NFL Coach Hot Seat Rankings, Week 11: Childress Feels the Heat, Kubiak Warms Up
It's been 10 weeks since the 2010 NFL season kicked off. Some coaches initially in trouble have found themselves in comfortable climates as the season slowly rolls toward its completion. Others have gone from safe to on fire.
We've already had one firing to break the ice. Now, teams that are falling out of contention unexpectedly will start looking hard at their leading men. If they think they can do better, it's likely that they won't waste much more time in making some changes.
Here's a look at five coaches who are certainly feeling some heat this week.
5. Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins
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Don't be. Sparano was a Bill Parcells guy. Parcells is gone even if his framework and imprint remain on this team.
I know what fans will say, but Sparano may not be as safe as you think. He's only had one playoff appearance and this season took over half the year to win a game at home.
Think that change at quarterback, which shocked a lot of people considering Chad Henne's relative body of work and youth at the position, was a little strange? Well it turned into a very big mess now that both Henne and veteran Chad Pennington are gone for the season.
Anytime you are going to Chad Pennington as a savior, you've got some kind of problems. He's a great person, a serviceable quarterback, but his clock as a starter ran out a long time and a couple of shoulder injuries ago. Henne was supposed to be the future.
I'm not saying Sparano is in any imminent danger of being sent packing, but his situation, especially now that he's got to contend with third-string quarterback Tyler Thigpen, bears some watching.
4. Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears
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Smith's been off this list since his Bears are currently tied for the lead in the NFC North, but you get the feeling that his team's playoff positioning is due more to their lack of divisional competition besides Green Bay and their relatively soft early schedule.
Smith has been said to be in a playoffs or bust situation. If that's truly the case, he's still very much on the hot seat.
The Bears are 6-3, but they are probably the worst 6-3 team in football. They have a quarterback who is more quixotic and unpredictable (not in the good way) every week. Anytime you draw Jeff George comparisons, you've got worries beyond the opponent on the field.
They have won more games due to terrible play by opponents than by dominance. At some point, that kind of nearly dumb luck will have to run out. It's not how championships are won.
The coming weeks will define the Bears' season and Smith's tenure. Should his team discover it's talent and ability to dominate once again, the Bears might run away with the division, save Smith's job, and make a deep playoff run in the weak NFC.
Should his team continue to rely on luck and opponent mistakes, they may still bumble into contention, but they won't be able to compete with NFC big guns New Orleans, Atlanta, Philadelphia and New York.
3. Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans
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Kubiak is another coach that could be in a playoffs or bust scenario.
He's been around long enough to have built this team into a playoff contender. Last season, the Texans just barely missed the playoffs. That they had their first-ever winning record probably saved Kubiak's job.
This year, he may not be so lucky. A team that, on paper, was supposed to finally compete with Indianapolis in the division and with the AFC as a whole has become an inconsistent, sputtering mess.
The defense can't stop anyone. The offense has more ups and downs than any other in the league. The Texans just don't seem to be a cohesive team. There's no way to tell who's going to show up each week.
Oh, and luck has started to go against them. When you bat a ball down in the end zone and it ends up in the hands of the other team's receiver, you've got nobody left on your side.
Kubiak, like Sparano, has a very unclear situation. There have been rumors of his demise and rumors that he'll be safe as long as the Texans are competitive. For a franchise and fan base yearning for their first taste of playoff football, however, there might be no saving a head coach from the chopping block if the team lets its window of opportunity continue to pass by.
2. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
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The only reason that Marvin Lewis is not ranked ahead of our most endangered man is simple. His team's owner didn't publicly address the job status of his head coach this week. When you don't have to have your job status validated by the owner on a weekly basis, you're still winning some of the battle.
On the field, however, it's just about over for the Cincinnati Bengals.
A team with enough talent on paper to not only repeat as AFC North champions but to make the first deep playoff run since the Reagan Administration can't seem to do anything right.
Carson Palmer, so good last year, has been erratic and looks frustrated by his team's performance. Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco can only do so much. Owens is having something like a career year. Ochocinco isn't putting up big numbers, but his work is a big part of Owens' success.
Defensively, the Bengals are a mess. They struggle against the run and their young secondary has failed miserably to live up to expectations against the pass.
Oh, and they commit more penalties than almost anyone (we're looking at you, Dallas).
It's hard to say they're poorly coached. Marvin Lewis has unmatched skill and desire to win. But his team looks a mess. The disarray can't be tolerated. One thing Lewis has never done is put together a string of winning seasons.
If he doesn't discover some second half magic and at least make Cincinnati respectable, he'll probably be looking for work at the end of the year.
1. Brad Childress, Minnesota Vikings
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Okay, let's take a look at the situation in Minnesota.
1. Owner Zygi Wilf is basically on a week to week plan with his head coach. Every week, he will probably be asked about Chilly's safety. Eventually, if this team doesn't rebound, you have to think he'll fire him.
2. The players have openly said that they don't like Childress and that he's a terrible coach. They say they only compete for their teammates and for pride.
3. Childress faces constant pressure stemming from the quarterback position where he not only failed to find an heir to Brett Favre but has also failed to handle Brett Favre with anything resembling consistency or zeal.
Add that all up. It equals another firing about to happen.
There's almost no chance that Brad Childress coaches beyond this season. The revelation that the players were against him was the last nail in the coffin. When you lose your players, you simply have to go.
Childress also coaches directly above one of the hot, new assistants in the NFL: Leslie Frazier. If Frazier is deemed ready to take over, it would be shocking to see Childress last a minute longer.
Meanwhile, the Vikings suffer through a terrible season. Brett Favre's age finally has caught up with him. His behavior troubles are also becoming a huge distraction to a team that needs none. The Randy Moss debacle still smarts with the fans and the team's front office.
At 2-7, it would take something like a miracle to make the playoffs. Minnesota can't afford another loss. Maybe in the NFC West, but not in the NFC North, it will take at least nine wins to make it in.
In short, it's all over but the pink slips.