AS we say farewell to the bye weeks and round the corner for home each NFL team is preparing for their final five games of the regular season. While playoff seeding and postseason berths will be among the popular talking points, there are coaches at the other end of the spectrum, who are figuratively and literally coaching to save their jobs. Some have nothing to worry about, others are teetering on the edge and for a select few, the final third of the regular season presents a final chance to prove to their organisation they should still be employed.
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32. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots (10-1)
31. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints (9-2)
30. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks (9-2)
29. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
28. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens (9-2)
27. Kyle Shanahan, San Fransisco 49ers (10-1)
26. Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams (6-5)
THERE is no way in hell that these seven coaches will lose their jobs this year, even if they fail to win another game. Bill’s spot at the top of the food chain is justifiable while Harbaugh and Shanahan have entered the prestigious club by combining for three losses in 22 tries. Based on his record, Sean McVay seems like the odd one out at the moment, but despite the Rams’ troubles in 2019, you can’t forget what he has achieved with the L.A. franchise in nearly three seasons at the helm.
Safe As Houses
25. Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts (6-5)
24. Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers (8-3)
23. Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills (8-3)
22. Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings (8-3)
21. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)
NOT as elite as the class above, these five lead men are just as safe in 2020 and for the foreseeable future. Indianapolis’ success this year can be accredited to GM Chris Ballard’s ingenious work, but don’t take anything away from Frank Reich helping to keep them afloat in a post-Andrew Luck world. A trio of 8-3 teams come next with the eternal Mike Tomlin, who has the Steelers overachieving after losing Big Ben to injury and dynamic offensive tools Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in the offseason.
Image from usatoday.com
20. Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders (6-5)
19. Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans (6-5)
18. Kliff Kingsbury, Arizona Cardinals (3-7-1)
17. Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans (7-4)
THERE’S no need for these four coaches to have many sleepless nights, earning a touch higher than a passing grade through 11 games thus far. Gruden and Vrabel might not lead their respective units into the postseason, but they look like they’re going to cause a lot of headaches along the way. In his first pro season, there have been encouraging signs from Kliff Kingsbury to signal Arizona has a winner on their hands. B.O.B. finds himself in a tough spot though, alleviating some of the pressure on his job with a TNF win last week. However, Houston has looked far from dominant this year, plagued by inconsistencies that have kept the AFC South race open.
Trending In The Wrong Direction
16. Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles (5-6)
15. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers (5-6)
14. Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears (5-6)
13. Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys (6-5)
12. Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers (4-7)
NOW things start to get interesting. Each coach in this next group is far from doomed and they will all likely be back coaching their respective squads for at least the 2020 season. There are no certainties in the NFL though and it’s fair to say that these five teams have shot themselves in the foot and are facing an uphill climb to qualify for postseason action. Doug Pederson and the Eagles are probably still alive in the hunt, thanks to their crappy division with injuries hampering their campaign so far. The other four will want to finish the year with some positives though, otherwise, ownership might look to make them the fall guy for their team’s mediocrity.
11. Bill Callahan*, Washington Redskins (2-4)
10. Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins (2-9)
9. Bruce Arians, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7)
8. Vic Fangio, Denver Broncos (3-8)
7. Zac Taylor, Cincinnati Bengals (0-11)
FIRST-year coaches are often given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their win/loss record after just 16 games. That should mean no one will lose their job at season’s end, but it wouldn’t be impossible to see some teams opt for a new voice after just one season. Teams like the Dolphins, Redskins and Bengals have had their sights set on the top of the draft board, leading to a hefty amount of L’s coming their way, with Jay Gruden already falling victim to Washington’s ineptitude. Bruce Arians and Vic Fangio could be in the firing line if they keep failing, but I think they’ve done enough to warrant another go around.
