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NFL Head Coach Hot Seat Rankings Entering 2018 Season

Hue Jackson

Hue Jackson

Dirk Koetter

To say job security in the NFL is fleeting might be an understatement. That’s the case whether you’re a backup wide receiver trying to secure a roster spot, an area scout grinding away or, especially, the head coach himself. Between fans, the media or a demanding owner, only a few head coaches around the league can confidentially say they’ll be in the same position next year no matter how the upcoming season goes.

Last year saw incredible change at the top of many organizations, with seven new head coaches introduced into the NFL (after 2017 saw six more changes). Outside of those new faces though, who’s safe going into the upcoming campaign and who should probably be looking at putting their house up for sale? Here are the hottest (and coldest) seats in the league.

Below Freezing

Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

The longest tenured head coach in the league can remain so until he decides to hang it up and retire, but there’s certainly a growing sense in New England (and elsewhere) that the dynasty Belichick and Tom Brady have built is approaching its last legs. It remains to be seen if that’s actually the case after three Super Bowl appearances in the last four seasons but few enjoy the kind of control over the direction of their franchise than the dean of coaches does.

Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders

After signing a 10-year, $100 million deal this offseason to come back to coaching, nobody can enjoy more security than Gruden. Even if he doesn’t last the full decade, it’s safe to say he’ll be the guy running the show well into the team's first several seasons in Las Vegas.

Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles

Bringing that elusive championship to the Eagles, in such dramatic fashion no less, makes Pederson king in the city and with his team for a while.

Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams

What McVay did in turning around the Rams last season was remarkable and there’s a reason the team cleaned up most of the offseason awards. He’ll be leading the Rams out onto the field when the team’s new stadium opens in 2020 and, given his age, probably could be in the gig for much longer than that too if they meet expectations this season.

Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings

Zimmer led the team to one of the greatest years ever and engineered one of the most incredible postseason victories ever. With the addition of Kirk Cousins on a big new deal, it’s clear that it’s Super Bowl or bust in Minnesota and Zimmer understands those expectations after a great 2017 campaign.

Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers

Winning six of the last seven in 2017 with new QB Jimmy Garoppolo raised expectations considerably in the Bay Area going forward and now there’s talk of this being a legitimate contender in the NFC. The roster has certainly been upgraded quickly and now it’s time for Shanahan to make even more noise.

Mild Hypothermia

Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts

While Reich will be given a long leash in Indy as a new head coach fresh off coordinating a Super Bowl victory, much of his tenure will be defined by the health of Andrew Luck’s shoulder and what he can do with him in the lineup if healthy.

Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears

Nagy played a big role in Kansas City’s versatile and creative offense and many in the Windy City are hoping he can bring that same energy to the Bears after years of malaise on that side of the ball. He’s got some budding young stars like QB Mitchell Trubisky and has assembled a good coaching staff but will have to deal with a very tough division as a first-time head coach.

Steve Wilks, Arizona Cardinals

It will take some getting used to not seeing a kangol hat and Bruce Arians around the organization but Wilks seems more than comfortable taking over in the desert. The Panthers' former defensive coordinator inherits a strong defense full of playmakers but his tenure will be tied to how quickly he develops QB Josh Rosen.

Pat Shurmur, New York Giants

It’s been a huge offseason of change for the Giants and that includes a new head coach in Shurmur. He’s certainly much more comfortable in the role after a stint in Cleveland and a big turnaround in New York is expected with some healthy stars, big free agent additions and a stellar draft class with Saquon Barkley and company. While it’s tough for any coach to survive in the Big Apple long-term, Shurmur seems like the guy for the franchise in the immediate future for sure.

Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans

Vrabel has been on a rocket ship as far as his career trajectory and has the fortune to take over a team that not only made the playoffs, but won a wild card game. With that comes plenty of fan pressure but he pretty clearly has the backing of ownership and the front office to take this team to new heights.

Safe, But Never Completely Safe

Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions

It had to take the right opportunity to lure Patricia from the Patriots and it seems that the challenge of getting the Lions back to the playoffs was just that. The offseason stories about his past may have shortened his leash just a bit in the front office but fixing the defense and run game early will truly determine his future as a head coach.

Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

Carroll (right) is the oldest coach in the league but still has the energy of somebody 30 years younger. With Seattle entering rebuild mode, you would think that would mean that his future with the team could be limited. Nobody but the head coach himself knows if that is the case going forward but given how close he is with ownership and the front office, it would be surprising if somebody other than Carroll makes a call on how much longer he’s in the job.

Pete Carroll

Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

Tomlin is the fifth-longest tenured coach in the league and it seems likely that he would continue to lead the Steelers after winning his third division title in four years and coming off a 13-3 campaign. Still, there’s a bit of restlessness in Pittsburgh a decade removed from that Super Bowl title and with QB Ben Roethlisberger seemingly on his last legs. The Rooneys are not ones to make big decisions at head coach lightly but there’s certainly more pressure to get over the hump than there once was with this core group of players still in place.

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Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons didn’t quite experience the Super Bowl loss hangover that many expected and nearly got back to the big game again. Finishing in those key postseason moments is still something that Quinn has to figure out but the team is certainly on very solid ground in Atlanta.

