Feel the heat! Rhys Knott asks: Which NFL coaches are on the hot seat already?

Feel the heat! Rhys Knott asks: Which NFL coaches are on the hot seat already?
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Already on the hot seat!

It may be early in the NFL season. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start to ask which NFL coaches are already on the hot seat.

Guest writer Rhys Knott has an early season heat check on which coaches might be feeling their seat getting hotter by the moment.

Hot Seat Candidates

Let’s take a look at who we think is in the most trouble even this early in the season. This isn’t always about current record. There can be historical reasons behind the pressures being felt.

Or there could be coaches you think should be on the list. But perhaps they have a bit more leeway than these names. Let’s take a look then at the hot seat candidates.

Matt Rhule

Matt Rhule has been linked with the Nebraska Head Coach job since mid-September. So his seat is not so much hot as already atop the bonfire! With an overall record of 11-26 in the NFL and 47-43 as a College Head Coach it’s hardly surprising he’s expected to be moving on sooner rather than later. In fact you could say the only odd thing is that David Tepper gave Rhule a seven year contract in the first place. 

Tepper is reportedly worth somewhere in the region of $12 billion so he won’t flinch at paying any severance pay if it gives the team a better chance at success.  Rhule has previously been under pressure in Raleigh. But he’s usually had the excuse that his starting Quarterback and or 1000/1000 man Christian McCaffrey have been injured. This season though Baker Mayfield, who admittedly was a late arrival during preseason, and McCaffrey have started every game. The team has still only managed a single win, with their Offence scoring just 10 touchdowns and turning the ball over six times in the process.

Hot seat rating – Scorching

Bill Belichick

How long a coach can avoid the inevitable heat isn’t just results based though. Could future Hall of Famer Bill Belichick belong on this list? Obviously a stable relationship with GM and owner can buy some time when results are hard to come by. That leads nicely onto another Head Coach who has exactly the same record as Rhule this season, Bill Belichick. 

The Head Coach for the Patriots will earn $12.5 million this season. And he’s also the GM. So he doesn’t have to worry about that relationship. However results on the field haven’t been what fans have come to expect under Belichick’s tenure. Which is largely down to the players they have Drafted. Plus the coaches they’ve welcomed back with open arms after less than stellar Head Coaching stints. 

There haven’t been any reports of disquiet from Patriots owner Robert Kraft so far though. In fact back in April he told Pro Football Talk he wants Belichick to coach into his 80’s (Belichick told Albert Breer back in 2009 “I won’t be like Marv Levy and coaching into my 70’s, I know that”, he is now 70). While most coaches would be feeling a modicum of pressure after this start to the season Belichick the GM should be the one squirming in Foxborough. 

Whether he would be willing to relinquish the personnel decisions is a question only the great man can answer. Given his best Draft pick was a sixth round punt on a Quarterback with a chip on his shoulder it appears his only weakness. Nobody could doubt his worth as a coach and this week as the Patriots took the Packers into overtime with a third string Quarterback the on field decisions didn’t seem to be an issue, but roster construction does.

Hot seat rating – Frosty as a coach/Tepid as a GM

Josh McDaniels

A Belichick disciple in Josh McDaniels also stands aboard the deck of a burning ship. A Raiders ship that he’s steered to a precarious 1-3 record. McDaniels has an overall record of 12-20 as a Head Coach and until Sunday’s win over a lacklustre Broncos team he hadn’t won as a Head Coach since November 2010 when, ironically, he was in charge in Denver and with 7 minutes left of the game even that result was far from secure. 

The Raiders spluttering start is amplified by the fact that Rich Bisaccia guided them to the playoffs last season as an interim Head Coach.

With McDaniels arrival came a flurry of Free Agency activity plus the trade for five time Pro Bowler Davante Adams. According to Joe Rivera of The Sporting News there was a lengthy meeting between McDaniels and Raiders owner Mark Davis in week three. While McDaniels said at the following press conference “losing gets old quick”.

The Broncos leaky Defence may have turned down the temperature in the short term at least. Will that last though?

