Being an NFL head coach is a lot different than being the bench boss in the NBA or NHL. It seems like if you win one Super Bowl, you basically can coach your team until you want to leave. But the NFL is also a league where coaches are given second chances, (wait, make that seven chances), after so many failures.
NBA and NHL head coaches don't get fired unless the team keeps underachieving under their guidances. But in the NFL, it's easy to get away with so much mediocrity. Keep in mind, Jeff Fisher had zero winning seasons with the Los Angeles Rams franchise since taking over in 2012. He didn't get fired until shortly after getting a contract extension during the 2016 season.
Looking down the road, it's tough to see what the future holds for some of these coaches. We take a look at 15 NFL head coaches, with projections of whether they'll retire, get fired, get demoted and when those scenarios will happen.
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15 Anthony Lynn: Fired in 2020
It doesn't exactly sound fair to already predict a head coach getting his pink slip when he was just hired to become head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. But Anthony Lynn is inheriting a roster that has very little talent outside of 35-year-old quarterback Philip Rivers and 2016 standout rookie Joey Bosa.
Playing in the ultra competitive AFC West doesn't help, as the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders are all miles ahead of L.A. right now. Lynn will get at least three seasons to show he's the right man to lead the Chargers, but it's tough to see a scenario where he turns them into a competitive team.
With no progress made after the 2019 season, it's hard to imagine Lynn staying head coach beyond three years.
14 John Harbaugh: Demoted to an Assistant Coach
As we've seen throughout the years in the NFL, once a head coach leads his team to a Super Bowl, he seems to be safe for at least 10 years. Well, John Harbaugh's Baltimore Ravens have been a lackluster squad since winning Super Bowl XLVII four years ago. They've had just one winning season and one playoff season, and this entire roster is ageing rapidly.
Harbaugh's Ravens put together a promising campaign to start 2016, only to see the defence fall apart and cost them a championship. However, Harbaugh remains beloved and well-respected in the Ravens organization. That being said, I'm expecting him to step down as head coach by 2021, with little progress made for the franchise's aspirations of a third Super Bowl.
Harbaugh will remain on staff as an assistant coach, possibly a linebackers or secondary assistant. But his days as a head coach are and should be numbered at this point.
13 Bruce Arians: Fired, Becomes Offensive Coordinator
The Arizona Cardinals posted a winning record in each of their first three seasons with Bruce Arians as head coach. He revitalized the careers of both Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald and gave the Cardinals a defence that rivals the talents of the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos.
That being said, the Cardinals were a huge disappointment in 2016 with a 7-8-1 record. Palmer is now 37 years of age and doesn't appear to be getting any better, while Fitzgerald has stated his strong consideration of retiring in the offseason.
The Cardinals championship window is probably open for one or two more years, but one can make a case it's already been closed. Arizona will probably look to make sweeping changes if they disappoint in 2017, and it'll start with firing Arians and bringing on a new coach to rebuild this team.
That won't leave Arians unemployed for long. He's one of the best offensive-minded quarterbacks in the NFL. Someone will scoop him up and make them their offensive coordinator.
12 Bill O'Brien: Fired, Becomes Defensive Coordinator
Hard to see a scenario where the Houston Texans fire Bill O'Brien. The man has guided this team to three-consecutive 9-7 seasons with injuries to their top-ranked defense in 2016 and a team whose best quarterback under O'Brien is probably Brian Hoyer. That's saying a lot.
But the Texans bullying ways of the AFC South are limited. Andrew Luck promises to get back on track eventually, and the Tennessee Titans showed that they're primed to make a run at the division in 2017 and beyond, too.
If Houston hasn't advanced past the Divisional Round by 2019 (trust me, they probably won't), then there will need to be a new voice in the locker room. O'Brien has kept Houston above-average, but he doesn't seem to be the guy that can take them further. I'm expecting him to be fired by 2019, but his work in building a strong Texans defence will land him a defensive coordinator job elsewhere.
11 Jason Garrett: Coaches For as Long as He Wants
I have to say, I was wrong.
I thought Jerry Jones would fire Jason Garrett after the Dallas Cowboys went 8-8 in 2011. I was quite positive they would fire Garrett when they went 8-8 in 2012. I was more than positive they would fire him after going 8-8 in 2013. I was quite surprised when he didn't get fired in 20155 after Dallas went 4-12.
