National Football League head coaches have one of the toughest jobs in sports. Not only are they tasked with managing a huge roster of players, but they’re also expected to turn a franchise around as quickly as possible. There is no rebuild period in the NFL as there is in other sports.
Most of the time you can tell when a coach is going to get fired. Embarrassing losses, lackluster records and players not performing up to snuff can send most coaches packing. Even the best, longest-tenured coaches who have a Super Bowl ring with their respective team can get the boot once a team stops responding and playing at a high level for him.
But when things are going good for a new coach, he can be on top of the world. Sure, the expectations of a rapid turnaround come with the territory, but reaching such a goal can be very rewarding. When a coach is hot and has his team playing well, there is no price a front office won’t pay to keep him.
Teams like the Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Rams are all playing uninspired football at the moment. Because of that, each of their coaches are feeling the seat underneath their bottoms heat up.
On the flip side, the Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens each have their coaches smelling like roses, some for different reasons than others.
Let’s break down each team’s situation and find out why their coach should either be fired or get a raise.
15. Fire: Rex Ryan
Same loud mouth, same old results. Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan has done no better than mediocre in his season plus as the team’s head coach. His first season in Buffalo saw an 8-8 result and his second season appears to be on the same track, at best.
Ryan isn’t even enjoying close to the success he had in his first few seasons with the New York Jets and has actually been a step down from the team’s previous head coach, Doug Marrone, who finished with a 9-7 record before leaving. Ryan’s antics are already old and he’s proven to be the kind of guy that leaves a World Series clinching game early for his favorite baseball team that hasn’t won in over a century. That’s just the latest example of Ryan’s poor judgment and it’s something that continues to hinder the teams he has coached.
14. Raise: Adam Gase
The Miami Dolphins looked dead in the water (no pun intended) to start the season, but head coach Adam Gase is turning the ship around after a midseason winning streak. Ryan Tannehill actually looks competent and the team’s offensive line is finally healthy, opening up holes for emerging superstar running back Jay Ajayi.
Gase is on pace to better the Dolphins’ record of a season ago and there is finally some hope in South Beach. If Tannehill can continue to grow under Gase and play the kind of turnover-free football he is lately, the Dolphins might have something going here. The improvements in Tannehill alone are worth a raise for the “quarterback whisperer” head coach. Along with a solid defense led by an elite line, the team’s offense is starting to make the Dolphins a well-rounded team. The future is finally bright in Miami.
13. Fire: Todd Bowles
The New York Jets are a mess; what else is new? Head coach Todd Bowles seemed to have brought change to the franchise after a 10-6 debut season, but now that success has quickly been forgotten.
The Jets have been riding in the cellar for most of the season and are almost certain to finish there after Week 17 is said and done. The team has flip-flopped on quarterbacks multiple times and Ryan Fitzpatrick even called out his coaches and upper management for not believing in him. First there was Geno Smith to replace Fitz, then Bryce Petty, then maybe not Bryce Petty, and the story goes on.
Sound confusing? That’s exactly how everybody watching the Jets feels. Add to that the fact that players have reportedly been showing up late to meetings with little to no punishment and you have a poorly coached team. Bowles is on the verge of being a laughingstock in the Big Apple and it’s already time for a change.
12. Raise: John Harbaugh
Even with limited talent, head coach John Harbaugh always has the Baltimore Ravens competing for at least a playoff spot. This season, seemingly against all odds, the Ravens are battling for a division title when nobody thought they could. Harbaugh has done nothing but win with the Ravens and even brought a Super Bowl title back to Baltimore during his tenure.
He has suffered just one losing campaign with the only team he has ever been the head coach of and his overall record of 82-55 leaves nothing to be desired. There are few coaches in the NFL who stick with a team as long as Harbaugh has with the Ravens and still has success. He’s one of those special cases that should elevate him to elite status in the league. Hey Ravens, it’s time for another raise.
