Who matters most in Week 7: Handful o' humans on NFL hot seat


By their nature, NFL franchises are impatient.

While coaches are tasked with developing players, those same coaches won't last long if wins aren't stacked upon wins.

The whispers are out there. Coaches are under the microscope by antsy higher-ups, while cratering veteran passers sit in danger of being yanked for the next guy up. As October veers toward November, the breezy hopes of training camp feel more like memories of distant childhood.

In Week 7, here's what matters most among a handful of humans planted firmly on the hot seat:

Nearly everyone involved in Thursday's otherwise low-level clash between the Broncos and Cardinals: Denver dialed up a 45-10 get-right romp over the floating Cardinals. It was a step in the right direction for embattled Broncos coach Vance Joseph, who came into the game surrounded by whispers around his job security, with NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport describing his status as "not very safe."

Rapoport also noted that Denver's upper management is "closely monitoring" Joseph, but John Elway and friends have to be encouraged by what they saw against Arizona. If nothing else, we learned that the Broncos went out of their way to play hard for their coach.

Joseph appears safe for now, but Denver's upcoming slate is a murderous lineup of tilts against the Chiefs, Texans, Chargers, Steelers and Bengals.

As for the Cardinals? Well, Thursday night's 35-point defeat has already claimed its first casualty, as Arizona fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy just seven games into his Cards tenure. No huge shock there. While rookie Josh Rosen has shown moments of promise, the overall attack has been largely unwatchable and disorganized. And that nationally televised display in Arizona was one of the messier offensive disasters in recent memory.

What does this mean for first-year boss Steve Wilks? Well, Thursday's hot mess doesn't help his case -- he admitted this week that "all of our jobs are in jeopardy" -- but what kind of team fires its head coach two months into his first campaign?

Giants quarterback Eli Manning: During our recent "Accountable Hot Takes" segment on the "Around The NFL Twitter Show," I threw one out there suggesting Eli would be more than benched -- he'd no longer be with the Giants by November 1.

Whether it's by trade or release, I feel an ugly split on the horizon. Manning has a no-swap clause, so he'd need to agree on a move, but I could see two events unfolding: (1) Eli losing the starting job in the middle of a chatty locker room; and (2) the Giants, looking to avoid last year's public relations disaster, allowing him the dignity to close his career somewhere other than New York's bench.

It's unlikely with very little behind the veteran passer -- and it's not something I'm rooting for. Manning has been an ultra-durable mensch for the G-Men. He's always available to the media and nothing short of an old-school, classy signal-caller. These endings, though, are never pretty. Especially in New York. An ugly loss to the Falcons in Atlanta on Monday night could flip the switch on franchise-altering events for Big Blue.

The Blake Bortles experience: The Jaguars spent all offseason backing their up-and-down quarterback, going so far as to furnish Bortles with a new three-year, $54 million deal packed with $26.5 million in guaranteed money.

He's an easy target -- and I loved watching him defy the critics in last season's pristine playoff win over the Steelers -- but the former first-rounder remains a radioactive focal point.

It was tough watching Bortles throw for just 35 yards in the first half of last week's wipeout against the Cowboys. He tossed an ungodly pick and took an ugly sack that yanked Jacksonville out of field goal range. Bortles is a talented scrambler, but you can't count on him to stay consistent through the air.

The Jaguars are stuck with him for now, but it's fair to wonder if team executive Tom Coughlin has pondered a move for his old pal Eli. Either way, Bortles is playing for his future -- and must vastly improve what he's put on tape so far this autumn. Sunday's divisional bout against the Texans looks like a good place to start.

Raiders wideout Amari Cooper: Oakland's issues begin with their embattled head coach, but Jon Gruden is going nowhere after signing a fully guaranteed 10-year, $100 million mega-deal with the Raiders.

This is his parade alone, and Gruden looms as a candidate to purge the roster, with the Raiders stewing in their bye week at 1-5. I wouldn't be stunned to see that extend, ultimately, to quarterback Derek Carr, but that's a ways off. Not the case with Cooper.

Whispers suggest the Raiders want a first-round pick for the 24-year-old receiver, but that will never happen.

With just 22 catches for 280 yards and one score, Cooper has come nowhere near Gruden's lofty claims about what the 2015 No. 4 overall pick would achieve in his offense. Part of the problem is the scheme itself, but good luck getting Gruden to acknowledge as much. If someone calls about Cooper, the Raiders will listen -- and for less than a first-round selection.

Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter: When the coordinators start going, it's a clear sign major changes are in play. The firing of defensive play-caller Mike Smith was justified, but it was an upset he survived last season to begin with. Same for Koetter, whose Bucs sit mired in a three-game tailspin after early-season magic-spinning by Ryan Fitzpatrick and friends.

Koetter and his staff are tasked with making a strong statement at home against the Browns on Sunday. From there, they play three of their next four on the road, beginning with visits to the rugged Bengals and Panthers. The slate is gnarly and it's tough to see how this Bucs staff survives if the troubles endure.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @marcsesslernfl. Listen to Marc on the "Around The NFL Podcast" three times a week.

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