Gauging How Hot Every NFL Coach's Seat Is Heading into the 2020 Draft

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistApril 7, 2020

Gauging How Hot Every NFL Coach's Seat Is Heading into the 2020 Draft

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Last year at this time, we gave you seven NFL head coaches whose seats we figured were burning hot ahead of the 2019 draft.

    Within about nine months, three of those seven had been fired.

    However, a pair of coaches with seats that we deemed to be cool or room temperature have also since been relieved of their duties. It's amazing how quickly things can heat up in this league. 

    With peak free agency in the rearview mirror and the 2020 draft still a few weeks away, we decided to again take the temperature of 32 metaphorical inanimate objects. Here's how we categorized the results:

    Freezing cold: Untouchable for now and probably for quite some time. 

    Cool: Safe, barring a disaster accompanied by a shocking decision from above.

    Warm: In trouble if it hits the fan in 2019.

    Scorching hot: Something needs to change quickly.          

Freezing Cold

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

    The newly crowned Super Bowl champion hasn't had a losing season since 2012 when he was in Philadelphia, and that was only the third losing campaign of his 21-year career. The Chiefs could somehow go 0-16 in 2020, and Reid would still have the job if he wants it.

    At 62, he's probably strapped in until he decides to walk away. 


    Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

    The same rule applies to the most decorated coach in NFL history. As we said last year, Belichick's proverbial seat is located permanently at the Vostok Station in Antarctica, which, according to Scientific American, is the coldest place on Earth

    The man has put together 19 consecutive winning seasons. Only one other coach in history has done so more than 14 times in a row. 

    When Belichick is done, he'll let Robert Kraft know. 


    Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

    The league's oldest head coach is also the third-winningest among active coaches and arguably the most venerable coach in the NFC. He's put together eight consecutive winning seasons and can afford even a disastrous campaign before his backside starts to feel remotely warm. 

    The 68-year-old will eventually stop coaching, but that'll likely be his decision. 


    Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints

    The Saints' 37-11 record since the start of 2017 is the best in the NFL. And while it's disappointing that they've won just two playoff games in that span, Payton's reputation is still sterling. He's a legend in New Orleans as a result of his consistent success, but mainly because he brought the franchise its only Lombardi Trophy in 2009. 

    If everything goes to hell this year and quarterback Drew Brees walks away, you might—might—begin to hear chirps about a potential split. Still, there's almost no way Brees is handed walking papers in the next few seasons. 

    If Payton leaves, it'll almost certainly be of his own volition. 


    John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens

    Harbaugh's seat might have been a tad warm after his Ravens missed the playoffs in three straight seasons between 2015 and 2017, but he and his team have responded with back-to-back double-digit-win campaigns, and they won a league-best 14 games during the 2019 regular season. 

    The league's fourth-longest-tenured head coach also signed an extension last offseason. He's megasafe. 


    Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles

    A head coach hasn't been canned within three years of winning a Super Bowl since Barry Switzer "resigned" from the Dallas Cowboys job in 1997, two seasons after winning a title. And there's absolutely no reason to believe Pederson would be in danger even if the Eagles were to tank in 2020. 

    The widely respected, aggressive, creative and innovative 52-year-old has led the Eagles to the playoffs in each of the last two campaigns despite ridiculous injury issues. And that came after he won the franchise its first-ever Lombardi Trophy with a backup quarterback at the helm. He's got Fort Knox-level job security right now. 


    Matt Rhule, Carolina Panthers

    It's safe to say the retooling Panthers are willing to wait for their new head coach to establish himself at the NFL level. Why else would they hand Rhule a seven-year, $62 million contract? That's an out-of-this-world deal for a rookie coach, indicating there's plenty of rope following somewhat of an exodus in Carolina this offseason. 

    Unless Rhule suddenly decides this job isn't for him, he'll be back in 2021. 


    Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers

    The Denver Broncos "parted ways" with John Fox one year after going to the Super Bowl under his tutelage, but the vibe surrounding Shanahan in San Francisco is pretty special. It's safe to say he won't become just the second man in the last 15 years to be fired within a year of coaching in a Super Bowl. 

    He's a 40-year-old offensive mastermind on an upward trajectory, and a failed 2020 campaign would almost certainly be viewed as a speed bump and an aberration.  


    Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys

    If Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was willing to give Jason Garrett nine full seasons before finally pulling the plug, he's certainly not about to give up on McCarthy in his debut campaign with Dallas. 

    That said, expectations will be high with Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper returning to a top-heavy roster, and Jones is likely to be disappointed by anything less than an NFC Championship Game appearance. If the Cowboys fall well short of that, McCarthy's seat might already become warm entering 2021.

    And while you never know what sort of tensions could arise between Jones and McCarthy, it's important to note that Jones has never fired a coach after just one season on the job. 


    Bruce Arians, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Tom Brady's new contract with the Bucs guarantees him $50 million in the next two seasons, and there's almost no way Brady would be down with a sudden coaching change next offseason. I suppose it's possible he could retire after an ugly season and the team could decide to start fresh with the coaching staff, as well, but that's a far-fetched scenario. 

    They won't give up on Arians after just two seasons on the job. 


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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins

    Flores exceeded all expectations by winning five games (all in the final nine weeks) despite an astonishing lack of talent on the roster in 2019. By doing that, he probably bought himself at least a couple of more years. 

    Nobody expects Miami to be much better in 2020, so he can afford to win only a few games and would still almost certainly get another shot in 2021. But there's a slight chance a still-bad team goes winless and the front office decides to go in a new direction. 


    Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams

    McVay was the Coach of the Year in 2017, he led the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2018, and he posted a winning record despite myriad struggles in 2019. That probably means he's got at least a couple of seasons' worth of rope, especially considering he and general manager Les Snead landed contract extensions last summer. 

    Still, McVay's offense fell off a cliff statistically in 2020. If that happens again and the Rams' win total plummets for a second consecutive year, his seat could very well be hot entering 2021. A sudden firing can't totally be ruled out.  


    Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans

    Vrabel just took a good-not-great team to the AFC Championship Game, and he's put together two winning seasons in as many years as an NFL head coach. Even if the Titans experience a sudden down year, he's almost certainly safe for the 2021 season. 

    Still, the last three Titans coaches lasted three or fewer seasons, so Vrabel's seat won't be cold unless he makes another deep playoff run this year. 


    Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills

    The Bills hadn't made the playoffs this century. Then they hired McDermott and found themselves in the postseason during two of his first three seasons. That's damn impressive for a team that isn't astoundingly talented and is in a division with a Goliath. 

    The 46-year-old has probably bought himself a couple of more years in Orchard Park, but a 2020 implosion could still cost him his job. 


    Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts

    Few are likely holding a 7-9 2019 season against Reich, whose franchise quarterback abruptly retired in August. He went 10-6 and won a playoff game as a rookie head coach in 2018, and the Colts were surprisingly competitive without Andrew Luck last year. 

    Still, this team has a lot of talent at other positions and has now invested in Philip Rivers. Considering Reich's ties to Rivers (he was on the Chargers staff between 2013 and 2015) there's a remote possibility owner Jim Irsay could grow impatient and decide to clean house if the experiment fails in 2020. 

    That, however, would be shocking. 


    Jon Gruden, Las Vegas Raiders

    Gruden is just two years into a 10-year, $100 million contract, and the team's win total shot up from four in 2018 to seven in 2019. He'll almost certainly get more time beyond 2020. 

    That said, the Raiders are desperate to make a splash during their inaugural season in Las Vegas. If they bomb entirely, there's a nonzero chance Mark Davis loses patience and cleans house. A Raiders coach hasn't lasted more than three seasons on the job since Gruden's first tenure between 1998 and 2001.


    Ron Rivera, Washington Redskins

    You never really know what an owner like Daniel Snyder might do, and it's worth noting he fired Marty Schottenheimer after just one 8-8 season back in 2001. But that was early in his reign, and he seems to be a lot more patient now. Jay Gruden lasted more than five seasons despite never winning a playoff game and never winning 10 games in a season. 

    Rivera will likely get at least two years to turn this around. The Redskins can't afford the hit that would come from firing him after just 16 games on the job. 


    Joe Judge, New York Giants

    Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur lasted just two seasons each, so it's possible the Giants will grow impatient and bail on Judge after just one really bad campaign. It's also possible John Mara and Steve Tisch decide to part ways with general manager Dave Gettleman after this season and that the replacement prefers a new coach. 

