The Schein Nine  

 

Rex Ryan, Jason Garrett among coaches under intense pressure

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At the midway point, things are heating up in this amazing and wacky 2014 season.

We have overachievement and misery. We have desperation and desire. Soon, we will separate the contenders from the pretenders.

Long story short, the pressure is mounting -- especially for the men in charge.

Some head coaches will earn their walking papers. Some need to hit the playoffs to survive. Some need more than just a playoff berth. Others need a miracle.

Here are the coaches facing the most pressure in the second half of the season, presented in countdown style:

9) Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams

There is no chance Fisher gets fired at the end of the year. And he shouldn't -- this is a really good coach.

That said, Fisher is sub-.500 (16-22-1) in two and a half years with St. Louis. While you can say he's had bad luck with injuries, Fisher's decision to bank on Sam Bradford was a mistake. And the head coach has major influence on general manager Les Snead in terms of picking players, so the roster comes back to Fisher.

Even with Austin Davis at quarterback and left tackle Jake Long out for the year, it would be nice to see some progress in the second half, something to build on for 2015.

8) Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears

I picked Trestman to win Coach of the Year back in August. That wasn't my best call.

Many things are alarming with Chicago this year, including the defense and the stunning inability to win at home. But one thing is especially troublesome for Trestman: Jay Cutler's regression.

The Bears gave Cutler "elite quarterback" money back in January, figuring he'd fully blossom under Trestman's watchful eye. But the mistakes are still there -- as is the inconsistency. Cutler's maddening turnovers are omnipresent.

The constant finger-pointing and locker room eruptions from guys like Brandon Marshall are a bad look for Trestman. Where is the leadership?

I still believe in Trestman. But his seat could get warm for 2015 if the Bears tank and don't show any signs of improvement and togetherness.

7) Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals

Let me grab my calculator and add up the playoff wins ... Zero! Still zero.

OK, so the fact that Cincinnati somehow finds itself in first place, despite injuries to key players like A.J. Green, is a credit to Lewis. (Even though Cincy benefited from, in my opinion, a push into the end zone and a flop in the crucial final minutes against the Ravens.) But the heat is still on. With the overall talent on this roster, the Bengals need to not just make the playoffs, but do some damage once they get there.

We've always put the pressure on Andy Dalton, but here's a simple question: Is Marvin Lewis a big-time coach? Do you trust his game management in the playoffs, based upon precedent? I'm going with no on both queries.

At what point is Lewis held accountable?

6) Doug Marrone, Buffalo Bills

I'm on record how much I respect Marrone. I think he's a very good coach and the 5-3 Bills are right in AFC East contention.

The Bills went for it in the offseason, dealing away their 2015 first-round pick to get Sammy Watkins. I loved the move. So far, it has worked out just fine. Then Marrone made the risky decision to bench his first ever draft pick, EJ Manuel, for Kyle Orton -- and that has paid off brilliantly, with Orton posting a 3-1 record and 104.0 quarterback rating in four starts.

But the Bills must continue to win games, especially with a new owner in Terry Pegula. That alone puts pressure on Marrone. Buffalo's remaining schedule is no cake walk, either, with road games at Denver and New England, as well as home contests against the Chiefs and Packers.

Here's hoping Pegula keeps Marrone. The coach deserves it.

5) Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins

It was kind of surprising that Philbin even made it to this season, after the Richie Incognito situation and the Dolphins' late-season meltdown to miss the playoffs.

But Miami has looked like a functional NFL team in the first half. And ever since Philbin foolishly refused to name a starting quarterback prior to the game against the Raiders in London, Ryan Tannehill has been a solid and reliable signal-caller.

Still, it's not at all hard to imagine owner Stephen Ross making a change if Miami misses the playoffs for the sixth straight season. And with the omnipresent rumors that Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers are headed for a divorce, remember that Ross chased his fellow Michigan man -- even while he was still employing Tony Sparano.

4) John Fox, Denver Broncos

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Fair? Unfair? Here's the truth: Denver is the best team in the NFL. And with that being the case, there's one simple expectation in the Mile High City: a Super Bowl title.

And the Broncos have the players to get it done -- just like they had the players to get it done when Joe Flacco and the Ravens shocked the world in Denver two Januarys ago.

There is mounting pressure on Fox, who didn't exactly dazzle with in-game strategy in Super Bowl XLVIII.

3) Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys eradicated a lot of the good vibes established in the first two months of the season when they foolishly -- and irresponsibly -- reinserted their franchise quarterback into Monday's loss to the Redskins. Tony Romo, of course, was taken to the locker room after getting drilled in the back. You know, the same Tony Romo who's undergone two back surgeries in the last two years. A quarter later, the Cowboys inexplicably put him back in the game. Judging by how the decision process apparently played out, I put this is on Jerry Jones, not Jason Garrett. But, if things go south, Garrett's the No. 1 scapegoat candidate.

There's always pressure on Garrett anyway. Now, after Monday's home defeat, and with Romo's health and availability in doubt for the Cardinals game, the pressure ratchets up even more.

The second half of Dallas' schedule isn't easy. And if Romo isn't healthy, that's a gigantic problem. Ten wins doesn't clinch anything in the NFC this fall.

Simple math says at least two of these teams will miss the playoffs: Dallas, Philadelphia, Detroit, Green Bay, Arizona, San Francisco, Seattle. Can you imagine Jerry's rage if the Cowboys are one of them?

2) Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons

Did you see poor Mike Smith's face when Matt Prater's second field-goal attempt went through the uprights, giving the Lions an unthinkable win over Atlanta in London?

I wrote a column two Mondays ago explaining why Atlanta needs to go in a different direction. That was before Smith's Falcons surrendered a 21-point lead in unfathomable fashion!

1) Rex Ryan, New York Jets

Rex Ryan should have been fired after the 2012 campaign. He was attached at the hip with general manager Mike Tannenbaum, so when the Jets canned the latter, they should've done the same with the former.

The Jets missed the playoffs last season, but they were better than most anticipated. Consequently, the players dumped Gatorade on Rex after a Week 17 win gave them an 8-8 record -- the single goofiest and least-worthy Gatorade bath ever.

Now, the Jets are 1-7. They are embarrassing. It's not all Rex's fault. General manager John Idzik, from the draft to free agency to his babbling news conference on Monday, has been horrendous at his job.

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But Rex is a defensive coordinator. He's not a head coach. He isn't a manager. The same mistakes are made over and over again. Rex can't figure out the quarterback position and seemingly ignores the offensive side of the ball. He's whiffed on game-day rosters, from having an injured Tim Tebow as Mark Sanchez's backup in the Buttfumble game to playing -- and setting back -- a hobbled Eric Decker this year.

Credit Rex for his two AFC Championship Game appearances in his first two years on the job, but this tenure has run its course.

It's over, Rex.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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