Hot seat rating – Warming up

Nathaniel Hackett

The Broncos themselves haven’t looked like their total equals the sum of it’s parts so far in 2022. As they find themselves with a 2-2 record.  The problem has been clear to see. Despite former Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett taking over from the defensively minded Vic Fangio. And the Matt Lefleur disciple Justin Outten signing on as Offensive Coordinator to work with a Super Bowl winning Quarterback. Denver still average fewer than 17 points per game. Which is bound to cause some restlessness in the owners box. 

The Broncos new owners are the wealthiest group in the NFL so terminating a $12 million contract won’t concern them in the slightest however premature it may seem to some. Their collective worth is believed to be about $60 billion so they might not decide to take the patient approach as they too settle into their first season in Denver. 

As other AFC West teams stumble the Broncos season very much hangs in the balance, they sit joint second and ownership may feel that a decisive move could secure them a playoff spot in their first season at the helm.

Hot seat rating – heating with every defeat

Brandon Staley

Fellow AFC West strugglers the Chargers could also be looking at their Head Coach Brandon Staley and wondering exactly what happened to him during the offseason. In 2021 he was known to be one of the most aggressive play callers in the league. Going for it on fourth down 34 times, sometimes from deep in Charger territory.  Staley opted to punt fewer than three times per game. Whereas this season they have already punted 18 times or nearly five times per game. 

Some believed Staley’s aggressive play calling was to demonstrate his confidence in his players. However it appears he may have just little confidence in punter Ty Long who has been replaced by JK Scott this season.  The stark change in play calling has combined with a shaky Offensive line and a banged up Quarterback. (The latter two things may not be unrelated). All of which has meant that the Chargers sit joint second in their division alongside the Raiders. And, understandably their Head Coach is under as much scrutiny as McDaniels. 

The other uncanny similarity between the situation that both find themselves in that their owners lack of liquidity may provide both of them with a stay of execution even if they fail to make the playoffs.  Davis is worth around £500 million and is heavily invested in Las Vegas WBNA team the Aces as well as the Raiders. His Los Angeles counterpart Dean Spanos is believed to be worth around $1 billion so he may be able to afford to replace a coach. But it would be an unwelcome expenditure as Staley only extended his contract in January.

Hot seat rating – Warming up

Frank Reich

In Indianapolis Frank Reich seems to battling circumstances as much as anything else. They’ve been conceding over 21 points per game but that’s largely due to Shaq Leonard and DeForest Buckner being injured. Allied to a level of misfortune that’s seen them have three different Defensive Back’s injured in the first four weeks. 

In Philadelphia Reich was renowned as an Offensive mastermind. But the Colts have had five different starting Quarterbacks in his five seasons as Head Coach. And he’s yet to work his magic with any of them. They’ve instead relied heavily on Running Back Jonathon Taylor to provide the Offensive spark. 

This may be Reich’s undoing in Indiana. If he can’t turn this around his seat maybe uncomfortably hot later in the season when the injured stars are back.

Hot seat rating – getting hotter

The hot seat awaits

There are teams with similar or worse records in the league right now. But their situations mean their Head Coaches can breathe easy for the time being.

Commanders Head Coach Ron Rivera should be secure in his job for a while. They may have won only one of their four games so far. But the volatility of owner Dan Snyder’s position means Rivera’s steady hand is vital in Washington at the moment. Although one of the hallmarks of a volatile owner is unpredictability. 

In Houston the Texans haven’t won a single game but having fired a minority coach in David Culley after he did a remarkable job with an under-strength roster that was beginning a transitional phase during a PR disaster of a season. It would take a real lack of judgement to give an experienced campaigner like Lovie Smith his marching orders less than a year later (but they’re not adverse to a PR disaster). 

The Steelers and Lions have not been getting results on the field either but similarly to the Texans they are both in transitional periods.  Pittsburgh have always over performed under Mike Tomlin’s stewardship. While anyone who has seen the Lions this season will tell you they are definitely on an upward trajectory under their former Tight End Dan Campbell.  Dennis Allen is struggling to find much Offence in New Orleans at the moment but injuries to a lot of key players (Michael Thomas, Jameis Winston, Alvin Kamara, Taysom Hill for a time and Tre’Quan Smith) should buy him some time under an owner who afforded the last Head Coach 15 years despite some barren years.

Banner Image: On the hot seat, Panthers Coach Matt Rhule. Image from charlotteobserver.com

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