If there’s one thing for certain in the NFL, it’s that job security can be a fleeting thing no matter where you are on the career ladder. Between the 24/7 coverage of the league to the incessant pining for a winner by owners and fans alike, it can be especially tough to stick around as a head coach.
Last season saw six NFL teams make a coaching change, to say nothing of the dozens of other moves involving general managers or coordinators. There should be plenty more made after the upcoming season but who could be on the chopping block and who will be planning beyond 2018? Here’s a look at which head coaches are safe and which need to make sure they’re renting.
Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
There will be a time where Belichick is not running the show in Foxborough but it’s anybody’s guess as to when (or how many decades from now) that will be. Few coaches have as much clout as he does and that includes picking his own exit.
Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
Carroll will turn 66 during the season but he may have more energy than the majority of his players. Retirement will happen at some point but it does not appear to be in the cards in the near future.
Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
The franchise has had just three head coaches since 1969 and it would take quite a bit of upheaval in the Steel City to see Tomlin on his way out despite there being a few rumbles in the fan base about recent postseason performances.
Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs fans seem vastly more frustrated with the performance of the team under Reid than ownership as the coach has used the summer to consolidate a lot of his power. In addition to getting a contract extension, he seems to have even greater control over personnel with the elevation of Brett Veach to general manager.
Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders
Success has been fleeting for what seems like a decade in Oakland but Del Rio seems to have reenergized the franchise since arriving. The defense is feisty, the offense is good depending on the health of the quarterback and the coach appears to be set for some time to come.
Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons
The Super Bowl collapse is always going to be on Quinn’s record but that shouldn’t overshadow leading the Falcons’ resurgence. The team is much tougher and mentally strong than past editions and that comes directly from the head coach himself.
Safe but Never Completely Safe
Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins
The bright young offensive mind showed off his chops by changing things up in his first year and leading the Dolphins to the playoffs. While things look bright in Miami, Gase’s future seems tied to making progress with QB Ryan Tannehill.
John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
Missing out on the playoffs in three of the last four years have put a slight damper on Harbaugh’s luster since winning Super Bowl XLVII but there are only a handful of more stable leadership groups than the trio of the Ravens’ head coach, GM Ozzie Newsome and owner Steve Bisciotti.
Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
Last season’s disappointment and the roster turnover of the past few years have some in the desert wonder what the future holds after so much recent success. Despite that, there’s a great fit between the front office and their stylish head coach and it’s hard to see either party going anywhere soon.
Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
Riverboat Ron is in a bit of an interesting position given that he’s had some tremendous success in Carolina and is well liked by many who follow the team. Consistent success from year-to-year has been a bit of an issue though and general manager Dave Gettleman was fired by owner Jerry Richardson just eight days prior to the start of training camp. Even with the unexpected move, Rivera appears to be safe for the time being. If nothing else, he could potentially buy more time by changing offensive coordinators.
Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
Garrett’s job in bringing along the Cowboys’ rookie backfield was masterful in 2016 and he’s in the middle of a big-money contract with the team. You never quite know about job security working for Jerry Jones but the dynamic in Dallas is as good as things have been in quite some time.
Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
Perhaps the biggest issue for Zimmer’s long-term future in Minnesota is his own health. Most Vikings fans are pretty happy with how he’s helped turn things around despite key injuries and the lack of a good offensive line.
Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams
The youngest head coach in NFL history seems to have plenty of slack given the conservative nature of Stan Kronke when it comes to making coaching changes but he’ll have to show something on the field in order to be around for the opening of the new Rams stadium.
Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
Shanahan is the fourth coach in as many seasons for the team so while job security isn’t totally assured, it certainly seems the organization is fully confident in turning things over to him and ready to turn the corner for some longer term success. The short-term outlook isn’t rosy for the 49ers but their coach seems to be on relatively solid ground.
Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills
It seems like McDermott has a herculean challenge to get Buffalo back to the postseason but his levelheadedness will do him well in steering the franchise. The front office turnover seems to have calmed down and it appears McDermott will have some leeway in turning around the team.
