Hot Seat Watch for NFL Players, Coaches After Week 14
It's December, which means the proverbial "hot seat" for certain coaches and players throughout the league begins to catch fire. The season is almost over, and an unfortunate part of the business is that people will be losing their jobs.
While many of the coach firings will occur on Black Monday following Week 17, or shortly thereafter, the players on this list won't find out their ultimate fates until they're well into the offseason.
Here is the hot seat watch for NFL players and coaches after Week 14:
Jets HC Rex Ryan, QB Geno Smith
To say that the New York Jets have experienced a topsy-turvy 2013 season would be like saying Kanye West has a bit of an ego problem.
After alternating wins and losses over the first nine games of the season, the Jets dropped three straight before winning last week against Oakland, leaving their record at 6-7. The next three weeks will likely go a long way in shaping the future of the franchise regarding both the head coach and quarterback.
Coach Rex Ryan has seemingly turned water into wine by coaxing six wins out of a team with arguably the worst collection of offensive players in the league, but his inability to fix that side of the ball could end up being his downfall. While the defense has been solid under his stead, the offense has been stagnant more often than not. Plus the fact that current general manager John Idzik didn't hire Ryan must come into consideration, as Idzik surely wants to pick his own coach.
As for rookie quarterback Geno Smith, despite being picked in the second round in this year's draft, he's no lock to return as the team's starter in 2014. Much like the Jets, Smith's season has been a roller coaster, too. One week, he looks capable of being an every-week starter in the NFL, the next, he morphs into the Human Turnover Machine. He's thrown nine touchdowns, but also a staggering 20 interceptions.
It's worth noting that Smith doesn't have much help around him, but that's not something Jets fans want to hear after two consecutive seasons without playoff football in January.
So whether it's right or wrong for the fates of both Ryan and Smith to come down to the final three games of the season (at Carolina, Cleveland, at Miami), that's the reality of the situation. If the Jets can get to 8-8 and Smith finishes strong, both men are likely to return. If the rails completely come off, Ryan will be toast, and Smith will face some stiff competition in the offseason.
Titans HC Mike Munchak
With Gary Kubiak fired last week by the Texans, the coach now most likely facing the chopping block is the Titans' Mike Munchak.
Consider the facts: Munchak was retained by the late Bud Adams after a 6-10 campaign in 2012. This past offseason, Adams spent a ton of money improving the offensive line, and Munchak brought in Gregg Williams to help fix the defense. The directive was clear: Win in 2013, or else.
The Titans' 3-1 start looked promising, but quarterback Jake Locker's inability to stay healthy proved to be their undoing, as they now sit at 5-8. Barring a miracle that would make the Music City iteration seem tame, the Titans will miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.
Then there's this quote from the team's new president and CEO, Tommy Smith, per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean: "We certainly had higher expectations than what we are seeing right now, across the board, I can assure you of that."
It certainly seems like Munchak's seat is about to burst into flames.
There's just no way that Munchak, who owns a 20-25 career record as Tennessee's coach, will survive into 2014. Smith and the new brass will surely let Munchak go and look to bring in a coach to help energize the team's fanbase.
Redskins HC Mike Shanahan
One of my all-time favorite episodes of Seinfeld features George Costanza trying to get fired from his job with the New York Yankees, and eventually doing so by driving around the parking lot with the World Series trophy attached to the back of his car. It's a brilliant piece of comedy.
It's also the only thing that was missing from Redskins coach Mike Shanahan's press conference earlier this week, as he was seemingly daring owner Daniel Snyder to ax him on the spot.
Shanhan has presided over an absolutely horrendous 2013 calendar year. It started with his asinine decision to leave an obviously injured Robert Griffin III in the team's wild-card playoff loss to Seattle, leading Griffin, the team's franchise quarterback, to tear his ACL. It has continued into this season, with the team mired in a five-game losing streak and sitting at a putrid 3-10.
This week, Shanahan spoke to the media about a report by Dan Graziano of ESPN.com that Shanahan had been considering quitting before last season's playoff loss to Seattle and had become disillusioned with the relationship shared by Griffin and Snyder. Shanahan, who didn't deny the story outright, later said he was considering benching a healthy Griffin in order to preserve Griffin's health for 2014.
Of course, Griffin was healthy enough to play on a snowy field last weekend against a ferocious Chiefs defense, but now he might not be healthy enough to play in a dome this Sunday against a toothless Falcons pass rush. It makes less than zero sense.
All that was missing from the presser was Shanahan taking one of the team's Super Bowl trophies for a joyride in the parking lot. It was insubordination at its finest.
