NFL

NFL Coaches Entering Make or Break Seasons

Alessandro MiglioFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2014

NFL Coaches Entering Make or Break Seasons

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    Dave Martin/Associated Press

    Round and round it goes, where the NFL coaching carousel lands, nobody knows.

    Every offseason we see plenty of front-office movement in the league. We are well past that this year, but the seeds of the 2015 bloodbath have been sown. 

    Some coaches may have survived, but that doesn't mean their jobs are safe. Their seats are already warming as we head into training camps thanks to years of mediocrity or worse, or they may be entering a contract year that will determine their future with the team.

    Which coaches around the league are heading into make or break seasons? Click through to find out.

Joe Philbin, HC, Miami Dolphins

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    A horrendous finish to the 2013 season coupled with a bullying scandal nearly cost Joe Philbin his head coaching gig with the Miami Dolphins. The team went 8-8, just one game better than the previous season, despite the big money spent in the previous offseason.

    Owner Stephen Ross once again showed his loyalty by keeping Philbin, however. 

    Philbin was spared as his former boss, Jeff Ireland, was finally given his pink slip after years of lackluster results. Some say Ross was too loyal to Ireland, and the same might be said about Philbin six months from now if the Dolphins don't improve.

    There is plenty of talent strewn about Miami's roster, and Philbin is now in his third year on the job. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor joins new general manager Dennis Hickey in helping Philbin get the team to the next level.

    Another mediocre season will likely spell doom for Philbin, however.

Dennis Allen, HC, Oakland Raiders

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    Dennis Allen's fate is tied to Reggie McKenzie's.

    Both were dealt raw deals when they joined the Oakland Raiders, which featured a mangled roster and a bloated cap. There wasn't much Allen could do in his first two seasons as head coach, leading the team to a 4-12 record in each of of them.

    It was almost bad enough to get Allen canned, but he and McKenzie were given one more year to turn the franchise around now that it has been infused with talent from the past few drafts and the roster has been overhauled in free agency.

    The Raiders will need to see a significant improvement if Allen is going to keep his job.

Dom Capers, DC, Green Bay Packers

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    The Green Bay Packers certainly had a fantastic offense led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers when they won Super Bowl XLV.

    Few remember how good their defense was that season, however.

    Defensive coordinator Dom Capers' unit was the second-best scoring defense and fifth-best total defense that season. Since then, however, Green Bay's defense has been...well, less than stellar. The Packers have over the last three seasons ranked on average 18th in points allowed and 24th in yards allowed on average, respectively.

    Injuries have been partially to blame, but Capers has had trouble leading his unit back to the top—or even to the middle, for the most part. His players have defended him and his scheme, but even loyalty from the troops may be unable to save him from another sour season.

Marvin Lewis, HC, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press

    How many consecutive first-round exits does it take to get fired? Let's find out.

    Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has gotten his team to the playoffs three straight years. That would make it seem like his job is safe. After all, making the playoffs is an achievement—at least until the NFL expands the playoffs and lets half the league in—one that many fanbases covet. 

    Even Lewis realizes he needs to improve or face his exile. If the Bengals fall short of the playoffs, he will certainly be under fire for his job. Even if they make the playoffs, Lewis will finally have to get his team over the hump lest the same questions about his continued employment surround him next offseason.

     

Jason Garrett, HC, Dallas Cowboys

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    TIM SHARP/Associated Press

    This is the year Jason Garrett gets fired for mediocrity, right?

    The Dallas Cowboys have been wallowing in the ordinary since before Garrett took the reins, but it's been consistently acute under his watch over the last three season, with the Cowboys going 8-8 and missing the playoffs in each of those campaigns.

    Despite this trend, owner Jerry Jones has stuck to his guns and to the side of his head coach. In a departure from his previously capricious ways, Jones has given Garrett a vote of confidence at least once a season.

