NFL Hot Seat Rankings: Midseason Edition
Updated: Nov 29, 2020
By Max Saito.
As we cross the halfway point of the 2020 NFL season, we take another look at which full-time head coaches are feeling the pressure in our NFL hot seat rankings. Things get a bit weird at the end, but just trust me - it’s necessary and important for them to do so.
The ‘Still Untouchable’ Tier:
30. Bill Belichick - New England Patriots (3-5)
29. Andy Reid - Kansas City Chiefs (8-1)
28. Pete Carroll - Seattle Seahawks (6-2)
27. Mike Tomlin - Pittsburgh Steelers (8-0)
The Patriots are most certainly not good this year, but one terrible season is not going to outdo six Super Bowl rings. Reid, Carroll, and Tomlin are all riding high, with the Chiefs and Steelers having one loss between them. The Seahawks are flawed but Pete Carroll recently signed a four-year extension that may well see him retire in Seattle.
The ‘I’m Basically Part-Owner Now’ Tier:
26. Jon Gruden - Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)
The ‘Impressive CV, Decent Play’ Tier:
25. John Harbaugh - Baltimore Ravens (6-2)
25. Sean Payton - New Orleans Saints (6-2)
23. Bruce Arians - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)
Practically speaking, there is very little separating these three head coaches, who all helm teams expecting to win playoff games this year. All three have had some bad losses, however, and each have lingering questions over their quarterbacks’ futures.
The ‘Young Coach Impressing’ Tier:
22. Matt LaFleur - Green Bay Packers (6-2)
21. Sean McDermott - Buffalo Bills (7-2)
20. Sean McVay - Los Angeles Rams (5-3)
19. Matt Rhule - Carolina Panthers (3-6)
18. Mike Vrabel - Tennessee Titans (6-3) 17. Kliff Kingsbury - Arizona Cardinals (5-3)
16. Brian Flores - Miami Dolphins (5-3)
15. Frank Reich - Indianapolis Colts (6-3)
14. Kevin Stefanski - Cleveland Browns (5-3)
13. Zac Taylor - Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1)
This is the NFL’s middle class, populated by young and handsome high-risers who have had their values widely touted and who have some deep-reaching coaching roots. The Packers, Bills, and Rams look like playoff guarantees, with the Titans, Colts, Cardinals, Dolphins, and Browns all knocking on the door. Sean McDermott looks set to lead the Bills to their first division title of the century, and Matt LaFleur has reinvigorated Aaron Rodgers career… with a first round QB sitting on the bench.
I have been particularly impressed this season with Flores’ Miami Dolphins, who were being grouped in with some historically awful teams this time last year but now find themselves surging with a group of unknown players and an exciting young quarterback prospect. The Panthers are also looking set to miss the playoffs, but Matt Rhule’s Carolina outfit have impressed with some explosive plays on offence and a defence that includes some young studs like Jeremy Chinn and Brian Burns.
Zac Taylor might have been the hardest coach to rank on this entire list - I’m not sure anyone outside of Cincinnati has an opinion on the guy, but Joe Burrow has been playing some terrific ball, and the Bengals have been a much more competitive team. How much of that is down to Taylor - I have to admit I do not know.
The ‘Things Could Be Going Better But You Have Faith’ Tier:
12. Kyle Shanahan - San Francisco 49ers (4-5)
11. Mike Zimmer - Minnesota Vikings (3-5)
10. Doug Pederson - Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1)
9. Ron Rivera - Washington Football Team (2-6)
I actually think Kyle Shanahan is a top 5 coach in the NFL, but he is still sub-.500 as the 49ers head coach and his team look likely to finish at the bottom of their division. However, San Francisco has been one of the worst-hit teams in a year that has been devastating for injuries, something that Doug Pederson knows all too well. The Eagles and Football Team are currently locked in a battle for the miserable NFC East title, where even the winner probably won’t be feeling any better about themselves. The Vikings might be the league’s most disappointing team in 2020, but have shown a pulse in November, and in trading Yannick Ngakoue, the front office has shown that they have the faith in Mike Zimmer to lead them into a reload next summer. All four of these teams will be facing major questions at the quarterback position going into 2021.
The ‘Perspiration’ Tier:
8. Joe Judge - New York Giants (2-7)
7. Vic Fangio - Denver Broncos (3-5)
6. Mike McCarthy - Dallas Cowboys (2-7)
5. Anthony Lynn - Los Angeles Chargers (2-6)
I have very little to say about the Broncos and their milquetoast quarterback, who is keeping the AFC West from having 4 of the top 10 most fun attacks in the league. To be fair to Fangio, he is a defensive coach, and the defense has been good. Let’s move on.
Joe Judge has been thoroughly underwhelming in New York, but every team in the NFC East should thank Mike McCarthy and the Dallas Cowboys for taking the heat off of them by being a horrible defense, by in-fighting, by rubbing hot sauce in their eyes, and by generally being a dumpster fire. McCarthy seems perilously close to losing the locker room, and could go one-and-done if the season continues to spiral. Losing Dak for the season may actually buy McCarthy some time in Dallas, even if the Boys were not a good team with him, because you simply cannot evaluate a team trotting out Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert in back-to-back weeks.
If you’ve been following Gridiron Xtra of late, you may have seen me wax lyrical about how fun the Chargers are to watch, and you may also have seen Connor Brosnan asking whether the time has come for them to move on from Anthony Lynn. Both of these things can be true, as LA has found its quarterback of the future and yet have still found ways to throw away wins in the most heartbreaking ways. You would normally expect these to balance out with some close wins, but the Chargers are 3-15 in one-score games since the start of 2019. I like Anthony Lynn as a person, but at some point, you have to focus attention on the head coach. The Chargers have blown 4 double-digit leads this year.
The ‘Might Not Make It To The End Of The Year’ Tier:
4. Matt Nagy - Chicago Bears (5-4)
3. Matt Patricia - Detroit Lions (3-5)
2. Doug Marrone - Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7)
Putting the head coach of a team with a winning record in the top 5 tells you everything you need to know about the Chicago Bears. For what feels like the 100th year in a row, the Bears are flittering away a season with a great defense by having a totally inept offense. Matt Nagy was brought in (and won Coach of the Year!) as a disciple of Andy Reid with the hope of finally fixing Chicago’s habit of stale and ineffective attacking play. This has not been the case, and their most recent showing against Tennessee, in which they were embarrassed, has only compounded the issue. Chicago have dropped 3 in a row and look a pretty good bet to miss the playoffs despite starting 5-1. Nagy can claw back some stability if he can manage to scrape together a running game, but it will be awfully tempting for Virginia McCaskey to throw it all out and start from scratch this summer in the Windy City… again.
A former Belichick assistant leading a mind-numbingly drab team who sit bottom of their division and are once again going to play no meaningful games in December. This is a familiar situation for what feels like half the teams in the NFL, and you may not be able to find a more textbook example of a bad team than these Detroit Lions. The offense outside of Kenny Golladay and Matt Stafford is completely bland, and the defense has totally failed to meet expectations. The Patricia-era Lions have achieved nothing in three years except to bore everyone half-to-death, but there is a core of players who could be something. I’ve seen enough to believe that Patricia is not the man to turn them into something.
The only possible explanation as to why Doug Marrone is still head coach of the Jaguars is that they have simply forgotten he is there. The Jags have dropped 7 straight and are once again sinking without a trace, being quite likely the only team who might challenge the Jets for the number one overall pick. Jake Luton had some nice moments in his debut, but at some point ‘nice moments’ are not enough. The right time to fire Marrone was probably about 2 years ago. Save for one season, Jacksonville has been one of the least consequential teams in the league under Marrone. Please stop wasting everyone’s time.
The ‘Actually Putting My Degree To Use’ Tier:
(−ħ2/2m)*(d2ψ(x)/dx2)+ U(x)ψ(x) = Eψ(x). Adam Gase - New York Jets (0-9)
Bear with me here.
Yes, the only way to accurately categorise the Adam Gase Experience is by using degree-level physics- wait, stop, where are you going? Look, I promise you it makes (some) sense. Instead of a number, I have had to use the time-independent Schrodinger’s equation to describe Adam Gase’s existence as a head coach. This is because the situation is totally paradoxical. It is empirically clear to everyone that a) Adam Gase is going to be fired as head coach of the New York Jets and that b) the New York Jets are not going to fire Gase until they have secured the number one overall pick. It does not matter how bad the Jets play on the field, Gase is not going to be fired… until he is inevitably fired. Thus, like a quantum-mechanical system, Gase simultaneously exists in the twin states of having the hottest seat in the league, and having the least hot seat. He only fills one of these states when an observer with nothing better to do (e.g. me) observes this system and states that he is either the most or least fireable coach in the league right now.
What’s that? This is stupid and overwrought? You might be right… let me try this again.
The ‘Duh’ Tier:
1. Adam Gase - New York Jets (0-9)
Nothing is real. Physics isn’t real. Football isn’t real. Fire this man, and let us all move on.