Some may think that Garrett is starting to wear out his welcome in Dallas, especially after another one-and-done playoff season for the Cowboys in 2016. But don't get your hopes up, because he's going to probably stay here until the day he wants to retire.
Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott give Garrett two franchise building blocks, and Jerry Jones seems to love Garrett as a coach too much to let him go. Garrett's more likely to be here in 10 years than to be fired. At least, that's what Jones seems want it to be.
10 John Fox: Fired in 2018
People overlook too much at the fact that John Fox guided Carolina and Denver to Super Bowl trips throughout his career. He's simply not that great of a coach - the Broncos won the Super Bowl last year when they cut ties with Fox, and the Chicago Bears have gone 9-23 under Fox in two seasons.
The Bears aren't likely to get much better in 2017. If and when they move on from Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery signs elsewhere in the offseason, that leaves this team without a true franchise quarterback and star receiver.
Fox isn't likely to see much of a change from the Bears record in 2017, and three-consecutive lackluster seasons from a non Super Bowl-winning coach likely results in a pink slip. Fox will get fired by the Bears after the 2017 season, and I don't see him landing another job right after that. He may need to wait a year or two until teams get desperate..
9 Hue Jackson: Fired in 2018, Becomes Offensive Coordinator
It's not Hue Jackson's fault that the Cleveland Browns went 1-15 in 2016. This is a team that's already on its fourth head coach since 2011 that seemingly tries out three new starting quarterbacks every year. But as we've seen from the team's front office, a head coach without a winning record in Cleveland will last as long as the Friends spin-off, Joey.
Jackson isn't seeing a whole lot of talent in Cleveland, so seeing him guide this team to anything more than three wins in 2017 shall be considered miraculous. The Browns will once again blame the problem on the head coach and fire Jackson after yet another disappointing season.
But Jackson has had plenty success as an offensive coordinator throughout his career, giving Andy Dalton two great seasons in 2014 and 2015. Some team will remember that and hire him as an offensive coordinator, shortly after the Browns make yet another firing of a head coach.
8 Todd Bowles: Fired in 2019
The New York Jets loved what they saw from Todd Bowles as the Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator and hired him to be their head coach in 2015. Bowles saw the Jets go 10-6 and just narrowly miss the playoffs. He helped Ryan Fitzpatrick put together a career season while Brandon Marshall played like a 23-year-old trapped in a 31-year-old's body. The Jets looked primed for another winning season in 2016.
However, Fitzpatrick regressed, the dominant days of Revis Island took a permanent vacation and the Jets just fell apart altogether, finishing with a 5-11 record. However, Bowles remains the head coach for now, and it appears that New York is trusting him to kick start a rebuild.
Bowles will be given a bit of time and patience, but I'm not seeing a whole lot of progress from this Jets team in 2018 nor 2019. After two years of a failed rebuild, expect Bowles to get fired. Where he goes from there is impossible to guess right now.
7 Jay Gruden: Fired in 2019, Becomes Offensive Coordinator
The Washington Redskins made the playoffs in 2015 with a 9-7 record, as Jay Gruden was able to turn Kirk Cousins into the new franchise quarterback. But the rises of both the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants in 2016 made it tough for Washington, who went 8-7-1 and narrowly missed out on a playoff berth.
Truth be told, the Redskins haven't been a relevant team for a long time. Their division titles in 2012 and 2015 can be attributed to incredibly weak NFC East opponents in all those years. Washington can't settle for mediocrity most years, and Gruden hasn't shown that he can take them to that next level, yet.
I'm expecting Gruden to get fired by the end of the 2018 season, as the Redskins will likely be looking to rebuild a team whose core players are ageing fast. But Gruden's work with Cousins will surely land him a job as an offensive coordinator somewhere else.
6 Ron Rivera: Fired in 2020
Ron Rivera took over a team that had struggled for years and turned them into the NFC South champions three years in a row. The Carolina Panthers also went to Super Bowl 50, their first trip to the big game in 12 years.
But the Panthers generally weak NFC South became one of the league's toughest divisions overnight. The Atlanta Falcons (11-5), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7), figure to give Carolina plenty of frustration over the coming years. This is no longer a terrible division for the Panthers to run away with.
