NFL Hot Seat Rankings: Who will be the next Head Coach to be fired?
Updated: Oct 29, 2020
By Max Saito.
Follow Max on Twitter: @deerfearer.
The Houston Texans parted ways with long-time head coach and short-time general manager Bill O’Brien on Monday afternoon, in the first concrete piece of palace intrigue in the young 2020 season.
The Texans, who lost to the then-winless Vikings after Will Fuller’s late touchdown was overturned, fell to an 0-4 record, and have seen their playoff chances crushed, even with an expanded 14-team postseason field.
With the addition of some head-scratching front office moves, including moving star receiver DeAndre Hopkins in one of the most one-sided trades ever, O’Brien was released just a quarter of the way through his 7th season in the big chair at NRG Stadium.
Certain groups of fans across the league have been taking to Twitter to express their surprise that their own team’s coach managed to not be the first to go this year, so we’re taking a look at which coaches are feeling the heat going into Week 5. Here are the 31 remaining head coaches in the NFL, ranked by how likely they are to be the next to take the plunge.
The ‘Completely Untouchable’ Tier:
31. Bill Belichick - New England Patriots (2-2)
30. Andy Reid - Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)
29. Pete Carroll - Seattle Seahawks (4-0)
28. Mike Tomlin - Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0)
The ‘Having a 10-year, $100m Contract’ Tier:
27. Jon Gruden - Las Vegas Raiders (2-2)
The ‘Four Games Into the Job’ Tier:
26. Kevin Stefanski - Cleveland Browns (3-1)
25. Ron Rivera - Washington Football Team (1-3)
24. Matt Rhule - Carolina Panthers (2-2)
23. Mike McCarthy - Dallas Cowboys (1-3)
22. Joe Judge - New York Giants (0-4)
The ‘Extensive Resumée’ Tier:
21. John Harbaugh - Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
20. Sean Payton - New Orleans Saints (2-2)
19. Bruce Arians - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1)
18. Doug Pederson - Philadelphia Eagles (1-2-1)
The ‘Relatively New Coaches Showing Promise’ Tier:
17. Kyle Shanahan - San Francisco 49ers (2-2)
16. Sean McDermott - Buffalo Bills (4-0)
15. Matt LaFleur - Green Bay Packers (4-0)
14. Sean McVay - Los Angeles Rams (3-1)
13. Mike Vrabel - Tennessee Titans (3-0)
12. Kliff Kingsbury - Arizona Cardinals (2-2)
11. Frank Reich - Indianapolis Colts (3-1)
10. Brian Flores - Miami Dolphins (1-3)
9. Zac Taylor - Cincinnati Bengals (1-2-1)
I struggled to rank this tier, as a coach like Brian Flores has undoubtedly done a good job in coaching up a bare-bones roster in Miami, but the fact is that the Dolphins are 6-14 under Flores and are into a second straight transition year, which comes with an intrinsic instability. McDermott and LaFleur are my two current leaders for Coach of the Year, and McVay and Shanahan look set to set the tone of offensive innovation across the league for decades to come.
The ‘A Few More Losses And It Could Be Big Trouble’ Tier:
8. Anthony Lynn - Los Angeles Chargers (1-3)
7. Mike Zimmer - Minnesota Vikings (1-3)
6. Vic Fangio - Denver Broncos (1-3)
5. Matt Nagy - Chicago Bears (3-1)
Putting the coach of 3-1 Bears outfit as the 5th most under-pressure coach in the league may seem harsh, but the Bears needed miracles against Atlanta and Detroit, and scraped past a thoroughly depressing Giants team to get to that point. Chicago then struggled to a paltry 11 points against the Colts (with the help of a garbage time TD from Allen Robinson) and looked completely listless against Indy even with offseason acquisition Nick Foles replacing Trubisky under centre. The Bears can turn to their defence for hope but if they miss out on the playoffs then owner Virginia McCaskey may contemplate sweeping out Nagy and GM Ryan Pace to start afresh.
The ‘Uh-oh’ Tier:
4. Doug Marrone
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3)
When coming up with this list, I was reminded that Marrone is somehow still the coach of the Jaguars.
The good graces in Duval earned through an appearance in the AFC Championship Game in his first year in charge have now been well and truly worn out, with the Jaguars going 12-24 since that game, finishing in the basement of the AFC South both times. The current iteration of the Jaguars have just 11 starters remaining from that 2017 season.
Owner Shahid Khan has shown a lot of patience with Marrone, but with the Jaguars cruising for yet another nothing year, it seems a matter of time until Marrone and GM Dave Caldwell are sent packing and the Jags restart with a new front office staff, who may well choose to bring in a new QB.
3. Matt Patricia
Detroit Lions (1-3)
The Lions are now 2-14 in their last 16 games under Patricia, but most damningly of all, they have blown an NFL-record five consecutive games in which they held a double-digit lead.
Lions fans must feel like they are trapped in a recurring nightmare with Patricia at the helm, and the blame for these collapsed leads can be placed squarely at the feet of the coaching staff.
Patricia’s predecessor, Jim Caldwell, went to the playoffs twice in four years before being dismissed. Patricia has the Lions well in the mix for a third straight year finishing 4th in the NFC North - a division which Detroit has never won.
2. Dan Quinn
Atlanta Falcons (0-4)
Talking of recurring nightmares… prior to their Monday Night Football tilt at Lambeau Field, I had Dan Quinn at number 4 on this list.
The Falcons collapses have been well documented, and Quinn, who was hired to be a defensive coach, had overseen a Falcons defence that ranked among the league’s worst in points and yards allowed per game.
However, the Falcons offense had been playing decent football, and there was reason to think that the Falcons could outscore a Packers team missing its top two passing weapons. Instead, the Falcons managed a meagre 16 points against Green Bay, with top receiver Calvin Ridley being shut out entirely. A 20-play, 94 yard drive that ended in a field goal in the second quarter underlined that this Atlanta team was devoid of explosive plays despite facing a depleted Packers secondary.
Arthur Blank gave Quinn a stay of execution after a 1-7 start last season, and the Falcons rallied to a 7-9 finish. An 0-4 start, particularly in the manner that it has been in, gives Blank little reason to grace Quinn with such a show of faith in 2020.
The ‘Adam Gase’ Tier:
1. Adam Gase
New York Jets (0-4)
Some Falcons fans consider Dan Quinn to be essentially a dead man walking, so the fact that I did not even come close to considering putting him in the same tier as Adam Gase should tell you everything you need to know about Gase’s current outlook at the Meadowlands.
The Jets are 0-4, again, and Gase is going about his work in a way that is instantly recognisable to anyone who has handed in their notice at a job that they hate.
Gase’s success has always been tied to that of Sam Darnold, who has struggled heavily in the past two seasons, perhaps best summarised by his infamous ‘seeing ghosts’ remark against the Patriots last year. Darnold has been through a lot, but is still just 23, and has at times flashed rare athleticism and improvisational techniques that suggest that he is not yet a lost cause.
Perhaps most damning is the success of players who have been freed from Gase’s coaching - with players such as Ryan Tannehill, Robby Anderson, and Kenyan Drake all playing well on their new teams. The Jets have compounded their fans misery with odd personnel moves, poor drafts, and Gase’s trademark ability to fall out with his own players through bad communication and mismanagement.
The Jets were sloppy, ill-disciplined and uninspired against the Broncos in primetime. Gase coached that game like someone who just wanted to move on as quickly as possible, even given that the Broncos were entering the game with a third-string untested quarterback. It’s time for yet another hard reset for Gang Green. I only hope that I can get this article published before the Gase era is drawn to a merciful close.