From the moment they are introduced, a head coaches' job in the NFL is never truly safe in the modern day. Expectations are so pronounced, that they demand the team must start winning immediately, and therefor, the tenure of any given coach is generally less than it was 10 years ago. It isn't uncommon to see a head coach hired and fired within a two year span, or even less, in today's game. As such, there are a ton of question marks regarding much of the league's coaches, and their respective staffs. No one is safe, and they will all have to prove their worth in the 2016 season.
The crazy thing is, that even though 15 coaches represents roughly half of the league's teams, there's a legitimate scenario in which all of these names could be gone after the season is finished. It's not always fair, but it's the current climate of the league, and some of these coaches have received more than enough chances. Not everyone here will get the axe, but some certainly will, and as a result will be looking for another team by January.
Ranked below are 15 NFL head coaches who could be jobless by the end of the season.
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15 Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons
Quinn was a hot name on the 2015 coaching market because of his success in Seattle as the Defensive Coordinator for the "Legion of Boom." He took the job in Atlanta last season, and after a strong start, finished a mediocre 8-8. It's interesting that the Falcons would choose such a defensive minded coach, when their personnel, featuring the likes of Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, and Devonta Freeman, is strongest on the offensive side of the ball. If the team suffers significant regression this season, Quinn may be out as head coach, allowing a more offensive-minded coach to come in and try to make the most out of the prime years of the offense. It won't be an easy road; they'll have to contend with the Super Bowl-appearing Panthers in the NFC South, and a rapidly improving Buccaneers team.
14 Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
A former Cowboys backup QB, who has achieved mediocre results since taking over the coaching reigns in 2010 (45-43 overall record), Garrett may be in owner Jerry Jones' back pocket, but that time has to come to end if the team continues to struggle. Dallas is coming off of a 4-12 record last year, and while they didn't have ace QB Tony Romo for the majority of the season, good coaches need to find a way to win, even when their best players go down. Garrett hasn't shown the ability to be a master at scheming matchups, and the Cowboys have enough weapons on their offense to benefit from somebody with a better grasp on a high-flying offense. It's unlikely that Jones axes his hand-picked coach, but if it was any other team, Garrett would be forced into a prove-it year this season.
13 Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders
In a lot of ways, Del Rio fits the Raiders young team, and new attitude extremely well, but his track record has been questionable at times. Despite the lack of personnel at times over his coaching career, he was up and down with the Jaguars during his nine seasons there, and has yet to lead the Raiders to a winning campaign as he goes into his third year with the team. This Oakland teams has a ton of young, new talent, as well as a defense on the rise, and Del Rio may not be the best choice to ultimately fulfill that potential. It could go either way this year, but it will tell a lot about his ability to maximize the strengths of his team. Most people believe that the Raiders, with the emergence of Amari Cooper and Derek Carr, have the ability to be an offensive juggernaut in 2016, and it's up to Del Rio to prove them correct.
12 Bill O'Brien, Houston Texans
The Texans have seen some marginal success recently, but O'Brien has yet to prove that he can elevate his team to the next level. Granted, he'll have many more weapons to work with this season, with the acquisitions of Lamar Miller and Brock Osweiler in the offseason, coupled with incumbent star WR DeAndre Hopkins, but it all depends on O'Brien's ability to get the most out of them. As it stands the Texans are right about in the NFLs, "no man's land", a team that is good enough to win nine games and get to the Wild Card Round, but not good enough to actually go on a deep playoff run and contend for a Super Bowl. O'Brien will have to make that jump sometime in the next two seasons if he wants to keep his job. He's a good motivator, and has a solid offensive mind, but has yet to prove that he is able to have upper-tier success at the pro level.
11 Chip Kelly, San Francisco 49ers
With the whirlwind that was Chip Kelly's last season in Philadelphia; a year that produced much debate on his ability to communicate with personnel, and legitimacy of his unique system, his new locale in San Francisco may not remain for long. The 49ers have an utterly putrid roster, and won't be doing Kelly any favors in elevating his much maligned and praised scheme (depending on how you view it). This may be Kelly's first year with the team, but their personnel is bad enough that they may only win three or four games, and the 49ers front office is enough of a trainwreck to actually consider firing Kelly. If he can show enough glimpses of his offensive system working as it should, his job should be safe, but Kelly is a polarizing coach, and the franchise is far from a stable entity right now. This is a situation to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
10 John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
This is another dark horse pick, but this isn't the same Ravens team as it was five years ago, and Harbaugh may be on his way out if they can't put it together. Last year, they suffered a plethora of injuries to their offense and defense alike, essentially paving their way to cellar of the AFC North. This year, while the likes of Joe Flacco will return, there are still many personnel questions on the roster, and Harbaugh may not be able to scheme well enough to overcome them. After a 5-11 record last season, Harbaugh needs to at least get back into playoff contention, or else the front office may view it as the end of an era, and want a change of pace at head coach. Given Harbaugh's track record, they'll probably rebound, but don't be surprised to hear rumblings of a head coaching change if they get off to a slow start.
9 John Fox, Chicago Bears
Over his storied head coaching career, Fox has performed two success reclamation projects with both the Panthers and Broncos, but his luck may have run out on this third job in Chicago. The team finished 6-10 last year, and find themselves within a very difficult conference at the moment, with the Vikings and Packers having the potential to produce elite teams. This makes the rebuild for the Bears all the more difficult, and they may be willing to move on from Fox if improvement isn't seen for the second year in a row, opting to go with a younger coach who can grow with the team. It's less of an indictment on Fox, than it is being the product of a difficult situation, but the competition level in the NFC North may force an early exit from the Bears for Fox, in what may be his final NFL coaching job.
