The 14 NFL Head Coaches Entering 2018 On The Hot Seat

1. Dirk Koetter — Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay was arguably the most disappointing team of 2017. After adding DeSean Jackson to an already explosive Jameis Winston-led offense, the Bucs were expected to build upon a strong 9-7 campaign. The hype built even further during the team’s run on HBO’s Hard Knocks. Ultimately, the expectations were too high for a flawed team.

Part of the blame can be put on Winston, who missed three games and posted a career-low QBR. Star receiver Mike Evans didn’t live up to his billing either, plagued by drops, penalties, and a mid-season suspension. However, the fingers will end up being pointed in Koetter’s direction.

Known for his offensive acumen, Koetter couldn’t get the best out of a talented group of skill players. Playing in a competitive NFC South, another last-place finish could result in Koetter packing his bags for another offensive coordinator job.

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2. Marvin Lewis — Cincinnati Bengals

It’s almost futile putting Lewis on a “hot seat” considering Cincinnati’s apparent loyalty to its long-time head coach. Despite back-to-back nine-loss seasons and an 0-7 record in the playoffs, Lewis was granted an extension shortly after Cincinnati’s season wrapped up. With that being said, the NFL is a fickle environment, and personnel can be changed in an instant.

The Bengals finished dead last in total yards last year. Their switching of offensive coordinators mid-season highlighted the fact that their problems run deeper than coaching proficiency. It might just be best for a complete re-tooling of Cincinnati’s organization — from players to the coaching staff. After 15 seasons, the Bengals and Lewis could benefit from a mutual separation.

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3. Sean McDermott — Buffalo Bills

After the Bills underwent a fire sale in the 2017 offseason, the team was expected to be in a rebuilding phase. McDermott had other ideas, miraculously leading an underdog squad to the franchise’s first playoff berth in 18 years.

However, Buffalo’s run to the postseason didn’t come without any hiccups. McDermott firmly put himself on the hot seat when he egregiously decided to bench Tyrod Taylor in favor of rookie Nathan Peterman. The rookie responded by throwing five first-half interceptions versus the Los Angeles Chargers. Taylor would take his starting role back, leading the team to a 4-2 record to close out the year.

It ended up not hurting Buffalo in the long run, but the Peterman/Chargers game could have kept them out of a playoff spot. It’s those kinds of decisions that lose coaches their jobs.

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4. Hue Jackson — Cleveland Browns

Few professionals can keep their job with a 3 percent success rate. That’s the mark Jackson has posted during his Cleveland tenure (1 win in 32 tries).

Cleveland has been unprecedentedly lenient with Jackson. The front office has spent the last half-decade acquiring assets while passing on future franchise quarterbacks. They’ve adopted a game-plan and stuck to it, and that means keeping Jackson safe despite the mounting losses.

Eventually, the Browns will need to rid themselves of the stench of losing. Although Jackson can’t be blamed for Cleveland’s barren roster, changes are inevitable.

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5. Vance Joseph — Denver Broncos

Denver has reached a lull since its most recent run of success. From 2011-2015, the Broncos reached the postseason each year. Peyton Manning isn’t walking through Denver’s locker room, so it’ll take huge efforts across the board for the Broncos to make a playoff return.

The AFC West is arguably the most competitive division in the league. Each of the four teams have playoff-caliber rosters, making each division game incredibly important. Denver’s two division wins in 2017 were against the Charges in Week 1, and a victory over an E.J. Manuel-led Raiders team. That’s simply not going to get it done.

John Elway is committed to winning, and if Joseph can’t put a top-tier product on the field, Denver’s president will be looking for somebody that can.

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6. Mike Vrabel — Tennessee Titans

It feels a bit unfair to pick on a rookie coach. Vrabel comes from a strong background, having played and coached under Bill Belichick and the rest of New England’s fantastic staff. He was a top candidate to fill any vacancy across the league, and comes in as a highly respected choice.

Of the seven new head coaches this year, Vrabel will be the only one taking over a 2018 playoff team. There will be a certain expectation to produce in Tennessee, considering the fact that Mike Mularkey lost his job after making the playoffs and advancing past the first round. The Titans’ front office envisions big things for this group, and Vrabel was put in place to bring a young roster to the next level.

Vrabel’s biggest task will be getting Marcus Mariota ready for the season. The Oregon product had a bit of a down 2017, but has the skill-set to become an elite quarterback. If Vrabel can accelerate Mariota’s development, his job will be secure for the foreseeable future. Otherwise, the Titans could choose to squash the experiment after just one season.

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7. Todd Bowles — New York Jets

If the Browns didn’t exist, the Jets would be comfortably considered the most tumultuous franchise over the past decade. Nothing has worked for the Jets since Rex Ryan was calling the shots, but a surprising five-win season last year certainly has them trending upwards.

Bowles was competent in his first year under the helm. The Jets were outmatched in nearly every game they played, but they played with an edge and avoided big mistakes. With Sam Darnold set to be the team’s next signal caller, Bowles will have to prove his worth to hang on for New York’s next era.

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8. Jay Gruden — Washington Redskins

Washington hasn’t had the greatest luck as it pertains to head coaches. Of their last nine head coaches, only one sported a record at or above .500 — Marty Schottenheimer went 8-8 in 2001 during his lone season in Washington. The Redskins haven’t had a true winner since the legendary Joe Gibbs patrolled the sideline. At one point, Gruden appeared to buck the unfortunate trend, but he could be on the way out as well.

