Only in the National Football League is the head coach so important to the success of a team. It's not like in baseball where a manager just writes out a lineup card or chooses his pitching rotation. No, in baseball, you can't win if you don't have the players.
But in football, a great head coach can make an average team into a good one and a terrific head coach can make an average team into a Super Bowl team. Look how quickly an NFL team can turn around its fortunes, like the Kansas City Chiefs from 2012 to 2013 when they upgraded their head coach from Romeo Crennel to Andy Reid.
The following ranking will look at all 32 head coaches in the National Football League, ranking them in order of their job security based on the upcoming football season. They are broken into the following categories: untouchables, nothing to worry about, the new guys, veterans' seats getting warm, hot seat, and do-or-die.
1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
There is nothing that Bill Belichick could possibly do, aside from committing a major felony, that would prevent him from returning as Patriots head coach in 2015. All the man has done is win, year after year after year.
Belichick's coached 14 seasons. Throw away a rebuilding rookie season and he's recorded 13 straight winning seasons. He's won the AFC East 11 times, reaching the Super Bowl five times. He's collected three Super Bowl titles, and he's been named the AP Coach of the Year three times. Quite simply, he's arguably the greatest coach
2. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
The mastermind of the best team in the National Football League, Pete Carroll's job is safe for many years to come. It helps when you have elite talent like Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas on the defensive side of the ball, plus one of the game's best young quarterbacks in Russell Wilson.
Even if the Seahawks somehow won just eight or nine games in 2014, which would be a worst-case scenario, Carroll will absolutely be back in 2015.
3. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
One of the game's brightest coaching minds, Sean Payton isn't going anywhere as long as he has Drew Brees. Throw in arguably the best defense the Saints have had since he became head coach and there's a pretty good chance Payton collects his second Super Bowl ring in the next couple of seasons.
4. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
Just a year and a half removed from a Super Bowl title, John Harbaugh would have to miss the postseason for at least two more seasons to even be on the hot seat at all. He's one of the best coaching minds in the NFL, even if his Ravens failed to reach the postseason in 2013 for the first time since he was hired.
5. Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles
Expectations were through the roof for Chip Kelly during his rookie season. He delivered, leading the Eagles to the fourth-highest scoring offense in the NFL. Nick Foles' magical season and the Eagles' surprising division title are among the highlights of Kelly's rookie campaign, and there's basically nothing that could happen in 2014 for the second-year head coach to lose his job.
6. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
I'm not entirely sold on Mike McCarthy as a head coach. I was, however, very impressed by his work with Matt Flynn when Aaron Rodgers missed time with a collarbone injury in 2013. McCarthy coaxed just enough out of Flynn to keep the Packers afloat for a must-win season finale, which they won in dramatic fashion.
As long as Rodgers is still the quarterback for the Packers, McCarthy isn't going anywhere.
7. Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
Twice now, Reid has proved how quickly he can turn around a team. He took Philly from a 3-13 team in 1998 to an 11-5 playoff team in 2000. Then he took Kansas City from a 2-14 team in 2012 to an 11-5 team (with a 9-0 start) in 2013.
He's a big name, even without a Super Bowl ring, and nothing could cause him to be fired within the next calendar year.
Nothing to Worry About
8. Lovie Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
An underachieving franchise in 2013 and a solid head coach equals high probability for Coach of the Year honors in 2014. You don't sign a former Super Bowl coach like Lovie Smith and give him fewer than three seasons to turn around a team.
9. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
Riverboat Ron was on the verge of getting fired early in the 2013 season. When the dust had settled, he had the Panthers as the NFC's second seed and the third-year coach had been named Coach of the Year. His Panthers will undoubtedly decline in 2014, though, and Rivera may find himself on the hot seat again as soon as 2015.
10. Bill O'Brien, Houston Texans
Bill O'Brien isn't completely untouchable but he'd have to turn in a pretty disastrous rookie season to lose his job. He's a big name, a very big name, taking over a talented franchise. The only major red flag for O'Brien heading into 2014? Quarterback. Lucky for O'Brien, he's got the rebuilding excuse regardless of who he chooses to start under center.
11. John Fox, Denver Broncos
As long as John Fox has Peyton Manning, he doesn't have anything to worry about.
