It has not gone well for Matt Patricia in his first two seasons in Detroit
The 32 head coaches in the NFL have a hard enough job as it is managing players, satisfying owners, and appeasing fan bases, but the COVID-19 pandemic has added a number of additional unforeseen hurdles to the gig. It remains to be seen if we have a season conducted on a normal schedule, given the current state of the world at large, but getting through until the Super Bowl will test the current crop of coaches in ways they have never seen before.
Despite all those challenges, the hot seat sits idle for nobody. While we could be in for a depressed coaching carousel as a result of the pandemic, the pressures of the job do not make any of the 32 men in charge immune from a pink slip.
Who could be on the chopping block during the upcoming 2020 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 look into renting:
Bill Belichick (New England Patriots)
Perhaps the biggest non-COVID related storyline in the league this year is how Belichick will fare without Tom Brady and what he does do with Cam Newton. No matter how things turn out, the head coach's place on the list is secure.
Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs)
Super Bowl ring fitted, a few extra Hawaiian shirts to wear during quarantine, and Patrick Mahomes inked for the rest of the decade. Nobody had a better offseason, all things considered, than Big Red did as he looks to chase after a few more Lombardis to pad his Hall of Fame resume.
Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers)
Though Shanahan would like to forget another second half to a Super Bowl, it's clear he's helped change the fortunes of the franchise since taking over and has all the pieces in place to be a consistent threat in the NFC for many, many years to come.
Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints)
It feels like the band is gearing up for one more run at the Super Bowl in 2020 between the moves Payton is making away from the field and the return of Drew Brees for another season. Few coaches are as connected to their city and their franchise as Payton, and that seems even more set in concrete in 2020.
Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks)
It remains hard to fathom that Carroll will turn 69 this season but the oldest coach in the league still seems like he's got the energy to be around another decade. The Jamal Adams trade likely fired him up even more as the team looks to capitalize on the core they've got.
John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens)
Seems like it wasn't too long ago where we didn't know if Harbaugh was going to get a new contract in Baltimore. Safe to say he's answered those questions in transforming the team into a must-watch after going all-in with Lamar Jackson.
Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers)
Rhule's contract speaks to the faith owner David Tepper has in him to change the team's fortunes for the long haul. There will naturally be some short-term pain on the field, but many believe it's only a matter of time before Rhule is winning big in Charlotte.
Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams)
The wunderkind shine wore off a bit last season, but McVay has still pressed a lot of the right buttons as he manages a roster that is still trying to win big right now.
Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts)
Reich handled Andrew Luck's surprise retirement as well as any coach could have last year and still managed to coach up an incredibly tough team. We'll see what he can do with Philip Rivers under center, but Indy fans have to be excited with what their head coach has done so far.
Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
If anybody can not be intimidated by working with the greatest QB of all time and instead relish the opportunity, it's Arians. The head coach has to love what he's got to work with offensively this season after such a frustrating first year in Tampa on his side of the ball.
Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Though he has had plenty of doubters thanks to the recent lack of playoff success, Tomlin has done some of his best coaching the past few years. Much of that has been the result of injuries, but there's hope that the pieces can align again for one more run at another trophy.
Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings)
Health might be the only thing that can pry Zimmer out of his chair in the Twin Cities after inking a recent contract extension with the team. While the franchise appears to have a quality core in place at coach, GM, and QB, everybody in purple knows that getting over the hump in the postseason remains paramount.
Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles)
Pederson almost willed the Eagles to the division title last year, given how beat up the team was, in what was probably his best coaching job since that remarkable run to a Lombardi. The roster is starting to turn over a bit more, so the upcoming campaigns could prove a lot more challenging for their head coach in notoriously demanding Philly.
Ron Rivera (Washington Football Team)
Rivera would just like to coach a football game at this point and could not have foreseen becoming the true face of the franchise in D.C. after an offseason dominated by negative headlines and a much-needed name change. The former Panthers head coach has been out front at every press conference and seems to have the complete trust of owner Dan Snyder to help lead the team out of their current malaise.
Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers)
Going 13-3 in his first season helped quiet most of the critics but also turned the attention up on LaFleur, given the play of Aaron Rodgers and the fact that the Packers just drafted his successor. How well the 40-year-old manages that transition will be the ultimate long-term test of just how good a coach he really is.
Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans)
Vrabel has certainly found a formula that works and is one of the head coaches that truly sees his attitude reflected in their team on the field every Sunday. The Titans seem to always be underdogs against bigger names, but it's a testament to their fiery head coach that they rarely play like it on the big stage.
Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins)
Flores won a lot of admiration from around the league for the work he did with a pretty bad roster last season. That wound up still getting the franchise their QB of the future and a lot more talent for the young head coach to work with. While nobody is expecting Miami to contend for the division just yet, it will be interesting to see what strides are made in Year 2.
Stuck in Neutral
Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders)
A global pandemic probably isn't how Gruden would have liked to welcome the Raiders to Las Vegas, but all eyes will still be on the Super Bowl winner to see how things go in their new locale. The group did improve from his first year to the second, but more progress is needed to justify that hefty, hefty contract he's on.
Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills)
McDermott is in rarified air after two playoff appearances in three seasons but will have to clean up the little things to get his team some wins in games they have previously given away late. The 2020 season brings with it a big change when it comes to expectations in Orchard Park, so managing that will be a new challenge for a head coach that has done well so far to start his career.
Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns)
Stefanski has hit all the right notes since taking over in Cleveland, but he'll be judged mostly on how well he can turn around Baker Mayfield and get the most out of the Pro Bowlers in Browns uniforms. Ownership doesn't seem like they want to go through with another change after their recent history, but Stefanski would still be wise to make a good first impression.
Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys)
McCarthy takes over a great situation in Big D and seems energized after some time off from the way things went in Green Bay. As much as he has going for him, though, being the head coach of America's Team brings plenty of pressure — not the least of which is from the owner's box given the talent McCarthy has to work with this season.
Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals)
Kingsbury was the unofficial winner of this year's draft, which somewhat obscured that he did a lot better as a first-time head coach last year than most expected. Now comes the harder part in making the next step to being really competitive in the division.
Joe Judge (New York Giants)
General manager Dave Gettleman draws most of the ire in the Tri-State region for the state of the team, but Judge will learn quickly that he can land on the back page with a bad start to his tenure. Despite being a Belichick and Nick Saban disciple, there's not much known outside of NFL circles about the new name on the block, so first impressions might matter a little more for a franchise looking for stability.
Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals)
Taylor had to learn on the fly about how hard it is to be a head coach last year during a disastrous 2-14 campaign, but there's a lot more optimism going into Year 2 with Joe Burrow on board and a pretty solid offensive nucleus. Ownership will give the 37-year-old plenty of time, but being more competitive in 2020 is essential.
Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers)
Last season was a step back for the Chargers, but many are hoping Lynn can lead a bounce back with the move to the glittering new SoFi Stadium and a new face of the franchise waiting in the wings in Justin Herbert. The head coach needs to get more out of his team between the lines though as LA has a number of impact players when healthy.
Warm to the Touch
Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos)
John Elway has only had one coach last longer than two seasons during his tenure in charge, and Year 2 will be likewise critical for Fangio. The team has loaded up during the draft to help QB Drew Lock, and for all the good Fangio does on the defensive side of the ball, there will be questions is a more offensive-minded coach should be given the reigns if the team gets off to another slow start.
Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears)
We'll see if Nagy can stick around in the Windy City by game-planning for Nick Foles instead of around Mitchell Trubisky's flaws, depending on which one wins the job in training camp. The Bears had a lot go off the rails a year ago but still finished 8-8, so there is still time for things to turn around.
Bill O'Brien (Houston Texans)
O'Brien has near-total control in Houston, but if things go off the rails in 2020 and another early playoff exit (or worse) beckons, ownership might have to make a change for change's sake. The unpopular DeAndre Hopkins trade didn't help the situation ahead of a critical time for the franchise.
Adam Gase (New York Jets)
Gase has only finished above .500 once in his career and now will have to deal with working under a new GM who didn't hire him. The roster has started to turn over, but it didn't help either that the head coach couldn't smooth things over in the Jamal Adams situation. The offense has not produced the desired gains you would have hoped when Gase got the job, so his work Sam Darnold could help determine his fate this season.
Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Marrone did help bring along Gardner Minshew II out of nowhere last season, but that doesn't completely hide the fact that this team has been a mess for much of the past two years under his watch. The franchise is in a state of flux as is, and hitting the reset button again could be in the cards if Marrone gets off to a slow start.
Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons)
A strong second-half run helped give Quinn a reprieve from a pink slip last year, but he knows the team has to do better than the 7-9 records they've posted in back-to-back campaigns. The division is even tougher than before, but there's still a lot of talent that has underachieved on the Falcons' roster.
Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions)
The Lions faltered last season once Matthew Stafford went down with an injury, but even factoring that in, this looks like a make-or-break year for Patricia and GM Bob Quinn. With a new principal owner in place, a full house cleaning could be in the cards if the team's fortunes do not reverse quickly in 2020.
— 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.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)