Handicapping the Coaching Carousel

Posted: December 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

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The NFL is a “what have you done for me lately?” league. Former Falcons coach Jerry Glanville once coined the phrase, “Not For Long,” to describe the NFL’s hiring and firing policy towards head coaches. Even some coaches who led their teams to the postseason as recently as last season are likely to see pink slips handed to them on Black Monday, December 30th.

Below is a classification of each NFL coach’s job security along with a grade for the 2013 season:

Safe and Sound

Bill Belichick, New England Patriots – The most successful coach currently active in the NFL has nothing to worry about. With one more win (or a loss by Miami or Baltimore), the Patriots will be heading to the postseason for the 11th time in 13 years. 
Grade: B

Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins – The second year coach has the Dolphins on the verge of their first playoff berth since 2008 despite all the off-the-field commotion regarding Jonathan Martin and Dick Incognito. He has done a marvelous job.
Grade: A

Doug Marrone, Buffalo Bills – The Bills are a disappointing 5-9. But, the first year coach has had to suffer through monumental injuries to his defense and rookie QB EJ Manuel. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will Buffalo, who hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999, when they went down at the hands of the Titans and the “Music City Miracle.”
Grade: C+

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals – It wasn’t long ago that Lewis’ seat was hotter than a pistol. With a third consecutive playoff appearance on the horizon, there’s no chance that Cincinnati makes a move. Even if the Bengals flame out in round one again, Lewis should expect to return in 2014.
Grade: B+

John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens started out 4-6 this year. Even then, Harbaugh was cool as a cucumber. After all, these are the defending Super Bowl champions. The Ravens are now in playoff position and should expect to have Harbaugh at the helm for years to come.
Grade: B-

Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland Browns – “Chudz” has not had a very strong inaugural season. But, he has had to deal with injuries to multiple quarterbacks and the lack of a strong foundation in Cleveland. He would have been back even if the Browns went 2-14.
Grade: C-

John Fox, Denver Broncos – This is an interesting case because Fox could decide to step down due to health problems. But, any chance of the former Panthers head coach involuntarily being removed from his position is dubious at best. The Broncos are on their way to the playoffs for the third straight season.
Grade: A

Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs – The former Eagles coach is the frontrunner for Coach of the Year after leading the 2-14 Chiefs to a playoff berth. He will likely be in Kansas City for years to come.
Grade: A+

Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers  First year coaches are rarely relieved of their duties. Especially ones who lead their team to .500 or better records. McCoy has had his growing pains, seeing his Chargers defeat teams like Denver and Kansas City but lose to Washington, Oakland, and Houston. Still, better things are on the horizon for this young coach.
Grade: B-

Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts – Pagano has helped turn around a franchise that looked left for dead without Peyton Manning. Now, they’ve won their second consecutive AFC South title and will look to get Pagano his first playoff win next month.
Grade: B+

Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars – After an 0-8 start, Bradley looked one-and-done in Jacksonville. But, things have changed in the last two months. The players are buying into the former Seahawks’ assistant’s mentality and Jacksonville is 4-2 in their last six. With that surge, Bradley secured another year down in sunny Florida.
Grade: C+

Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints – Payton deserves a few votes for Coach of the Year. After the Saints collapsed without his tutelage in 2012; New Orleans is back in the playoffs, where they can be tough to beat at home. First round loss or not, Sean Payton will remain a Saint for years to come.
Grade: A-

Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers – What a year for this guy? After an 0-2 start, Rivera was considered the frontrunner to be the first coach fired in 2013. Instead, he has his Panthers on the verge of an NFC South title and a bye week in the playoffs. Great work turning around what looked like a sinking ship.
Grade: A

Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears – Another first year coach experiencing a strong start, Trestman has the Bears within striking distance for their first NFC North title since 2010. Whether or not they achieve that goal, the former CFL coach has proven that he belongs in American football.
Grade: B

Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers – It’s pretty amazing that McCarthy has the Packers two wins away from a division title despite not having Aaron Rodgers for half of the season. The 2010 Super Bowl champion coach will likely have plenty of breathing room for the next few years before he has to even worry about his job security.
Grade: B+

Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles – Trust in the Chipper. The first year coach has turned Philadelphia’s offense into a potent weapon with Nick Foles developing into a superstar. If the Eagles win the NFC East, they’ll be building shrines to the former Oregon Duck on Broad and Pattison. He still has some growing pains to work through (challenges, play calling, etc.). But, things are looking up in the City of Brotherly Love.
Grade: A-

Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks – Carroll has been a godsend in his third stint as a professional head coach. After failed performances in New York and New England, the former USC Trojan has taken the Seahawks to heights that they have rarely reached before. If he gets them to the Super Bowl, they may never let him leave.
Grade: A+

Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers – Like his brother, Harbaugh has nothing to worry about. In three seasons at the helm of the 49ers, Jim has gotten to the NFC Championship, the Super Bowl, and now a likely return trip to the postseason. The only question is whether or not he wants to stay there for the long haul.
Grade: A-

Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals – Arians won Coach of the Year last season with Indianapolis. He’s likely going to be in the running this year as well, his first in Arizona. Despite a mediocre quarterback and no real offensive weapons outside of Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals have 9 wins. That is very impressive for a second year coach.
Grade: A-

Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams – Once Sam Bradford went down for the season, it appeared as though the Rams’ chances of remaining respectable would as well. Au contraire, Pierre! The Rams have a fantastic, young defense and will only be getting better thanks to the Washington Redskins.
Grade: B

Could Go Either Way

Rex Ryan, New York Jets – The 6-8 Jets began the season strong after a dismal preseason led everyone to believe that they would be among the worst teams in football. The defense is still decent. But, the offense is devoid of real playmakers and has only gotten worse over the last 3 years. Few would be surprised if Ryan is relieved of his duties following the season. But, it also wouldn’t surprise many to see him return. After all, the Jets can still get to 8-8 with a couple of victories to end the year.
Grade: C-

Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers – At this point, it would be a complete shock if the Steelers cut ties with their Super Bowl winning coach. Still, Pittsburgh hasn’t won a playoff game since 2010 and will likely miss the playoffs for the second straight season. For a franchise with such a proud history, that may be too much to take.
Grade: C

Dennis Allen, Oakland Raiders – In his second season with the team, Dennis Allen hasn’t seen enough improvement on either side of the ball to consider himself safe come the new year. His 4-10 Raiders have been inconsistent on offense and downright putrid at times on defense. For a defensive minded coach like Allen, that can only serve as justification for his ouster at the end of the season.
Grade: D+

Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans – When the Titans were 5-6 and in control of their playoff destiny, Munchak looked like he was making a case to stay. Now, after 3 straight losses, it doesn’t look like the third year coach will make it through another season. It’s really a shame because the Titans have the talent to contend and Munchak is considered a very good offensive mind. This is just another case of a coach saddling himself with a first round QB (Jake Locker) who never panned out and in turn cost the coach his job.
Grade: C

Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – At 0-8, Schiano looked as good as gone. After winning 4 of 6, his chances of returning have improved greatly. The same players that chastised Schiano’s coaching methods at the beginning of the season are starting to appreciate his tutelage. This one will remain a question mark at this point.
Grade: C-

Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons – Despite a 4-10 season, Smith is the least likely of all of these “could go either way” candidates to be fired. He has led the Falcons to four playoff berths since 2008 and will need at least one more poor year before he is considered a goner.
Grade: D

Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys – In a sane world, Garrett would have been fired following last season’s collapse. But, the world isn’t perfect and Jerry Jones is clueless. Even if Dallas fails to make the playoffs, there remains a chance that Jones could retain Garrett’s services for 2014.
Grade: D-

Tom Coughlin, New York Giants – I don’t think Coughlin will be fired after this season. But, one has to wonder how long his 2011 Super Bowl title will keep his seat secure. After all, many were clamoring for a new direction during that 2011 season, just four years after their 2007 championship. If the Giants miss the playoffs next year, expect big changes in the Big Apple.
Grade: C-

As Good As Gone

Wade Phillips, Houston Texans – The interim coach for the previously fired Gary Kubiak is unlikely to see a return in 2014. The Texans have already interviewed Lovie Smith for the vacant position and will continue to find viable alternatives to Phillips.
Grade: Inc.

Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions – I suppose since Detroit still has a slim hope of making the playoffs, I shouldn’t put Schwartz in the “as good as gone” list. Still, the Lions have grossly underachieved again and Schwartz continues to make enemies around the league. Unless a miracle happens, the Lions will be looking for a new leader.
Grade: C-

Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings – Despite an impressive victory on Sunday over Philadelphia, Frazier is still going to receive his pink slip at the end of the year. The fact that he led his team to the playoffs last year is moot. The Vikings still haven’t found a quarterback and the blame will fall on the shoulders of Frazier.
Grade: D

Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins – Even if Shanahan wanted to return, it’s unlikely that Dan Snyder would allow him to following the RGIII shenanigans. The Redskins have been an absolute mess this year in every facet of the game. Shanahan will be just another coach to make the playoffs one year and be fired the next.
Grade: F

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