The NFL hot seat is a vague concept. For some, it simply means they're aware that they need to do a better job of what they do. For others, it means they’re melting away in Dr. Evil’s volcano of liquid hot magma due to failed performances.
It seems as though at any point of any given season, every team has at least one player on the hot seat. It might be a coach or a GM, or it might be a star player.
Regardless, NFL fanbases and media love to find areas that need improvement. In order to make those improvements, it starts with the people responsible for those areas.
This slideshow discusses who has the hottest seat of every NFL team, and, naturally, some of those seats are hotter than others.
After jumping out to a surprising 4-0 start in 2012, the Cardinals have dropped three games in a row, including their latest to the Vikings in Week 7.
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt doesn’t have the deepest or most talented roster, but he has to figure out a way from preventing this train from derailing completely. In particular, he has to help the offense create more points.
The defense has played very well so far. On offense, though, things have been extremely inconsistent.
It doesn’t help that Kevin Kolb, Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams are all out. The offensive line, too, isn’t the strongest unit. But if Whisenhunt can’t right this ship quickly, his time in Arizona could be running out.
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan isn’t doing a bad job at all. However, he’ll need to keep his defense in tip-top shape if the Falcons have any hope of making a Super Bowl run.
It’s no secret Atlanta is peaking on offense. Matt Ryan is having a phenomenal year, and he has plenty of weapons at his disposal.
On defense, however, the Falcons rank 21st in yards allowed per game, 14th in defensive sacks and 28th in rushing yards allowed per game. Getting into shootouts is one thing, but if a team can slow down Matty Ice and pound the rock, Atlanta could be in trouble.
The return of Corey Peters will certainly help, but the point is Nolan needs to maximize the talent on the defensive side of the ball. If Atlanta continues to get shredded on the ground, its hopes of making a championship could be short-lived come winter.
Joe Flacco is one of the better young signal-callers in the league, but if he truly wants to be the best quarterback in the NFL like he thinks he is, he needs to play better and more consistently.
Baltimore is already reeling on defense with the losses, bangs and bruises of several key players, including Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Lardarius Webb and Haloti Ngata. As a result, the offense has had to carry the team in 2012.
That offense runs through Ray Rice, but if Flacco can’t be effective, Rice will be put at a disadvantage.
The 27-year-old QB has a tremendous coaching staff and enough weapons at his disposal to succeed. Fans are expecting a return to the AFC Championship Game, and anything less will result in more criticism of Flacco.
It’s tough to choose one person for the Buffalo Bills right now, but a fair and logical choice has to be defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt.
The Bills were believed to be playoff contenders in 2012. But after spending well over $100 million in free agents Mario Williams and Mark Anderson in the offseason, the idea of a postseason berth couldn’t feel further from reality right now.
This is head coach Chan Gailey’s third year in Buffalo, and to help maximize his defensive talent he fired defensive coordinator George Edwards after last season, and he promoted long-time friend Wannstedt.
Wanny, well-known for his experience in the 4-3, was believed to immediately improve Buffalo’s struggling defense. Instead, the team has looked terrible for the majority of this season.
The Bills enter their bye week in Week 8 and have dropped three of their last four games, giving up 131 points in those three losses. If Wannstedt can’t figure out a way to make improvements, Gailey might figure out a way for him.
Well, at least you can scratch former GM Marty Hurney off this list.
Newton is in the midst of the dreaded sophomore slump, which was a hot debate prior to this season. He proved in 2011 that he can excel in this league, but he needs to step up and fix his attitude as the leader of the offense.
Star receiver Steve Smith publicly called Newton out after he sulked on the sideline during a crushing loss to the New York Giants. Such behavior is not characteristic of a true leader, and Smith didn’t mince words (via ESPN):
"I lit into him because I thought it was an opportunity for him to see and understand what was going on. This is more than about playing football. It's about becoming a man and understanding what this is.”
The Panthers have a lot of intriguing weapons, but they just haven’t been able to execute this year. Head coach Ron Rivera certainly shares some of the blame, but for a player as talented as Newton to be playing—and acting—so poorly, he deserves much of the criticism thus far.
Seemingly on the hot seat every year, head coach Marvin Lewis is feeling the heat once again.
After winning three-straight games to sit at 3-1, Lewis’ squad has now lost three-straight games, including two in a row to division opponents (Cleveland, Pittsburgh). That’s not going to help in the AFC North during the playoff stretch.