    Still, the Judge hiring was well received, the Giants would certainly prefer not to fire a coach for the third time in a four-year span, and Mara and Tisch probably don't expect the team to make a Super Bowl run in Judge's first season. 

    He'll have a minimum of two years to get this team on track. 


    Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers

    Among modern coaches with at least a full season, LaFleur's .813 winning percentage ranks No. 1. That likely gives him a long leash entering his sophomore campaign, but we also know quarterback Aaron Rodgers has an extreme degree of clout in Green Bay. 

    If LaFleur and Rodgers clash significantly—and they've already had some minor feuds—there's a realistic scenario in which the former gets the boot. But there's no reason to expect that right now.


    Kliff Kingsbury, Arizona Cardinals

    Kingsbury's offense was rarely the problem for the 5-10 Cardinals in his maiden NFL campaign, and the entire team made progress late. The Cards outscored their opponents 106-91 in the final four weeks of the 2019 regular season, and he and quarterback Kyler Murray are well positioned to flourish together in 2020. 

    Could everything blow up instead? Certainly, and wilder things have happened than an experimental coach getting fired after two losing seasons (the Cardinals gave up on their last head coach, Steve Wilks, after just one bad year).

    That said, it's gotta be considered an extra-long shot right now. 


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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

    This one might be controversial because Tomlin has the second-highest qualified winning percentage among active head coaches—and because the Steelers have employed a grand total of three head coaches since 1969. 

    But Tomlin's Steelers have won just three playoff games since 2011, and they're coming off their second consecutive campaign without a postseason appearance. If veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returns from injury and the team still falls short in 2020, it might be time to consider a housecleaning in the Steel City. 


    Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings

    Despite a lot of talent, Zimmer has won two playoff games in six years. And as of right now, he's entering a potential lame-duck season.

    He hasn't had a losing season since his debut campaign in 2014, so the Vikes probably aren't considering a change right now. But there's a worst-case scenario in which all goes wrong for Minnesota in 2020 and the front office decides to go in a new direction next offseason. 

    Considering Kirk Cousins' lack of consistency and a significant loss of defensive talent in free agency, that can't be ruled out. 


    Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns

    The expectations are high for Cleveland's rookie head coach. That was also the case last year, and Freddie Kitchens lasted just 16 games, so there's no way we can rule out another one-and-done situation this time around. 

    Still, Stefanski is more accomplished than Kitchens, and the Browns probably know they can't afford to keep jumping this quickly from coach to coach. Fire Stefanski before 2021 and they'll be on their ninth coach in a 15-year span.


    Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears

    Just a year ago, Nagy's seat was ice-cold coming off a Coach of the Year season. But he and the Bears followed up that 12-4 2018 campaign with a dud in 2019. His offense ranked 29th in terms of both points and yardage as 2017 No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky struggled in what was supposed to be a breakout third season at quarterback. 

    That's problematic for Nagy, a supposed quarterback guru with an offensive background. 

    If the high-priced, talented Bears decline further in 2020 and if neither Trubisky nor expensive addition Nick Foles excels for Nagy under center, Bears general manager Ryan Pace could opt to throw his once-highly touted coach under the bus. 


    Zac Taylor, Cincinnati Bengals

    Unlike his former mentor, Sean McVay, in L.A., Taylor didn't experience immediate success during his first year as a head coach. Sure, he didn't have a lot of talent to work with, but it's still disappointing that he got just 17.4 points per game out of the offense in a 2-14 campaign. 

    The famously patient Bengals held on to Marvin Lewis for a decade-and-a-half, so they're unlikely to part with Taylor just two years into his tenure. That said, they've also appeared fidgety this offseason as they look to compete early with likely top pick Joe Burrow. 

    If the Bengals lose more than a dozen games again and it doesn't look as though Taylor is making progress with whoever is at quarterback, they could try to cut their losses and move on from the 36-year-old. 


    Vic Fangio, Denver Broncos

    Speaking of patience, John Elway doesn't seem to have any left. His last head coach, Vance Joseph, lasted just two years on the job, and Drew Lock will be the Broncos' fourth Week 1 starting quarterback in as many seasons. 