8 Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins
The Redskins may have won the NFC East last season, but it came during a year where the worst possible scenarios occurred with every other team in the division. It very well could turn out to be an anomaly. It remains to be seen if Kirk Cousins can replicate his quality production at QB this season, and if not, Gruden hasn't proven that he's a good enough offensive mind to overcome it. His first year in Washington during the 2014 season, Gruden's Redskins went 4-12, and despite additions such as CB Josh Norman, they seem closer to that version of the team, than the playoff one we saw last season. Admittedly, Gruden probably doesn't get fired after this season, just because he's won the division once, and successful seasons for Washington are few and far between, but there's a chance he's gone after 2017.
7 Mike Mularkey, Tennessee Titans
In an absolutely baffling decision, the Titans decided to keep Mularkey as their head coach, after he was the interim after Ken Wisenhunt's firing in the middle of the 2015 season. Besides one 9-7 season with the Bills, way back in 2004, Mularkey has been awful as an NFL head coach. He posted a 5-11 record in Buffalo in 2005, just before he got the axe, a 2-14 record in his only year with the Jaguars in 2012, before winning just two games last year in nine coaches games overall. His run-first system doesn't benefit young QB Marcus Mariota, and overall the decision just makes very little sense. The Titants very well may decide to cut their losses if Mularkey maintains the status of his awful track record as a coach, and be looking for a more cerebral offensive mind to get the most out of Mariota, and rookie RB Derrick Henry.
6 Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars
In his three seasons in Jacksonville, Bradley has compiled a lowly 12-36 record. While this offseason was prolific for the Jags, and they acquired a ton of new talent on both sides of the ball, another poor season for Bradley will probably spell the end of his run. He hasn't won more than five games in a season, and the front office will probably be looking for a more offensively minded coach to lead Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, T.J. Yeldon and Allen Hurns. After all, Bradley doesn't have the luxury of even one decent season to fall back on, and could be gone even by mid-season if the Jags continue to struggle. His strengths as a coach don't match up with the current personnel of the team, and his days in Jacksonville seem to be numbered unless the team can pull off a well-timed playoff run.
5 Rex Ryan, Buffalo Bills
One of the most polarizing coaches in the NFL, Ryan always says what is on his mind, sometimes to a fault. After some initial success with the Jets that promptly turned into mediocrity, he continued that trend in his debut season with the Bills. Ryan's team went 8-8, and with that comes many questions on his ability to turn Buffalo around, and achieve a long-awaited playoff appearance. Ryan hasn't posted a winning season since 2010 in New York, and his general methods and composure don't really fit the current NFL landscape, at least for head coaches. All things considered, he's not a lock to be fired, but if the Bills post a sub-.500 record this year, there will questions for the front office to answer, as the fans grow increasingly impatient.
4 Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers
The Chargers are all kinds of a mess right now, from the poor season last year, to the Joey Bosa contract debacle, to the rumors that they might be on the move to Las Vegas; everything is working against them right now. After a pair of 9-7 seasons as San Diego's head coach, McCoy went 4-12 last year, raising many questions concerning his future with the team. They elected to hang onto him, but with everything going on with the franchise, he'll likely have a short leash, and must prove that he can have some kind of playoff success this season. The roster really isn't in a position to do that, and the team figures to be going through some major changes in the next few years. Getting rid of McCoy figures to be on that list, so they can have a fresh start.
3 Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions
The Lions were a force in 2011 under Caldwell, winning 11 games, and making it to the playoffs, where they were beaten by the Cowboys in the Divisional Round. Last season however, the team really fell off the map, with numerous defensive concerns, and questions as to whether Matt Stafford is really the QB to get the franchise over the edge. Caldwell's going to get a full year to prove that he can make it work, but after the season, Detroit's front office may be looking for other candidates. Caldwell hasn't won a playoff game since 2009, when he was the head coach for the Colts, and for a team that has as little postseason success as Detroit does, this isn't a good sign going forward. There's a chance that Caldwell can save his job, but in all likelihood the Lions will be looking for a new coach during the offseason.
2 Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
The fact that Lewis still has a job is a testament to just how difficult it is to be even marginally successful in the NFL. He has been the head coach in Cincinnati since 2003. In that span of time, his Bengals teams have made the Wild Card Round seven times, and lost every single one. Lewis usually fields a .500 or better team, but they just can't get over the hump, and a lackluster season this year has to be spell the end of his run there. In the NFL, making the playoffs is a victory in and of itself, but at some point the franchise has to take the next step, and go for championship-level success. Lewis hasn't proven that he's able to do this, and he has to be on his last leg in the event that he doesn't improve. It's one of the strangest head coaching scenarios in the NFL, but Lewis still has a job for now. Come January, it could be a very different story.
1 Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams
Look up the word mediocrity in the dictionary, and there should be a picture of Fisher in a Rams cap smiling back at you. After a stellar first run with the Titans that lasted over 15 seasons, Fisher has been wholly underwhelming at the helm of the Rams. Three seven-win seasons, along with a six-win campaign isn't going to cut it, especially since just about every year, the team is predicted to be better than they were before. With the recent move to Los Angeles, and the new stadium in the works, the franchise simply isn't going to give too many more chances for Fisher to make his mark. There's a good chance he's out of there by the end of the season, and an offensive-minded guru is ready to take the reigns for when Jared Goff overtakes the starting QB role. Fisher's time is almost finished in L.A. if he keeps posting his typical middling results, especially with all the fanfare now circulating around the team.
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