NFL Coach Power Rankings Week 1: Cable, Mangini On The Hot Seat Early
As week one of NFL action looms ahead, all 32 teams are ready for the start of the season.
As with every year, there will be plenty of winners and losers. Plenty of coaches are starting the year with something to prove. A few even may have their jobs on the line, with early performances dictating if they stay or go during the season.
Here's a look at your NFL head coach rankings as we wind down the last days before the season begins.
The Unquestionably Safe List
The following coaches are firmly entrenched in their positions and aren't likely to lose them regardless of performance by their team this season.
Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
Affectionately (or maybe not so affectionately) known as "Hoodie," it would take something akin to an act of God to remove Belichick from the Patriots' sideline. He owns three Super Bowl rings with New England and is considered one of the best in the business. He's certainly safe.
Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
Tomlin certainly has his work cut out for him this season. He will be expected to keep the team competitive with a third-string quarterback (Dennis Dixon) with one game of starting experience under center for the first four weeks. Tomlin is safe either way, but a Super Bowl run after the offseason Pittsburgh experienced would be Coach of the Year material.
Jeff Fisher, Tennessee Titans
Being the longest tenured coach in the NFL should have its perks. Fisher is also respected as one of the best coaches in the game. The Titans aren't given to snap decisions and Fisher has had poor seasons before. With a team that is trying to get younger and still be a force in the tough AFC South, Fisher has lots of work ahead. Either way, however, he won't get axed.
Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts
Caldwell waited patiently for his turn to coach Peyton Manning and the Colts as was rewarded last season after Tony Dungy retired. He returned the favor by keeping the Colts at the top of the AFC and taking them to the Super Bowl. Time will tell if he can build his own success, but he's not going anywhere.
Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals
Whisenhunt has a Super Bowl appearance and consecutive playoff appearances with a team that chronically stunk prior to his arrival. He's fresh off getting a new contract extension and is still shaping this team. He jettisoned Matt Leinart and will go with veteran Derek Anderson under center, but he's safe this year as he tries to replace Kurt Warner.
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
Payton just won the Super Bowl. If that doesn't make him safe, nothing does. He also has built a winner out of a wayward franchise. With Drew Brees back and with an improving defense to go with their explosive offense, it looks like Payton will make another run at a title this season.
The Safe-Unless-Something-Crazy-Happens List
Unless something wild and unexpected happens in 2010, these coaches are also safe from the hot seat.
Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
McCarthy has weathered multiple storms as head coach. He's survived Brett Favre and the fallout from his defection after the 2007 season. He's had to contend first with a new defensive system, and also with an offensive line in transition. Through it all, he's been rock steady. With Aaron Rodgers emerging as a premier passer, McCarthy looks poised to make a title run this year.
John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
Harbaugh was relatively untested when he arrived in Baltimore as Brian Billick's replacement. The team has been competitive in both years under Harbaugh and has made the playoffs twice in one of the toughest divisions in the league. The Ravens continue to undergo a very gradual youth movement. Harbaugh is poised for another playoff run this year.
Brad Childress, Minnesota Vikings
Childress will be safe as long as Brett Favre starts at quarterback. The team was relatively mediocre before Favre's arrival but has been very good since. Childress is a good coach and his calm personality fits well for a team that seems to constantly have turmoil of some sort. Unless they completely fall apart this year, Childress stays put. He needs to start looking for a future quarterback, however, or he won't stay safe for long.
Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons
Owner Arthur Blank is one of the more patient owners in the NFL. It doesn't hurt that Smith is the first Falcons coach ever to put together consecutive winning seasons. The Falcons underachieved last year to some degree, but Smith is a steady coach who is very likely to remain in charge unless Blank suddenly changes his ways.
Rex Ryan, New York Jets
The Jets overachieved last year, exceeding everyone's expectations by reaching the conference title game. Ryan is heading into this year with high expectations and expects his team to be ever better in 2010. The growth will come from second year man Mark Sanchez, who must become the leader of a potent offense. Ryan isn't going anywhere.
Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins
Sparano has taken a Dolphins team in turmoil and turned it into a competitive team again. Each year has brought more stability to the team and, with Bill Parcells running the show from on high, Sparano is getting better talent to work with. This year, expectations are again high, but a full season from Chad Henne and the addition of Brandon Marshall make the Dolphins very dangerous.
The Safe Unless... List
These coaches are all safe...unless something specific befalls them this season. Here's a look at what they have to avoid.
Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles
Reid has been with the Eagles for a very long time, but he's no longer as infallible as he was previously. He needs new quarterback Kevin Kolb to show he's ready to take the reins of this offense. He's likely safe for another year unless ownership feels it can benefit by moving in a new direction.
Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers
Turner has stabilized a San Diego team that was in transition when Marty Schottenheimer left. He's built a consistent winner, but the Chargers continually flame out in the playoffs. Turner is still safe, but another quick and embarrassing exit from the playoffs could push him out the door.
Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans
Kubiak has made the Texans competitive, but the team and its fans thirst for a trip to the playoffs. After barely missing them last year, many look for them to take the next step this year. If Houston wins and still doesn't go to the playoffs, Kubiak is safe. If they completely fall apart and fall back into last place, Kubiak could be gone.
Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams
Anytime a coach gets a new quarterback, he likely gets a pass for the next year or two. Spagnuolo has improved an awful team. Now its time to start putting the Rams back together. Changing coaches now would be foolish, but the Rams new ownership could always change their minds. He's safe unless they go winless or close to it. That's highly unlikely.
Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions
Schwartz took a winless team and won a couple games with it. The biggest difference was that last year's team looked more accountable and hungry. Now Schwartz has to build on the steps taken forward last year. This team is still likely a year or two away from contending, but unless they fall to pieces again, Schwartz is going nowhere.
Josh McDaniels, Denver Broncos
McDaniels may not be anyone's favorite guy, but he did, for half a year, make people remember the glory days in Denver. Then the wheels came off and the team fell apart. McDaniels continues to build his kind of team in Denver and is likely to get a few more seasons to put everything into action. If they go through another nose dive, however, ownership could change their minds about the combustible head coach.
The Safe-Because-They-Are-New List
Nothing is automatic in the NFL anymore, but most of the time there are no one-and-done coaches. Three new men test out that theory this year. All three, believe it or not, have been through this before too.
Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins
When Shanahan was fired after over a decade with the Broncos, the question was not whether he would coach again, but where. After a year off, Shanahan is back with the Redskins. He takes over a team that struggled under Jim Zorn. Shanahan's no nonsense style will likely make the 'Skins more accountable, but making them better is key. He'll get a couple years to sort it out, but he's going to have the shortest hook of the three new guys.
Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
Speaking of one and done coaches, Carroll is taking over for one in Seattle. Jim Mora, Jr. spent one year in the headset before leaving. Carroll previously coached the Jets and Patriots with mixed results. He built a hugely successful program at USC after that, and now he will try to do the same in Seattle. The team is in transition and has questions all over the place, but Carroll should get a couple years to figure things out.
Chan Gailey, Buffalo Bills
Gailey has been here before, coaching the Dallas Cowboys briefly after the departure of Barry Switzer. He's been a winner at every level. He certainly wasn't Buffalo's first choice and he's in charge of possibly the least talented team in the NFL. Gailey has his work cut out for him. The Bills haven't made the playoffs in a decade. That won't likely change this year.
The Warm Seat
These coaches are safe for now, but that could change with a few losses. Here's a look at who could be on the hot seat or out the door before the season is over.
Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
Lewis should be safe. The Bengals were perennially awful before he arrived. Since then they've been mediocre at worst and in the playoffs twice. They've failed to win a playoff game under Lewis, which is part of the reason he's not entirely safe. He also has overseen a team with volatile personalities and behavioral problems. That hasn't always helped him either.
