What a great time of year! Leaves are changing colors, the weather is cooling off, warm apple cider fills our bellies, and the football season is getting extremely interesting. Around this time is when the men separate themselves from the boys. It’s also when team owners and general managers start getting restless. Rumors start flying and the dreaded “votes of confidence” are handed out.
A look at the standings shows that the Raiders, Jaguars, Titans, Buccaneers, and Jets are all battling it out for the coveted first pick in next year’s draft. Not far behind them (or ahead depending on how you look at it) are the Redskins, Giants, Bears, and Rams. But just because these teams are crowding the proverbial dumpster doesn’t mean their coaches should start polishing their resumes, does it? The Skins, Titans, and Bucs have first year coaches. The Raiders have an interim coach. They should be granted ample time (at least a year!) to turn their franchises around since the teams they took over were not that great to begin with, right? The Jags and Bears head coaches are in their second seasons. Is that enough time to implement new schemes offensively and defensively that need the proper personnel in order for them to work? Laying the foundation to contend every year takes time.
Speaking of contenders, the Panthers at 3-7-1 are still very much in it. The Cowboys look better than they have in years. Everyone wrote off the Niners, but since they won a big game in New Orleans and have some key players returning to the defense, surely they’ll be contending in their division. Those coaches are safe, aren't they? Not in today’s NFL (unless you coach in Pittsburgh or New England).
This list is about 15 coaches in the NFL with the hottest of seats. For some of them, their teams need to show marked improvement finishing the season in order to keep their jobs. For the others, they might as well get the suits pressed and the resumes copied. The NFL is no place for the faint of heart. Black Monday is fast approaching!
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15 Mike Shula, Offensive Coordinator, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton is having the worst statistical season of his career. Is it because he missed most of the off-season rehabbing his surgically repaired ankle? The rib injury that kept him out week one? He has said himself in the past few weeks that he's still injured. Or, maybe it is because the offense just isn't responding to Mike Shula's direction. Granted, the front office in Carolina made some curious salary cap moves in the off-season like releasing Steve Smith and not replacing Jordan Gross, their retired left tackle, in free agency, so the offensive disaster that is the Panthers can't solely be blamed on Shula or Cam Newton. In the end, though, results mean everything, and they just haven't been there for Mike Shula as the offense is ranked 24th in points scored and 23rd in yards gained. Fans of the team are starting to call for the return of Rob Chudzinksi, the man who lead the offense in Cam Newton's first two seasons, coincidentally or not, his Pro Bowl years. When questioned about his inability to develop Cam into a pocket passer, Mike Shula may have sealed his own fate this season by publicly stating his belief that Cam Newton is not an elite quarterback.
14 Nathaniel Hackett, Offensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills
Nathaniel Hackett has had five starting quarterbacks in his two seasons as offensive coordinator for the Bills. And while Kyle Orton, E.J. Manuel, Thad Lewis, and Jeff Tuel don't spread fear through opposing NFL defenses, in the NFL, fans and management expect results and improvement regardless of the personnel you're given. Unfortunately for Mr. Hackett, this hasn't been the case. Buffalo is ranked dead last in red zone scoring this season and has taken a step back each season he's been running the offense. Early this year, Doug Marrone and Bills management moved on from Manuel, thinking he was holding them back as a young undeveloped player, but Kyle Orton is proving these struggles are more likely due to schemes and play calling and not who's under center.
13 Greg Roman, Offensive Coordinator, San Francisco 49ers
You don't need to be an expert football analyst to realize that the 49ers offensive game plans this season have been a bit curious to say the least. Since Jim Harbaugh brought Greg Roman with him the team in 2011, the 49ers' identity has been a team with a stingy, hit-you-in-the-mouth defense, and a strong, ball-controlling, power running offense. Two seasons ago, they seemed unstoppable with Colin Kaepernick and Roman bringing the read-option to the NFL. In 2014, the Niners have moved away from pounding the rock with their all time leading rusher, Frank Gore, and have gone to far more 5 wide, empty backfield sets, resulting in what many have seen as a down season up to this point. Maybe Roman knows something about Gore that the public doesn't. Or maybe he's overrating his own quarterback's skill set by asking him to air it out constantly? Whatever the case, the offensive execution has been poor, just look at the end of the loss to the Rams, when the team had the ball on the one yard line, first-and-goal, and Frank Gore never touched the ball. Harbaugh has come out in support of Roman, but like many others on this list, somebody is going to be held responsible, and if it isn't Harbaugh, it will most likely be Roman.