According to Joe Reedy of Cincinnati.com, the Bengals now enter their bye week below .500 “for the sixth time in Lewis’ 10 seasons.” Such a streak not only speaks to the team’s bad record during those years, but also the momentum and attitude of the early goings of the season.
Cincy has a manageable schedule the rest of the way following their Week 8 bye. Lewis needs to make the necessary adjustments to get back into the win column.
The Chicago Bears are quietly sitting atop the NFC North with a 5-1 record, and at least some of that success has to be attributed to offensive coordinator Mike Tice.
After the team parted ways with Mike Martz, Tice accepted the responsibility of helping to protect quarterback Jay Cutler and getting this offense working at its best. Overall, Tice has done a good job in doing that.
On the other hand, Tice probably has more pressure on him than anybody to keep that high level of play up. Sacks and poor protection have plagued Chicago since Cutler’s arrival, and, in order to remain a playoff favorite, Tice will need to emphasize protecting his quarterback.
The Bears weren’t perfect on offense on Monday night, and while Tice’s job is safe for now, he likely feels the most pressure out of everyone.
With new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam in town, team president Mike Holmgren is out at the end of the year, and Joe Banner will become the new CEO in Cleveland. The question now becomes, will Pat Shurmur stick on as head coach?
The Browns rank 27th in total defense and 27th in total offense through Week 7. Having one of those rankings is bad enough, but having both simply indicates that this team has a lot of areas of need.
Cleveland took a slight gamble by naming Shurmur as its head coach in 2011, as it was his first stint as a head coach at any level. He had a tall task ahead of him, and it was evident it would take a little time.
However, he hasn’t shown much growth, and he’s been the target of criticism for some of his decision-making, particularly some of his moves against the Colts. The organization now has a big decision to make regarding his role with the team moving forward.
Since becoming the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett’s team has under-performed with a consistently strong roster.
The team is 3-3 so far in 2012, but only one of those victories was a convincing one—opening day against the division rival New York Giants.
Dallas’ other two victories? A 16-10 win over Tampa Bay and a 19-14 escape over Carolina.
Clock management has plagued Garrett and his coaching staff this year, and it has become one of the hot topics surrounding the head coach. In fact, Jonathan Bales of DallasNews.com believes the Cowboys “beat the Panthers in spite of Jason Garrett,” highlighting some of the coach’s questionable decisions.
Sitting in second place in the NFC East and 1-0 in the division, Garrett has an opportunity to get this thing rolling. If not, Jerry Jones might lose his patience.
It might seem unfair for defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to move from one hot seat (Jacksonville) to another, but it’s just the nature of his role right now.
Del Rio has done a good job thus far with Denver’s defense, but his main task moving forward is establishing some consistency. His unit boasts some young players, and he needs to ensure they’re prepared from the first snap to the last.
Through six games, the Broncos have been outscored 98-42 in the first half of games. If not for Peyton Manning’s magical heroics, they could be much worse than .500 right now.
The slow starts make Denver’s defensive rankings more impressive than they already are, but notching wins is what’s most important here. And Del Rio needs to get his team ready at the coin toss to keep that going.
Last year, the Detroit Lions offense finally lived up to the hype and put on an explosive weekly performance. Quarterback Matthew Stafford led the way, throwing for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns to just 16 interceptions.
This year has been a huge disappointment in comparison.
Stafford has failed to build on the excellent season he had in 2011. He’s looked indecisive at times and has made some poor decisions at others. His most recent showing in the team’s Monday Night Football loss to the Chicago Bears won’t help matters, either.
The Lions are counting on the former No. 1 overall pick to carry this team. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to do that this season. Stafford’s job is safe, but he needs to make some adjustments and help the offense put more points on the board.
A trendy breakout candidate the past couple of seasons, tight end Jermichael Finley has not thrived in the Packers offense like many believed.
Finley has insane athleticism, but he’s struggled with drops the past two years. That’s the sort of thing that will tick off Aaron Rodgers and cost Finley coveted looks in the passing game.
There’s still a lot of upside here, but Green Bay is embarking on an interesting time with its offense. Donald Driver will likely be gone soon, Greg Jennings has been dinged up and starting running back Cedric Benson is out for the season.
One would think this is the perfect time for Finley to step up. He hasn’t yet, and he’ll need to soon in order to convince the team he’s too valuable to ignore.
When Kevin Walter is one of the leading names on the hot seat, it’s clear this team is in good shape.
Nevertheless, the Texans will need the 31-year-old wideout to step up the rest of the way if they hope to make a serious push for the Super Bowl in 2012.
