NFL coaches be warned: Black Monday is five weeks away! We are getting to crunch time in the NFL season. For the playoff teams, that’s obvious but lower down in the standings, teams with only handful of wins need to step up to save their coach’s job. Let’s have a look through the teams with the most pressure on them to perform to avoid managerial upheaval.
Let’s start with the team in Landover, Maryland. Obviously Jay Gruden is long gone, having been fired six weeks ago. Now, Bill Callaghan has gone 2-4, winning one of those vs the Dolphins at their lowest.
Washington still have no idea if Dwayne Haskins is the future and their offence has struggled, with the fewest yards/game. They also have a bottom 10 defence and this is a big rebuilding job. What’s more, the biggest changes should probably be done in the front office.
There were rumours that Dan Quinn would be relieved of his duties before the bar. Without a Super Bowl run, Quinn surely would have gone. He survived and the Falcons have rallied. However, as I wrote a couple of weeks go, the Falcons are suddenly in rebuild mode, having entered the season thinking they were a piece away from another Super Bowl appearance.
Vic Beasley’s struggles have highlighted the issue with this team. The defence has tightened up but they still can’t get pressure. The Falcons have 18 sacks, fewer than everyone bar the Bengals and Dolphins. That’s particularly bad news for Quinn as he was signed as a defensive HC, and has even been DC for part of the year.
Barring pretty much running the table, I think Arthur Blank is planning for life after Quinn and maybe Thomas Dimitroff too.
New York Giants
I think it’s time to say that Pat Shurmur is a good Offensive Coordinator but not head coach material. He is 7-19 with the Giants, marginally worse than his 9-2 record with the Browns in 2011-12.
Now he is leading a starchy offence (ninth worst in the league) and a weak defence (sixth worst). Ok, they lack offensive talent and have moved to a rookie QB. But the Giants chose to trade Odell Beckham Jr and Daniel Jones has regressed since his first NFL starts. Do the Giants want Shurmur moulding their future franchise QB? Ultimately, I think being a Head Coach limits his ability to build an effective offence.
Checking The Key Card
We’ve done this dance before with Ron Rivera. This may finally be the year though. After collapsing down the stretch last year, the Panthers have dropped from 4-2 to 5-6. They appear to be moving on from Cam Newton and David Tepper will want to get ‘his guy’ at Head Coach as an active NFL owner.
Rivera is not a bad coach and may well be the top candidate for open vacancies, but it has gone a bit stale in Carolina. It looks as though they will miss the playoffs for the third year in four and that doesn’t meet Owner David Tepper’s expectations.
Matt Patricia has shown flashes as Head Coach in Detroit but ultimately his tenure has been meh. Patricia may get a stay of execution due to Matt Stafford’s back injury but before he missed time the Lions had fallen from a frisky 2-0-1 to 3-4-1 and have lost twice since.
They still have the ninth most yards a game but have the fourth worst defence – Patricia was of course the mastermind behind two Super Bowl-winning defences with the Patriots. The Lions are mid-table in terms of running the ball but still averaged below 100 yards a game until this week. If Patricia does survive the offseason, he will have a short leash in 2020.
New York Jets
Adam Gase has been told his job is safe for next year. However, it wouldn’t be the first time an owner reversed course like this. Despite riding a three game win streak, the 4-7 Jets face the Dolphins and Bengals in the run-in, if they fail to win one or both, it would hardly be a surprise to see Christopher Johnson lose faith in the project. Sam Darnold has regressed as a sophomore. LeVeon Bell is averaging 50 yards a game, with only three TDs. Is Adam Gase really the QB whisperer he is professed to be?
In recent years the Browns would be happy with a 5-6 record. But with such talent and expectation, it has been a disappointing season. Myles Garrett’s helmet swing may ring alarm bells for Freddie Kitchens. It is the image attached to the fact that the Browns have the most penalty yards this season and joint most penalties.
Despite the feel good story of Kitchens working with Mayfield last year and finally getting a shot, he has looked out of his depth as a Head Coach this season.
The Cowboys are locked in a battle for the NFC East crown. That said Dallas are only 6-5 despite having an MVP calibre QB under centre in Dak Prescott. Jason Garrett is holding one of the most talented teams back with coaching errors. Owner/GM Jerry Jones even said that the team got outcoached in New England – admittedly most people have been.
The other factor is that the Cowboys have the next hot property at Offensive Coordinator in Scott Linehan. If they want to keep him in Dallas, they may have to promote him and relieve Garrett of his duties. Garrett and Jones have a close relationship but it may be time to part ways.
Don’t get me wrong, the Bengals are tanking for the first overall pick. But they didn’t start the season doing that and I’m not sure Zac Taylor was in on it. They have massively tailed off over the course of the season.
The Bengals are mid-table as a passing offence and have the fifth worst running attack. Given that Taylor was brought in from the Sean McVay coaching tree, that is hardly eye-watering. Yes A.J. Green hasn’t played all year and they are evaluating Ryan Finley but they have good talent at running back and struggle to have any running game. Zac Taylor probably will be a good Head Coach in time but this opportunity has come too early for him.
Just About Safe
After a great maiden year, Matt Nagy has been solid in his sophomore effort. There’s a big elephant in the QB room in Mitch Trubisky though. Nagy was brought in to get the best out of the number two overall pick and he has regressed.
It’s Nagy or Trubisky and it looks like the Head Coach will win out but it is certainly a mark against the former Chiefs OC and leaves the Bears with big offseason questions. Of course the defence would take a step back with Vic Fangio but the offence has been lethargic at best. Chicago has less than 200 passing yards a game, beating only the Jets and Washington. That won’t cut it, especially in an increasingly competitive division.
Photo: AP Photo / Steven Senne