It’s hard to believe, but NFL training camps kick off next week. 32 teams will report to camp with their roster and head coach; however, not all of them will make it through the whole season with the same man in charge.
Let me say this before we start: I don’t like seeing coaches, or any human beings, get fired. It’s not fun and a shame to see people in any walk of life suddenly lose their jobs, especially if the collective failure is not all their fault.
With that being said, though, here are my top five NFL coaches on the hot seat for this upcoming season. Hope you enjoy!
5. John Harbaugh/Baltimore Ravens
This is one that probably won’t happen but can if the Ravens disappoint this season. The Ravens finished under .500 last year for the first time under Harbaugh’s reign; more importantly, though, it’s clear that the Steelers and Bengals have surpassed them, both in performance and relevance, in the stacked AFC North.
However, I don’t see this one coming to fruition. Harbaugh and General Manager Ozzie Newsome have formed one of the most successful GM/head coach bonds in the NFL since Harbaugh arrived in Baltimore in 2008. While the team is not what it once was and is still struggling to replace the talent that has departed since they won the Super Bowl, there isn’t a very realistic chance that Harbaugh gets fired.
But that chance does exist, and for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll put Harbaugh on the list.
4. Gus Bradley/Jacksonville Jaguars
This offseason was one of goodwill for the Jacksonville Jaguars, from the signings of Chris Ivory, Tashaun Gipson, and Prince Amukamara to the drafting of linebacker Myles Jack and safety Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey was widely regarded as the best player in the draft and Jacksonville was lucky to snag him with the fifth overall pick. Most look at this as steady improvement for a franchise that has struggled for the better part of the last decade. For the purposes of this discussion, I’ll look at this as the team’s front office setting up head coach Gus Bradley to fail.
Hear me out on this one: if the Jaguars are indeed a disappointment this season, Bradley has absolutely nothing to fall back on to keep his job. Yes, the future of the team will still be very bright, but it is much more significant that Bradley has won a grand total of 12 games in three seasons in Jacksonville. It stands to reason that if the Jags don’t make a significant improvement in 2016, Bradley would be the first head to roll.
I think the Jaguars will be successful this season. I also think that Bradley is gone if they aren’t.
3. Marvin Lewis/Cincinnati Bengals
Speaking of being set up to fail, Marvin Lewis carves out his niche at number three on our list. You probably know that Lewis is the second-longest tenured head coach in the league, behind only Bill Belichick. The difference is that Belichick has won 23 playoff games in his career: 22 with the Patriots and one with the Cleveland Browns. Lewis, in his 13 seasons with the Bengals, has won exactly zero playoff games. That’s a problem, especially when you consider the fact that Lewis-coached teams have made the playoffs seven times. Lewis’ 0-7 career playoff record is compounded even further by the fact that four of those games were at home.
This year, there really aren’t any excuses for the Bengals. Virtually everyone returns healthy from the team that started last season 8-0. The biggest difference from the end of last season is that quarterback Andy Dalton returns after breaking his wrist in a week 14 game against the Steelers last season. But even with backup quarterback A.J. McCarron, Cincinnati led Pittsburgh 16-15 with under 30 seconds to play in their playoff matchup last season. Instead of ending in a victory, the 18-16 loss became one of the worst meltdowns we’ve ever seen from a single team in the history of football.
Let’s hope that the Bengals, at the very least, can keep their composure if they make the playoffs again this year. And then let’s hope Marvin Lewis isn’t out of a job if they do.
2. Mike McCoy/San Diego Chargers
It’s pretty clear that any initial romance that existed between Mike McCoy and the Chargers is gone. After making the playoffs in his first season in Southern California, McCoy’s Chargers have missed the postseason in the last two years. Even worse, the team plummeted from 9-7 finishes in 2013 and 2014 to a 4-12 record in 2015.
The real reason to panic, though, if you’re a Charger fan, is that quarterback Philip Rivers is locked under contract until 2020. Rivers set a career high in passing yards last season (4792) and would likely have a say on McCoy’s future if the team falters again this season. There’s also the overwhelming probability that the team will move from San Diego to Los Angeles after this season. This move would precipitate a shift in expectation on behalf of both the new fanbase and ownership. Would the Chargers follow in the Rams’ footsteps and retain their exceedingly mediocre head coach in a move to L.A.?
My bet is that they won’t, and if the Chargers underperform in 2016, McCoy’s future is simple: to live or die in L.A.
1. Rex Ryan/Buffalo Bills
This one is easy.
Ryan made many promises upon being named the Bills’ coach, but the one thing many reasonably expected was an improved defense. After all, Ryan is a defensive mind, one who coached the Ravens’ defense into the league’s elite for much of the 2000s. The problem is that in the one year of Ryan’s leadership, the Bills’ defense actually regressed.
To demonstrate this, I’ve put together this chart that shows the differences between the 2014 Bills and the ’15 team:
|Total Yards (per game)||4995 (312.2)||5702 (356.4)|
|Passing yards (per game)||3292 (205.8)||3972 (248.3)|
|Rushing yards (per game)||1703 (106.4)||1730 (108.1|
|Points allowed (per game)||289 (18.1)||359 (22.4)|
That’s pretty unbelievable stuff; the Bills were worse in every significant defensive category under Ryan than they were under Doug Marrone in 2014. If that regression continues this season, the Bills front office will have no choice but to cut him loose. Reports are that the front office has given Ryan a playoff ultimatum for this season; making the playoffs would require significant improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
I don’t know if Ryan is capable of delivering that improvement, and it’s more likely than not that he’ll be out of a job after this season.