’t replace Andy Reid with someone better, he’s been at the helm since 1999 and despite all the success he’s had the message he’s trying to send may lose a little volume after all those years. Reid’s team underachieved in 2011 and they are perceived to be too talented to suffer through another .500 season in 2012. Although the run has been very good, Philadelphia fans are still searching for a Super Bowl title which has eluded them.
3. Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
Jerry Jones seems to be behind Jason Garrett, but that doesn’t mean he won’t push him off the ledge if his team falters down the stretch again and finishes in third place. Garrett is no longer the “hot coordinator” (because he became head coach) and some of his late-game decisions have left his “genius” tarnished.
Need To See Legitimate Improvement
4. Rex Ryan, New York Jets
Rex Ryan’s audacious personality is a lot of fun for Jets fans when the team is winning. His bold proclamations mean very little and make the franchise a laughing stock when they don’t. Ryan will need to get back into the playoff hunt in 2012 or things could get very dicey at season’s end.
5. Pat Shurmur, Cleveland Browns
Pat Shurmur took over a bare cupboard in Cleveland and he navigated the team to just four wins in his first season. Another four win campaign might not fly in Year 2, as the former offensive coordinator’s Browns finished 31st in scoring last season.
6. Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals
The greatest thing Ken Whisenhunt did as head coach of the Cardinals was persuade Kurt Warner to hold on for his last two seasons. Without Warner, Whisenhunt hasn’t been able to develop a quarterback and Cards fans are already booing Kevin Kolb.
7. Chan Gailey, Buffalo Bills
The Bills are working on the longest non-playoff streak in the NFL so although they have championship aspirations, immediate success wasn’t expected. 10 victories in two seasons doesn’t install a lot of confidence, and with the offseason spending spree that owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. made the Bills are expected to compete for a playoff spot this season.
8. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
Some wonder if Lewis has incriminating photos of Mike Brown and some wonder about exactly how stingy Brown is, but the now 10-year tenure of Marvin Lewis is nearly inexplicable. Lewis seemingly pulls off a playoff berth when his seat is most scorching (2005, 2009 & 2011) but is yet to savor the spoils of a postseason victory. Since the Bengals earned a Wildcard last year, history tells us that they’ll disappoint yet again in 2012. History also tells us that Lewis will get a reprieve.
How Confident Does Ownership Feel?
9. Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears
Although Lovie Smith has three NFC North titles in eight seasons, his contract only runs through the 2013 season. Smith will have to give Bears management a reason to extend him yet again after 2012, and playing in a division with Green Bay and Detroit won’t make the Bears playoff road an easy one.
10. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
We know Sean Payton won’t be coaching in 2012. What we don’t know is if he’ll be part of the program in 2013, as the Saints head coach has brought a championship, and also a black eye to the organization. If New Orleans does well in 2012 with Joe Vitt and Pete Carmichael, some of the luster may be off Payton and it’s entirely possible that ownership may not bring him back.
Early Enough To Get A Pass
11. Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings
It’s difficult to hold Leslie Frazier ultimately responsible for one of the worst rosters in professional football. Frazier’s career in Minnesota is tied to 2011 first-round pick Christian Ponder, and both will likely have at least one more season past 2012 to prove themselves.
12. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
By all accounts,Ron Rivera did a fantastic job in his first season in 2011. The Panthers finished strong and Cam Newton developed into one of the league’s most exciting players. Rivera and Newton will get at least two more years assuming there isn’t some kind of major unforeseen regression.
13. Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans
Mike Munchak did a great job navigating his team to a winning record and playoff contention in his first season. He will have a decision to make a quarterback with rookie Jake Locker and veteran Matt Hasselbeck battling, and the longer he can delay going to Locker while still being competitive could buy him even more time as head coach. Regardless, Munchak’s job is safe.
14. John Fox, Denver Broncos
John Fox led the Broncos to a “default” AFC West title in his first season and now he has Peyton Manning under center to lead the franchise to greater heights. Unless Manning and Fox have a major falling out, it’s difficult to believe Fox won’t be coaching in Denver well past 2013.
