Who Has the NFL's Hottest Hot Seat?
It's the holiday season, but it's also hot-seat season in the NFL.
With teams fighting for playoff spots and others looking ahead to a top-five pick in the draft, owners and general managers will intently watch the final games of the 2013 campaign to help them make decisions about head coaches and quarterbacks.
Let's take a look at the coaches, coordinators and signal-callers on their own, respective hot seats and determine who's seat is hottest of them all.
Jim Schwartz has complied a 29-49 regular-season record as the Detroit Lions head coach, including a 21-25 mark since the start of the 2011 campaign.
His teams have been known for a wildly inconsistent and sometimes undisciplined nature.
In 2011, the Lions went 10-6 and made the playoffs. Matthew Stafford threw for over 5,000 yards with 41 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions. Detroit was everyone's favorite up-and-comer. The future was bright.
But last year, everything fell apart. The Lions lost their last eight games to finish the year 4-12.
Schwartz was retained, and the patience general manager Martin Mayhew showed with his head coach looked to have paid off early in 2013.
But Schwartz's club has lost four of its last five games, none more devastating than a 18-16 defeat at home to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 15 on Monday Night Football.
With a menacing defensive line, an inherently talented quarterback, the best wideout in the game and two efficient running backs, the Lions shouldn't be 7-7 and in third place in the NFC North.
A home date with the New York Giants on Sunday precedes the season finale in Minnesota against the Vikings.
With the amount of star power they have, if the Lions miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five years with Schwartz at the helm, the Bill Belichick disciple will almost assuredly be fired.
What should we make of Sam Bradford?
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, and the St. Louis Rams missed the playoffs by a single game that year.
But in 2011, injuries kept him out of six games, and in the 10 contests in which he did play, he completed fewer than 54 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and six interceptions.
With a clean bill of health in 2012, Bradford completed nearly 60 percent of his passes with 21 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, but his 6.7 yards-per-attempt average was pedestrian.
In 2013, he was up over 60 percent completion and he threw 14 touchdowns to only four picks, yet his yards-per-attempt averaged dipped to a mere 6.4.
Two biggest kickers, though—Bradford tore his ACL in the seventh game of the 2013 season against the Carolina Panthers, and he's due $14.015 million in base salary next season. He also represents a $17.61 million cap hit.
Relegated to the sidelines, Bradford can't do anything about his hot seat, but it's definitely sizzling.
If Jeff Fisher remains the Rams head coach, the former Oklahoma star could be the starter heading into 2014, but if Rams general manager Les Snead wants to move in a different direction at head coach, Bradford could be looking for a job this offseason.
Jason Garrett and Jim Schwartz find themselves in eerily similar, high-pressure, hot-seat situations right now.
Like Schwartz, Garrett hasn't had a lack of talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball, during his head-coaching tenure.
But the Cowboys have missed the playoffs three consecutive years, and at 7-7, will likely need to win their final two games to make the postseason this year.
Under Garrett, they've toiled in mediocrity, with a perfectly balanced 26-26 record since his first full season as the head coach.
The general and logical complaint over the past three years has centered around consistent neglect of the running game, which has resulted in many blown leads.
DeMarco Murray has averaged 7.7 yards per carry over the last two games, but he's received only 18 carries in each contest.
The most recent collapse came at home against the Green Bay Packers after the Cowboys led 26-3 at halftime.
Murray got only six carries in the second half, and Dallas' porous defense along with two Tony Romo interceptions led to a crushing 36-31 defeat to Matt Flynn, not Aaron Rodgers.
The Cowboys could play in their third "do-or-die," de facto NFC East title game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17. They're currently 0-2 in those games under Garrett.
If they move to 0-3, he very well could be gone.
Kevin Gilbride's been the New York Giants offensive coordinator for two championships and the prime of Eli Manning's NFL career.
