Every year, each head coach in the NFL looks hard at his team and wonders if he can squeeze the promised potential from them to sustain or further his career.
Can the offseason expectations be met? Will the fans be happy? Will club management be satisfied? These are just some of the many questions that go through a head coaches mind before the first preseason snap of the pigskin.
For some coaches these questions weigh heavier than for others because of one thing or another. For some it may be an inpatient owner, other coaches may have a history of less than stellar performances and still others may have just worn out their welcome.
Here is a list of coaches that may have one season left to prove they can perform the job that they were hired to perform - WIN. This list is purely subjective, but I have put my reasoning of why I feel each coach has ‘something to win for’ this year.
- Jim Zorn, Washington Redskins – Yes, it is only his second year and he did fairly well last year with a team that played better than their 8-8 record shows. However, Zorn has the pressure of working for one of the most inpatient owners in the NFL, Daniel Snyder.
On top of Snyder's impatience, add the extra pressure of big money being spent to bring in top names...not necessarily top talent.
The acquisition of the $100 million man, Albert Haynesworth brings the expectation that the Redskin defense is supposed to 100% better because of him.
Unfortunately, Haynesworth will not live up to his end of the deal and if you add the $54 million deal that DeAngelo Hall received, there is a lot of new money being spent on this team. Money spent without big time results will equal unhappy days for Zorn.
The Redskins will play a total of six games against the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys over the year…how many games will they steal away? They also play the Falcons, Chargers, Panthers and Buccaneers…so in the end that is a total of ten pretty tough games, how many can they win? Can they contend for a playoff spot? It will be tough.
If the Redskins don’t make the playoffs, expect Zorn to be yet another victim of Daniel Snyder’s impatience with head coaches.
- Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints – Going into his 4th season as head coach of the Saints, Payton has a lot to lose if the Saints do not put up a decent year. The past two seasons have landed the one-time NFL Coach of the Year into the pool of mediocrity.
Remember, Jim Haslett’s tour with the Saints? He won Coach of the Year honors and was fired after three less than stellar seasons that followed. Payton took the Saints to the NFC Championship game in his first season, but followed that up with two seasons of disappointment.
He needs to do something this season or he may follow Haslett’s lead out of the top coaching slot of the Saints.
- Dick Jauron, Buffalo Bills – Jauron will be entering his fourth season at the helm of the Bills. In his previous two seasons, the Bills finished 7-9 and left a lot of fans very disappointed.
The Bills’ front office has listened to Jauron and brought in Terrell Owens to be a playmaker downfield, retooled the offensive line through trades, free agency and the draft, and brought in sackmaster Aaron Maybin and corner Jairus Byrd. All these personnel moves will either make or break the Bills.
Coach Jauron’s fate may hang in the balance depending on how well or how poorly the Bills come together this season.
The unfortunate news for Jauron is that offensive lines take at least a couple of years to gel together and work as a unit; he doesn't have the leisure of waiting for results.
Will Terrell Owens deliver the promise of a playoff berth? Not if the O-line lets quarterback Trent Edwards get hit or injured like he did last season. We all know what an unhappy T.O. can bring to a team and their coach.
Time will tell if Jauron will have the pieces come together, but if they don't, expect Jauron to be looking for a new place to hang his hat next season.
- Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals – Cincinnatti fans haven’t had a reason to have faith in the Bengals for quite some time. In 18 years, the Bengals haven’t even won a playoff game, but they’ve managed to be interesting enough to draw a crowd.
This year may bring a lot more disappointment for Bengals fans. Carlson Palmer is back, but they’ve lost TJ Houshmandzadeh. Chad Ochocinco will need to show that he can perform at much higher level or the Bengals offense will sputter. The word on the street is that many Bengal players are fed up of the antics of Ochocinco.
Lewis has been head coach since 2003 and even though the Bengals haven’t flopped during his tenure, but they haven’t flourished either. Bengals fans and front office are tired of wading in mediocrity...the Bengals have done it for most of their existance. Lewis needs a very good season to avoid getting the axe.
- Wade Phillips, Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys have had disappointment after disappointment and one excuse after the other about why they haven’t been able to win the "big game."
The Cowboys have played fairly well during the regular season with Phillips in charge; 13-3 in 2007 and 9-7 in 2008. The 2007 year ended in playoff disappointment…matter of fact, the Cowboys haven’t had a playoff victory since 1996. They didn't even make the playoffs last season.
All this from a team that usually ranks in the upper echelon of preseason power rankings and judging by the talent at all the key positions should be capable of more. The Cowboys get nod from many analysts as one of the powerhouses in the NFC, however, when it comes time to deliver, the Cowboys have collapsed season after season.
Phillips needs to take the Cowboys to the promised land this year or Jerry Jones will can him after the season. Jones has already stuck his neck on the line for Phillips one too many times.
- Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers – Turner is another victim of the ‘great looking team on paper’ syndrome, but his team hasn't produced the way that everyone had hoped when he stepped in.
Turner could be on his final leg in San Diego as fans and front office begin to question why a team with such potential keeps winding up just a little short.
As playmakers such as LaDainian Tomlinson get older and veterans like Shawne Merriman attempt to return from injuries, it will get tougher to make a strong push for a championship, but that is what Turner needs to stay.
The clock is ticking in San Diego and the front office is seeing their chances of bringing the Vince Lombardi Trophy home starting to dwindle. Turner needs to produce now or he will get the blame and suffer the consequences of the Chargers fate.
Will all of these coaches be gone next season? Probably not. Will other coaches not on this list be gone next season? Probably so. The one thing for certain in the NFL is the rule that "nothing is for certain"…so the coaching carousel will continue to change and progress as the season changes and progresses.