Star receiver Andre Johnson remains very productive as Matt Schaub’s No. 1 target, but he’s lost a bit of the explosiveness that has made him so dynamic throughout his career.
Meanwhile, Walter has been inconsistent and has ceded looks to tight end Owen Daniels, who has had a nice bounce-back year. With good size and a physical style of play, Walter needs to step up and capitalize on his opportunities for Houston to be the top team in the NFL.
If not, the team might be more aggressive in finding a replacement for him in the near future.
When the Indianapolis Colts hired Greg Manusky as the new defensive coordinator this offseason, their hope was that he could help shore up the league’s 29th-ranked run defense and become more aggressive overall.
So far, that hasn’t been the case.
The Colts currently rank 26th in the league in rush defense, and they were absolutely shredded by an otherwise unimpressive Shonn Greene in Week 6. Emerging linebacker Pat Angerer’s absence hasn’t helped.
After previous failed stints with the Chargers and 49ers, Manusky should be on a short leash in Indy. He needs to figure out a way to plug up the holes up front. With rookie Andrew Luck leading the offense, the defense needs to be at its best.
Jags GM Gene Smith should take special note of Marty Hurney, who was fired as GM of the Carolina Panthers after the team’s Week 7 loss.
Smith is in a similar situation on his own scalding hot seat. Much of the reason for that is due to the way he has drafted and constructed his team since becoming GM in 2009.
When he traded up to select quarterback Blaine Gabbert in 2011, the team already had David Garrard and was coming off an 8-8 season. More importantly, there were other, more glaring needs, such as on defense.
In the 2012 draft, Smith made yet another bold move by again trading up in the first round, this time for receiver Justin Blackmon.
Jacksonville is currently sitting at 1-5, is suffering from a lack of depth throughout the roster and will need to face the imminent contract situation of Maurice Jones-Drew. The time for a turnaround may be running out.
Another GM feeling the heat is Scott Pioli out in Kansas City. The Chiefs are arguably the worst team in football right now, sitting in last place of the AFC West at 1-5.
The link between Pioli and quarterback Matt Cassel is a big reason for the criticism he now faces. In 2009, KC gave up a valuable second-round draft pick for Brady’s backup. Many worried that he was simply a product of Bill Belichick’s system in New England.
Now, Cassel is sitting on his own equally hot seat, and each poor performance he has reflects poorly on Pioli.
Add in the frequent misses Pioli has had in the draft (Tyson Jackson, Javier Arenas, Dexter McCluster), and there’s valid reason for him to be feeling the pressure from Chiefs fans.
This isn’t to say that Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman has been doing a poor job this season. Rather, he has the ever important responsibility of developing Ryan Tannehill at quarterback and putting him in a position to succeed.
One way of doing that is to figure out ways to utilize Tannehill’s playmakers. Two weeks after posting record-setting stats in a Week 4 loss to Arizona, wide receiver Brian Hartline was held without a single catch in Week 6 against the Rams.
That can’t happen, especially with Reggie Bush dinged up. And it’s on Sherman to make sure of that.
Sherman has the inside scoop on Tannehill after coaching him at Texas A&M. He needs to make sure he’s taking the correct steps toward putting him in a position to be this team’s franchise quarterback.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s group has been pretty productive so far this season, so his seat isn’t terribly hot. However, there are still areas that need improvement.
In last week’s narrow victory over the Arizona Cardinals, second-year quarterback Christian Ponder was 8-of-17 for 58 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Yes, for the whole game.
Protection wasn’t great for Ponder against Arizona’s tough defense, but Musgrave didn’t have his best play-calling performance, either.
In the previous week’s loss to Washington, star receiver Percy Harvin “was on the field for only four of the nine first-quarter red-zone snaps,” per the Star Tribune. That can’t happen.
The Vikings currently rank 23rd in the NFL in total offense. They are also 31-for-89 (35 percent) in third-down efficiency. Musgrave must figure out a way to utilize playmakers like Harvin, Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph to make things easier on his young quarterback.
During the Patriots’ Week 6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, cornerback Kyle Arrington was replaced by rookie Alfonzo Dennard.
New England’s pass defense has been suspect dating back to last season, and not much has changed so far in 2012. It doesn’t help that Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory have been dealing with injuries. Also, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia should shoulder some of the heat.
However, Arrington has been a factor in the team’s poor defensive statistics. Ranked 29th in the league in pass defense, the Pats are giving up 290 passing yards per game.