Gruden’s 28-35 record since 2014 is nothing to write home about. When competing against the likes of the Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles, mediocrity isn’t going to cut it. Unless new quarterback Alex Smith can replicate his career year from a season ago, Gruden will be looking for a job this time next year.

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9. Adam Gase — Miami Dolphins

The Gase era in Miami has been an absolute roller coaster ride.

In 2016, everybody wrote off the Dolphins. They responded by winning nine of their last 11 games en route to a playoff berth.

Entering 2017, there were high hopes in Miami. Ryan Tannehill was coming off a career year, Jay Ajayi was a breakout star, and the duo of Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker was expected to be one of the best in the league. Expectations came crashing down when Tannehill suffered a knee injury in training camp. The bandwagon picked back up when they convinced veteran Jay Cutler out of retirement, but the former Chicago Bear couldn’t save their season. Eventually, the team jettisoned Ajayi to Philadelphia, and were losers of eight of their last 10 games.

Since then, the Dolphins have also lost perceived cornerstones in Landry and Ndamukong Suh. This roster is barren, and unfit to compete in a division that includes the New England Patriots.

If the Dolphins are picking high in the 2019 NFL Draft, it will probably mean they’re looking for a new quarterback and a new head coach.

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10. Mike McCarthy — Green Bay Packers

Decades from now, football fans are going to look back on this era of the Green Bay Packers and wonder how they only won a single Super Bowl. A team equipped with Aaron Rodgers should be contenders each and every year, but the Packers have run into several road blocks that have prevented more championships.

McCarthy is well-regarded as an offensive mind and has done well putting Rodgers and a so-so receiving corps in good positions to succeed, but on the other end is where the Green Bay coach has struggled. It feels like a full decade since Green Bay has fielded a league-average defense. Team captain Clay Matthews isn’t nearly the same player he once was, and the unit lacks legit playmakers outside of HaHa Clinton-Dix. McCarthy’s job as coach is to get the best out of his players, but a case could be made for every Packer defender underachieving in 2017.

Green Bay’s window of opportunity is rapidly closing. Rodgers is 34, has dealt with injuries over the last several years, and enters the 2018 season with Davante Adams as his only proven pass catcher. The front office has already shown their willingness to make changes after letting go of quarterback coach Alex Van Pelt back in January. McCarthy could be next in line for a pink slip.

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11. Anthony Lynn — Los Angeles Chargers

After a sluggish start, the Chargers ended the year as one of the hottest teams in football. In the end, they missed out on the postseason by way of a tiebreaker. Looking towards 2018, Los Angeles expects to be a true contender in the AFC. If they hope to get there, the entire organization will need to be clicking on all cylinders — and that starts with Lynn’s leadership ability.

Much like Jon Gruden over in Oakland, the Chargers are patiently awaiting a move to a new stadium. The front-running Los Angeles fan base only accepts winners, and if the Chargers struggle with a highly-talented group, Lynn will be tagged as the scapegoat.

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12. John Harbaugh — Baltimore Ravens

Harbaugh’s Ravens have been a model of consistency during his tenure. In Harbaugh’s first seven seasons as coach, Baltimore reached the playoffs six times. Since taking over the job in 2008, the Ravens have just one losing season. However, the team has hit a bit of a dry spell as of late, failing to make the postseason in each of its past three seasons. Last year’s Week 17 meltdown against Cincinnati is still fresh in Ravens fans’ minds, and it could have a major impact on Harbaugh’s position moving forward.

The Ravens are always stout defensively, but it’s on the other end of the football where they’ve run into troubles. Joe Flacco has been a league-average quarterback since leading the Ravens to a Super Bowl title in 2012, and the team has failed to provide him with elite talent on the outside. In Ozzie Newsome’s last draft calling the shots, he opted to select former Heisman winner Lamar Jackson as Flacco’s eventual successor. Jackson’s timeline is undetermined, but don’t be surprised if Harbaugh attempts to rush the youngster along in an attempt to save his job.

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13. Andy Reid — Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs’ playoff woes are well-documented. Since taking over in 2013, Kansas City is 1-4 in the postseason. The one victory came against a team led by Brian Hoyer, which doesn’t exactly qualify as a galvanizing victory. Reid cemented himself on the hot seat when his team failed to hold onto a 21-3 lead against Tennessee last season.

With a young quarterback under center, Kansas City could face some growing pains. Patrick Mahomes is a supreme talent, but isn’t overly polished. If he isn’t ready for the big leagues, it could cost Reid his job.

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14. Mike Tomlin — Pittsburgh Steelers

Tomlin’s accomplishments in Pittsburgh are nothing to scoff at. The Super Bowl victory in 2009 put him in an exclusive class of coaches, and his dominance over the AFC North (six division titles since taking over in 2007) has been impressive considering the division rival Ravens only have one losing season in that span. Pittsburgh is consistently an AFC contender, and regularly posts gaudy numbers on both sides of the ball.

So why is Tomlin’s job in jeopardy? Well, for one, the Steelers have underperformed in the postseason since their Super Bowl XLV loss to Green Bay. Since that loss, Pittsburgh has bowed out after their first playoff game three times — to teams led by Blake Bortles, Joe Flacco, and Tim Tebow.

Additionally, Tomlin has struggled mightily against Pittsburgh’s biggest AFC rival — the New England Patriots. Belichick has gotten the better of Tomlin on five straight occasions.

With Ben Roethlisberger’s future uncertain, there’s a very real chance the end of Tomlin’s tenure coincides with the end of the Big Ben era.

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