Hue Jackson was the first, but he won’t be the last.
Last week, the Browns finally relieved Jackson of his head coaching duties. It only took 36 losses in 40 games for the Browns to reach that point. Jackson might feel lonely right now, but he’ll soon be joined by his counterparts around the league who are only just barely clinging to their jobs. As the calendar turns from fall to winter, the disparity between the good and bad teams will only continue to grow as playoff teams gain separation. Playoff seeding will become the story. So will the 2019 NFL Draft order. As this process unfolds, jobs will be lost. Jackson’s firing — a firing years in the making — signaled the beginning of this process. And it won’t end with him.
With that in mind, it’s time for our second edition of NFL coaching hot seat power rankings. Before we begin, a few notes.
As I wrote a month ago when we published our first edition of hot seat power rankings, it goes without saying (but I’m going to say it again) that ranking coaches in order of who is more likely to get fired isn’t something to hoot and holler about. These are real people with real jobs. That said, it is our job to criticize and praise these coaches. So, even though it doesn’t feel entirely right to be ranking hot seats, we have to, because …
Two, all 32 coaches are not ranked for obvious reasons. Bill Belichick, Andy Reid, Sean McVay, and so on are not getting fired.
Three, this isn’t a list of who we think should be fired. It’s a list of who we think might be fired. The best example of the difference remains Jason Garrett, a coach who absolutely deserves to be at the top of this list, but isn’t because Jerry Jones seems to enjoy having him around to do his bidding.
Four, how fast things can change in the NFL. The last time we checked in, Bill O’Brien seemed like a goner. The Texans haven’t loss since then and they might be the favorites in the AFC South. As a result, O’Brien’s job is probably safe barring a meltdown in the second half of the season. It’s a reminder that coaches are always one great winning streak or one awful losing streak away from a change in job status.
Five, pay less attention to Tier 3 and more attention to Tiers 2 and 1. The coaches listed in Tier 3 can be moved around and rearranged in a variety of ways. Tiers 2 and 1 are where you’ll find the coaches in serious danger of losing their jobs.
OK, onto the list.
Why they missed the cut
Lions’ Matt Patricia: Rough week for Patricia. First, the Lions traded away slot receiver Golden Tate. Then, when a reporter asked Patricia to explain why the trade benefited the Lions, Patricia decided to scold the reporter for his posture before making him repeat his question in a more “professional” manner. Finally, the Lions got slaughtered by the Vikings. Despite the worrying signs in Detroit, this doesn’t feel like a one-and-done type of situation. At 3-5, the Lions haven’t been enough of a disaster to warrant a coaching change so soon into Patricia’s tenure.
Raiders’ Jon Gruden: No chance.
Colts’ Frank Reich: In what everyone knew would be a rebuilding year, the Colts are 3-5 and Andrew Luck looks great. Reich’s done a tremendous job working with a limited roster and it’s easy for everyone to see that the Colts are better off with Reich guiding them into the future, regardless of how many wins they finish with this season.
Browns’ Gregg Williams: He’s the last man standing in Cleveland. So, it’s not like they have anyone else to turn to if they were to fire their interim coach. Williams will survive the season, but he’s a goner after the year. The good news for him is that he totally gets head coaching job offers all the time.
Titans’ Mike Vrabel: This doesn’t feel like a one-and-done situation, but considering Vrabel inherited a nine-win playoff team, there’s at least the potential Vrabel could get canned if the Titans completely collapse in the second half of the season. A huge win on Monday night, though, made sure the Titans aren’t out of the AFC South race. Vrabel should be safe.
Chargers‘ Anthony Lynn: The Chargers are one of the best teams in football. At 6-2, they’re probably a lock to make the playoffs. If the Chargers miss the playoffs, Lynn is likely a goner considering the Chargers already squandered all of their talent last season and missed the playoffs. But do I think the Chargers will miss the playoffs? Nope. In my opinion, they’re the second best team in the AFC and they haven’t even used Joey Bosa yet. So, Lynn is probably safe.
Tier 3: Cool, but combustible
15. Falcons’ Dan Quinn
The Falcons have journeyed to the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. Suddenly, even though they’ve been destroyed by injuries, the Falcons look like a team that’s going to compete for that final playoff spot in the NFC. At 4-4, they’re hardly out of the picture. That doesn’t mean Quinn won’t be fired at the end of the season if things go south over the next two months, but he’s not in any immediate danger.
14. Dolphins’ Adam Gase
Weird situation in Miami. Gase took the Dolphins to the playoffs in his first season, but has gone 11-14 since. Then again, he hasn’t had a healthy Ryan Tannehill since that first season. Impressively, the Dolphins have gone 2-2 with Brock Osweiler as their starting quarterback this season. And somehow, the Dolphins are 5-4 with a minus-38 point differential. Gase slots in at lowest possible position because if he has to keep starting Osweiler, the Dolphins’ season could unravel quickly, which could lead to a dismissal. Under Gase, the Dolphins have been outscored by 167 points.
13. Bills’ Sean McDermott
It’s tough to assess McDermott when he’s starting The Peter Man at quarterback. Then again, it’s not like he’s blameless in the Bills’ decision to trade Tyrod Taylor, draft Josh Allen, and give The Peter Man the starting job after the summer. McDermott has been mishandling the Bills’ quarterback situation since last season, when he benched Taylor for The Peter Man during a playoff run. That being said, he just took the Bills to the playoffs, the Bills haven’t been with their starting quarterback for most of the season, the roster construction is more to blame for their dreadful season than the actual coaching, and McDermott has his defense cooking. But would anyone be surprised if the Bills fired the coach of a team that’s been outscored by 145 points nine games into the season?