After recording seven interceptions last year, Arrington has totaled just 31 tackles and three passes defended this season. He’ll need to play better if the Pats have any hope of improving the secondary.
Rookie running back David Wilson is a dynamic player. The New York Giants were aware of this when they selected him in the first round of this year’s draft, and the excitement during the offseason started to boil.
That excitement came to a gurgling simmer, however, when Wilson botched his second career carry in his NFL debut, a season-opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Wilson was clearly emotional after the play, which landed him in Tom Coughlin’s dreaded doghouse.
Despite giving him very few carries since then, the Giants are using Wilson’s playmaking talent on special teams. He’s done a great job in that regard, returning 23 kickoffs for 646 yards.
Having such a specialized role is great, but it only adds to the importance of each opportunity (just ask San Francisco’s Kyle Williams). Wilson will need to prove he’s mentally tough to be an even bigger contributor for the Giants.
This isn’t a huge surprise, although the New York Jets’ recent performance against the New England Patriots was an improvement over most of the season.
Ryan is famous for his bold predictions and entertaining persona, but, at this point, it seems that many are no longer amused with his tactics. Instead, Ryan has been the target of a lot of criticism for his unwavering confidence in Mark Sanchez at quarterback, despite having the enigmatic Tim Tebow waiting in the wings.
And while Ryan stands by his QB with the media, his decisions during the game sometimes contradict his public statements.
Further, Ryan has made some questionable decisions with other personnel, such as giving cornerback Antonio Cromartie reps at receiver and trying running back Joe McKnight at corner.
New York is 3-4 and hasn’t won the AFC East since 2002. Ryan will need to gain some ground in the division to take some of the pressure off.
The New Orleans Saints are dead last in the NFL in total defense. Losing head coach Sean Payton for the season definitely doesn’t help, but there’s no excuse for the dismal way this unit has been playing.
With Gregg Williams out of the picture, Steve Spagnuolo was expected to take the reins as defensive coordinator in stride. Needless to say, his journey thus far has been a bumpy one.
New Orleans will welcome interim head coach Joe Vitt back effective immediately, and, hopefully, for the Saints he can help fix some of the problems that are causing the 465.5 yards and 30.3 points per game that are plaguing the team.
Even if he does, it doesn’t erase the blame from Spagnuolo. He’ll have to prove that he can get the job done, because as good as Drew Brees is, it’s unfair to expect him to win games by himself every single week.
It seems like Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has single-handedly destroyed Darren McFadden’s impact on the offense.
Knapp brought his zone-blocking scheme from Houston to Oakland; unfortunately, the Raiders players have had a difficult time adjusting.
McFadden thrived in the power system that helped propel him to quality seasons the past couple of years. Now, he’s taken a major step back and struggles to do much of anything on the ground.
The offense as a hole has had a really difficult time. According to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, it’s already become an issue the team has attempted to address.
Knapp has “preached patience,” but how long will it be before Raider Nation has had enough?
With his hot seat burning a hole in his slacks, Eagles head coach Andy Reid took action by firing defensive coordinator Juan Castillo following the team’s 3-3 start. It was a move that didn’t take many by surprise.
Reid’s work isn’t over, though. In fact, it’s just beginning. His starting quarterback has turned the ball over 13 times in just six games. Consequently, rumors are swirling about whether or not Reid should bench Vick in favor of rookie Nick Foles.
The Eagles have also lost three of their last four games. To make matters worse, Philly has a tough road ahead with upcoming matchups against Atlanta, New Orleans, Dallas and Washington.
If Reid doesn’t step up like he needs to, this team could very realistically face a 3-7 mark. That would almost certainly spell the end for the longtime head coach.
It’s never a good thing when your most notable play is an illegal hit that hospitalized another player, but so far that’s been the case for Steelers safety Ryan Mundy.
With veteran leader Troy Polamalu battling age and injuries, Mundy has had to step up and log some significant playing time this year in the secondary. However, he’s had his fair share of struggles through the first six games.
Mundy is much better in run support than he is in coverage, and that has hurt Pittsburgh’s secondary. The defense fared much better against the Bengals on Sunday night, though.
He'll be under the microscope as the Steelers continue to deal with Polamalu’s absence in the secondary.
San Diego’s second-half collapse against the Denver Broncos in Week 6—on Monday Night Football, no less—was atrocious. Yes, the players have to go out and play, but at some point a team’s performance has to reflect back on the head coach.