12 Perry Fewell, Defensive Coordinator, New York Giants
Perry Fewell took over as the defensive coordinator for the Giants in 2010. That season, the team was ranked 27th in yards allowed. In 2011, they ranked 31st in the same category. Things did turn around last season when they jumped to 8th but unfortunately for Fewell, this season they are near the very bottom once again- 31st in total defense. While another Giants coach finds himself in a "hotter" seat, someone is going to fall on the sword for this disastrous season and poor Perry may just be that someone.
11 Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars
What was Gus Bradley thinking? Two years ago he was the defensive coordinator in Seattle and in charge of the best defense in the league. He missed out on a Super Bowl ring last season when he took the head coaching position in Jacksonville. In his first go-round, the team won four games. This year, it appears the Jaguars have taken a step back having won only one game. Defense is Gus Bradley's background, yet his defense has allowed the most points in the NFL. The owner of the team doesn’t appear as though he will be quick with the hook, but some progress needs to be during the remaining games on the schedule in order for Bradley to get a fair amount of time with his young quarterback and the youngest team in the league.
10 Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams
Jeff Fisher has been the coach of the Rams since 2012, which coincidentally was his best season in St. Louis, improving the team by five wins. Since them, they have been heading in the wrong direction. Granted, Fisher has lost his starting quarterback the last two seasons which doesn’t make things easy, but any owner or general manager will tell you that’s just part of the game. The reason Fisher is on this list is because he must be starting to see the writing on the wall himself. Why else would he flip flop on his QB decision and bench the young Austin Davis for Shaun Hill? A move made by a coach trying to do what he can to save his job.
9 Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
Marvin Lewis is in his 12th season with the Bengals, making him the second longest tenured head coach in the NFL. What does he have to show for it? Five times he guided his team to the playoffs and five times they have lost on wild card weekend. Sure, he won Coach of the Year in 2009, but compared to the resume of the longest tenured coach in the NFL, Bill Belichick (since 2003, 10 playoff berths, four AFC Championships, and two Super Bowl wins, and three coach of the year awards), one may wonder why Lewis still has his job at all. Currently they are clinging onto first in the AFC North, but a bad loss to Cleveland at home has the fans of Cincinnati wondering once again if Marvin Lewis is a man capable of leading one of the most talented rosters in the league to that elusive playoff victory. Anything short of a playoff victory will be seen as a failure, putting Lewis on the hot seat until he gets one.
8 Mel Tucker, Defensive Coordinator, Chicago Bears
Like most NFL coordinators and head coaches, consistent positive results follow them as they ascend in their careers. This is no different for Mel Tucker. He's proven time and again that his influence on defensive units provide positive results. However, in his first season as defensive coordinator for the Bears in 2013, the team had one of the worst defensive seasons in their history. Well, it's gone from bad to worse for poor Mel. After ranking 30th in both yards and points allowed last season, the team is ranked dead last in points allowed this season. Obviously a bit skewed from the horror shows against the Packers and the Patriots, but the statistics show that, for whatever reason, the defense isn't responding to Tucker's coaching. It's been reported there is zero chance Tucker returns next season and there has to be a good chance he doesn't even finish this season. Like Perry Fewell, someone has to take the fall in Chicago and if Trestman is going to keep his job at least one more year, Tucker won't be keeping his.
7 Doug Marrone, Buffalo Bills
One of the more questionable moves this season was the benching of E.J. Manuel, the young starting quarterback for the Bills, after four games. When Kyle Orton took over, the Bills were 2-2. Since then, the team has seen better numbers from Orton, but hasn't been any more effective on the scoreboard. The Bills still don’t know if E.J. Manuel can be their quarterback of the future since he’s only started a total of 14 games in his career! Marrone came into the season on the hot seat as the coach of the team with the longest playoff drought in the NFL, and when a quarterback change happens so early in a season, it’s evident that the former Syracuse head coach is fighting for his job this season.
6 Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers should consider themselves lucky they have a solid coach leading their team. Riverboat Ron, as he is affectionately called, was one of the hottest head coaching commodities from 2007 to 2011. He was last season's Coach of the Year, taking his team from a 1-3 start to a 12-4 overall record and the no.2 seed in the NFC. He's increased the teams wins for the first three years he's coached the team. This season, the defensive minded coach has seen his 2nd ranked defense from last season turn into a bottom seven defensive unit. However, equally as big a reason for the 3-7-1 record has as much to do with Cam Newton and the offense than anything else. The franchise quarterback is having his worst season as a pro, came into the year injured and still appears to be playing injured . The Panthers should stay the course with the proven Rivera, however, in the NFL (Not For Long), short term memories are very common.
