Around the NFL  

 

Coaches on the hot seat: Who could be in trouble?

Print

Welcome to the calm before the coaching-change storm. There is more anxiety surrounding potential head-coaching changes entering Week 17 than usual, with over 10 teams dealing with some level of uncertainty. The results of the various regular-season finales taking place across the NFL could still make an impact.

Don't tell Jaguars coach Doug Marrone that any late-season games are "meaningless." Jacksonville's blowout victory over Tennessee with Marrone as interim head coach late last season helped Marrone earn the job permanently. Now Marrone could potentially alter the course of another AFC South team if the Jaguars beat the Titans again on Sunday.

Titans coach Mike Mularkey is just one of the people who will learn his fate over the next week. There have been no fewer than six coaching changes every year since 2011, a streak that should continue this season. Here's a look at teams facing potential coaching changes (plus one that's already made a move):

Ahead of the game

New York Giants: Big Blue's decision to fire Ben McAdoo on Dec. 4 gave the organization a head start on its offseason. Thursday's hiring of general manager Dave Gettleman allows the team to begin interviewing coaching candidates immediately after the regular season ends. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport mentioned Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz as potential candidates.

Expected to make a change

Indianapolis Colts: It wouldn't quite be Week 17 without speculation about Colts coach Chuck Pagano's future. After saving his job with two late-season wins and an impassioned plea to owner Jim Irsay two years ago, it appears Pagano has run out of chances. He was dealt a bad hand with Andrew Luck's injury this year and knew it, appearing to enjoy the final days of a memorable six-year run in which Pagano's greatest victory didn't come on the field.

Cincinnati Bengals: Rapoport reported on Dec. 17 that coach Marvin Lewis and the Bengals have mutually agreed to part ways at the end of the season. While Lewis has publicly denied this as fact, he also is on record with Rapoport saying that being a GM is "something I would listen to." After 15 seasons and seven playoff appearances, a new era is set to begin in Cincinnati.

Chicago Bears: John Fox has been an NFL head coach for 16 consecutive seasons across three franchises. Rapoport has previously reported that members of the 62-year-old's staff do not expect Fox's third season with the Bears to end well. It's also an open question as to whether general manager Ryan Pace is the man to find a new coach for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

More likely than not

Detroit Lions: Coach Jim Caldwell has the second-highest winning percentage in team history, but that may not be enough for him to keep his job after missing the playoffs. Caldwell predated Lions general manager Bob Quinn in Detroit. Rapoport reported that the extension Caldwell previously signed was only through 2018 and would not prevent the team from making a move.

Tennessee Titans: Mike Mularkey has some control over his own fate. If the Titans can force their way into the playoffs and even win a game once there, will general manager Jon Robinson really show Mularkey the door? Then again, if the Titans lose their fourth straight game Sunday to fall to 8-8 and miss the playoffs, Robinson will have plenty of reason to make a switch. Robinson has ties to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and the organization's top priority should be to find the right fit for quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mularkey's 1990s-era smashmouth approach isn't working.

Anyone's guess

Arizona Cardinals: Unlike in the situations listed above, the decision about Bruce Arians' future is expected to be his to make. He sent some clear signals in his book, "The Quarterback Whisperer," that 2017 could be his final year, although that was written before a season during which Arians experienced improved health. (Unfortunately, his team did not.) By all accounts, no one truly knows what Arians will do -- and that could include Arians.

Cleveland Browns: Team owner Jimmy Haslam is on the record saying coach Hue Jackson will be back. All the reporting surrounding the Browns holds that Jackson will be back. Logic, however, says that going 0-16, with the final loss potentially coming to the Steelers' backups, could have an impact. How can the Browns franchise sell the fan base on a coach with one win in two seasons?

Long shots

Denver Broncos: The Broncos are 5-10, but grand poobah John Elway must be aware of the position he put coach Vance Joseph in for Joseph's first season on the job, with a shaky quarterback situation and an uneven, aging roster. Joseph was Elway's hand-picked successor to Gary Kubiak, so a quick change would reflect poorly on Elway, too. It could certainly help Joseph's case if he avoided losing to Chiefs backup quarterback Patrick Mahomes on Sunday.

Oakland Raiders: Raiders coach Jack Del Rio already fired his defensive coordinator during the season, and he changed offensive coordinators last offseason. The offense took a big step back this year under new coordinator Todd Downing. Owner Mark Davis is a wild card here, because of his relatively short track record running the team. Davis' late father, Al, certainly was prone to emotional decisions about his coaches, and the Raiders are desperate to build some momentum for the franchise before leaving for Las Vegas. A blowout loss to the Chargers in Los Angeles on Sunday could put Del Rio in peril.

X-factors

Houston Texans: For the second straight year, there are questions about coach Bill O'Brien's future. A Houston Chronicle report suggested that the relationship between general manager Rick Smith and O'Brien is "toxic" and could lead to a breakup, but it's hard to imagine how exactly that would play out.

It defies belief the Texans would fire O'Brien after he reached the playoffs in 2015 and '16, and in light of his excellent work with rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson this season. He says he will never resign. Rapoport reported that the Cardinals would be interested in O'Brien if Bruce Arians retired, but working out a potential trade would be difficult in reality. (The timing, if nothing else, could make it impossible.) Texans owner Bob McNair could theoretically fire Smith, but the organization has stood by him for a long time. The most likely outcome here is that O'Brien enters the final year of his contract with more uncertainty than ever surrounding him.

Seattle Seahawks: Pete Carroll is the NFL's oldest head coach at 66. With the historic defense he built on the verge of breaking up, this would be a logical time for Carroll to consider walking away. (Then again, it's not logical that a man Carroll's age would have the energy, positivity and love for football of a 13-year-old, as Carroll does.)

No changes coming

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: So much for those Jon Gruden rumors. In a surprise move, coach Dirk Koetter was informed Friday that he will be retained as head coach.

New York Jets: The team announced a contract extension for coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan on Friday after the Jets (5-10) stayed competitive throughout the season.

Washington Redskins: Rapoport reported Friday that, according to sources, there is a "deep understanding" of the injuries Washington battled and how Jay Gruden kept his staff together. No major moves are expected. Retaining Gruden is a wise decision; the Redskins' offense is consistently well-coached.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

Print