    Fangio likely still has some leash after posting a 7-9 record with a decent team in 2019, but he probably can't afford even a small step backward in 2020. They expect top 2018 pick Bradley Chubb to return from a torn ACL, and they invested in veterans Melvin Gordon and Jurrell Casey last month. 

    There's some margin for error this early in Fangio's tenure, but he can't afford to lose double-digit games. 


    Bill O'Brien, Houston Texans

    If I were running the Texans, O'Brien would already be out of a job. But Houston recently promoted him to general manager despite a lack of playoff success with a very talented team, which is why it's hard to imagine his seat is even hot right now. 

    That said, O'Brien took a huge risk in trading All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for increased draft capital and expensive, over-the-hill running back David Johnson.

    If the Texans miss the playoffs or even fail to get past the divisional round again in 2020, and if Hopkins excels in Arizona while Johnson does not in Houston, ownership could decide that it's time for a new general manager and a new head coach—and that those roles should be filled by two different human beings this time. 

Scorching Hot

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers

    Few coaches can afford back-to-back double-digit-loss seasons nowadays, especially if they have as much talent as Anthony Lynn does in Los Angeles.

    The Chargers have several top-tier weapons on both sides of the ball, but everything that could go wrong did go wrong in 2019. That brush with Murphy's Law and a 12-4 2018 campaign might cause the Bolts front office to give Lynn the benefit of the doubt for now, but he will simply have to win more than five games as the Chargers move into a new stadium and continue to compete for hearts and minds in the city of Los Angeles. 

    If 2020 looks anything like 2019 for this team, it'll have a new head coach in 2021. 


    Adam Gase, New York Jets

    It's only Year 2 on the job for Gase, but the Jets almost certainly hired a retread with the notion that there wouldn't be growing pains. Their roster is experienced and expensive—far too experienced and expensive to stink as bad as it did in 2019. 

    Although New York battled back from a horrendous, injury-plagued start to post a 7-9 record, Gase's offense—and yes, that's his area of expertise—ranked dead last in yardage, 31st in scoring and 31st at Football Outsiders in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average). 

    It marked the fourth consecutive season (dating back to his first year with the Dolphins) in which Gase's offense ranked in the bottom 10. And it was his third straight losing season overall. 

    With the AFC East wide-open, there's no way Jets brass will tolerate another poor showing from Gase in 2020.


    Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions

    The Lions were coming off back-to-back winning campaigns when they replaced Jim Caldwell with Matt Patricia in 2018. Since then, they've won just nine games in two seasons.

    Patricia is a defensive specialist, of course, but his defenses have ranked outside the top 15 in scoring both years. And that unit ranked in the bottom seven in points allowed, yards surrendered and DVOA in 2019. 

    Detroit has spent big money over the last 13 months on veterans Trey Flowers, Justin Coleman, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Jamie Collins Sr., and now the stars should be aligned with franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford returning from injury.

    They'll need to dramatically improve on their 3-12-1 record from 2019, or they'll be looking for a new head coach next winter. 


    Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons

    It looked like Quinn was toast when the Falcons entered their bye week with a 1-7 record last year. But then the team suddenly rallied and went 6-2 in the second half of the season, which likely turned 2020 into a make-or-break year for the current regime. 

    Considering the talent on that roster, it's ridiculous that Quinn has posted a mere 43-37 record in five seasons. But he was living off that 2016 Super Bowl season until saving himself with that hot streak to wrap up the 2019 campaign. 

    What's most discouraging is that Quinn is a defensive specialist, but his defenses have ranked in the bottom 10 in scoring during three of his five seasons in Atlanta. That simply can't happen again. If it does, he'll be unemployed in January. 


    Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Marrone even acknowledged his job was in jeopardy at the conclusion of a second consecutive losing season with a talented Jacksonville team. He survived, and the expectations might be reduced considering how much talent has disappeared from that roster of late. But Jags owner Shad Khan won't likely tolerate a third straight poor campaign. 

    With Tom Coughlin gone, Marrone is the next scapegoat up. If the Jaguars don't exceed expectations in 2020, they'll almost certainly clean house and give a shot to a coach who doesn't have a losing record over the course of more than five seasons on the job.