11. Fire: Marvin Lewis
Only one coach has been with his team longer than Marvin Lewis and that guy has four Super Bowl rings – which is four more than Lewis has. After five consecutive winning seasons with a trip to the playoffs in each, the Bengals are floundering in 2016 and playing well below expectations. The 2010 season was the last time a Lewis coached team didn’t make the playoffs and that streak is close to ending.
The Bengals have routinely suffered embarrassing losses and are 0-7 in the playoffs under Lewis. We don’t doubt he’s a good coach, however even the best coaches sometimes lose their team and it seems that’s what’s happening here. The window for the Lewis-Dalton era has closed and it’s time the franchise go in a different direction. Don’t worry about Lewis, though, he’ll be hired shortly after inevitably losing his job.
10. Raise: Mike Mularkey
Mike Mularkey has taken the Tennessee Titans from a team certain to draft in the top-five every year to one that is battling for a playoff spot. The Titans are seeing sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota continue to improve, a young offensive line that is getting better by the week and a running game that is one of the best in the league as a result of that o-line.
After a 3-13 2015 season, the Titans have already outdone themselves in 2016. The veteran coach has done a remarkable job turning this franchise around from the mess it was when Ken Whisenhunt left and it didn’t take him too long. Tennessee winning its division and/or making the playoffs has a better chance of happening than not considering the division and the fact that the Titans are the most talented team in it. If Mularkey can achieve such a feat, he should be one of the favorites for NFL Coach of the Year honors.
9. Fire: Chuck Pagano
This is a move that should have happened after last season, however Chuck Pagano was spared thanks to an injury to Andrew Luck that completely derailed the Indianapolis Colts’ season. Now it’s put up or shut up time in Indy with Luck back and healthy this season, leaving no more excuses for Pagano. Despite that, the Colts are playing poorly as a team and would likely be a basement-dweller if not for Luck constantly carrying the entire team on his back.
The roster has been poorly constructed with a bad offensive line and a defense that couldn’t stop a pinhole-sized leak. While the Colts have been good under Pagano in four plus seasons, they haven’t been elite and can’t win the big game when it comes down to it. If there were any other quarterback behind center, Pagano would have already crashed and burned. It’s Super Bowl appearance or bust for Pagano this season and it doesn’t look like the Colts will even make the playoffs, let alone get to the big game.
8. Raise: Andy Reid
Neither tough division nor game manager quarterbacks can stop Andy Reid from winning. Now in his fourth season with the Chiefs, Reid has the Kansas City Chiefs making their way to the playoffs for the second straight season, and third time during Reid’s tenure. We saw the true mark of Reid’s excellence last season after KC started out 1-5 only to reel off 10 straight regular season wins en route to the playoffs.
The Chiefs even won a playoff game before their win streak ultimately ended at 11, making the 2015 campaign a huge success. Reid’s squad is on pace to do even better this season and is competing for the AFC West crown in what is considered the toughest division in football. You can’t argue with Reid’s undeniable success with a good defense and an average offense, you can only pay him more.
7. Fire: Gus Bradley
At worst, the Jacksonville Jaguars were supposed to compete for a playoff spot this season. That hasn’t even come close to happening and instead, the Jags have taken a giant step back and own one of the worst records in the league. Quarterback Blake Bortles has been a major reason the Jags are struggling. The third-year signal-caller looks like a shell of his former self and has looked totally lost for most of the season.
Regression like that is a bad sign for a young quarterback and a strong indicator of bad coaching, especially when he showed so much promise a season ago. Jacksonville’s defense, which was supposed to be one of the most improved units in the league, has stunk as bad as the team’s offense. All of these problems boil down to Bradley doing a poor job and the Jags should send him packing before he ruins this young team.
6. Raise: Jack Del Rio
Like the Jaguars, the Oakland Raiders were pegged as an up-and-coming team this season; but unlike the Jags, the Raiders have delivered. Quarterback Derek Carr is becoming a star and a Most Valuable Player candidate, while the team’s offensive line is emerging as one of the best in football. Defensively there is some room for improvement, but with what the Raiders can do on offense, it’s enough.