Tom Coughlin, New York Giants
Coughlin is only a couple of years removed from hoisting a Super Bowl trophy, but he oversaw a team that fell apart completely last year. Coughlin is more respected than loved by his players, whom he works very hard every minute of the season. Another fast playoff exit could put Coughlin out to pasture. A return to contention would vault him back to virtually untouchable.
Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs
Haley struggled with his temper in his first year as a head coach, but the Chiefs look like they will have the talent to start being competitive again soon. If they continue to grow under Haley's combustible guidance, he'll be fine. If they fail, he's going to be on the hook. He likely gets another year of safety, but that could change if they don't show any improvement.
Mike Singletary, San Francisco 49ers
Singletary should be safe. Like Lewis, he's stabilized a poor team. But he hitched his wagon to Alex Smith at quarterback. If Smith falters, Singletary could be out the door. The 49ers are expected to make a playoff push this year. Failure to do so could be fatal. The chances of him being axed for any other reason are slim.
Wade Phillips, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys' coach has been embattled since he took the job. Working for Jerry Jones is like that. Phillips stabilized his position by making the playoffs and winning a playoff game. With a team that, on paper, looks even better, Phillips will be expected to make another title push this season. If he doesn't, Jones will likely move on. Phillips may also retire, but that possibility won't keep him safe if Jones feels he's underachieved.
Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars
Del Rio has been maligned for not getting much out of what seems to be a talented roster. I think he's got less talent than most think, but he still hasn't gotten them to the promised land after the better part of a decade. If they have a disastrous season, I think he might be gone.
The Hot Seat
Finally, we come to the coaches who will open this NFL season firmly seated on the hot seat. A few losses could boot them out the door. Here's a look at our inaugural hot seat rankings.
5. John Fox, Carolina Panthers
Jake Delhomme's departure means that the most important position will have a question mark over it for the first time in several seasons. Matt Moore will handle the duties, at least at first. Jimmy Clausen, the prized rookie from Notre Dame, will also be in the mix as the season continues. Fox could be out of work regardless of the season's outcome. The team should be competitive with Moore under center and a tough running game and defense. If they continue to be awful, Fox will be gone.
4. Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears
Smith almost got canned last year, but he gets one more chance to turn things around. If his team again fails to make the playoffs, Smith likely goes. With former head coach Mike Martz on the staff, a replacement is ready and waiting. Smith is in danger unless Jay Cutler eliminates the mistakes and pushes the team back into contention.
3. Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Morris also was nearly taken out after last season's debacle. In his first year, he faced an unbelievable amount of controversy. Another season of turmoil will put him out of work. Morris made a large leap from assistant to head coach, a leap that some think is too far. The growth of quarterback Josh Freeman will be key to his job security this year.
2. Tom Cable, Oakland Raiders
Anyone who works for Al Davis is on the endangered species list from the moment they take the headset. Cable has gotten a rare second full year to turn things around. The Raiders were beset by injuries and the poor play of JaMarcus Russell last season. With the steadier hand of Jason Campbell, Davis expects the Raiders to be healthy and in contention. Failure to do what Davis expects will, as always, get Cable fired.
1. Eric Mangini, Cleveland Browns
Mangini may be the most disliked coach in the NFL where his players are concerned. His sometimes arbitrary and always totalitarian rules rub many players the wrong way. Mangini does not care. He believes a disciplined team will win more games. It was a shock to see him get a second year after the team's entire management structure and personnel changed after the season. New president Mike Holmgren will not hesitate to make changes, so Mangini would do well to get off to a good start in a tough division.
Next week, we'll look back at the performances of this week's hot seat inhabitants. We'll also see if there are any changes at the top of our hot seat rankings.
Finally, we'll look at some assistant coaches who could step in for anyone fired this season as well as what will happen to the men who are put out of work.