But the Giants will miss the playoffs for the second straight year after beating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
During those two seasons, Manning has compiled the following combined statistics:
- 59.2 completion percentage
- 7.2 yards per attempt
- 42 touchdowns
- 40 interceptions
- 78.45 QB rating
While those numbers aren't atrocious, they certainly aren't Super Bowl-caliber or what teams want from their handsomely paid, franchise quarterback.
Also, the Giants average 3.6 yards per carry heading into Week 16.
To some, Gilbride's vertical-passing attack has gone stale and with a porous offensive line it's been a major player in Manning's inflated interception and sack totals.
Will GM Jerry Reese fire Tom Coughlin and his entire staff, or just show Gilbride the door?
Although the G-Men are already out of the playoffs, Gilbride is probably coaching for his job over the final two weeks.
Jay Cutler's had an absolute roller-coaster of a season in his first year under Marc Trestman.
He started the season 3-0, posting 90-plus quarterback ratings in each outing.
After a three-pick dud in a loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 4, Cutler threw for 358 yards and two touchdowns in a defeat at the hands of Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
He pieced together his second straight 100-plus passer rating game the following week in a win over the New York Giants, but he injured his groin in a wild 45-41 loss to the Washington Redskins in Week 7.
His replacement, Josh McCown, dazzled as the Bears' emergency starter, throwing 13 touchdowns and only one interception in two relief appearances and five starts.
However, when Cutler was cleared to play, Trestman inserted him into the starting lineup against the Cleveland Browns, and the signal-caller completed 71 percent of his passes for 265 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 38-31 win.
The Chicago Bears are currently leading the NFC North at 8-6 and play in a massive Sunday Night Football game in Philadelphia in Week 16.
After that, the season finale is at home against the Green Bay Packers.
How good does Cutler, an impending free agent, have to be to keep his job in the Windy City?
It would be shocking if Mike Shanahan returned. It's fine to already consider him gone. His seat is so hot, he's not even sitting on it anymore.
A year removed from the playoffs, the Washington Redskins have been humiliating in 2013, and reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, Robert Griffin III, has taken a major step back in his sophomore season.
Shanahan's made the postseason only once in his four years in the nation's capital.
Blessed with a rocket arm and decent mobility, the fifth-year quarterback should be much more consistent than he is.
Since a 41-touchdown, 16-interception masterpiece in 2011, the former No. 1 overall pick has thrown 48 touchdowns and 34 interceptions and completed only 58 percent of his passes over the last two seasons.
Stafford did sign a contract extension in July of 2013—that's the only development that's somewhat simmering his hot seat.
The New York Jets defense—Ryan's specialty—has been tremendous in 2013.
However, the offense has sputtered more often than its been steady and efficient, and the Jets will miss the playoffs for the third consecutive year after back-to-back trips to the AFC title game in Ryan's first two seasons.
New York general manager John Izdik is in his first year on the job, so unless Gang Green really stumbles at home against the Cleveland Browns and in Miami against the Dolphins, Ryan should be safe.
He's another coach that almost assuredly will be fired in January. The Tennessee Titans haven't made the playoffs in three seasons under Munchak and no one is quite sure about the future of quarterback Jake Locker.
Munchak's team hasn't been an embarrassment, but it mainly has played uninspiring football during his tenure.
The Titans finish on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars and at home against the Houston Texans. One would have to think he needs to win both games to even have any chance to stick around.
Hottest Hot Seat: Jim Schwartz
Schwartz gets the nod over Garrett, because of the way Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has defended Garrett as recently as Nov. 21.
This from Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com that day:
Jason Garrett is not coaching for his job. Jerry Jones just said Garrett will be back in 2014
Schwartz has Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, three first-round selections on the defensive line and an immensely talented former No. 1 overall pick at quarterback.
With that group, the Lions shouldn't be struggling mightily to sneak into the playoffs.
Frankly, in today's NFL, where patience quickly runs thin, not making the postseason in four of five seasons is more than enough reason to be fired.
In a season when Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler were sidelined for long periods with injuries and the Minnesota Vikings were a mess, Detroit should have run away with the NFC North.
With two games to go, Schwartz's seat is the hottest.