5 Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears
Aside from being colder than cold, things seem so easy in Canada. Stay warm, be nice, drink beer, get free healthcare, and stay warm. As a football coach for the Montreal Alouettes, all Marc Trestman had to worry about was staying warm. He won the 2009 CFL Coach of the Year award and led his team to two consecutive Grey Cup championships in five years. Cut to November 2014. Headline- "Bears' coach Marc Trestman becoming increasingly guarded." Dealing with the media in the NFL, especially in a large market like Chicago is a little different than in Montreal (at least when it comes to football). Another one- "Sounds of Marc Trestman: maybe he has a cold or maybe he knows he's gone." So cruel, Chicago Tribune. Clearly, Trestman has proven he can deal with arctic blasts so I'm thinking it's not a cold. It's unfair that Bears management expects him to win with a team led by Jay Cutler, the wet blanket, but Trestman is the "quarterback whiperer" and the team ranked 2nd in points scored last year (although Josh McCown did play QB for half the season). Chances are, the business savvy ownership in Chicago will give Trestman one more year, only if the team shows some promise closing out the season. Oh, and wins against Minnesota and Tampa Bay don't exactly make your seat any cooler.
4 Rob Ryan, Defensive Coordinator, New Orleans Saints
Rob Ryan comes from an impressive coaching family. He played defensive end opposite his twin bother Rex in college and learned coaching from his father, Buddy Ryan. From the time he started coaching in 1994, a trail of statistically impressive defenses has followed him from job to job. For some reason that trail has dried up in the last eight years. This season is no exception as the New Orleans Saints defense ranks at the bottom in all major defensive categories and is a huge factor in the team's underachievement.
3 Tom Coughlin, New York Giants
It's tough to coach in New York, just ask Tom Coughlin. Apparently, two Super Bowl rings in the last seven years isn't enough to keep the heat of the media turned down. In fairness though, the Giants are about to miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six years. The 3-8 Giants are learning a new offense this season and they lost their no.1 wide receiver for the year and their no.1 running back missed half of it as well. The defense is ranked 31st in yards per game and while the blame can be put on Coughlin, it is also shared with Perry Fewell, the defensive coordinator. Some people in New York want to give Coughlin one more season, pending the return of Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator, who led the defense to the most sacks in the NFL during their Super Bowl winning season in 2007. The Giants do have solid ownership and management but if a head coaching change is to be made, they would most likely offer Coughlin the opportunity to retire before they canned him for good.
2 Rex Ryan, New York Jets
See? It is tough to coach in New York. Rex Ryan took over the Jets in 2009 and took them to the AFC championship game in his first two seasons. Since then, the Jets haven't been back to the playoffs, or won more than eight games in a year. Being a defensive minded coach, Rex has failed to develop any offensive talent since he's been in New York including Mark Sanchez, whom the Jets drafted no.5 overall in 2009. This season has been a total disaster for the team as another heralded rookie quarterback, Geno Smith, couldn't find success either. The organization itself is in turmoil and a house cleaning come season's end is looming, starting with replacing of the team's head coach.
1 Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers
When the owner's expectations is that a Super Bowl victory is the only way to signify a successful season, it's safe to say the current coach is on the hot seat. Jim Harbaugh probably isn't at the top of most "hot seat" lists you'll read, but when expectations are, Super Bowl or bust, that automatically puts you there. The 49ers also chose not to extend Jim Harbaugh's contract, indicating a 'show me' attitude. After three straight trips to the NFC Championship game (including one Super Bowl loss), the expectations for this season's 49ers were through the roof. However, 10 games into the season, they find themselves at 7-4 and two games out of first place in the NFC west. Niners fans will say they lost key defensive personnel resulting in their regression, but the stats say their defense is still ranked 2nd in total yards allowed, as well as 10th in points allowed per game. The rumors are flying for Harbaugh's next job- Oakland, the Jets, Michigan, and now Florida! It's hard to say Harbaugh has done anything but a great job in San Fran, but barring a Super Bowl victory, some early season struggles could be enough to push the khaki clad Harbaugh out the door come season's end. In a way, he's become a victim of his own success.
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