Being an NFL head coach isn’t an easy job. No one will ever tell you that, and if they do, they clearly have no idea what they’re talking about. Yes, some jobs are easier than others – like coaching a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers-led team – but nothing is certain in the NFL, and it leads to a great deal of turnover when it comes to head coaches.
These seven men are facing difficult situations in 2017 for one reason or another, and have the toughest gigs in the NFL.
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Marvin Lewis, Bengals
The Bengals were perennial Super Bowl contenders before taking a huge step back in 2016. They not only missed the playoffs, but they posted an ugly 6-9-1 record – Lewis’ first losing season since 2010. Despite being in the postseason each year, Lewis is on the hot seat with pressure coming down on him to produce at least one playoff win.
What makes Lewis’ job difficult this season isn’t that he has a weak roster, or a glaring hole at quarterback. It’s the fact that the Bengals should be a good team, but they struggle when it matters most. Lewis is on the hot seat to not just take his team deep into the playoffs, but to simply win one playoff game. Just one. That’s all (most) fans ask for.
Every loss this season will be scrutinized, and anything less than a spot in the divisional round or conference title game will be a disappointment.
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Doug Marrone, Jaguars
The Jaguars once again had a really solid offseason, but it remains to be seen how it’ll reflect on their upcoming campaign. Adding A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell, Barry Church and Leonard Fournette will all be great helps, but one constant remains the same: Blake Bortles.
Marrone is being thrown to the fire with Bortles as his quarterback, which doesn’t bode well for his chances of having a successful season. Bortles held this team back in a huge way last year, and he’s skating on thin ice with Tom Coughlin now at the helm.
Marrone was also the offensive line coach for the Jaguars from 2015-16, so he’ll need to continue to improve that unit, especially with the addition of Cam Robinson. If they can’t open holes for Fournette and protect Bortles, the Jaguars will be in for a long season.
John Fox, Bears
The Bears have been the laughingstock of the NFC North for about a decade now, making the playoffs just once since 2007. They’ve only gone downhill in the past five years, too, culminating in an abysmal three-win season in 2016.
Now, Fox is tasked with turning a terrible team into one that’s formidable, all while the fan base and front office watch their patience wear thin. That won’t be easy with a glorified backup in Mike Glennon and a raw rookie in Mitchel Trubisky at quarterback.
Entering his third season, Fox will need to prove he’s on the right track with trying to rebuild a broken franchise. Good luck doing that with a bottom-five roster and a lack of elite talent on both sides of the ball. Fox has his work cut out for him and another disappointing season could leave him without a job in 2018.
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Sean McDermott, Bills
McDermott is entering his first year as an NFL head coach, and boy is he walking into a difficult situation. He and GM Brandon Beane have already stirred up controversy with their mixed messages about Tyrod Taylor either being a franchise quarterback or potentially off the roster altogether.
All McDermott has to do now is end the longest playoff drought in sports with a quarterback that he and the front office don’t seem to be sold on. No big deal, right? What McDermott does have going for him is a good GM in Beane, whom he worked with in Carolina.
Still, that won’t make his job any easier, considering how poor Buffalo’s roster is. The defense is a major concern, and the receiving corps is underwhelming outside of the oft-injured Sammy Watkins.
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Sean McVay, Rams
McVay, the youngest head coach in NFL history, is taking over a roster that has holes at just about every position. That makes for a difficult situation for the first-year coach with much of his success hinging on the development of Jared Goff and Todd Gurley rebounding.
If Goff struggles the way he did in 2016, the Rams aren’t going anywhere – and it’ll reflect poorly on McVay, who’s supposed to put his quarterback in a position to succeed. Additionally, if Gurley doesn’t bounce back from a terrible season, the Rams are going to have no identity on offense – McVay’s forte, of course.
The defense has talent, and with Wade Phillips at the helm, it should continue to improve. However, McVay’s performance will be determined by how the Rams play on offense. He’ll need to devise a game plan and a scheme to mask the holes on the offensive line, which is a serious challenge.
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Hue Jackson, Browns
Jackson was tossed into an impossible situation last season, and it showed with a 1-15 record. He had no quarterback or running back to carry the offense, and the defense was absent of impact players. And while the Browns still aren’t a very good team, they do have some structure to build around.
Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer can compete for the starting job, Myles Garrett and Jamie Collins are cornerstone players, and Jabrill Peppers has big potential. That being said, Jackson’s job certainly won’t be easy.
The Browns are still going to struggle week in and week out, likely winning fewer than six or seven games. Jackson shouldn’t be fired for a season of that nature, but his seat will be warming.
Bowles is arguably the coach on the hottest seat this season after a disastrous 2016 season and an even worse offseason. He clearly played a role in the Jets drafting safeties in the first two rounds, which was an unwise move and one that could wind up backfiring with New York having so many other holes.
The quarterback position isn’t any better than it was last year, and the defense is weak at key positions like cornerback and linebacker. The Jets might have the worst roster in the NFL, and it’s put Bowles in an impossible situation.
Not to mention, he has personalities like Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson to handle in the locker room. Bowles is in for a rocky 2017 season that might lead the Jets to draft first overall in 2018. Unfortunately, he probably won’t be around to see it happen.