12. Texans’ Bill O’Brien
If the Texans utterly collapse after this 6-3 start and miss the playoffs, there’s a case to be made for O’Brien’s dismissal. Remember, O’Brien has never won 10 games with the Texans. Both of his playoff appearances came after nine-win campaigns. He’s 37-36 overall. Given how weak the AFC South appears to be, O’Brien is probably safe. But O’Brien stays on this list because the Texans haven’t been all that impressive during their winning streak.
11. Jaguars’ Doug Marrone
Marrone nearly took the Jaguars to the Super Bowl last season, but the situation in Jacksonville is unraveling. The Jaguars are 3-5. Blake Bortles is playing like Blake Bortles. The defense hasn’t matched it’s elite production from a year ago. There was the incident in London. Marrone’s job is probably safe after last season’s playoff run, but the Jaguars could be an ugly losing streak away from making some changes.
10. Giants’ Pat Shurmur
I have a tough time believing the Giants would fire Shurmur after they just fired Ben McAdoo midway through his second season. I’m guessing Giants ownership is craving stability. And given just how poorly this roster is constructed, Shurmur probably isn’t to blame for the Giants’ woes. Then again, this is a 1-7 team. Any coach in charge of a 1-7 team isn’t completely off the hot seat.
9. Redskins’ Jay Gruden
Just when it looked like the Redskins might coast to the NFC East crown as the teams around them floundered, two terrible things happened to them. First, they got blown out by the Falcons at home. Then, they lost three players to season-ending injuries. At 5-3, the Redskins still lead the 4-4 Eagles in the NFC East, but those injuries might just make the Eagles, who got better at the trade deadline, the frontrunners. If the Redskins miss the playoffs, they might get their coach fired. Gruden has never won 10 games with the Redskins. He’s currently sporting a 33-38-1 record. The division isn’t good. If he can’t win this division at this moment, why would the Redskins keep him around?
8. Bengals’ Marvin Lewis
Lewis will remain on this list until he wins a playoff game, because it’s not like regular-season success has been his problem. He’s 0-for-7 in the playoffs so far. At 5-3, the Bengals look like they’ll give Lewis another chance to win a playoff game, but the injury to A.J. Green is concerning.
Tier 2: Heatin’ up
7. Cowboys’ Jason Garrett
Again, if this was a list of who should be fired, Garrett would be at the top. But it’s not. It’s a list of who will probably get fired and while Garrett’s job definitely isn’t safe, he’s not a definite goner either. The Cowboys, at 3-5, stink. And it’s their offense that is especially concerning. They’re averaging 19.3 points per game. Garrett’s supposed to be an offensive coach. Jerry Jones has always supported Garrett through all of the Cowboys’ struggles and he indicated after Monday night’s loss that while he’s concerned about the team, he’s not considering any mid-season firings. But if the Cowboys continue to struggle, Jones might be forced to make a change.
6. Packers’ Mike McCarthy
There’s no shame in losing road games to the Rams and the Patriots, which is what happened to the Packers over the past two weeks. But consider the following:
Aaron Rodgers will turn 35 next month. The Packers need to be all-in on winning another Super Bowl with him. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora has already reported that there’s tension between Rodgers and the coaching staff, and let’s face it: Rodgers matters more to the Packers than McCarthy.
Tier 1: Hot in here
5. Cardinals’ Steve Wilks
Wilks is the most likely coach to go one-and-done. They’ve already fired the offensive coordinator, which means they’re out of scapegoats. The Cardinals are 2-6 with both of their wins coming against the Jimmy Garoppolo-less 49ers. With Josh Rosen locked in as their quarterback of the future, the Cardinals should prioritize his development over everything else, which means they might seek an offensive-minded coach. Wilks isn’t that.
4. Ravens’ John Harbaugh
Harbaugh is one of the better coaches in the NFL, but he makes the final four of this list. After last season, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti revealed that he considered firing Harbaugh after the Ravens’ third straight playoff-less season. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear the Ravens are once again reportedly mulling a coaching change as their 4-2 start has turned into a 4-5 record. If the Ravens miss the playoffs again, Harbaugh is likely a goner — even though it seems like their biggest issue is the quarterback and not the coach.
3. Jets’ Todd Bowles
Bowles has posted a 23-34 record as the Jets’ coach. This year, they’re 3-6. The development of Sam Darnold, the future of the franchise, has stalled after an impressive debut. He leads the league in interceptions with 14. The Jets should probably hire an offensive-minded coach with Darnold’s development in mind since it will determine the franchise’s fate.
2. Buccaneers’ Dirk Koetter
Nothing surprising here. A month ago, Koetter ranked fourth on our list. Since then, the Buccaneers have gone 1-3 — which moved Koetter’s record with the Buccaneers to 17-23 — benched Jameis Winston for Ryan Fitzpatrick, and fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith. Koetter is probably next.
1. Broncos’ Vance Joseph
Put it this way: It’s not the best sign when Bill O’Brien is caught (maybe) mocking your coaching decisions. The 3-6 Broncos aren’t just bad, they’re also poorly coached — with their most-recent loss to the Texans, during which Joseph settled for a 51-yard field goal at the buzzer, serving as a perfect example. John Elway almost fired Joseph after his first season in charge resulted in five wins and 11 losses. What has happened this year to make him keep Joseph for a third year? Considering Elway won’t fire himself, Joseph will likely be out at the end of the season.
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