Stuck in Neutral

Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

Reid has won at least nine games during his time in Kansas City and could be primed for capturing yet another AFC West title in 2018 as well if he can get talented young quarterback Patrick Mahomes to play up to his potential. Reid’s playoff record (1-4) with the Chiefs might have some clamoring for change if he can’t find some postseason success but his future is intertwined with his new pupil under center.

Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills

You would think that guiding the Bills to their first playoff appearance in 18 years would get you a key to the city but 2018 could be a bit of a step back for the team given all the roster changes. Sorting out the quarterback situation is priority No. 1 in the short- and long-term for McDermott and if he bungles that (just think back to the Nathan Peterman experiment last year), things could be up in the air quicker than anybody expected in Buffalo.

Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars

Marrone has quietly turned around the Jags just how Tom Coughlin wants: with tough defense, a quality run game and an offense that does its best to limit mistakes. That run to the AFC title game was remarkable to watch but getting to the sport’s ultimate prize will be tough if the coach can’t get the most out of Blake Bortles.

Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers

Lynn got off to a shaky start with the Chargers, but wound up finding his footing and turning in a solid debut season in Los Angeles. Ownership will certainly give him some time with the franchise undergoing the transition to a new city but making noise in the division and reaching the postseason are certainly possible in 2018.

Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints

Payton seems to have cooled things off after those 7-9 years with an impressive 11-5 campaign last season that could have gone much further in the postseason. It seems like the offense is on a new footing with guys taking the load off Drew Brees and the draft hits the team has found on defense certainly are paying off.

Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans

Injuries were a big factor (to say the least) for the team last season and if O’Brien can avoid the same kind of unfortunate luck again, he could have an AFC contender on his hands. Texans fans remain skeptical if he can actually get the franchise over the hump but the head coach doesn’t seem like he’ll be going anywhere soon after a contract extension and more front office control.

Warm to the Touch

Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers

It’s been an offseason full of change in Charlotte, from new coordinators on both sides of the ball, the interim tag taken off the general manager and, of course, new ownership. Riverboat Ron has been a mainstay with the franchise and that will likely remain true going forward after quite the run the past few years. Still, a dip in the team’s fortunes on the field in 2018 could throw that in the air given that nobody really knows if new owner David Tepper wants a clean slate going forward.

Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers

It said plenty that McCarthy received only a one-year contract extension in the offseason and will face a make-or-break campaign as new GM Brian Gutekunst takes over control with a full year under his belt. Having a healthy Aaron Rodgers helps and hiring a new defensive coordinator (Mike Pettine) should pay off dividends but there’s only one thing that secures your long-term future in Titletown.

Todd Bowles, New York Jets

Bowles might have had the worst roster in the league last season but showed off some serious coaching chops to win five games -- and still netted the QB of the future while doing so in Sam Darnold. Rookie QB or not (and there are plenty of veteran options that put that into question), improvement will still be needed in New York. It helps Bowles' case though that the owner is across the pond.


Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones likes Garrett (right) but this is a bottom-line business and if the wins aren’t there on the field, there could be some big changes in Big D. The defense has made progress in recent years and the offense as two young players to build around but double-digit wins at a minimum for the Cowboys will likely be needed in order to see their head coach return in 2019.

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John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens

This will be Harbaugh’s 11th year in charge of the Ravens but after three straight seasons without a playoff appearance, the pressure is certainly on to produce something big this time around. There’s excitement over the drafting of Lamar Jackson and a very solid roster to make noise in a winnable division but the wins have to come through soon or ownership faces a big decision ahead.

Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins

Gase has had a ton of roster turnover in a short time and seen a number of stars depart for other teams. He’s also added some important pieces like Robert Quinn on defense and Josh Sitton to help out the offensive line. While the franchise wants some stability at head coach, we’ll see if he’s closer to the guy who led a surprise playoff run or was responsible for whatever the team was in 2017.

Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos

The 5-11 record for Joseph in his first season with the team hid the fact that the Broncos lost 10 of their last 12 games, including several laughable blowouts. There was even some talk in Denver of firing him after just one go-around. With a new QB in place and several offseason additions though, the pressure is certainly on the young coach to convince John Elway to keep the gig.

Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins

The younger Gruden even making it this long into his tenure has to be an accomplishment given how things have gone under Dan Snyder but there’s no question that the pressure is on to turn things around. The division remains tough and it will be an uphill battle to find more success with Alex Smith now the QB of the present in Washington.

En Fuego

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals

It seemed like Lewis was already out the door before a surprise extension brought him back into the fold. Fans are understandably upset at owner Mike Brown but another listless season could make for some big changes in Cincinnati as the franchise seems to be at a fork in the road.

Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Bucs

With Jameis Winston suspended, it would not at all be shocking if Koetter (above, right) winds up the first coach to be fired this season if the team gets off to a slow start -- especially on offense. The division doesn’t make it easy to compete at a high level given how much talent there is but a full house cleaning could be in store for Tampa come the new year.

Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns

Jackson is 1-31 in Cleveland. 1-31. Yet somehow he still has a job. Yes, the roster had been bad in the past but that’s changed now and there’s certainly a lot of young on the roster and he has two pretty good options at quarterback for once. The odds-on favorite to be the first coach axed in 2018, the pressure to win is certainly very real for Jackson and his staff.

-- 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.