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Top 10 hottest coaching seats for the season

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer
It's getting hot out here ... (US Presswire)

Have you been outside lately? Because it's freaking HOT, y'all. I suppose that's what happens in summer. Still, while the weather is nice when hanging by a pool or a lake, it can become uncomfortably warm at times. Which leads us to the point of this post: the 10 hottest seats in the NFL.

These are 10 coaches who I think have the most pressure on them to win this season. As you might assume, there's a combination of factors involving the owner, the fan base, the team's winning history, the team's offseason, the coach's tenure, etc., that factor into this. First-year coaches -- and there a whopping six or seven, depending on what you think of the Saints situation -- aren't included.

You'll probably disagree with most of the picks, and that's cool. But just make sure you call me and idiot in the comments (you can also do so on Twitter). And while you're there, leave your list for the hottest seat as well.

10. Chan Gailey, Bills
Because there's a general lack of interest in the Buffalo gig (see: the search that led to Gailey's hiring), it's possible that Gailey could stick around for a while as long as the Bills made decent strides. But that all changed when Buffalo decided to make a run at the title of offseason champs by signing Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, extending Fred Jackson and then drafting Stephen Gilmore and Cordy Glenn. There's a legit belief that Buffalo can contend in the AFC East this season and maybe even could (or is it should?) sneak into the playoffs as a wild card. All of that is moot if Ryan Fitzpatrick, who got straight paid last year, can't be the quarterback he was to start 2011. And if he's not, the weight of the expectations could very well fall on Gailey -- a bottom-of-the-barrel finish in the division won't be good enough in 2012.

9. Marvin Lewis, Bengals
What Marvin Lewis did in 2011 can't be understated: He took a gutted Bengals team, led by rookies on offense, to the playoffs in one of the two or three hardest divisions in football. But he also had a cake schedule to begin the season. Of course, Lewis has an easy schedule to start this year too -- the Bengals could very well get to the bye at 5-2, or better. Things get nasty for them after that, though, and if they somehow struggle to begin 2012, Lewis will find himself some place very uncomfortable (no, not the back of a Volkswagen), since this is the final year of his contract and there haven't been any talks about a new deal yet.

8. Mike Shanahan, Redskins
Shanny would've been much, much higher on this list were it not for his ability to land Robert Griffin III in the draft. Moving up with the Rams and landing RG3 -- who sure seems like a perfect fit for Shanahan's system -- should buy him two years. That's the benefit of a big-time investment in a high-quality young quarterback. But despite that, the expectations for RG3 are pretty high right now. If Griffin struggles badly in his rookie season (a possibility given Washington's stout division and their porous offensive line), things could still get awkward for Shanahan.

7. Lovie Smith, Bears
2011 was so odd for Smith: He could've avoided a spot here if Jay Cutler hadn't been injured or even if Chicago had a capable backup. Of course, if they had a capable backup, Phil Emery wouldn't be the new GM in town. And a new GM in town can always mean trouble for a head coach. It was a little surprising to see Chicago retain Lovie, and it's going to be tough for him in 2012 with the NFC North theoretically only becoming stronger. The Bears have plenty of expectations as well, and went out and landed Brandon Marshall this offseason to reunite with Cutler, as well as picking up Jason Campbell to serve as the aforementioned capable backup. Serious defensive regression, injury or aging could spell doom for Smith, especially if the Bears don't challenge for the division title.

6. Andy Reid, Eagles
Some probably believe that Reid's seat is the hottest in the biz. But there are rumors that Reid's safe barring a total collapse this season and there's a reason for that. Namely the fact that Reid's won 60.9 percent of his games over the course of his career. No, he doesn't have a Super Bowl but it's not "Super Bowl or Bust" for this year's rendition of the Dream Team. It's probably not even "playoffs or bust" give the front-office reshuffle that went down over the past month or so. Obviously Reid will help Philadelphia swallow a collective chill pill with a return to the postseason, but as long as they avoid the disastrous start that plagued them in 2011, he should be fine.

5. Leslie Frazier, Vikings
Frazier took over a Vikings team on the decline talent-wise, but 2011's three-win effort was brutal, and it featured a number of disastrous incidents. It started when Frazier rolled with Donovan McNabb to start the year and it ended with him allowing a beat-up Adrian Peterson to take the field during a lost season. Because of that it's hard to give him a free pass even if Peterson's not ready to go by the beginning of the year.

4. Jason Garrett, Cowboys
You could make an argument for Garrett at the top of this list, and I wouldn't blame you. As previously noted by owner/GM Jerry Jones, "the window is closing." That isn't code for anything other than "my patience is wearing thin." Lasting five years under Jones, even if you win a Super Bowl, is an impressive accomplishment. (Seriously, Jimmy Johnson lasted longer than any coach under Jones and he won two of them.) Considering the Cowboys spent the offseason upgrading their biggest weakness -- the secondary, with the additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne -- it's going to be tough for Garrett to come up with an excuse for keeping him around if Dallas misses the postseason again.

Or, if you want the short version, "TIMEOUT, JASON."

3. Pat Shurmur, Browns
Shurmur's only in his second season with the Browns, so this is somewhat dependent on whether or not Mike Holmgren can remain safe with another poor season in Cleveland. But when you take over a five-win team and go backwards in your first season, well, that's never a good thing. The offense just got an overhaul with the addition of Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden, but whereas gambling on a rookie quarterback can often offer a little leeway, Cleveland's dealing with a 28-year-old signal caller. The same sort of wiggle room doesn't apply. If Cleveland regresses further despite those additions, Shurmur could be in trouble.

2. Rex Ryan, Jets
Surprised? You shouldn't be. Despite making two consecutive AFC Championship Games to start his career with the Jets, Ryan's team stumbled badly in 2011. Or, at least, appeared to stumble badly -- they weren't that far away from making the playoffs. But the combination of brash guarantees and a disastrous locker room made last year look much worse than it might normally have appeared. Ryan brought in Tony Sparano to fix the offense, traded for Tim Tebow and took some craps-table-esque early draft picks in Quinton Coples and Stephen Hill. If the Jets flounder in 2012, Ryan's rear might be asked to cash a big check.

1. Norv Turner, Chargers
It looked pretty inevitable that Turner would be fired after 2011 ended poorly for the Chargers again, but Dean Spanos listened to Philip Rivers and brought back the embattled coach for another run with the Bolts. The rep for Turner is that his teams start out slow and often don't live up to their talent. The former item is oddly the case for whatever reason. The latter isn't as true might think: the Chargers base from their stronger teams has eroded to a large degree. But that won't matter in 2012, as it's playoffs or bust for Turner in San Diego. But, no, for real this time.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Will Brinson on Twitter here: @willbrinson.

 
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