Mike McCarthy is climbing our rankings, but it'll be hard to bump the guy at No. 1
We’ve made it through 10 weeks without a head coach being fired despite four teams having two or fewer wins. Part of that is because of the number of new coaches in the NFL, but it’s also due to the fact that there are extenuating circumstances surrounding several of the teams struggling to win football games.
The lack of turnover will change in a month or two as teams and front offices begin to see through the settling dust and determine whether their head coach is a fit for their respective team. And then, as usual, things will get ugly on the Monday after Week 17. Until then, we'll re-evaluate this outlook each Wednesday. There are a handful of head coaches on the hot seat entering Week 11, but just how warm are those cushions?
Todd Bowles, New York Jets
No one in their right mind would have put Bowles on the hot seat after the job he did last season with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. He led the Jets to a 10-6 record and came one win shy of a playoff berth in his first season as head coach. Bowles isn’t likely to be fired this season, but there are plenty of issues in New York. Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson have been troublesome, missing meetings and walkthroughs. Fitzpatrick has been a disaster, and the defense is an aging mess. Not all of these things are the fault of Bowles, but things are spiraling out of control fairly quickly.
Jeff Fisher, Los Angeles Rams
Jeff Fisher’s seat was warm entering the season after four straight losing years. It has since cooled off a bit for a couple of reasons. The Rams are a respectable 4-5 despite not scoring a touchdown in three games, and No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff has just been named the starting QB. Though the Rams are highly unlikely to make the playoffs (or even break the dreaded 7-9 barrier), Fisher has bought himself some time. There will be plenty of leeway with Goff starting, given the situation. If he struggles, at least Fisher gave him a chance, which Les Snead and ownership will understand. If he succeeds, Fisher could easily make it to next season.
Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts
Pagano was surprisingly given a four-year extension back in January, but it was far from a ringing endorsement for the coach. After three straight years of 11-5, Pagano won just eight games with the Colts in 2015 – largely due to Andrew Luck’s injury. However, the team’s struggles have carried over into 2016, even with their starting quarterback healthy.
The Colts futility the past two years hasn’t been completely his fault. General manager Ryan Grigson has a poor track record in recent drafts. Luck needs more help than he’s been given, and the front office isn’t making that happen. Firing Pagano won’t change that, but Luck may be in need of a new mind at head coach.
Chip Kelly, San Francisco 49ers
Kelly is in his first season with the 49ers, but it hasn’t gone well at all. His team is 1-8, and the offense is 29th in yards and 22nd in points – Kelly’s forte as a coach. Granted, the personnel he’s working with is among the worst in the league, but he turned Nick Foles and Sam Bradford into decent quarterbacks in his system, ranking in the top 12 in points each of his three years in Philadelphia.
It’s unlikely Kelly would be fired before the season ended, but there have been rumors swirling that he's interested in returning to the college ranks. He denied the reports, but if the front office were to find substantiated claims for this, his job could be in danger. There’s no place in the NFL for a coach focused on going back to college.
Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers
McCoy can’t be blamed for Keenan Allen injuring his knee, or Joey Bosa holding out, or Danny Woodhead going down for the year. Those things are out of his hands, but there’s far more than just injuries happening in San Diego that he can’t control. The Chargers are in the midst of a possible move to Los Angeles, and the team may want a new face to lead them should that happen.
Since he took over, the Chargers are just 26-32 and have yet to win a division title in four years with him at the helm. After going 9-7 in back-to-back seasons to start his tenure, the Chargers have just eight wins the past two years. He’ll make it through the season simply based on the fact that the Chargers have suffered so many injuries, but his seat is certainly warm.
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Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
Could McCarthy, a self-declared “highly successful NFL coach,” really be on the hot seat after seven straight winning seasons and playoff appearances? Yes, he really could be. The Packers aren’t a franchise that will fire him midseason, but the simmering tension between he and Aaron Rodgers is troubling. McCarthy’s coaching style and game planning seem to have gone stale and may be preventing Rodgers from having success.
The receivers’ route trees are limited and rarely get them the ball on the move. Instead, McCarthy opts for hook routes and plays that keep receivers stationary. Not to mention, running back James Starks received nearly double the snaps Ty Montgomery got on Sunday when the Packers were playing catch-up the entire game. That’s blasphemous given the impact Montgomery had in previous weeks.
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John Fox, Chicago Bears
Fox is a successful NFL coach with a good track record. He has not been successful in Chicago, however. In two years, Fox has gone 8-17 as his team has lacked an identity. Part of that is due to the stoic and off-putting personality of quarterback Jay Cutler, putting the team in poor positions each year, but it’s also reflective of Fox as a coach.
He helped rebuild both the Panthers and Broncos, but this job might be too much for even him to handle. The Bears lack a franchise quarterback (Cutler isn’t one, before you say he is), a star receiver (Alshon Jeffery is gone after this season) and playmakers on defense. Chicago is in full rebuilding mode, and that’ll likely include a fresh face who can see through the process.
Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
It’s fair to say Lewis hasn’t gotten enough credit for the job he’s done the past five years. That’s partly because the Bengals haven’t won a single playoff game with him at the helm despite making the postseason the past five years and seven times altogether since Lewis took over in 2003. He’s the second-longest-tenured head coach in the NFL behind Bill Belichick.
Unfortunately, it may be time for a change after Cincinnati’s 3-5-1 start. The loss of former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, compounded by the departures of receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu have hurt the offense and ultimately the team as a whole. Lewis’ time in Cincinnati may be up if the Bengals finish below .500 as they’re on pace to.
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Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars
The hottest seat in all of football is the one Bradley is sitting on. He has the second-worst record in NFL history for a head coach, going 14-43 during his four years in Jacksonville. The Jaguars are playing uninspired football and haven’t progressed at all since last season. There’s a lack of talent, but the players could use a better motivator and someone who puts them in better position to succeed.
Bradley may not make it through the season, and if he does, he’ll almost certainly be gone the day after it's over. The Jaguars need to overhaul their coaching staff in the near future and find Blake Bortles a quarterback guru who can fix his worsening mechanics.