NFL Quarter-Season Mark: Assessing the Hot Seat
Seven NFL teams entered the 2018 season with a new head coach, and each and every single one of them lost their opening game. Since then, Matt Nagy’s Chicago Bears and Mike Vrabel’s Tennessee Titans have showed signs of life, with both teams winning their next three games and either leading or sharing a lead of their respective divisions.
The other five have not done too much. While it’s not unheard of, I’d be surprised if any of these other five–Matt Patricia of the Detroit Lions (1-3), Jon Gruden of the Oakland/Vegas Raiders (1-3), Frank Reich with the Indianapolis Colts (1-3), Pat Shurmur of the New York Giants (1-3), and Steve Wilks of the Arizona Cardinals (0-4)–did not return in 2019.
But that certainly isn’t the case for any of the other 25 NFL head coaches.
Here, I’m going to take a look at each team’s head coach, and place him in one of five categories. We begin Beyond the Wall.
The Land of Always Winter
Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, 19th season with team. Season Record: 2-2. Overall Record with Team: 216-76.
Belichick is mostly responsible for the entire success of the Patriots franchise. There were the years before Belihick, and the years with him. He’s won five Super Bowls in New England and is a surefire Hall of Famer. Owner Robert Kraft won’t get rid of him, even if the team eventually has a down year. Belichick will leave on his own terms.
Cold as Ice
Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles, 3rd season with team. Season Record: 2-2. Overall Record: 22-14.
While the Eagles are only 2-2 this year, they just got back their franchise quarterback from injury, and they are the reigning Super Bowl champions. Despite the slow start, Pederson is nowhere close to having to worry about his job.
Peter Carroll, Seattle Seahawks, 9th season with team. Season Record: 2-2. Overall Record with Team: 81-50-1.
Like Belichick, Carroll is going out on his own terms, but he may do so sooner due to his age. Still, Carroll’s the best coach this franchise has ever had. He took them to five straight post-seasons, including back-to-back Super Bowls, one of which they won. The only reasons he didn’t join Belichick in the far north are because the Seahawks missed the playoffs last year and are no longer the best team in their division.
Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs, 6th season with team. Season Record: 4-0. Overall Record with Team: 57-27.
After flaming out with the Eagles, Reid landed in Kansas City, and promptly took them back to the playoffs in his first year, 2013. Right now he’s riding high with his hand-chosen quarterback, Patrick Mahomes II, and the Chiefs, despite a porous defense, are undefeated.
He’s safe for now, but with an amazing quarterback at his disposal, the Chiefs will need to make noise in the playoffs this year and/or next year for Reid to be around in 2020.
Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams, 2nd season with team. Season Record: 4-0. Overall Record: 15-5.
The Rams look like the team to beat under McVay, the youngest head coach in the league’s history. He’s game-managing an excellent, explosive offense led by quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley II. The Rams’ defense looks stellar under long-time defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Don’t be surprised to see McVay hoisting the Lombardi Trophy as early as this upcoming February.
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints, 12th season with team. Season Record: 3-1. Overall Record: 108-72.
Payton is more alike Pete Carroll than Carroll is Belichick: works for a stable (enough) franchise and led his franchise to glories it hadn’t reached without him. The difference now between Payton and Carroll is that Payton’s Saints reached the playoffs last year after three straight 7-9 finishes, and they looked poised to do so again this year.
Another Super Bowl victory in New Orleans and Payton can stay there as long as he wants.
Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders, 1st season with team (this time). Season Record: 1-3. Overall Record with Team: 39-29.
Chucky merely belongs in this category because the Raiders’ owner, Mark Davis, hired him with an eye on the future, not the present. He was hired to take this team into Las Vegas and succeed, not to succeed in Oakland. He’s not going anywhere regardless of how poorly the Raiders finish the year.
Snug as a Bug in a Rug
Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars, 2nd season*. Season Record: 3-1. Overall Record: 14-8.
Also coached the final two games of 2016.
Marrone was brought in by Jaguars’ czar and first ever head coach, Tom Coughlin, to execute a smash-mouth strategy, and so far, so good. He’s turned Blake Bortles into something resembling an actual NFL quarterback, his ground game is strong regardless of whether Leonard Fournette or T.J. Yeldon is the featured back, and the Jags’ defense is the most stout in a league that emphasizes scoring above all else.
The question now becomes whether Marrone will be with the team long enough for the move to London.
Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers, 13th season. Season Record: 2-1-1. Overall Record: 123-71-2.
McCarthy’s done enough in his first dozen years with the Packers (including, of course, winning a Super Bowl) to survive a little squabble with his star quarterback, but if these two don’t get on the same page soon, and it turns out to cost the Packers a trip to the playoffs for the second straight year, who do you think the fall-guy will be?
Answer: not Aaron Rodgers.
Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers, 8th season. Season Record: 2-1. Overall Record: 66-48-1.
Rivera’s Panthers have this thing going on where they do poorly one year and then make the playoffs the next. Welp, this is one of those miss-the-playoffs years after the Panthers were 11-5 last year, losing its sole playoff game. Rivera may have a winning regular season record, but his post-season record is merely 3-4. He needs to even that up this year, or else Cam Newton & Co. will have a new leader on the sidelines.
Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins, 3rd season. Season Record: 3-1. Overall Record: 19-17.
The Dolphins have had a weird ride under Gase: made the playoffs in 2016, but lost their only game due to an injury to Ryan Tannehill; had to turn to Jay Cutler for 2017, which resulted in a 6-10 record; and this year they started out 3-0 before getting clobbered by the Patriots.
Gase is safe, yet the Dolphins need to make their move in the AFC East soon. Playing little brother to New England is getting old.
Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers, 2nd season with team. Season Record: 2-2. Overall Record with Team: 11-9.
Lynn’s Chargers started out 0-4 last year. Since then, they’ve gone 11-5, which is good enough to make the playoffs 99% of the time. This team still has a shot at the AFC West (albeit not a great one), but can certainly sneak into the playoffs. Next up for Lynn: maintaining the balance of keeping a competitive team afloat while finding his aging quarterback’s successor.
Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears, 1st season. Season/Overall Record: 3-1.
Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans, 1st season. Season/Overall Record: 3-1.
Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts, 1st season. Season/Overall Record: 1-3.
Pat Shurmur, New York Giants, 1st season with team. Season/Overall Record: 1-3.
I’m grouping together these four first-year head coaches. None seem to be in danger of losing their job after just one season. Of the four, Vrabel arguably has the toughest job, as he acquired a 9-7 team that beat the Chiefs in the playoffs last year. Regression is not an option.
Nagy’s done great so far with his young quarterback, Mitch Trubisky. Reich can’t be (or shouldn’t be) blamed for the struggles of his inherited quarterback, Andrew Luck. And Shurmur can’t be (or shouldn’t be) blamed for his front office not taking a quarterback to supplant the aging Eli Manning.
Regardless of final records, expect all of these guys to be back in their same roles come 2019.
What is This So-Called “Hot Seat” of Which You Speak?
Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals, 16th season. Season Record: 3-1. Overall Record: 128-113-3.
Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys, 9th season. Season Record: 2-2. Overall Record: 69-55.
If these two haven’t been fired by now, I don’t know what it’s going to take.
Lewis is 0-7 in the playoffs with the Bengals, and despite the team’s hot start to 2018, I don’t see him adding a “W” to his playoff win column.
Garrett, meanwhile, is employed by the man who fired legendary coach Tom Landry, couldn’t get along with Jimmy Johnson, costing his team at a chance of a three-peat in the 90’s, and whose ego makes Jupiter look like Pluto.
So, why is Garrett still around after 8 mediocre seasons and only one playoff win?
John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens, 11th season with team. Season Record: 3-1. Overall Record: 97-67.
Sure, they’re 3-1, and Joe Flacco is indeed looking elite, but the Ravens haven’t made the playoffs since 2014. A new voice in Baltimore may be required.
Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers, 12th season with team. Season Record: 1-2-1. Overall Record: 117-62-1.
Super Bowl Champion. Two-time AFC Champion. Leader of the Most Dramatic Team in the League. Luckily for him, he’s employed by the Steelers, a team that’s had only three head coaches since 1969. He’s probably safe, but another year like this will change that.
Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers, 2nd season with team. Season Record: 1-3. Overall Record: 7-13.
Is 7-13 after twenty games what the San Francisco front office signed up for after luring Shanahan away from Atlanta? Yes, it hurts that Jimmy G. got injured, but the 49ers can’t just roll over and die this year. They need to show some fight, or Shanahan will be coaching for his job in 2019.
Jay Gruden, Washington, 5th season with team. Season Record: 2-1. Overall Record: 30-36-1.
He couldn’t win with Kirk Cousins. Why does anyone think he can win with Alex Smith? A playoff appearance is needed for a guy whose made it that far only once in his first four seasons.
Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings, 5th season with team. Season Record: 1-2-1. Overall Record: 40-27-1.
This is one guy whose seat is getting warmer every week as the season progresses. The Vikings were supposed to take a leap forward with Cousins at quarterback. Instead, they’re quickly regressing.
Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills, 2nd season with team. Season Record: 1-3. Overall Record: 10-10.
Buffalo went to the playoffs in their first season under McDermott. That’s huge. Just as huge: their fall off the precipice since then. The offensive line looks horrible, and rookie quarterback Josh Allen out of Wyoming has been thrust into action. 2018 has looked ugly, and it will get uglier.
Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons, 4th season with team. Season Record: 1-3. Overall Record: 30-22.
A great offense and atrocious defense usually leads to something between 7-9 and 9-7. Something between 7-9 and 9-7 will be a huge disappointment for the Falcons, a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Quinn, a defensive-mind coach, has no one to blame but himself.
Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions, 1st season. Season/Overall Record: 1-3.
Steve Wilks, Arizona Cardinals, 1st season. Season/Overall Record: 0-4.
Now, if I were a betting man, I’d wager that both Patricia and Wilks will be back in Detroit and Phoenix, respectively, come 2019.
But Patricia has been disappointing through four games with the Lions, a team that went 9-7 last year under Jim Caldwell.
And Wilks’ Cardinals have been hard to watch despite having one of the most electrifying players in the league, running back David Johnson. Hopefully, the switch at quarterback from the husk-of-Sam Bradford to Josh Rosen will ignite the Cardinals. For Wilks’ employment status, it better.
I’m Not Sweating — You’re Sweating!
Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns, 3rd season with team. Season Record: 1-2-1. Overall Record with Team: 2-33-1.
By winning percentage, this is already Jackson’s best season in Cleveland.
Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccanneers, 3rd season with team. Season Record: 2-2. Overall Record: 16-20.
He essentially told reporters on Sunday that everyone involved with the Bucs’ football efforts should be fired. I guess that means him, too. Be careful what you wish for, Dirk.
Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos, 2nd season with team. Season Record: 2-2. Overall Record with Team: 7-13.
Denver should be 3-1, but lost a heart-breaker to Kansas City on Monday Night. Front office honcho John Elway isn’t going anywhere, despite his odd inability to draft quarterbacks, so the next target seems to be Joseph.
Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans, 5th season with team. Season Record: 1-3. Overall Record: 32-36.
The most successful (!) of the coaches from the Belichick Coaching Tree (it’s a hemlock), O’Brien is in danger of losing his job after an 0-3 start sunk his Texans. Luckily for him the AFC South is pretty weak.
Todd Bowles, New York Jets, 4th season with team. Season Record: 1-3. Overall Record with Team: 21-31.
The Jets will always have Week One.
Who do you think will get fired? Who did I get wrong? Lemme know in the comments section!