I guess the worst-case scenario for Fox would be if Manning went down with a season-ending injury and Brock Osweiler was completely exposed, which in turn would cause some to question Fox as a coach. But even Curtis Painter could win some games throwing to the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas.
12. Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
Call me crazy, but I'm not convinced that Bruce Arians is the next great head coach, even after he earned co-Coach of the Year honors in 2012 and came relatively close to winning the award in 2013. Remember that he coached two different teams in two different conferences, one with a rookie quarterback but a subpar supporting cast, and the other with a veteran quarterback on the decline but a dominant defense.
I still think the Cardinals will suffer a relatively big decline in 2014. But they'd have to lose all 16 for Arians to lose his job.
13. Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers
Whether it's Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning or Philip Rivers, Mike McCoy has demonstrated an uncanny ability to get the most out of his quarterbacks. He successfully revived Rivers' career at age 32 and led the Chargers to four straight wins to close out the season, plus a road postseason victory.
McCoy looks like he could be a successful coach in this league for some time.
14. Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears
Kelly received all the credit as the rookie head coach with the brilliant offensive mind, but it was Marc Trestman who led the Bears to the league's second-highest scoring offense during his first season at the helm.
What he did with veteran journeyman Josh McCown is one of the most impressive coaching jobs in recent NFL history. Expect Trestman to coax a career year out of Jay Cutler in 2014.
15. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts
Two seasons as head coach, two AFC South championships. That is, if you give Chuck Pagano credit for the 2012 Colts, when he missed most of the season with health issues. Regardless, as long as Pagano has the next Peyton Manning at quarterback, and he does, his job is safe.
The New Guys
16. Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars
Although technically not a rookie, Gus Bradley earned enough praise for his rookie season that he almost couldn't get fired in 2014, especially with a rookie quarterback. Although the Jaguars won just four games in 2013, they finished the season with four wins in their final eight games. That's a major step in the right direction.
17. Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
Although Mike Zimmer wasn't considered a big-name splashy head coaching hire, he's not going anywhere after 2014 even if the Vikings are the worst team in the NFL. And don't be stunned if that happens. Their quarterback situation is their biggest concern and their best player, and only legitimate star, is a 29-year-old running back.
18. Mike Pettine, Cleveland Browns
The only possible situation for Mike Pettine getting fired after just one season is if Johnny Manziel turns into the next Ryan Leaf. After all, the Browns did just fire Rob Chudzinski after only one year as head coach.
It's a dysfunctional franchise, but even Cleveland couldn't possibly pull the same move with Pettine after 2014.
19. Ken Whisenhunt, Tennessee Titans
My concern surrounding Ken Whisenhunt is his inability to develop a young quarterback. He reached a Super Bowl with veteran Kurt Warner in his second year as head coach, but he couldn't do anything at all once Warner retired.
I expect the Titans to be among the worst teams in the NFL in 2014, and I have little confidence that Whisenhunt can turn Jake Locker into a legitimate franchise quarterback. But even a disastrous two- or three-win season wouldn't cause Whisenhunt to be fired after just one season.
20. Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins
Jay Gruden will have to experience success pretty quickly if he wants to remain the Redskins head coach for a significant period of time. After all, owner Daniel Snyder isn't exactly known for his patience, plus the Redskins have a talented roster, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
But even if Gruden fails to turn Robert Griffin III back into the multitalented weapon he was in 2012, he's not getting fired after just one season.
21. Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions
Jim Caldwell certainly hasn't impressed me as a head coach. His tenure with Indianapolis was more about Peyton Manning than his abilities as a head coach. In Detroit, he takes over an extremely talented offensive team that has seen many of its players openly talk about the Super Bowl this offseason.
Caldwell will get a year, maybe two, before he's expected to lead the Lions into the postseason.
Veterans' Seats Getting Warm
22. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
Historically, the Steelers are an extremely loyal franchise, having used just three head coaches in the last 45 seasons. Mike Tomlin has a Super Bowl title and another Super Bowl appearance. But he's also missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see that streak reach three.
He's not on the hot seat, not yet, but he will be in 2015 if the Steelers don't start winning.
23. Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers
If you want to argue for Jim Harbaugh in the top three or four, I don't have an issue. But I'm a pessimistic regarding the 49ers and the long-term status of Harbaugh as their head coach.
The fact that they almost traded him to the Cleveland Browns this offseason is extremely alarming. You don't just trade a head coach as dominant as Harbaugh without a major reason. Whether it's clashes with the general manager or issues regarding his contract, the 49ers are getting fed up with Harbaugh.
He's come extremely close to winning a Super Bowl for three straight seasons, and his time in San Francisco may be coming to an end much faster than many are anticipating.
24. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants
Do you look at two Super Bowl victories in a decade at the helm of the franchise? Or do you look at frequent collapses in December and January, plus a disastrous 2013 season? That's Tom Coughlin's history with the Giants, and I believe that his time may be coming to an end if he can't return the team to the postseason sometime soon. Don't forget, he's almost 70 years old too.
25. Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams
I've never understood the hype surrounding Jeff Fisher as a head coach. In 17 seasons with the Houston/Tennessee Oilers/Titans, he reached the postseason six times and posted five 8-8 seasons. He's good at keeping his team afloat, but he hasn't proved that he can be the man to deliver a championship.
There's been more of the same in St. Louis. Consecutive seven-win seasons should have Fisher on the hot seat heading into the 2014 season. He's pinned his future on the success of former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford. If Bradford sinks, so will Fisher.
26. Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons
In six seasons as the Atlanta Falcons head coach, Mike Smith has won 63 percent of his games, twice finishing with the best record in the NFC. He's also earned a Coach of the Year award, and he had the Falcons within one play of the Super Bowl in 2012. But Smith's 1-4 postseason record, plus a disastrous 2013 season, could put him on the hot seat in 2015 if the Falcons don't improve significantly in 2014.
27. Rex Ryan, New York Jets
Rex Ryan went as far as to tell his players late in the 2013 season that he expected to be fired at the end of the year. The fact that he was retained for one year doesn't indicate, at all, that he's in the Jets' plans for 2015 and beyond. Ryan needs to win if he wants to keep his job, and he needs to do it now. It's not the defense that is going to make-or-break his sixth season with the Jets. It's quarterback Geno Smith.
28. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
Marvin Lewis should have been fired after the 2013 season. There's no excuse for him to remain the head coach of the team for a 12th season despite never winning a playoff game. Five times, Lewis has led the Bengals into the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. The average score of those games? 26-13. That's pathetic.
Lewis would be much lower on this list of ownership hadn't just announced that Lewis will be receiving more control of day-to-day operations. A decision that extreme likely wouldn't result in the firing of the head coach following the season. Then again, if Lewis and Co. lose a wild-card playoff game for the fourth straight year, and the sixth time overall, it's hard to justify not making a change.
29. Doug Marrone, Buffalo Bills
Blah. That's what I think about Doug Marrone as a head coach. I don't have any confidence in EJ Manuel turning into a franchise quarterback, and despite the Bills playing in a subpar division, I would be surprised if they won more than six or seven games.
Marrone may not be fired in 2014, but I would be very surprised if he was still the coach after the end of the 2015 season.
30. Dennis Allen, Oakland Raiders
Following an extremely strange offseason in which the Oakland Raiders signed about half the players from the Pro Bowl five years ago, Dennis Allen needs to take a major step in the right direction to keep his job. He's led Oakland to eight wins in two seasons. For him to remain the head coach heading into 2015, he'd probably need to win a minimum of seven in 2014.
31. Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
Three straight eight-win seasons, all culminating in a loss in the season finale with the NFC East title on the line. That's not going to cut it for Jerry Jones. Personally, I'm stunned that Jason Garrett hasn't been fired already.
In my opinion, the Cowboys are a total disaster waiting to happen in 2014. They have a 34-year-old quarterback coming off offseason back surgery and a defense that should allow the most points in the entire league.
Garrett won't last the season. Book it.
32. Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins
Some credit Joe Philbin for keeping the Dolphins together in the wake of the Bullygate scandal last season. I look at Philbin to blame for allowing the drama to happen in the first place. If he doesn't lead the Dolphins into the postseason this year, and he won't, he's as good as gone.
Personally, I don't expect him to last the year.
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