Built In Equity
15. Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins
Although Mike Shanahan’s record with Washington is less than stellar, his previous success in Denver bought him enough equity to draft Robert Griffin, III. The rookie quarterback will buy Shanahan at least two more years as head coach and if the team improves, a likely contract extension.
16. Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions
The Lions are no longer the “rebuilding since 1955 Detroit Lions,” and Schwartz is part of the reason for the turnaround. Coming off a playoff berth in 2011, the Lions coaching staff is plenty safe through 2012.
17. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
With Pete Carroll holding the title of team Vice President, it’s not very likely that he’s going to fire himself anytime soon. A division title with a playoff victory in his first year allowed for a down season in Year 2, and Carroll will have enough time to get his quarterback situation figured out before ‘Hawks fans start looking for his head.
First Year Learning Curve
18. Romeo Crennel, Kansas City Chiefs
In his time as interim coach, Romeo won over the locker room and the front office and now the job is his. Crennel’s unsuccessful run in Cleveland shouldn’t be held against him as virtually nobody has been able to win in that town (except LeBron James).
19. Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins
The former offensive coordinator of the high flying Green Bay Packers has very low expectations in his first season in Miami. Regardless of the win-loss record, Philbin will get a pass as he figures out the team’s quarterback situation.
20. Mike Mularkey, Jacksonville Jaguars
Mike Mularkey has a nice entry point as the Jaguars had the worst offense in football a year ago. Mularkey, general manager Gene Smith and quarterback Blaine Gabbert will be given two more years to turn things around.
21. Dennis Allen, Oakland Raiders
It’s difficult to tell which direction the Raiders are headed, but there is hope for normalcy with general manager Reggie Mckenzie. Dennis Allen will have a shot to win with Carson Palmer, but it appears that they have the worst roster in the division.
22. Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Greg Schiano has already brought a new attitude and a much needed sense of accountability to the Bucs organization. With some pieces in place, Tampa should have an improved product and Schiano will benefit.
23. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts
Following Tony Dungy was difficult, but following Jim Caldwell is much less taxing. The Colts organization is patient and they know this is a rebuilding process. Pagano won’t be judged upon wins and losses early on.
24. Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams
Jeff Fisher was one of the hottest names available and the Rams made a significant commitment to him. If Sam Bradford can ascend in Year 3, Fisher will have a long tenure in St. Louis.
Safety Based On Previous Success
25. Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta never had two consecutive winning seasons prior to Smith’s arrival, and now they are going for their fifth straight. The lack of playoff victories is frustrating, but Smith is taking the Falcons to new heights.
26. Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans
Fresh off the team’s first division title and playoff berth and victory, Gary Kubiak was handed a contract extension. The organization has showed great faith when they very easily could have parted ways prior to last season.
27. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
Four years in for John Harbaugh and he’s won a minimum of one playoff game in each season. Even if things go sideways for Baltimore in 2012 without Terrell Suggs, Harbaugh will be around for the rebuild.
28. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
No organization shows confidence in their head coaches like the Pittsburgh Steelers and the historical continuity in the organization states that Tomlin will be around for better or worse.
29. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
Widely regarded as the best coach in football and all of sports, Belichick will likely decide when his coaching days are finished in New England. That said, his past indiscretions could cause friction if the team doesn’t continue their level of excellence.
30. Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers
Jim Harbaugh walks on water in San Francisco after taking a six-win team to 13 victories and minutes from a Super Bowl berth.
31. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
Mike McCarthy helped restore greatness in Titletown with their Super Bowl XLV title, and followed it up with a 15-win regular season. There’s no reason to believe McCarthy won’t be around through most of his contract which runs through the 2015 season.
32. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants
Two Super Bowls in four years takes Tom Coughlin off the hot seat, at least for the immediate future. Coughlin’s new contract takes him through the 2014 season.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie