The 2017 NFL season has brought forth a multitude of events. From the Eagles offensive success, to the Cleveland Browns continuous woes, the head coach position is arguably the centerpiece for the overall functionality of any franchise in the current era of the NFL. Which teams have a gem in their head coaching department? Which front offices need to cut ties? Here is a team-by-team breakdown of which franchises need to make head coaching changes to start the 2018 season:
1. Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis Colts)
Just two years ago, the Colts found themselves extending the contract of head coach Chuck Pagano. In result, the situation in Indianapolis has been more than complicated. Quarterback Andrew Luck hasn’t been healthy enough to make an impact, and the defense for the Colts has been sloppy on an annual basis.
Much like John Fox, the pieces were never quite in place for Pagano to be successful, but even when they were, Pagano never proved that he cannot execute in the postseason. After two straight seasons with a record of 8-8 in both 2015 and 2016, the 2017 Colts had their worst season under Pagano, who was fired from the franchise on Sunday evening.
2. John Fox (Chicago Bears)
Having been involved as a head coach with both the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos since 2002, most expected for Fox to be the answer in Chicago. Although all the pieces weren’t quite in place, the coaching staff for the Bears has been underwhelming to say the least. His accomplishments in the NFL as a whole should be noted, but Chicago simply was never the appropriate scenery for the 62-year old.
Franchises are beginning to turn towards younger head coaches, and Chicago should consider that same strategy. With Fox released from the franchise this past week, it will be interesting to see who the franchise turns towards.
3. Jack Del Rio (Oakland Raiders)
I’m actually somewhat shocked that Oakland elected to depart from Jack Del Rio this early. The Raiders dealt Del Rio a four-year extension after he brought Oakland their first winning record since 2002.
The Raiders have seen inconsistency from Derek Carr, Marshawn Lynch, as well as the defense. In fact, the only player who has remained entirely consistent is linebacker Khalil Mack. The franchise is now heavily recruiting Jon Gruden, which is fine, but Del Rio didn’t deserve the can this early on.
4. Jim Caldwell (Detroit Lions)
Jim Caldwell and the Detroit Lions have had a rocky history, but I’m glad the franchise is moving on. It isn’t quite a bash on Caldwell, but he was certainly holding the Lions back from a postseason run of any sorts.
Caldwell was on and off the hot seat since the 2015 season, and groups of Detroit fans even attempted to create GoFundMe pages in order to buy out his contract. The Lions have yet to secure themselves a division title since 1993, and have yet to win a playoff game since 1991.
In recent news, the Lions have requested to interview Steve Wilks, Pat Shurmur, Mike Vrabel, Matt Patricia, and Jim Schwartz.
5. Bruce Arians (Arizona Cardinals)
Containing a .600+ win percentage as a head coach with both the Indianapolis Colts and Cardinals, the only aspect that ever held back Arians’ position with Arizona is his physical health.
At times, Arians was forced to take a leave of absence from the franchise, and it eventually hindered his chances from ever reaching the Super Bowl as a head coach. As of this past week, Arians has resigned from his position with the Arizona Cardinals, and intends to retire.
Halfway Out The Door
6. Steve Spagnuolo (New York Giants)
After a 2-10 start to the 2017 season, the New York Giants elected to depart from Ben McAdoo, and promote Steve Spagnuolo as the interim head coach. Unfortunately, in the past, Spagnuolo has proven to NFL front offices that he doesn’t contain the attributes that a successful head coach requires.
With a previous head coaching record of 10-38 before 2017, the Giants are expected to recruit Jim Schwartz with their head coach opening. Can New York find themselves back in the mix within the NFC East? Absolutely, but investing in Schwartz is a heavy gamble.
Red Hot Seat
7. Todd Bowles (New York Jets)
After the Rex Ryan era came to a close, most believed that Bowles would come across as a breath of fresh air for the Jets. In result, his career in green and white may become short-lived. Having missed the playoffs each of the last seven seasons, the Jets have found themselves in a poor situation, which very well may lead to the departure of Bowles if the trend continues.
The former defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals joined New York in January of 2017, and multiple players have publicly vouched for Bowles to return to the Jets for seasons to come. Unfortunately, the NFL is a business that runs off of winning and profits, and the Jets are one franchise I expect to make a coaching change at some point in the near future.
8. Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals)
After a series of disappointing seasons under his belt, Lewis was shockingly dealt a two-year extension with the Cincinnati Bengals. While his regular season record as a head coach remains just above .500, he has yet to secure a single playoff victory in his coaching tenure since 2003.
It’s not certain on whether Lewis is a temporary answer for the Bengals, or if he once again saw himself get lucky. Heading into 2018, Marvin Lewis will find himself skating on extremely thin ice.
9. Hue Jackson (Cleveland Browns)
The Cleveland Browns have already verbally committed to Hue Jackson for the 2018 season, but this doesn’t mean he’s off the hot seat by any means. With young and developing pieces in the lap of Jackson, the Browns shouldn’t be pitied as much as they have been in the past. With talents such as DeShone Kizer, Corey Coleman, Myles Garrett, and potentially Josh Gordon on the roster for 2018, are a couple of victories really too much to ask for?
The Browns may be holding a strong poker face, but Jackson’s position as a head coach in Cleveland is anything but secure. With a handful of early draft selections in 2018, the coaching staff for the Browns better hope they hold the correct formula to lead the franchise to a drastically improved season.
10. Vance Joseph (Denver Broncos)
Remember back in the 2015-16 season when the Denver Broncos secured themselves their first Super Bowl since 1999? Since then, the defense has appeared watered down, and quarterback Trevor Siemian even had his future called “uncertain” by Vance Joseph. One thing is for sure, and it’s that Joseph’s position in Denver is just as vague as Siemian’s.
The one thing I love about a head coach’s contract is that no length is ever guaranteed, and although Joseph signed a four-year deal with the Broncos after the departure of John Fox, the success of Denver is the incentive within his deal. The AFC West is the worst it has been in years, and the Broncos have somehow found themselves on the bottom of the totem pole. According to reports, the Denver Broncos are committing to Joseph to begin the 2018 campaign.
11. Dirk Koetter (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
The Buccaneers originally signed Koetter to a five-year deal back in 2016, but they could very well have shot themselves in the foot with that decision. After posting a 9-7 record in 2016, Koetter has found himself in the firing line, no pun intended.
The Buccaneers have a handful of efficient pieces to work with, but how much of this blame should sincerely be on Koetter’s shoulders? Winston has been riding injuries all year long, the run game has been a mess, and there are plenty of holes on the defensive side of the football. Per reports, former Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden may be interested in taking his job back with the Buccaneers, so be on the lookout for that.
On The Verge
12. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans)
With Deshaun Watson under center, the Houston Texans were once debated as a contender within the AFC. Without Watson under center, the Houston Texans could now very well be debating a head coaching change for the future. The front office has already verbally committed to O’Brien for 2018, but based on the past, O’Brein is appearing to be just slightly above average than the typical head coach in the NFL.
The hope is that Houston can remain healthy in 2018, but with O’Brien’s 1-2 playoff record, how much of this hope is rational? I don’t expect for O’Brien to lose his job in 2018, but if Houston doesn’t live up to their potential, he could find himself on thin ice.
13. Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers)
Although Lynn was once viewed as the favorite to replace Rex Ryan’s position with the Buffalo Bills, he instead opted to take over the head coaching duties for Los Angeles. After his first full season as head coach, Lynn has left a bad taste in the mouths of the Chargers fan base. With rumored tension surrounding Lynn and quarterback Philip Rivers during the course of the season, the Chargers front office may be forced to eventually pick a side.
Although Lynn is still young and inexperienced, Los Angeles should have contained the AFC West division title with a sense of ease. If the lack of success continues, I’m betting that the Chargers won’t be afraid to cut ties with Lynn sooner than later.
14. Jay Gruden (Washington Redskins)
Back in March, the Washington Redskins elected to sign Gruden to a two-year extension, but I’m not sure his future is certain at this rate. Since joining the Redskins in 2014, Gruden’s best season involves a 9-7 regular season record, which included a first round exit in the postseason. The front office in Washington may be more concerned about keeping quarterback Kirk Cousins on a reasonable deal, but Gruden’s resume isn’t looking too bright.
If I were the front office, I would take a long look at Gruden’s past with the Redskins, and re-consider my options in the off-season. Sure, the Redskins aren’t stacked with the same amount of talent as the Philadelphia Eagles or Dallas Cowboys, but this is a franchise that deserves a whole lot better than mediocrity. If Gruden is let go in the off-season, don’t be surprised to see the Cincinnati Bengals reach out to Gruden, as he was once the offensive coordinator with the franchise from 2011-13.
15. Jason Garrett (Dallas Cowboys)
Garrett currently contains one of the most complete offenses in the NFL, but doesn’t have much to show for it. Sure, the Cowboys have posted three winning seasons in the last four years, but his 1-2 playoff record during that time frame needs to be accounted for.
I’m somewhat of a fan of Garrett, but I question if he contains the Super Bowl-winning attributes that Harbaugh, Belichick, McCarthy, Tomlin, Carroll, and Payton have. The relationship between Garrett and owner Jerry Jones makes this decision a 50/50 one for me, but the Cowboys need to find a route that leads to postseason success.
16. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens)
Even after a .500+ coaching record, as well as a Super Bowl title, I still believe John Harbaugh is 50/50 in terms of job security. Since the departure of defensive forces such as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, this Baltimore roster hasn’t been the same. While the Browns and Bengals have been in the basement of the AFC North, the Steelers have only improved, while the Ravens have yet to adapt.
Harbaugh is a well-known and respected figure in the NFL, but I often question how long it will be before Baltimore finds themselves moving onto a new chapter. Harbaugh is only signed through the 2019 season, so the 2018 season will be a testimony to his worth as the Ravens head coach.
17. Mike Mularkey (Tennessee Titans)
The Tennessee Titans do hold a lot of potential in the AFC South, but something about Mike Mularkey is holding this franchise back. Based on his limited success as an interim head coach in 2015, most believed Tennessee would make a dent within the AFC playoff picture. While they have gone onto win enough games to be considered just above-average, I’m not sure how much faith the Titans can put into their head coach.
The front office initially handed Mularkey a three-year deal back in January of 2016, but no talks about a potential extension have occurred since then. It would be my understanding that the Titans would need to advance within the playoffs under Mularkey in order for an extension to be in the conversation.
18. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills)
I’m actually somewhat impressed with McDermott and the Buffalo Bills. The AFC East has been run by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for ages at this point, but Buffalo has been able to earn every victory in their direction. While McDermott is one of few coaches without a long-term deal to secure his position, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bills made him an offer down the road.
McDermott is one of the younger coaches in the NFL, which is what I believe a lot of front offices are beginning to gravitate towards. As long as the feelings are mutual during contract negotiations, don’t be shocked if McDermott sticks around in Western New York for a few more years.
19. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs)
Andy Reid has been involved with head coaching in the NFL since 1999, and contains 23 total postseason games. In addition, Reid has brought the Kansas City Chiefs to a winning record on every occasion since the start of his tenure with the franhise in 2013. Although his merits should be valued, Reid also only contains one playoff victory with the Chiefs.
This is a franchise that is well-known for its regular season success, but lacks execution in the postseason. It happens to be my opinion that Reid’s position in Kansas City is somewhat secure at the moment, simply because of the lack of experience in other potential candidates.
20. Adam Gase (Miami Dolphins)
After a 10-6 finish in the 2016 season, Gase and the Miami Dolphins couldn’t quite rally around Jay Cutler as the quarterback in replacement of Ryan Tannehill. The position of Adam Gase is simple: He’s a newer coach in NFL who needs the proper weapons around him to be successful. The Dolphins were more than unsuccessful on both sides of the ball in 2017, which ultimately dictated the direction of the franchise.
Signing under a five-year deal back in 2016, the Dolphins will likely continue to gamble on Gase for the near future, including 2018. Instead of worry about their head coach, Miami should focus on the draft board as a priority, as their 2017 class was less than appealing in the eyes of most.
21. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers)
The San Francisco 49ers may have started out the 2017 season with a mere 1-10 record, but under Jimmy Garoppolo, head coach Kyle Shanahan may have found his savior. The franchise is currently under a rebuild mode, but with a long-term contract in the pocket of Shanahan, I have a hard time believing the front office will let him go anytime soon.
I’m a big fan of the chemistry between Shanahan and Garoppolo, as the 49ers would be foolish to not bet on Garoppolo as the future face of San Francisco. The team now has to focus on re-signing the quarterback, and then continue to develop their young roster. If Shanhan can continue to assist his players, his position as head coach is somewhat secure.
22. Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars)
After finishing the 2016 record with a 1-1 record as an interim head coach, I’m actually a firm believer that Doug Marrone will succeed in Jacksonville. Even with Allen Robinson out for the year, the Jaguars have found themselves back in the playoff mix for the first time since 2007.
Marrone has been a part of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills since 2013, neither of which contain “loads” of talent. With these rosters, he will now have two seasons (out of four) in which his roster contains a winning record at the end of the regular season. If I had to guess, I would advise others to not be surprised if the Jaguars gamble on Marrone to lead them to future success in the long haul.
23. Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints)
Rumors surrounding Sean Payton have been swirling for years now, as he was once linked to both the Los Angeles Rams and the Dallas Cowboys in the past. After the 2017 season the Saints are currently having, Payton’s position is looking more secure than ever before. Payton is one of six current NFL head coaches with a Super Bowl ring added to his legacy.
There is a slight chance he ends his tenure with the Saints around the time period Drew Brees decides to end his career as a quarterback. The 53-year old signed an extension in 2016 worth $45 million, and has verbally stated that he intends to honor that.
24. Ron Rivera (Carolina Panthers)
Since joining the Carolina Panthers back in 2011, Rivera contains a winning percentage above .500, and has adapted to the culture of the modern day NFL. In addition, Rivera has lead the Panthers to six total playoff games, and three seasons of 11+ regular season wins. With younger weapons at his arsenal, such as Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey, Rivera has found himself within a potential contract extension.
According to reports in late December, Carolina is aiming to extend the contract of Rivera, who has only benefited the franchise as a whole. While he may not have a Super Bowl ring to his name, I find Rivera to be extremely underrated as a head coach for the most part.
25. Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons)
After inking a five-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons back in 2015, I’m impressed with Quinn’s ability to shape the Falcons into an NFC threat. The franchise has had the duo of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones since 2011, but with Quinn involved, the Falcons have changed the culture entirely.
In just his second year, Quinn was able to lead the Falcons to a Super Bowl appearance; a merit they have not accomplished prior since 1998. If I were to predict the future, I would assume that the Falcons would be willing to keep Quinn as part of their coaching staff for years to come.
26. Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles)
Even after a remarkable season from the Philadelphia Eagles, I still can’t bring myself to state that Pederson’s position with the franchise is “locked and loaded”. The magnificent turnaround play by quarterback Carson Wentz, prior to his injury boosted the ceiling that the Eagles hold, but why are we excluding what happened the year prior?
After finishing in the basement of the NFC East in 2016, some fans were even calling for the departure of Pederson at one point in time. For myself, 2018 will truly become a statement year in which we find out if the Eagles have the ability to live up to the hype of one of the most elite young franchises in the NFL.
27. Mike McCarthy (Green Bay Packers)
The Green Bay Packers are pretty much solidified at the head coach position under McCarthy, but the franchise has proven that Aaron Rodgers is the key to their success. Without Rodgers, the Packers struggled to stay afloat under backup Brett Hundley, and while its not fair to criticize McCarthy for Green Bay’s lack of success, head coaches should capable of adapting to these types of situations.
The Packers are now on the outside looking in on the playoff picture for the first time since 2008, and McCarthy is still awaiting a contract extension, as his deal is set to end after the 2018 season. The veteran head coach pairs very well with Rodgers, but I wouldn’t be shocked if more coaching changes are made on the defensive side in the upcoming off-season.
28. Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings)
Zimmer has been involved with Minnesota since 2011, and has changed the franchise for the better. The franchise will now be in the postseason for the second time in four seasons under Zimmer, and he has done it with a multitude of quarterback changes as well. The Minnesota head coach has been dealt Christian Ponder, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford, and most recently, Case Keenum at the quarterback position.
I am somewhat dumbfounded when it comes to the success the Vikings are having under Zimmer, but he deserves every ounce of credit avaliable. Under Zimmer, I believe there is a bright future in Minnesota.
29. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks)
I have Carroll on the outskirts of “locked and loaded”, but being inserted at #29 should be considered a compliment. Signed through the 2019 season, I fully expect for Carroll to remain the face of the Seattle Seahawks coaching department. With six straight winning seasons to his name with Seattle, the franchise has been labeled an NFC threat on an annual basis.
The locker room seems somewhat divided to a degree in Seattle, but everyone seems to be rallying around Carroll at the right moments. His coaching record in the regular season and the postseason remains above .500, which is more than most head coaches can say for themselves. Although Carroll is rumored to retire following the 2017 season, the head coach quickly disputed those reports.
Locked & Loaded
30. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams)
Sean McVay was primarily seen as a “guinea pig” in the NFL, as he became the youngest NFL head coach in the history of the league at 31-years old. From there, he took a fan-deprived Rams franchise and placed them as a contender in the NFC. Prior to McVay, the Rams haven’t seen a winning record since the 2003 season, and their latest playoff game took place back in 2004.
With McVay’s small sample size of success, I firmly believe more NFL franchises will eye younger candidates to take over as head coaches. It ultimately benefits the players in terms of chemistry, and it just suits the modern NFL ideology. Some may think I’m crazy for McVay being considered “locked and loaded”, but if this success carries over, look out for a potential coaching revolution in the NFL.
31. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Viewed as one of the most elite head coaches in the NFL, Mike Tomlin is well-respected by the entire area of Pittsburgh. He is signed through the 2020 season, and has brought the Steelers to the postseason in seven of eleven total seasons. Although the franchise is starting to age at certain positions, Tomlin has quickly adapted to the best of his ability.
The Steelers are seen as just about the only franchise capable of defeating the New England Patriots in the AFC, and without Tomlin, I believe this franchise becomes a lot less elite. Without a doubt, Pittsburgh is making a smart decision when it comes to committing to Tomlin.
32. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots)
Are we really surprised by this? The long-time Patriots head coach is not only granted safety in his position, but he should rightfully be claimed as one of the best coaches in NFL history. On record, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has stated that Belichick will be the head coach of the franchise for “as long as he wants”. With arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time under center in Tom Brady, Belichick has been a force to be reckoned with since 2001.
Although Brady is reaching the end of his career, it will be interesting to see how Belichick eventually adapts without his secret weapon. How much longer will he coach after Brady retires? That could be speculated, but the only thing granted in the NFL at the moment is that Belichick currently contains the more secure position in the league.