Which NFL Head Coaches Should Be on the Hot Seat?

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2019

Which NFL Head Coaches Should Be on the Hot Seat?

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    It didn't take long for the temperature on one NFL coaching hot seat to reach uninhabitable numbers. 

    The Washington Redskins ended the Jay Gruden era just five weeks into the 2019 season after a winless start marred by a quarterback controversy. Interim head coach Bill Callahan turned right around and won a game the next week, albeit against the hapless Miami Dolphins. 

    Not every team will be as impatient. The front offices that do pull the trigger on a change won't always see the same instant results. 

    The following coaches could follow Gruden out the door and into the unemployment line. It will vary by front office and long-term plan, but these coaches haven't shown enough and need a marked improvement over the remainder of the season to quell questions.

         

Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The downward spiral in Atlanta isn't getting any closer to stopping or even leveling out. 

    Dan Quinn took the Falcons to a Super Bowl on the back of an MVP performance from Matt Ryan and has regressed in every way since. 

    After finishing last year 7-9, the Falcons are off to a 1-5 start and bottom of the barrel in the NFC South. Impressive, considering the poor state of Tampa Bay and that Carolina doesn't have Cam Newton under center. Keep in mind New Orleans is chugging along without Drew Brees

    The Falcons have a minus-51 point differential and since Week 4 have lost to two-win Tennessee, coughed up 50-plus points to Houston and lost to two-win Arizona, a team in the middle of a rebuild with a new head coach and rookie quarterback. 

    Atlanta's lone win coming out of an offseason in which the team fired three coordinators is over .500 Philadelphia. It's a massive spoiled opportunity given some of the problems other NFC South teams are having and a concerning trend around a talented passer, which means Quinn might very well be next to go.

Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Was Freddie Kitchens really the reason for Baker Mayfield's breakout last year and the beginning of unreasonable Cleveland Browns hype? 

    It's a question worth asking at this stage. Whispers about Kitchens' qualifications as a head coach chased him into 2019 but were squashed largely by the massive buzz. Mayfield talks a big game, the front office did an admirable job of adding talent, and the Odell Beckham Jr. acquisition was a big deal.

    Now, the Browns are 2-4. 

    Mayfield has imploded, throwing five touchdowns against 11 interceptions. The team is undisciplined and struggles to avoid penalties, and the offensive line is a problem. Kitchens himself knows his play-calling has been bad, which includes running the same play twice in a row during a critical situation in a Week 6 loss to Seattle. 

    The Browns hit a Week 7 bye looking like a team in over its head with no easy solution. That doesn't mean Kitchens is gone, but after the bye, trips to New England and Denver await, with games against Buffalo and Pittsburgh after that. If things remain at this level of performance, it's hard to see Kitchens withstanding the criticism relative to preseason expectations. 

Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    An injury to a quarterback isn't enough to save a head coach this year—look at what Carolina and New Orleans are accomplishing in the NFC South. 

    This is a major problem for Doug Marrone considering his Jacksonville Jaguars have lost to those two teams in each of the past two weeks. 

    Against the Carolina Panthers, the Jaguars went down 34-27 as the Panthers started Kyle Allen under center. The following week, a Teddy Bridgewater-led Saints team beat the Jaguars 13-6. 

    Marrone's defense isn't matching expectations despite some of the big names there (Marcell Dareus, 
    Calais Campbell).

    The unit was coughing up 286.1 yards per game during the run to the 2017 AFC title game, and that has ballooned to 372.7 this year. After last year's five wins, the Jaguars have just two through Week 6, and they were gimmies over Tennessee and Denver, teams with losing records and four wins between them. 

    Now 18-22 in Jacksonville, the Nick Foles excuse has expired for Marrone, especially with his front office getting an up-close-and-personal look at how other teams with quarterback problems have persevered. 

Zac Taylor, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    Did chasing the Sean McVay trend backfire for the Cincinnati Bengals? 

    That was one of the criticisms surrounding the team's decision to bring on Zac Tayor, a positional coach from the Rams (who are coincidentally 3-3 as the NFL adapts to McVay) without notable play-calling or coordinator experience. 

    The beginning of the Taylor era finds the Bengals winless through six weeks, boasting a minus-62 point differential. They dropped a home opener 41-17, lost to a rookie-led Arizona team, a Pittsburgh team without Ben Roethlisberger and most recently coughed up 269 rushing yards (more than the Bengals had total) in a loss to Baltimore. 

    Billed as an offensive guru, Taylor has helped Andy Dalton to a 61.7 completion percentage with seven touchdowns and five interceptions, and Joe Mixon is averaging 3.4 yards per carry. 

    The Cincinnati front office tends to do things differently than the rest of the NFL, hence 16 years of Marvin Lewis prior to this. Taylor has also been without first-round pick Jonah Williams, starting left tackle Cordy Glenn (who was going to start at left guard were it not for the Williams injury) and receivers A.J. Green and John Ross, to name a few.

    But iffy play-calling and a lack of spark via offensive innovation have the Bengals looking like the outright worst team in the league without much of an end in sight. As opposed to the Dolphins, where Brian Flores is probably safe because this tank of sorts has been the obvious plan, the Bengals brought on Taylor to avoid a rebuild and win with the current crop of players.

    At some point, even the Bengals might have to pull the plug on principle. Whether that's before the end of the season is hard to say, but a two-to-four-win mark would be hard for any organization to let slide. 

Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    From a 12-win season and preseason Super Bowl hype to...2-4?  So goes the story for the Los Angeles Chargers and head coach Anthony Lynn. 

    On one hand, Lynn has some serious talent like Derwin James and Mike Pouncey sitting on injured reserve. On the other, one of his team's wins came over the hapless Miami Dolphins, and the other was against an Indianapolis Colts team playing for the first time since it learned Andrew Luck was gone. 

    The losses, especially the last two in a row, might resemble a breaking point for Lynn.

    Going down at the hands of the 2-4 Denver Broncos while benefitting from 12 penalties for 122 yards and two turnovers isn't agreeable to job security. Neither is losing to a two-win Steelers team starting undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges under center. That last loss included kicking a fourth-quarter field goal while down 24-0. 

    Normally, a coach in Lynn's spot might have a little more leash. He went from nine wins to 12, and slight regression isn't the end of the world, though it would classify as disappointing.

    But this isn't a regression so far; it's more akin to a blowup, and the Chargers haven't shown much of anything to suggest a rebound is on the way.