The Raiders have already knocked off the Super Bowl champs this season and are currently the frontrunners to win the AFC West as the most complete team in the division by far. Jack Del Rio has finally helped bring some respectable football back to Raiders nation and there is no price you can put on something like that. If the Raiders can finish what they’ve started and win the division, Del Rio should be a lock for NFL Coach of the Year – and a raise.
5. Fire: Sean Payton
The New Orleans Saints have gone 7-9 in three of their last four seasons and have stood no chance of competing with an annually bad defense. Mediocrity is once again in store this season for the Saints, as the franchise continues to be carried by the arm of Drew Brees, albeit unsuccessfully. The truth is the Saints haven’t done much since winning Super Bowl XLIV, and a lot of that has to do with the lack of financial flexibility the team has to fill the holes on their roster.
Brees is making an insane amount of money and is inadvertently hurting his team. The Saints should consider blowing things up and trading Brees in order to bring back some draft picks to start a rebuild. Another part of blowing it up is getting rid of the coach, who probably won’t be on board with starting over anyway. Payton’s days are numbered in New Orleans and he’ll be out of a job as soon as the Saints face facts.
4. Raise: Doug Pederson
Everyone expected the Eagles to have a rough transition period with rookie Carson Wentz at the helm, however the Eagles have turned things around quickly under head coach Doug Pederson. Not only are the Eagles primed to improve their record from the 2015 season, but Philly is also realistically chasing a playoff spot. If not for the elite play of the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles would be in the running for the division as well.
Pederson has done a fantastic job grooming Wentz and he has been one of the biggest surprises out of last year’s draft class. The defense is playing at a high level and has actually won a few games for the Eagles this season when Wentz hasn’t been able to. There is no team in the NFL with a better turnaround season and there hasn’t been this much hope in Philly since the days of Donovan McNabb. Eagles fans have Pederson to thank for that.
3. Fire: Jeff Fisher
In four seasons Jeff Fisher has yet to have a winning year as coach of the Los Angeles (formerly St. Louis) Rams. To make matters worse, Fisher and company mortgaged its future by trading six picks to move up and draft Jared Goff. The no. 1 overall pick wasn’t even good enough to surpass Sean Mannion as the team’s backup to start the season and just recently got the starting job from Case Keenum. All it took was nine agonizing games of poor play by Keenum for Fisher to wake up and decide to make a change.
Poor decisions like that have been the theme of Fisher’s time with the Rams. He had a hand in drafting what could be a bust of a quarterback, which looks particularly bad considering Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz were drafted after Goff. There is no logical explanation as to why Fisher still has his job after four years in neutral. His last stand will be Goff and if that blows up in Fisher’s face, he will most certainly be looking for work.
2. Raise: Dan Quinn
Normally the Atlanta Falcons are known for their offense, but head coach Dan Quinn is starting to create a defensive identity for this perennial swiss cheese unit. Quinn has been able to turn things around rather rapidly in Atlanta, with the team already on the verge of surpassing its win total from last year.
Perhaps the biggest reason for the Falcons’ success is the revival of quarterback Matt Ryan, who is making his case for MVP this season. Ryan and the Falcons’ passing attack has been a juggernaut, while the rushing attack has done enough to complement it. Quinn’s defensive prowess has been a perfect fit for this organization and has turned the Falcons from a team barely scraping to make the playoffs every year to a team that could challenge for a first-round bye.
1. Fire: Mike McCarthy
Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has been very successful over the course of his time with the franchise, however the wheels are quickly coming off for the Super Bowl winning coach. The Packers are fighting among the crowd of NFC teams vying for a playoff spot, as opposed to cruising to the playoffs as expected.
Superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers has even taken some veiled shots at his coach, specifically calling out his team’s motivation and leadership. Speculation is running wild that McCarthy’s voice no longer has the same respect of his players and that argument holds water when you watch this team play. The writing is on the wall that he’ll be gone after the season. McCarthy would be hired in two seconds after being fired because he is a solid coach, but sometimes coaches just wear out their welcome with a certain team. It looks like that’s the case here and it’s time the Packers hire someone else to take this organization forward.
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