Five Games To Save Their Job
6. Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7)
SINCE leading the Patriots by double-digits in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship game two short seasons, the Jacksonville Jaguars have fallen apart at the seams. Following that collapse, the Jags have a 9-18 record with their once-dominant defense now a shadow of its former self. A fair share of the blame deserves to come Doug Marrone’s way and there’s a chance Jacksonville will clean house in the offseason, leaving their head coach unemployed. He caught lightning in a bottle with the Jaguars before and if he wants to be their coach in 2020, he’s going to have to do so again.
5. Adam Gase, New York Jets (4-7)
IF you believe the buzz out of Florham Park then Adam Gase’s job is safe. A lot can change in five weeks though, so don’t be surprised if the narrative is flipped on its head by season’s end and Gase is sent packing. The past month has certainly helped his cause, with New York recording three straight W’s – the most impressive of which came on the weekend in the form of a 34-3 triumph against the feisty Raiders. Cincinnati and Miami in the next fortnight present Gase and the Jets with a chance to build some momentum heading into next year. If he can do that, Gase’s job might be safe after all.
4. Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns (5-6)
GOOD news Browns fans, after a troubling two-thirds of the year thus far, things are starting to break right for your team. The bad news is, unfortunately, Freddie Kitchens is still calling the shots. Much like Gase and the Jets, Cleveland are winners of three straight matches averaging 27 points a game in that span, a number they only surpassed on one other occasion this season. The offense hasn’t taken the leap we all thought it would with Kitchens, Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham joining forces, leaving the first-year head coach under intense scrutiny. There’s still mathematically possible for the Browns to make the postseason and if they can even come close, it’s probably an impressive enough performance from Kitchens to stay on as Cleveland’s top dog.
3. Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions (3-7-1)
YES, I’m aware the Lions have been without their starting quarterback in Matthew Stafford for the last three games, but the wheels were falling off the wagon well and truly before that. A lifetime record of 9-17-1 as Detroit’s head coach wasn’t exactly what fans thought they were getting when the franchise signed the Bill Belichick disciple, who claimed three Super Bowl’s during his 14 years with New England. Defense has been Patricia’s supposed calling card, but in his 27 pro games with Detroit the team is tied with Atlanta (more from them in a minute) for the second-fewest takeaway’s in the entire NFL, with plenty of other unpleasant metrics highlighting the Lions’ shortcomings. The relentless NFC North isn’t going to give Detroit an easy pass to end the year either, making it highly unlikely that Patricia will be here after Black Monday. Naturally, that paves the way for him to return to the Patriots and win another three Super Bowl rings…
Image from prideofdetroit.com
2. Pat Shurmur, New York Giants (2-9)
PAT Shurmur is making it really hard for the Giants to keep employing him. After failing to record a win in the month of October AND November their seven-game losing streak doesn’t look like ending anytime soon with the Packers and Eagles coming up in the next fortnight. In Shurmur’s defense this New York roster isn’t stacked with blue-chippers, making his task all the more difficult. Transitioning from Eli Manning to Daniel Jones as their starting quarterback was never going to be easy, but the offense still possesses capable players in the form of Sterling Shepard, Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram. Granted, that trio has been injured for large portions of the season, but this team should still be more competitive than their 2-9 record shows. A change of voice at the top of the food chain is in order.
1. Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons (3-8)
THE Atlanta Falcons have been atrocious on defense this season and their head coach Dan Quinn appears set to be fired as the scapegoat for their issues. Strangely, he helped right the ship against NFC South rivals New Orleans and Carolina after their bye, but things turned disastrous again in Week 12 vs. Tampa Bay in the form of a 35-22 L. Quinn helped lead Atlanta to a Super Bowl appearance a few years ago, but they are on track for another disappointing end to the season that could see him get the can. The Falcons’ offense has been far from successful as well, with Matt Ryan only capable of doing so much as a one-man army. Julio Jones still can’t find his way to the end zone, they’ve slid from the 10th best scoring team a year ago to the 19th best in 2019 and their running game has severely dropped off, rushing for a meek 72.9 yards a game – ranked 31st in the entire NFL. Translation? Dan Quinn has to pull off the coaching job of his life in the next five weeks if he wants to be ATL’s lead man in 2020.