Round and Round the Carousel GoesIt’s that time again, the time of year that brings all the armchair analysts together: coaching hot seat speculation season! No NFL campaign would be complete without weighing the odds of who is and isn’t on the verge of unemployment; it’s the football personnel version of watching NASCAR crashes. The reality is that very few coaches’ jobs are ever truly safe.
2016, much like other years, has been no shortage of possible candidates, but who exactly is most at risk of losing their job? Here are five candidates, carefully curated through the scientific process of blind speculation, whom we peg as the most likely to have their pink slips handed to them.
5. Marvin Lewis
Head Coaching Record: 113–94–2 | Post-Season: 0-7
What began as a season full of hope and high aspirations has instead devolved into a collection of disappointments for a team that was expected to push the Steelers in the AFC North; the latest entry being a tie game in London against the Washington Redskins. Washington is the 31st ranked rushing defense according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric and yet Cincinnati struggled to open running lanes. While it’s true that the team suffered a talent drain in free agency, losing players like Marvin Jones and Reggie Nelson, the roster is still deep and talented. Seeing what was arguably their greatest strength -the offensive line- regress that way it has is troubling. Taken collectively, these small steps back might be viewed as a harbinger for unsteadiness in Lewis’s job security.
4. Jeff Fisher
Head Coaching Record: 165–150–1 | Post-Season: 5-6
3. Chip Kelly
Head Coaching Record: 27–27 | Post-Season: 0-1
It seems like just yesterday that Kelly’s bust was being sculpted for enshrinement in Canton. The offensive genius that had “changed football” -and even influenced the way the New England Patriots played the game- took the league by storm with the Philadelphia Eagles. Fast forward a few short years and Chip is now plying his craft for one of the NFL’s dregs in San Francisco. His break-neck offense has been largely toothless, and his defense has somehow been even worse.
Clouding matters further is the fact that speculation of his return to college football has never really quite gone away, with programs like LSU circling over the still well-regarded coach. From the outside looking in, it just seems like Kelly’s departure is growingly a matter of when rather than if.
2. Chuck Pagano
Head Coaching Record: 41–23 | Post-Season: 3-3
Speaking of short-lived honeymoons, what a fall from grace that Pagano and the Colts have suffered after a stellar 2012 in which Indianapolis was considered as a budding AFC powerhouse ready to compete for years to come.
In all fairness, much of the blame for the swoon should fall squarely on the shoulders of General Manager Ryan Grigson but that’s a story for another day. Having to work with a shallow roster is difficult enough without having to worry whether or not franchise quarterback Andrew Luck will survive a 16-game season in which defenses assail him due to a shoddy offensive line. However, Pagano has done himself no favors with much of his play calling and already spent his “Get out of jail free” card -firing the offensive coordinator (Pep Hamilton)- last year. Barring a truly incredible turnaround, the writing seems to be on the wall for Pagano.
1. Gus Bradley
Head Coaching Record: 12–38 | Post-Season: 0-0
The Jaguars have served as further proof that “winning” in April is not the same as winning during the fall. Many saw the moves made by the Jaguars and the step that they took forward in 2015 as signs that the team was ready to compete for the AFC South title (this writer included). This has proven to be hilariously off base as the offense has regressed to comical levels, essentially wiping away the small improvements the team has made on the other side of the ball in 2016.
To watch Blake Bortles play in 2016 is to look at a quarterback who looks as if he hasn’t been coached at all; his mechanics are poor while his decision-making is even worse. Bradley’s 14-41 record is one of the worst ever, and it looks increasingly probable that he’s living on borrowed time. The firing of offensive coordinator Greg Olson (the second OC he’s sent packing) has the makings of nothing more than a stay of execution. Unless the Jaguars can turn around what’s been a catastrophe of a season, it’s increasingly difficult to believe Bradley will be stewarding Shad Khan’s ship in 2017.