Regardless of the reasons behind Shanahan's political ploy, the Redskins are a disaster. The defense is atrocious and the Griffin/Shanahan relationship appears to have eroded.
Shanahan is 24-37 as Redskins coach, and aside from 2012's magical run to the NFC East title, it hasn't been pretty. Remember when Shanahan said he'd "stake his reputation" on quarterbacks John Beck and Rex Grossman? That could have been grounds alone for Snyder to fire him.
Simply put, Shanahan has worn out his welcome in our nation's capital. He hasn't won enough games and is feuding with the star quarterback and owner. It's a recipe for a disaster.
Much like Costanza, Shanahan will get his wish. Barring a Christmas (or Festivus) miracle, he'll be fired on Black Monday.
Raiders HC Dennis Allen; QB's Matt McGloin, Terrelle Pryor
The Oakland Raiders have clinched their 11th consecutive losing season, and despite entering the campaign with meager expectations, there's no guarantee that head coach Dennis Allen will earn a third season with the Silver and Black.
Allen's record is now 8-21, and while it isn't pretty, he hasn't had much to work with either. The Raiders possess one of the worst 53-man rosters in football, and Allen (along with general manager Reggie McKenzie) inherited a team in the throes of salary cap hell, somewhere in between the sixth and seventh level of Dante's Inferno.
Despite those facts, it's difficult to predict what owner Mark Davis will do concerning Allen. If the Raiders finish the season 4-12 and on a six-game losing streak, Davis' frustration could get the best of him and he could make a move. That likely wouldn't be fair to Allen, who somehow managed to coax a 3-4 start out of his substandard roster, but for an organization that hasn't had a winning season since Rich Gannon was under center, anything is possible.
In order for Allen to feel comfortable, the Raiders must win one of their remaining three games, and it won't be easy, with divisional contests looming against the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos.
The other big question mark in Oakland is at quarterback, where signal-callers Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor are trying to make their case to be "The Guy" moving forward. In last week's loss at the Jets, both players saw the field and that looks likely to happen again this week against Kansas City, according to Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk.
That's one thing that Allen definitely deserves criticism for—his handling of the quarterbacks. The old saying is that if you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback, and Allen not sticking with either McGloin or Pryor could end up hurting both players and the team in the long run.
While both passers are being put in a tough spot, it's up to one of them to seize the job with exemplary play and prove he deserves a chance to compete for the starting job in 2014. For McGloin and Pryor, the next three weeks will go a long way in determining their futures in Oakland.
Vikings HC Leslie Frazier
Last season, the Minnesota Vikings went 10-6 and earned a surprise wild-card trip to the NFC playoffs. This season, they're 3-9-1 and are one of the most disappointing teams in football. As a result, coach Leslie Frazier is squarely on the hot seat.
While there's no question that the team has played hard for Frazier, the results just haven't been there. But even beyond the record, the thing that could ultimately cost Frazier his job is his indecision concerning the game's most important position at quarterback.
For some inexplicable reason, Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman decided to plop down $2 million on free-agent quarterback Josh Freeman, only to rush him into the starting lineup for a Monday night game against the Giants. Freeman played so horribly that he's been glued to the bench ever since. It makes less than no sense and surely hasn't put a smile on owner Zygi Wilf's face.
Frazier has gone back and forth between Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel. Too often this season, it's been a mystery as to which quarterback the Vikings would start on Sunday. While an argument could be constructed that Ponder, Cassel and Freeman are all below average, it doesn't change the fact that Frazier hasn't coaxed the kind of results this season that he did in 2012.
The Vikings close the season with three tough games against Philadelphia (8-5), at Cincinnati (9-4) and hosting Detroit (7-6). It's hard to imagine them winning more than one of those contests, and it's probably more likely that they'll lose all three, which would leave their record at 3-12-1.
Whether it's 3-12-1 or 4-11-1, Frazier is unlikely to return as Vikings coach. The only chance he has is for the team to win out and to do so in impressive fashion.
Texans QB Case Keenum
Unless they hire current interim coach Wade Phillips in a full-time capacity, the Houston Texans will have a new head coach in 2014.
Case Keenum has three more games to prove to owner Bob McNair and general manager Rick Smith that the team doesn't need a new quarterback as well.
Since being inserted into the starting lineup for an ineffective Matt Schaub, Keenum hasn't played poorly, tossing nine touchdown passes and only four interceptions, but he has yet to win a game, as he's 0-7. His inability to play well late in games and a lack of elite physical attributes suggest that Keenum isn't a big-time NFL signal-caller.