So with that, I'm just expecting Rivera to be out of work in Carolina by 2020 after little progress over the next three seasons. If that situation plays out, it won't be easy for him to find work as an offensive coordinator nor defensive coordinator. He's under a lot of pressure to turn things around in 2017.
5 Bill Belichick: Still Coaching
Bill Belichick is turning 65 years of age this April, but there's no reason to expect that he's going to retire any time soon. Everyone knows that the hooded genius spends all of his time watching and coaching football. He's arguably the greatest head coach in the history of professional sports.
Belichick has been around in the NFL since the '70s, and he's turned the New England Patriots into the model organization in American Sports - at least for the 2000s and most of the 2010s. Belichick could live until he's 110 if he wanted to, and Robert Kraft would not fire him. Belichick is just always a step ahead of every other head coach, and the consistency of the Patriots is amazing.
I'm just going to go ahead and guess that Belichick coaches until formally retiring in 2027. That would make him 74 years of age by the time he finally hangs up the headset.
4 Jim Caldwell: Fired in 2019
Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell is certainly cutting it better in the Motor City than he was with the Indianapolis Colts. Despite a lack of talent outside of Matthew Stafford, Caldwell has guided the Lions to the playoffs in two of his three seasons there, posting a 27-21 record during that time.
But the Lions let division titles in both 2014 and 2016 slip away, allowing Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to take them instead. The Lions also haven't won a playoff game since 1992, adding more pressure for Caldwell to take Detroit a step further in 2017 and beyond.
It's tough to see the Packers relinquishing their run, and the Lions just don't seem to be able to get over when it matters most. Expect Caldwell to get at least two more seasons as head coach, before the Lions fire him once and for all in 2019.
3 Chuck Pagano: Fired in 2018
It's impossible for me to come up with an idea of how Chuck Pagano remains head coach. His teams have been blown out by the New England Patriots five times (including twice in the playoffs). He just had zero answer for Bill Belichick, showing that he's not capable of being a Super Bowl-caliber head coach.
Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson have also butted heads multiple times, with Pagano calling out the latter for not building an offensive line properly. There's clear friction between Pagano and the front office, plus the Colts have slumped to consecutive 8-8 seasons after going 11-5 every season from 2012 to 2015.
Owner Jim Irsay never has an idea when to fire people (see Bill and Chris Polian), and is missing the obvious: Pagano should not be coaching. Well, barring a significant turnaround in 2017, expect Pagano to be unemployed a year from now.
2 Marvin Lewis: Retires in 2018
The Cincinnati Bengals have stuck with Marvin Lewis as head coach since 2003, which has led to zero playoff wins. The man is a successful coach in some ways, as he did guide the Bengals to the playoffs in 2005, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. But not winning one of those games? It's a bit shocking that he's gotten so much patience.
The Bengals had a disastrous 2016 season, and perhaps the window of opportunity with this team has closed for good. Lewis' contract has one more year on it, and it's widely been speculated that he's considering retirement.
It doesn't matter if Lewis wants to retire or not. His contract has one year left and the Bengals need a fresh new voice as head coach. They probably won't want to fire Lewis, given all he's done for the organization. 2018 allows him to walk out of his contract and hold a peaceful retirement conference, allowing the Bengals to bring on a new head coach.
1 Sean Payton: Leaves Saints By 2021
The only reason Sean Payton remains Saints head coach from a logical standpoint is the fact he and franchise quarterback Drew Brees have kept an extremely close relationship since both joined New Orleans in 2006. Both turned each other into a legend and were responsible for the franchise's Super Bowl XLVI victory.
That being said, Payton is running out of time to head charge a new era for the Saints. This team has gone 7-9 three years in a row, and they have just two playoff wins since winning the Super Bowl seven years ago. Brees is now 38 years old, and it's tough to see him playing beyond 2021.
The Saints will need to start a new era when Brees retires, which figures to be by 2021. That would give Payton the chance to leave New Orleans on a peaceful note. Expect both sides to come towards a peaceful divorce, with Payton taking a new head coaching role elsewhere.
Possible Team For Payton After New Orleans: Payton will join the Indianapolis Colts in 2022, being brought in to finally bring give Andrew Luck his first championship ring. The Colts will have struggled for long enough and bring in Payton to solidify a perennial Super Bowl contender.
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