How Many Coaching Vacancies Could We See This January?
**Disclaimer: I hate talking about coaches losing their jobs. These guys have families and so do the dozens of assistants that work under each of them that may also end up being out of jobs. But we’ll all end up out of work from time to time. It’s football and it’s life. With that in mind, here are six head coaches that may end up joining Ben McAdoo at season’s end.**
It was fun while it lasted
Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns.
I’m a process over results guy but at some point you have to win a little bit. I get it, you aren’t coaching a good team and you are rebuilding. But maybe win three games? The Browns are 1-27 in Jackson’s tenure and they aren’t appreciably better than they were at this time last season.
Another problem for Jackson is that he was hired as something of a quarterback whisperer and none of the passers he’s worked with have flourished over the past two seasons. DeShone Kizer doesn’t look like an NFL starter and isn’t making they types of strides high-upside rookies often do as their inaugural season progresses.
I’m just not sure what the argument would be to keep Jackson if Cleveland finishes winless or 1-15 again.
Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts
Six years is a long time to run an NFL team. That’s how long Pagano has been at the controls in Indianapolis. After missing 12 games in his first year with the Colts, Pagano returned to lead his club to consecutive 11-5 seasons and an AFC championship game during an impressive two-year stint in 2013 and 2014.
But the Colts are trending in the wrong direction. Having gone 8-8 the past two seasons, Indianapolis is currently sitting at 3-9 with four games to play. They’re going to pick in the top five in the 2018 NFL Draft after finishing .500 or worse in a bad division for the third time in three years.
Add in to the equation that Pagano’s relationship with the front office and ownership has been rocky at times, and Andrew Luck’s future suddenly being in doubt and it feels like a good time to hit re-boot.
John Fox, Chicago Bears
Fox is winding down his third season in Chicago. How much better are the Bears than when he took them over? He inherited a 5-11 team in need of a culture shift but only a couple seasons removed from back-to-back years with 18 combined wins. The Bears went 6-10 in his first season before regressing to 3-13 last year. Now 3-9, another double-digit loss season seems almost certain.
Chicago’s offense is horrific and the club’s rookie quarterback needs to be paired with a savvy offensive play-caller who can elevate his game. Jared Goff has emerged as a star since being paired with Sean McVay. Kyle Shanahan has been making passers better for years and Jay Gruden has helped improve Andy Dalton and Kirk Cousins. Mitchell Trubisky needs his version of one of those savants and Fox isn’t it. I’d also argue none of those guys is going to join Fox’s staff without being named the head coach.
Why not go hire Josh McDaniels or Jim Bob Cooter?
I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen
Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Is there a more disappointing team in football than the Bucs this season? Tampa Bay was one of the sexiest stories of the preseason, which was only partially attributable to the fame that comes along with being featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks. Koetter had his team at 9-7 and on the brink of the postseason a year ago and they’ve taken a giant step back this year.
Koetter, the longtime offensive coordinator of the Jaguars and Falcons, has also seen his offense underachieve this season. How is a unit with all the talent that Tampa Bay has so pedestrian? Jameis Winston didn’t breakout like he was supposed to. DeSean Jackson’s impact was not what it was supposed to have been. Mike Evans hasn’t emerged as the dominant force it seems like he’s capable of being. The tandem of tight ends (Cameron Brate and OJ Howard) they assembled should present more mismatches that it seems like it does.
I wouldn’t fire Koetter this offseason but it wouldn’t be stunning if it happened. Tampa Bay had very high hopes and did nothing to show that they are on the presuppose of becoming an NFL powerhouse. This was supposed to be the year they made the leap in a tough NFC South. Now there are three teams in the division that are considerably better.
Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
Lewis has not done anything wrong and he certainly isn’t a bad head coach. But at what point do you say “we’ve gone as far as we can in this car.” Lewis has been the head coach with the Bengals since 2003 and the Bengals are on pace to miss the playoffs for the second straight season. Missing the playoffs alone shouldn’t place him on the hot seat but the AFC is down and the AFC North is worse than it usually is. Not making it this year would be a bad look.
If the Bengals can finish the season 9-7, Lewis could pretty easily make the case that his team is in position to get back into the playoffs next year. They would have improved three games in 2017 and finished with enough momentum going into the offseason to feel positive about the campaign. But if the Bengals end up with seven or eight wins? Would the Bengals start to weigh their options?
Fifteen seasons is a long time. It’s even longer when you consider the team hasn’t won a playoff game during his time in charge. I’m not big on judging coaches solely off their playoff resume, but how long do you get to hang around if your team isn’t on the verge of becoming a true contender?
Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions
Caldwell got a contract extension early this year, but if they continue to collapse is he completely safe? The Lions got off to a great start before crashing back down to earth midway through the season. They look like they’ll end the year right about where they normally do, in the middle of the NFC pack somewhere around eight wins.
The Lions finished 11-5 in Caldwell’s first season but haven’t been close to that good since. A playoff team at 9-7 last year, Detroit suffered a dagger of a loss to Baltimore this past week and could now be playing without Matt Stafford in a must-win game this weekend.
Caldwell is not a bad coach but for the second time in two gigs, it seems like his team is getting worse as his time running the outfit wears on. The Colts went 14-2, 10-6 and 2-14 in his three years. The Lions have gone from winning 11 games to averaging around eight the past three years. (Obviously Peyton Manning was lost during the Indianapolis stretch, so those win-loss records should not be pinned just on Caldwell. Records should never be pinned on the coach specifically as context and how the team got to that record always matters more than the record itself).
NOTE: I originally stated that Caldwell was working on an expiring contract. I was wrong about that and didn’t realize he had been extended. It doesn’t change that I think Detroit could consider a change.