Stuck in Neutral
Ben McAdoo, New York Giants
Given the media market, McAdoo’s hot seat may very well be week-to-week in the mind of some fans. Still, it’s hard to see him in the firing squad after a quality debut campaign and plenty coming back.
Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles
Pederson had a solid 7-9 debut in a very tough division but it seems pretty clear his future with the team is going to be tied to developing Carson Wentz and the rest of the offense.
Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos
Joseph is short on experience as a first-time head coach but does takeover a good situation up in Denver. With that comes expectations though so early struggles could make for a warmer seat down the road.
Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers
Coaches hate distractions and Lynn has to deal with a ton of them as the man tasked with leading the Chargers from San Diego to LA. That will no doubt come with some job protection in the short term but the onus will be on him to deliver something before the team moves to their permanent home up the 405.
Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins
Washington remains a bit of a mess from ownership on down but Gruden led the team to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in a decade and appears to be the coach for the next two years at least. If things turn south in a big way though, anything is possible with this franchise.
Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Bucs
Expectations are going to be raised considerably for Koetter given the pieces the offense will field this season. If the team keeps tripping up however, his status could get warmer.
Warm to the Touch
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
Few coaches are in a trickier spot than Payton, who remains beloved for what he has done for the franchise but still has to contend with mediocre recent results. Given the dysfunction above him in the organization, a departure (in some form or fashion) is as likely as him consolidating his power is.
Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
McCarthy is one of the most successful coaches in the league and benefits from the relative isolation of Green Bay when it comes to feeling the heat nationally. He’s won the division five of the past six years but frustrating postseason exits and not getting back to the Super Bowl in Aaron Rogers’ prime years has turned the burner up to where even such a conservative franchise might ponder a change.
Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns
Jackson seems to have the faith of ownership and the Browns’ unique front office so there’s undoubtedly plenty of patience with this rebuild in Cleveland. Still, you are what your record is and if progress isn’t being made with the young team, then it remains possible the seat gets even toastier.
Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans
O’Brien has been tripped up by QB play and an inconsistent offense during his time in Houston, which is supposed to be his forte. That has led to some frustration on many fans’ part but he’s still done a solid but not spectacular job in guiding the team when taking the larger view. He doesn’t seem completely safe if the team struggles early on but ownership won’t rush him out the door either.
Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars
It does not appear that ownership wants to completely hit reset on the current regime and thus promoted Marrone to head coach over the offseason. There isn’t exactly long-term confidence in the current setup and with a still-wanting-to-coach Tom Coughlin already in the building; Marrone would be wise to keep an eye over his shoulder if the team continues to struggle on the field.
Mike Mularkey, Tennessee Titans
The hiring of Mularkey in the first place was relatively uninspiring and he’ll have just one year left on his deal after the season. If the team gets off to a slow start or things become bumpy down the stretch, it wouldn’t shocking for changes to be in store down in Nashville for what could be an attractive opening.
Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions
Getting to the playoffs twice with Detroit is nothing to gloss over but it remains to be seen if the Lions’ brass is confident enough in Caldwell to get them over the hump. His contract expires after the season and it might take an elusive division title to get an extension.
Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
Like Caldwell, Lewis is entering the final season of his contract and it appears slim to none that an extension gets done during the season. Making it to the postseason and winning a game would probably earn one so the second-longest tenured head coach in the NFL is very much coaching for his job in 2017.
Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts
Pagano has had to deal with injuries to star quarterback Andrew Luck but it seems like he’s been on thin ice each of the past two offseasons as a result of being unable to fix the team’s mediocre defense. While many expected him to be shown the door with former GM Ryan Grigson, the coach is nevertheless on his last legs in Indy.
John Fox, Chicago Bears
The situation between Fox and the Bears’ front office is well known around the league to be in an untenable place so it will surprise nobody if this is Fox’s final season in Chicago. He’s just 9-23 since arriving and anything less than .500 is probably enough to hit the reset button on a tenure that never could get going.
Todd Bowles, New York Jets
The Jets are in full pursuit of the No. 1 overall pick based on their lifeless roster so Bowles isn’t exactly being setup to succeed by his front office. With just one year left on his contract after this season, the only question is if the team parts ways with their coach at some point in 2017 or ‘18.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.