    How much longer Jones' patience will last will be interesting to see. The Cowboys had cap issues that hampered their ability to improve this offseason while the rest of the NFC East looks stronger. 

Jim Harbaugh

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    How, exactly, is a head coach who has taken his team to the NFC Championship Game or beyond in each of his first three seasons in the league in a "make or break" situation?

    For Jim Harbaugh, anything short of a Super Bowl might mean moving on, however.

    Harbaugh is in the final year of his contract with the 49ers, and his tenure has become a contentious one if offseason rumors are to be believed.

    The fiery head coach has reportedly clashed with general manager Trent Baalke, and the Cleveland Browns nearly traded for Harbaugh early in the offseason. The report was vehemently denied by the 49ers, per ESPN.com's Pat McManamon.

    Baalke and Harbaugh denied there was a power struggle, per The MMQB's Greg Bedard, but the 49ers have been unable to sign Harbaugh to an extension beyond 2015. 

    If San Francisco falls short of expectations this season, Harbaugh and the 49ers might use it as an excuse to move on.

Rex Ryan, HC, New York Jets

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Rex Ryan bought himself a reprieve when the New York Jets pulled out of a tailspin and closed the season strong.

    New York was 5-7, having lost three in a row, before winning three of its last four games to get to 8-8. They finished one game behind the San Diego Chargers for the AFC final playoff spot.

    Ryan had to deal with an anemic offense directed by an inconsistent rookie quarterback. In truth, it was a marvelous coaching job that got the team to .500, a likely a factor in letting him stay on for one more season. 

    Another 8-8 season might not cut it, however. The Jets are loaded with talent on the defensive side of the ball—Ryan's specialty—and the offense has gotten a bit of a transfusion this offseason.

    For Ryan, it's the playoffs or bust.

Brian Schottenheimer, OC, St. Louis Rams

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    It should come as no real surprise that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is under the gun in St. Louis.

    After all, this is the man who ruined quarterback Mark Sanchez and put New York's offense in the toilet.

    To his credit, Schottenheimer has improved the Rams offense since arriving. How hard can it be to improve on being the worst—the Rams were at the bottom of the barrel in 2011, ranking 32nd in scoring and 31st in total offense. 

    St. Louis ranked 25th and 21st in scoring over the past two seasons and 23rd and 30th in total offense over that span.

    Injuries and lackluster talent have been partially to blame, but Schottenheimer needs to get more out of his offense if he is going to keep his job.

Mike Smith, HC, Atlanta Falcons

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Up until two years ago, the Atlanta Falcons were in a similar boat that Marvin Lewis now finds himself in with the Cincinnati Bengals.

    The playoffs were an annual occurrence, but a first-game exit became the routine. One NFC Championship Game appearance following the 2012 season wiped all that away, creating Super Bowl aspirations for Smith and the Falcons heading into last year.

    The Falcons were primed for a big run in 2013, but they fell off a cliff and into the NFL cellar, garnering a top-six pick in the most recent NFL draft in the process.

    It was eerily similar to the fall the Houston Texans experienced, only Smith didn't suffer Gary Kubiak's fate. Not yet, anyway.

    Smith's previous success likely bought him some rope, and Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff gave him a midseason stamp of approval, despite a 2-7 start, per ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure. 

    Another disappointing season could change Dimitroff's mind rather quickly.

Tom Coughlin, HC, New York Giants

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Winning a Super Bowl buys you a lot of grace. Winning two in the span of four years gets you enough to last a lifetime.

    Tom Coughlin has been at the controls of a New York Giants team that has seen dramatic highs and desperate lows throughout his tenure. His most recent Super Bowl victory came in 2011.

    The Giants actually had the same regular-season record the following year, but failed to make the playoffs. Last season was a debacle as New York started out 0-6, though the Giants did close out the season on a 7-3 run.

    At 67, Coughlin might be facing his final season regardless of the team's success or lack thereof. But another disastrous start could spell doom for the aging head coach.

     

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