A look at the coaches who may need wins to keep their jobs
Rex Ryan became the third coach to be fired in mid-season (or at least, before the end of the regular season.) A handful of other coaches may be grabbing on with and hanging on for dear life. Here are my opinions on those situations:
Fait accompli — in a positive sense
Hue Jackson and Chip Kelly (CLE and SF)
Now that Hue Jackson’s squad has clinched that elusive 1st win, he can relax. Both Jackson and Chip Kelly were given such bad rosters that you’d have to excuse their 2016 performance.
John Fox (CHI)
Uh, turns out that Matt Barkley may NOT be the answer after all. Even still, Fox has the Bears playing hard and finishing out the season despite a slew of injuries. Personally, I would debate firing him, but I haven’t heard that swell of discontent bubbling up underneath his feet. I imagine he’s safe for 2017.
Fait accompli – in a negative sense
Mike McCoy (SD)
A second straight 10-loss season isn’t going to cut it, no matter what the team does in Week 17. Unless owner Dean Spanos completely cheaps out and focuses on a relocation, McCoy is a dead man walking.
Chuck Pagano (IND)
Owner Jim Irsay has claimed that Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson are safe, but I don’t know how that can be. Anytime you let Andrew Luck lose a division to the likes of Brock Osweiler / Tom Savage, you have to rethink your leadership. I would imagine Irsay comes to his sense and cleans house.
Coaches who need to avoid embarrassment
Todd Bowles (NYJ)
Or in Bowles’ case, avoid FURTHER embarrassment. The Jets have been an absolute trainwreck this season on both sides of the ball, illustrated by last week’s 41-3 thrashing. I would fire Bowles myself, but second-year coaches tend to get the benefit of the doubt. Bowles doesn’t necessarily need to win Week 17 against Buffalo, but he can’t get blown out again.
The decision regarding Christian Hackenberg is especially interesting. If Bowles and co. feel like their jobs are in jeopardy, maybe they need to throw him out there as a desperation play to show a brighter future. On the other hand, a bad performance by Hackenberg (which is more likely, given his reps and experience) may suggest there’s no hope for this regime at all.
Marvin Lewis (CIN)
Call it the 99-cent pricing equivalent, but Lewis’ season would look better on paper at 6-9-1 than 5-10-1. Those double-digit losses can stick in a coach’s craw. I think Lewis should stay, but one more loss would make it a 50/50 proposition.
Interims who may impress
Doug Marrone (JAX)
Usually, interim coaches are just place holders, like the Rams’ John Fassel would appear to be. But that’s not always the case. Tennessee interim Mike Mularkey retained his job and showed well in 2016. Like Mularkey, Marrone’s a former head coach who can make a valid argument for sticking around. In terms of wins/losses, Marrone has an even better resume than Mularkey did. In fact, you can make the case that he’s been more successful than other top head coaching candidates out there like Josh McDaniels, Todd Haley, or Scott Linehan.
Marrone’s fate may be linked to Blake Bortles. The Jags have one year left on Bortles’ deal. If they decide to roll him back for one more season, then it makes all the sense in the world to retain Marrone and the same offensive system and verbiage. If it doesn’t work out, you can wash your hands with both and enter 2018 with a clean slate.
Anthony Lynn (BUF)
Like Doug Marrone, Lynn has a very legitimate chance to retain this job. Lynn (and OL coach Aaron Kromer) have the running game rolling. Bringing in a defensive coordinator wouldn’t be hard. In fact, former Bills DC Mike Pettine could step in immediately and utilize similar concepts to Rex Ryan’s, possibly with better results.
I’d put Lynn’s chances slightly lower than Marrone’s, because the Bills may not trust him to figure out the QB solution. However, an inspired Week 17 performance may keep him around.
I originally forgot about mentioning Detroit’s Jim Caldwell. If the Lions lose badly to Green Bay this weekend, I believe they’ll debate firing Caldwell.
It may come down to what happens with defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. He’s one of the brighter head coaching prospects in my mind, and someone I’d prefer to be in charge over Caldwell. I’d be fine keeping both on them in place. However, if Austin becomes a favorite for a post elsewhere, the Lions may squeeze Caldwell out to promote Austin. That’s exactly what happened in Tampa Bay and New York last offseason when the Bucs promoted Dirk Koetter and the Giants promoted Ben McAdoo after receiving word they may lose them otherwise.
No matter what, the Lions job would be one of the most appealing on the market, which means the team shouldn’t settle for a mediocre coach like Caldwell.