With the organization in full-blown evaluation mode, Keenum will start the final three games of the season, per Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com. He's essentially auditioning for McNair, Smith and whomever the next coach will be. If Keenum plays lights-out football, he will likely earn the opportunity to at least compete for the starting job in training cam next year.
However, if he plays poorly, he likely won't even earn the opportunity to compete and will once again be relegated to backup status.
Lions HC Jim Schwartz
Whether or not Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz returns in 2014 depends entirely upon the team making the postseason. If the Lions win the NFC North, Schwartz will be back. If they miss the postseason, he'll likely be fired.
While that might sound harsh, it's the truth.
Think about it. The Packers are without quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Bears are without quarterback Jay Cutler and a host of important defensive players, including linebacker Lance Briggs. The Vikings' quarterback situation is an absolute train wreck. If there were ever a season for the Lions to claim their first division title since 1993, this would be the one.
But the Lions are only 7-6 after a 6-3 start, and are tied with the Bears atop the NFC North while the 6-6-1 Packers are a half-game behind. Recent losses to 5-8 Pittsburgh and 4-9 Tampa Bay have been disheartening, casting doubt on Schwartz's ability to field a team capable of knocking off the NFC's elite.
The Lions have the easiest remaining schedule of the teams competing for the NFC North title and are the only team with a healthy starting quarterback in Matthew Stafford. There are absolutely no excuses for Schwartz's team to not finish the job and claim the division.
If they don't, expect to see a new coach roaming the sidelines in Motown in 2014.
Cowboys HC Jason Garrett, Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin
If there's anyone reading this who took Cowboys owner Jerry Jones at his word when he announced that coach Jason Garrett would return in 2014, regardless of how the team finishes, please get in touch with me. I have an island in the Caribbean I'd like to sell you.
Let's call a spade a spade: If the Cowboys miss the postseason for the third consecutive season under Garrett, he's going to lose his job—period, end of story. Much like Jim Schwartz, Garrett must qualify for the postseason in order to return in 2014.
While no one will ever confuse Garrett with Bill Belichick, he wasn't exactly helped by his owner last offseason. Jones was the one who fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and replaced him with the ancient Monte Kiffin, not Garrett.
Jones was seemingly the only person on the planet who thought the move would work out. In a related story, the Cowboys rank dead-last in total defense, and are coming off a Monday night loss to the Bears in which they allowed 490 yards of offense to backup quarterback Josh McCown and forced a grand total of zero punts.
In the aftermath, Jones said, in laughable fashion "There's nobody I would rather have to get (the defense) fixed (than Kiffin)," per Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas, a statement that ranks up there in the theater of the absurd alongside Jones' vote of confidence in Garrett.
Don't listen to Jones. The bottom line is that if the Cowboys miss the playoffs, both Garrett and Kiffin will be fired faster than you can say "Jerry World."
Buccaneers HC Greg Schiano
After an 0-8 start, Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano wasn't just sitting on the hot seat, he was totally enveloped in flames. What's happened since has been nothing short of amazing.
Schiano's team has won four of five, and it now appears likely that he'll return in 2014, which seemed a veritable impossibility just six weeks ago.
The play of rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has been a major boon to Schiano's chances, and the Bucs never stopped playing hard for their coach. The team is most certainly building momentum for 2014.
But the season isn't over yet, and an ugly three-game losing streak to end the campaign would raise the heat on Schiano's seat once more. Tampa Bay closes out its home campaign against San Francisco and then travels to St. Louis and New Orleans.
If the Bucs can win at least one of those and be competitive throughout, Schiano should return next season. But if they lose all three in hideous fashion, all bets are off.
Eagles QB Nick Foles
I know what you're thinking: How in the world could Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who has thrown 20 touchdown passes against only one interception, possibly be on the hot seat as this season draws to a close?
Well, "hot seat" doesn't necessarily mean that a player will be out of a job. There's no doubt that Foles will be an Eagle in 2014. The only question is whether or not he'll be the unquestioned starter.
Foles has been terrific this year with his aforementioned touchdown-to-interception ratio and 6-1 record as the team's starter. But the 8-5 Eagles aren't a lock to make the postseason and it's worth noting that coach Chip Kelly wasn't on the staff when Foles was drafted.
While the Eagles are the favorites to win the NFC East, it's not outside the realm of possibility that the 7-6 Cowboys, who host Philadelphia in Week 17, could end up winning the division. If Foles struggles down the stretch and the Eagles miss the postseason, Kelly could look to bring in a quarterback in the early rounds of the draft to compete with Foles.