Well, that didn’t take long.
The Oakland Raiders – being the Oakland Raiders – didn’t even make it past the quarter pole of the season before they fired coach Dennis Allen after an 0-4 start. It’s an incredibly quick hook, even by the standards of that dysfunctional franchise. In most of the other spots around the NFL, the hot seats are only just beginning to get warm.
So who’s next? Chances are you won’t see another firing this season, because in-season coaching changes are generally pointless and usually only result in a seat-warmer (no pun intended) taking the fired coach’s place. So while the heat may be on, the burners aren’t on high just yet. But here are a list — ranked in order of blistering hot to lukewarm — of coaches who are at least feeling the warmth:
Tony Sparano, Oakland – Considering his boss was just fired, Sparano will surely get the rest of the season to help the Raiders play out the string. But while there’s a chance he could end up being Allen’s successor, it’s also just as likely — if not moreso — that there’ll be a new GM in Oakland next season. If that’s the case, the Raiders will start over from scratch. So it may take a miracle — and perhaps something like an 8-4 finish with his motley team — for him to remain employed past season’s end.
Rex Ryan, Jets – Remember when the Jets went to back-to-back AFC championship games in his first two seasons and they looked like after many decades they had finally arrived? Yeah, that was shortlived. It’s not only been downhill since then, it’s been chaotic. Now Ryan, who notably was not hired by GM John Idzik, has a struggling, 1-3 team facing a difficult schedule with a struggling second-year quarterback and a good, high-profile veteran on the bench. Add in a sprinkle of the New York media and this has the potential to get ugly, no matter when — or if — Ryan makes the change from Geno Smith to Michael Vick.
Gus Bradley, Jacksonville – It may seem unlikely in his second season, especially for a franchise in a small market that is trying to preach the patience of rebuilding. Then again, this looks like an epically bad team and it might depend on just how bad things get. They are now rolling with a promising rookie quarterback in Blake Bortles. Some signs of improvement and development must be seen.
Mike Pettine, Cleveland – Yeah, it’s his first season. Like that ever stopped the Browns. His seat isn’t really warm yet, but the fact is his future is tied to what happens with quarterback Johnny Manziel and how he handles the inevitable quarterback switch and what happens after that. If he and his staff mishandles Manziel in any way or if he struggles worse than a lot of people assume he will, don’t be shocked if management turns to the offensive-genius/flavor-of-the-month this offseason in the hopes of turning Manziel into a star.
Jeff Fisher, St. Louis – It’s hard to blame Fisher for the quarterback mess he’s been saddled with, and the fact that the Rams play in the best and toughest division in football. And with Sam Bradford out again, this season is already headed for a disaster. He’s a good coach who can build a good foundation and eventually get the franchise turned around. But this is a results-oriented business, and so far in his three years at the helm, the results have been bad.
Tom Coughlin, Giants – Don’t bet on this happening, because ownership loves him and he remains one of the finest coaches in the NFL. But the Giants have missed the playoffs four times in the last five seasons and another miss could try the patience of his bosses. That actually was nearly going to be the storyline of the entire season when the Giants were perched on an 0-2 cliff. Now they’re 2-2 and look much better and everything seems fine … at least for now.
—By Ralph Vacchiano