Jason Garrett is feeling the pressure in Big D
You can probably count on one hand the number of people in the NFL who are just about untouchable when it comes to their job security. After all, America’s most popular sport is also one of America’s most volatile professions and that’s the case whether you’re a cornerback trying to make the cut or a general manager hoping to stick around a bit longer.
No position gets put through the ringer quite like the head coach though, with the media questioning your every move and ownership demanding results no matter what. The recent offseason saw eight teams make a change at the top and nearly 60 percent of the head coaches in the NFL have been in their gig for less than three seasons to give you some idea of the revolving door going on.
Could more names be on the chopping block during the upcoming 2019 season? Here’s a look at some of the hottest (and coldest) seats in the league with an eye toward who should be feeling safe and who should probably be renting:
Bill Belichick (New England Patriots)
The longest-tenured active head coach in the league can also lay claim to being the greatest of all time after collecting yet another Super Bowl ring last season. At this point, the only question mark left is if Belichick can chase down Don Shula on the all-time wins list.
Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs)
Thanks to his work with Patrick Mahomes last year, Reid is as popular as ever in Kansas City. While his place in league history still needs a few more chapters to be written, few coaches have the kind of comfort factor with ownership and the front office that the Chiefs coach does.
Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams)
McVay recently received a hefty contract extension after leading the Rams to the Super Bowl and it seems fairly assured that he’ll be in charge of the franchise well into the future. It speaks to the power the youthful head coach has that many of his proteges and friends got other head coaching gigs this offseason just for their connections to the offensive mastermind
Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints)
A resurgent past few seasons has Payton firmly entrenched with the organization he won a Super Bowl with and he even successfully got a few rules changed using his heft around the league. While the marriage with the Saints seems well, there’s already lingering talk that he could still be lured to Dallas by Jerry Jones eventually.
Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles)
Pederson seems locked at the hip with quarterback Carson Wentz now given the latter’s humongous extension that was inked in June and the earlier departure of backup Nick Foles. With a roster facing a number of other big decisions after 2019 though, making it back to the Super Bowl will test the head coach in a very different way than it did earlier in his tenure.
Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks)
Carroll will turn 68 during the upcoming season and despite being the oldest head coach in the league, he still has the energy of the youngest and shows no signs of slowing down.
John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens)
There was an open question going into last season as to Harbaugh’s fate but that was put to bed by a surprise run to the playoffs and subsequent contract extension shortly thereafter. The head coach going fully in on QB Lamar Jackson certainly paid off in the form of greater job security over the next few years.
Jon Gruden (Oakland Raiders)
Gruden always seemed assured of spending several years in charge of the Raiders given the massive contract he has but there’s no doubt that his 4-12 debut was a big dud. We’ll see how the relationship goes with new front office names but this long-term rebuild might take a bit longer than first expected.
Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts)
Reich was a breath of fresh air for the Colts given his aggressive nature (sometimes too aggressive) and the reward of a nice playoff run certainly delighted the organization that felt quite spurned prior to his hiring.
Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals)
The good news for Taylor is that ownership will give him a long leash given the importance they place on stability. The bad news for the young, first-time head coach is that there’s a lot of work to be done on the field with a roster facing some significant holes.
Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears)
Nagy’s popularity was hard to beat in Chicago after his debut campaign even if there were a few decisions to nitpick. Now comes the hard part for the coach in trying to take his quarterback’s game to the next level.
Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos)
It would surprise nobody given Fangio’s defensive knowledge if the Broncos weren’t one of the stingiest teams in the league in 2019. The real question though is whether he and John Elway can get things fixed on offense in order to make another Super Bowl run.
Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Retirement didn’t seem to sit well with Arians, who seems energized to work with a lot of offensive talent in Tampa Bay. The steep drop-off in his old team’s play last season is a good reminder of how good a coach the old veteran is and how much that will be needed for the Bucs organization.
Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins)
Hard to think of a head coach who has more of a blank slate than Flores does. He’s extremely well respected around the league but has quite the challenge on his hands to get the Dolphins turned around in just about every facet.
Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers)
Lynn was a great example of learning from some early mistakes and correcting them to the tune of a 12-4 run that included a playoff victory in 2018. Now comes an even bigger challenge in LA for the Chargers’ head guy: dealing with expectations of reaching the Super Bowl in 2019.
