Halfway through the season and a handful of NFL teams are either already out of the playoff race – at least realistically – or on their way there. That means that somewhere, deep in their offices, people are already pondering the 2014 season.
And the biggest thing they’ll be thinking about is: Who will be their coach?
It’s a good bet that several NFL coaches are already on a very hot seat, needing to do a lot of winning during the second half of the season in order to save their jobs. Here’s a look those whose seats are the hottest – some of whom are already burned:
The Hot Seats
(Team record entering Week 9)
1. Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay (0-7)
It’s hard to remember a regime that’s been a bigger disaster than Schiano’s regime currently is. There are many around the NFL who hate him for a variety of reasons – including his famous strategy of having his defense attack quarterbacks who take a knee at the end of games. But now he’s got players angry at him for the way he (and his general manager) mishandled the MRSA infection in the locker room, not to mention the ugly way he dealt with Josh Freeman, which included accusations of leaked information. And now they’re 0-7, too. If the Bucs aren’t already thinking ahead to the next coach, they should be.
2. Leslie Frazier, Minnesota (1-6)
The Vikings were 10-6 and made the playoffs last year, and now they’d need to go 9-0 just to equal that mark. That’s a huge drop-off for a team with the NFL’s best running back in Adrian Peterson. Yes, the Vikings have QB issues, but Frazier isn’t handling them well. His decision to go to Josh Freeman seemed premature, as was his decision to have Freeman throw 53 times in a loss to the Giants while Peterson gathered dust. With a new stadium on the way in two years, Vikings may want to clean house to make sure they can build a contender again by 2016 before they waste any more of AP’s years.
3. Gary Kubiak, Houston (2-5)
This isn’t all Kubiak’s fault and the Texans have been hammered by injuries, but how many years can he get away with the Texans being one of the league’s biggest disappointments? He is in his eighth year as the Texans’ coach. They’ve been to the playoffs twice and lost in the divisional round twice, even though there are probably five or six years there when they were expected to go farther. Houston’s desire for stability is admirable, but it may be time for a change.
4. Jason Garrett, Dallas (4-4)
Yeah, the Cowboys are in first place, but only because the rest of the NFC East stinks. They probably should be 6-2, but instead they’re just one game ahead of the awful Eagles and two games ahead of the disastrous 2-6 Giants. The Cowboys are the most talented team in the division and probably could make a run at being one of the best in the conference. If they don’t win the division in this down year, how could Jerry Jones not make a change?
5. Rex Ryan, New York Jets (4-4)
They may be in second place, but they have two very fortunate wins that hinged on controversial decisions by officials, and they’re coming off a beat-down in Cincinnati. All in all, given the roster turnover and the rookie quarterback, Ryan has done an impressive job. But his seat will be red hot without a playoff berth because he has yet to get a vote of confidence from ownership or new GM John Idzik, who most people believe is determined to bring in his own coach next year if he even has the smallest opportunity to do so.
The Warm Seats
6. Ron Rivera, Carolina (4-3)
They’re starting to show signs of life behind Cam Newton, and they better keep it up because when a No. 1 overall draft pick like Newton doesn’t cause a pretty significant turnaround for a franchise it’s usually the coach that takes the fall. It doesn’t help that the Panthers changed GMs, hiring ex-Giants executive Dave Gettleman, who stuck with Rivera for one year but likely wouldn’t do it for two if there wasn’t a playoff berth involved.
7. Mike Shanahan, Washington (2-5)
The Redskins’ problems can probably be tied directly to the health and performance of Robert Griffin III, but Shanahan was already under fire a bit for the way he handled RGIII’s knee injury last season. Besides, if they don’t make the playoffs this season that would make three of four misses under Shanahan’s watch, plus a loss in the wild-card round. And in a down year in the NFC East where there should’ve been an easy opportunity for the ‘Skins to make a run, the impetuous Dan Snyder has to consider blowing things up.
8. Mike Munchak, Tennessee (3-4)
The Munchak era started with such promise – a 9-7 record in 2011 – but last year was a setback and this year they’re only clinging to the fringe of a very winnable wild-card race. The death of Bud Adams likely means the Titans won’t make a change because organizations don’t like a lot of upheaval at the top at one time. But Munchak’s reign has been marked by mediocrity at best and no visible signs of taking a step towards the next level.
Cold Seats … but only for now
Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh (2-5) – He works for an organization known for sticking with coaches longer than any other. And he’s had too much success for the Steelers to ponder giving up on him now.
Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (2-6) – Ownership and management remain strongly in his corner, but at 67 retirement always looms. Plus a second-half disaster in the New York fishbowl could always force unexpected changes.
Gus Bradley, Jacksonville (0-8) – His team stinks and he has no quarterback and it’s doubtful ownership will fire him after just one year. But if they get to 0-16 – which isn’t out of the question – all bets have to be off.
Jim Schwartz, Detroit (5-3) – He’s coming off an extremely disappointing 4-12 season, so anything short of a playoff berth in his fifth season could cost him his job. They do seem to appear to be on their way, though.
Dennis Allen, Oakland (3-4) – Expectations weren’t high in Oakland and they do seem to have found a quarterback in Terelle Pryor. But these are the Raiders, so nothing can be ruled out.
By Ralph Vacchiano, @RVacchianoNYDN