After going 32-16 in his first three years with the Chargers, Turner is since 20-18. He’s had a very talented roster for all those years, and to continuously come up short is disappointing for Chargers fans and players.
In addition to the on-the-field struggles, Turner now has to deal with an off-the-field issue regarding the team using Stickum during games.
This certainly won’t help matters.
Alex Smith may never fully be off the hot seat during his career in the NFL. He shined in 2011 and has played well in 2012, but he’ll continue to feel the heat until he can help carry this talented team to a title.
While Smith isn’t expected to be a gunslinger at quarterback, at some point he has to make the necessary plays. San Francisco thrives off its stout defense and strong running game, so Smith absolutely has to capitalize on all of his opportunities.
He’s now dealing with a finger injury that has reportedly affected his play the past two weeks (per the San Francisco Chronicle). Any step back for Smith would be an important one for the team.
With Colin Kaepernick waiting for an opportunity to thrive under Jim Harbaugh, Smith has to make sure he continues to move in the right direction with his play on the field.
It’s very easy to root for a player like Russell Wilson. He’s a genuine, hard working young man who has faced a lot of adversity. That adversity followed him into the NFL when the Seahawks drafted him in the third round of this year’s draft.
However, Seattle is a surprisingly tough team this year, and it has a real shot to make a playoff push in the NFC West. Led by a stingy defense, and Marshawn Lynch grinding out yards in the run game, the Seahawks are off to a 4-3 start.
Wilson battled in the offseason and won the starting quarterback job from newly signed free agent Matt Flynn. Seattle now has a situation on its hands at the position. The rookie is an exciting young talent, but the organization just spent a lot of money on Flynn.
With a completion percentage of below 60 percent, if Wilson struggles, he could be a big reason why Seattle falls out of contention with an otherwise talented group.
The St. Louis Rams used the No. 1 overall pick in 2010 on quarterback Sam Bradford. Since then, the team hasn’t exactly been the most talented group of playmakers.
Bradford has had to deal with poor protection, a shallow group at receiver and some changes to the coaching staff and management. Longtime Ram Steven Jackson has been an anchor at running back, but his time in St. Louis could be coming to an end soon.
That means that Bradford needs to make the next step in his development soon. New head coach Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead seem to have a plan to build this squad, and it needs to start with protecting Bradford.
He’s looked better in his third season, but he still needs to demonstrate growth in each phase of the passing game.
Tampa Bay Bucs first-year defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan has had up-and-down results in 2012. Naming a new coach at any level is always a big change and requires time for adjustment. Sheridan now needs to ensure he’s working on that adjustment with his team.
Through six games, the Bucs rank 25th in total defense, allowing 399 yards per game. They rank 29th in sacks with just eight on the year, and 31st in pass defense with an average of 323 yards per game through the air.
While the Buccaneers have been great against the run, teams are only running the ball against them 24.7 times per game, which ranks 25th in the league. The good news is they’ve picked off opposing quarterbacks nine times.
Sheridan isn’t doing a terrible job and is only in his first year as defensive coordinator, but he’ll need to fix these issues moving forward to help Tampa Bay compete in the NFC South.
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak did himself a huge favor by earning an exciting road win against the Buffalo Bills in Week 7. That in itself might have thrown a damp towel on the steaming pressure he was feeling prior.
Now, he needs to keep that momentum going.
One of Munchak’s big decisions right now is how long to ride the hot hand of Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback. Since filling in for Jake Locker as the starter, the veteran has led the Titans to two consecutive wins in exciting fashion—versus the Pittsburgh Steelers and on the road against Buffalo.
On the other hand, Tennessee’s defense is still playing extremely poorly, so Munchak can’t get too comfortable just yet. Like most struggling teams, the Titans need much better consistency, and that all starts with the head coach.
It’s no secret that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett loves to blitz and put pressure on the opposing quarterback. However, doing so comes with a risk, which has become very evident out in Washington this year.
Haslett’s blitz scheme makes his secondary more vulnerable, and so far his defensive backs have had mixed results. Although the Redskins have 10 interceptions on the year, they rank 29th in the NFL in passing yards allowed, giving up a whopping 413.7 yards per game through the air.
Meanwhile, the aggressive system isn’t adding any extra sacks up front. The team is right in the middle of the pack with 13 QB takedowns on the season.
It’s a high-risk, high-reward system right now, and Haslett needs to ensure he continues to put his secondary in position to succeed. With RGIII carrying the offense, this team just needs a chance stay in games.