Stuck in Neutral
Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers)
The selection of LaFleur to replace Mike McCarthy was a bit of a surprise around Lambeau but the youthful infusion of new offensive concepts will be welcomed by cheeseheads near and far. His tenure will come down to not just winning enough but also getting on the same page with Aaron Rodgers.
Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers)
It feels like the Steelers have had a bit of a reset button pushed after all the drama that was a near constant last season. While that may be true of the team, there’s also some pressure on the head coach to get back to the Promised Land after not quite cracking the AFC elite in recent years.
Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers)
A step back in 2018 after Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury was to be expected but for as well liked as Shanahan is — and how good he’s proven to be as a play-caller — a 10-22 record going into Year 3 isn’t great for anybody involved.
Adam Gase (New York Jets)
It’s not often you can go 7-9 and have a sub-.500 coaching record and still wind up with arguably a better job with another team but that’s where Gase finds himself up in New York. He was brought in to help work wonders with QB Sam Darnold and that’s ultimately how he’ll be judged over the coming years.
Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings)
Few teams were as disappointing in 2018 as the Vikings were after their splashy signing at quarterback. All of the ups and downs just add to what is on Zimmer’s plate going forward as the team’s window is here… yet shrinking.
Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans)
O’Brien has done a solid job in Houston and enters Year 6 having won a significant say over the roster and most front office decisions. That kind of power is rare in the NFL nowadays and puts more pressure on the head coach to win more than one playoff game during his tenure.
Warm to the Touch
Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans)
Vrabel had some big wins in Year 1 (like over his old team the Patriots) and really low lows (i.e. all of October) in coming ever so close to making the playoffs. Ownership seems more stable and fully committed to the head coach but that could change given all of the looming questions facing the franchise after 2019.
Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills)
Leading the Bills to the playoffs for the first time in forever counts plenty for McDermott, who knows developing Josh Allen and keeping the franchise pointed in the right direction are key to his tenure having a fourth year.
Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals)
Everybody in college football and the NFL are fascinated to see how Kingsbury fares as a head coach in the league this upcoming season and beyond. He’s certainly got the support of ownership, which is key, but the pressure is certainly on to make the Air Raid offense more than any sort of one-year wonder out in the desert.
Pat Shurmur (New York Giants)
There were a few positives to take out of the 5-11 debut for Shurmur in the Big Apple but that will all be for not if he can’t keep this aging roster in playoff contention while also managing a potential quarterback succession plan. Ownership didn’t hesitate to pull the plug when it looked like things weren’t working with Shurmur’s predecessor and they probably won’t again if things don’t improve.
Freddie Kitchens (Cleveland Browns)
There’s little question as to what the ‘it’ team is this year in the NFL and Kitchens will be in the middle of all of it as a first time head coach leading the Browns. There’s a massive boom-or-bust factor to this team and the Alabama native will have more than just the offense to deal with down by the lake.
Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons)
Injuries played a big role in the Falcons slumping to the finish line last season but the fact is, the team hasn’t really ever been the same since that improbable loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Quinn turned over both coordinators this offseason and understands the pressure is on to avoid missing the playoffs twice in a row for a demanding owner like Arthur Blank.
Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions)
It’s never good when the head coach finds himself in the headlines for off-the-field stories but that’s been a hallmark of Patricia’s time in Detroit from the moment it got started. Going 6-10 and finishing last in the division isn’t out of the ordinary for the franchise but that doesn’t mean the fan base and ownership will put up with that either.
Ron Rivera (Carolina Panthers)
There’s only six active coaches who have been in their jobs longer than Rivera and all but one have a Super Bowl ring to their name. The team’s new owner has so far resisted making a big splash so far as he navigates the landscape but certainly won’t be afraid to if Rivera misses out on the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.
Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars)
After surprising everybody on the planet in 2017 during Marrone’s first full season in charge, the Jaguars came way back down to Earth in Year 2. Signing Nick Foles was a move meant to win now and that puts the onus on the head coach to get the team back to the playoffs and do some damage.
Jason Garrett (Dallas Cowboys)
It’s still rather remarkable that Garrett has stuck around Jerry Jones since 2011 despite winning only two playoff games. While the coach seems like he’s been on a perpetual hot seat since he was first hired, there is an even more pressing case to be made in Big D this season.
Jay Gruden (Washington Redskins)
All things considered in Washington, Gruden has done a pretty solid job given all the limitations in place and the injuries he’s suffered. Still, three years without a playoff appearance is tough for any coach to survive and it’s going to be even tougher with what looks like a rookie QB running the show.
— 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.