Joe Philbin is out, burned by the Miami morass of highly paid underachievers and a fractured locker room.
Philbin was the first NFL coach this season to lose his job. Several others could get torched before we reach 2016.
Prime candidates include Mike Pettine in Cleveland, Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay, Jim Caldwell in Detroit, Gus Bradley in Jacksonville, and Jim Tomsula in San Francisco.
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Maybe a long-term guy will be sweating out his job security if things don’t change soon: Sean Payton in New Orleans.
Two coaches with experience running college programs, Houston’s Bill O’Brien and Philadelphia’s Chip Kelly, are on the hot seat right now, at least with the voting public if not with their owners.
Then again, they all could be safe – if their teams begin performing better.
No one knows that better than Smith. His Buccaneers have lost every home game in his tenure, 0-10 as they face Bradley and the Jaguars in Tampa on Sunday. Smith is a solid coach with a winning track record; he guided the Bears to the 2006 Super Bowl and was 84-66 there, hardly the kind of record that should get you canned.
But he was, and his Bucs are 3-17 in this regime. Tampa Bay is not a franchise known for its patience with coaches, over the past 14 years firing Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden.
”This is the 2015 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and we’re disappointed that we’ve lost two home games, yes. But, we have an opportunity to do it again; can’t live in the past,” Smith says. ”We’re a better football team. Eventually if you keep doing things the right way you get over that hump and that’s what we are going to do.”
If Smith is given the opportunity.
Like the Bucs, the Browns are known for impatience with coaches; they’ve had eight since re-entering the NFL in 1999. The closest to being a success is Pettine, who went 7-9 last year and is 1-3 this season.
But he’s under fire. The Browns have lost eight of nine heading into Sunday’s game in Baltimore. Owner Jimmy Haslam has said he will be patient, but Haslam also got rid of Rob Chudzinski after one season, 4-12 in 2013.
Pettine has been victimized by unproductive draft picks – 2013 first-rounder Justin Gilbert barely gets on the field – and upheaval at quarterback. His specialty is coaching defense, and he helped Rex Ryan build those impressive Jets units. Cleveland has the NFL’s worst defense against the rush.
The fiasco involving cornerback Joe Haden, the Browns’ one defensive standout, not playing at San Diego because of a finger injury has damaged Pettine’s credibility.
Some suggest the team isn’t bothered enough by losing, an indictment that rightfully raises Pettine’s ire.
”That’s not an easy statement to take just because when you’re in with these guys every day and you see how they prepare, you see how much they put into it, you see how much losing upsets them when you’re in that locker room after a loss and you look into all of their faces. It’s not guys that are just `OK, not a big deal,”’ Pettine says. ”These guys are upset. They’re competitive, love to win, hate to lose and we feel we’ve built a locker room that way. I don’t see that.”
Like Smith, Caldwell had previous success, taking the Colts to the 2009 AFC title. Unlike Smith, his current team had much higher expectations for 2015 after earning a playoff spot last season.
For all the consternation over officiating in Detroit (0-4), a root of the Lions’ problems is their unproductive offense despite the presence of Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and Matthew Stafford.
Caldwell would seem to be safe, barring a repeat of 2008 – you know, 0-16.
So, most likely, are O’Brien, who oversaw a big turnaround in Houston last year, and Bradley.
The Texans are too skilled to be 1-4, and the QB carousel in Houston hasn’t helped O’Brien’s case. But Robert McNair, one of the NFL’s better owners, doesn’t panic.
Bradley’s team is so young some say it belongs in the SEC, where it might not beat the nearby Florida Gators. This is Bradley’s third season at the helm and the team has gone through nothing but upheaval throughout his tenure. Injuries have also played havoc with the roster, and two of their defeats were to unbeaten opponents, the Patriots and Panthers.
Tomsula’s situation is the exact opposite. Ownership is not a strong suit – just look back at the Jim Harbaugh debacle of last season – and many believe Tomsula, so popular with the players, got the job as a stopgap. With the offense a mess and no Harbaugh to fix it, the unfortunate Tomsula looks like a one-and-done head coach.
That brings us to Kelly. He has been given total control in Philadelphia and used it to restructure the roster to better fit his schemes. Except not much is fitting in Kelly’s puzzle right now.
But unlike many of his NFL peers, Kelly is in a position of complete strength. Should he discover his schemes and style don’t work in the pros, college teams will be lined up from coast to coast bidding for his services. And should the chemistry come together in Philly, well, the Eagles have enough talent to put the rest of the NFC East on the hot seat instead.
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