NFL Coaches on the Hot Seat

NFL Coaches on Hot Seat: Status of Coaches Has Bearing on Late-Season Performance
by Charles Jay, Exclusive to

Is there a coach who is virtually assured of being fired? How about one who better light a fire under his tail, and that of his team, or else he will be on the unemployment lines? We are in the “dog days” of the NFL season in a sense, when some teams are playing for nothing but pride, or fighting off underachievement to make it to the post-season, and some of that will have a direct bearing on whether they will present any value in the pointspread and in turn help a coach hold on to that high-salaried position.

Two teams played like they were throwing in the towel this past week – the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers.

The Chiefs, who had won eight of their last nine games at the Oakland Coliseum, let the Raiders pitch a shutout, and it was easy. They had just seven first downs, converted one of twelve third downs, and gained a grand total of 119 yards. Jamaal Charles, who went into the contest with 1220 rushing yards, had just TEN on nine carries. And they held the ball for less than twenty minutes. A team that had been coughing the ball up all year long managed to lay an egg with just one turnover.

San Diego at least scored a touchdown, after the Chargers were already down 31-0 at home to the Carolina Panthers in the fourth quarter. Philip Rivers got sacked six times, and there were only 70 rushing yards. The San Diego defense permitted 29 first downs to the Panthers.

The similarity between these two teams is that they have, in all probability, lame duck head coaches. Perhaps the safest bet on the coaching carousel is that Norv Turner is going to be axed by the San Diego ownership, while Romeo Crennel may have grown old and stale already in Kansas City. Both of these guys have bombed out elsewhere, so it will likely be back to coordinator positions, which is more their natural level.

They have probably accepted that fate, which makes them a bit different than a few others who may be coaching for their jobs over the next couple of weeks. One of those could be Mike Munchak of Tennessee, and this represents what will probably be a tough decision for owner Bud Adams, because Munchak has been a part of this organization for the last 30 years, dating back to when it was in Houston. Munchak is a figure of such status that he is currently the only NFL head coach who is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Yet the Titans (who are 14-point underdogs at Green Bay this week) haven’t really gone anywhere since he was elevated from his assistant’s job. Chris Johnson, who broke a 96-yard touchdown run in the Monday night win against the Jets, has nonetheless not been a dominant figure, and quarterback solution hasn’t necessarily been found, as the team has split time between veteran Matt Hasselbeck and youngster Jake Locker.

With a couple of coaches it might be rather black-and-white, in that they risk their jobs if they don’t get into the playoffs. Lovie Smith of the Bears and Jason Garrett of the Cowboys fit into this category. Most of the others don’t have a chance for the playoffs, which why their jobs are at risk.

Mike Mularkey of the Jacksonville Jaguars is also dealing with a new owner, although this particular owner is the one who hired him. But after a year at the helm, you just know that Shad Khan considers himself an expert, and you also know that when Mularkey tells someone like Chad Henne that he can be the starting quarterback next year if he plays well, he is trying to insert the guy who gives him the best chance now in order to do enough to save his job for next year. That hasn’t really worked out too well. will things be better as the Jags are 15.5-point home dogs to the New England Patriots?

Ken Whisenhunt, who has taken Arizona to the Super Bowl, is probably in trouble, and may, for all we know, have had to get a real effort out of his team to save his job after that 58-0 beating at the hands of Seattle. Well, he got that effort, and let’s see if he gets it again, as his Cards host Chicago and get five points in theBetAnySportsodds.

It is conceivable that Pat Shurmur of the Browns can hold onto his job if his team puts forth better effort in the season’s last couple of games, although it’s kind of dicey when you have a situation where a new owner has come into the picture, along with someone new handling the football operation (Joe Banner) and they may simply want to bring in their own people. So Shurmur might be able to do something to save himself if the new owner’s mind is open, and then again, maybe the decision to look in another direction has already been made.

For Chan Gailey of the Buffalo Bills, the saving grace may be not a new owner, but an owner that is too old to make a move and deal with another new head coach. Wilson is 94 and his general manager, Buddy Nix, is 73. Gailey comes relatively cheap, even though like them, he’s stale. So maybe he gets to stay, and Ryan Fitzpatrick, the error-prone quarterback, gets dumped.

The strangest situation is probably the one that is unfolding in Philadelphia. Andy Reid is the coach who’s been the longest with one team, having been coach of the Eagles since 1999. He has been making some moves that would seem to indicate he’s preparing a bit for next year. He scapegoated defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and defensive line coach Jim Washburn, and has chosen a rookie, Nick Foles, to remain the starting quarterback, even though Michael Vick has been cleared to play. Sounds like someone who is looking to the future, right?

Except that our understanding is that as far as members of his staff are concerned, they are going to be out the door as soon as the final whistle blows, and they are feeling around for new jobs as the team is getting ready for a game against the rampaging Redskins (who are laying 5.5 points to Philly). Will that new job be with Reid? Of all the guys who could be fired, Reid is the coach who is most likely to land on his feet, and San Diego might be just the place for him.

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