The 2020 NFL season is officially past its midway point and it's been quite a ride, given complications stemming from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic along with a rash of severe injuries to top players around the league. Not every club was brimming with hope and expectation as the season got underway in September, and while some have seen their optimism torpedoed by a variety of factors, teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets are, to quote former NFL head coach Dennis Green, exactly who we thought they were.
We're not letting them off the hook, though. With Dan Quinn and Bill O'Brien having already been fired by the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans, respectively, weeks ago, the question of who follows them to the unemployment line remains at center stage. As the calendar readies to soon turn over to December, there are at least three head coaches still sitting on the hot seat, and two of them are about to spontaneously combust. Given how things are going with the Jets and Jaguars, don't be surprised if fire alarms start blaring soon.
Here's a look at all the coaches on the hot seat entering Week 11, and while you shouldn't expect every one of them to get served their walking papers, there's simply no reason for the first two coaches on this list to keep their job.
1. Adam Gase, Jets
What on Earth are the Jets waiting for here?
In 2019, all it took was a defeat of the also unimpressive 2019 New York Giants to secure Gase's job, with team owner Christopher Johnson stating unequivocally there would be no changes at the head coach position last season, despite early struggles. Johnson was clear that Gase would return for 2020, and he has. That's not the weird part though, considering the team finished with a 6-2 record in their last eight games with Sam Darnold returned from a bout with mononucleosis (OK, that last part was indeed weird, but stick with me on this). Things are made truly strange by general manager , and going on to absolve him for much of the blame for what's happening on the field.
But for a coach who has obvious struggles with top players, Douglas needs to reconsider his decision.
For example, what was up with the relationship between Gase and All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell? And is Darnold suddenly not good, or is that attributable to Gase? Bell has now been released, not long after Jamal Adams was traded -- both after having very public issues with Gase -- pushing the Jets deeper into the talentless abyss. Currently sitting at 0-9 on the year following a late-game collapse against the rival New England Patriots, the Jets are now 7-18 in Gase's first 25 games as head coach and play caller, and an offense that was ranked 31st in the league in 2019 is now ranked 32nd, scoring a measly 13.4 points per game while their defense allows 29.8 points per contest (30th).
Not that there was any armor to begin with, but if there was, it's been cracking for a while now and even more so with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams taking veiled shots recently at the offense's inability to stay on the field and score points -- alluding to that as one of the reasons his defense is seemingly gassed. Gase finally gave up play-calling duties in Week 7 after passionately saying he never would, and that's a clear indication he might secretly be on his last legs in New York.
Otherwise, circle back to my first question.
2. Doug Marrone, Jaguars
Seriously, that's the first word that comes to mind when thinking about the Jaguars, and their fanbase deserves better than what it's been getting in recent history. The organization has been in an outright tailspin since appearing in the AFC Championship Game following a promising (and exciting) 10-6 season in 2017. There was a ton of promise for the future at that time, but it took an instant for things to implode, and in spectacular fashion. The decision to extend quarterback Blake Bortles was not met well by some players, and the club has since been trapped in toxicity that's led to the shedding of several All-Pro and Pro Bowl talents, leaving the Jaguars a shell of themselves as they enter 2020.
There was Jags optimism after they upset the Colts in Week 1 and hung with the Titans in a Week 2 loss, but it was an ugly home defeat at the hands of the Dolphins in Week 3 that pointed to the direction this season would go. All told, the Jaguars are now 1-8 after losing eight consecutive games, and now they'll face the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers to start their final seven-game stretch. It's quite the rapid fall from grace for Marrone, who is 12-29 since appearing in the aforementioned AFC Championship Game and is in large part to blame for the Jaguars being the laughingstock of the entire NFL. Having already fired Tom Coughlin earlier this year and also having shipped out a tremendous amount of disgruntled talent, if owner Shad Khan wants to turn the ship around, tossing Marrone overboard as well will be the right thing to do.
Otherwise, the Jaguars will continue to swirl down the porcelain bowl.
3. Matt Patricia, Lions
You're playing with fire, Coach.
The Lions have been a rollercoaster thus far, starting the 2020 season by dropping three of their first four games before landing a two-game win streak that cooled Patricia's seat just a smidge. He then led them to their second two-game losing streak of the season before getting back on track with a win over the Washington Football Team, but the latter was a narrow escape against a lowly NFC East club. So while Patricia keeps finding ways to buy himself time in Detroit, and while his seat isn't nearly as scalding hot as those of Gase and Marrone, he's still far from out of the woods when it comes to coaches who better improve or else.
When the Detroit Lions hired Patricia as their head coach in 2018, they did so under the guise of him having been born of the Bill Belichick tree of coaching. Well, two years in, there's nothing Belichickian about his reign quite yet. As a matter of fact, it's been the opposite, as the Lions moved in the wrong direction the past couple of years. They went an uninspiring 6-10 in Year 1 under Patricia and then finished 2019 with a 3-12-1 mark. Granted, they were without Matthew Stafford for eight games, but they were 3-4-1 with their franchise QB on the field. And that record was despite Stafford having thrown for 2,499 yards along with 19 touchdowns to only five interceptions in those eight starts.
In other words, the QB is not and has not been the issue, which leaves the bullseye on the front office and coaching, but the former isn't going to fire themselves. Patricia is going to have to really show something in the second half of 2020 for Lions fans to fully buy in, because many of them are still undecided. The good news is Stafford is back to full health -- his recent thumb ailment notwithstanding -- and he has plenty of offensive weapons, including future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson and a rapidly improving rookie in D'Andre Swift.
That puts a bullseye on the 29th-ranked defense, a unit that needs to start shutting down opponents. Allowing an average of more than points per game in 2019, and a hefty 29.7 points per game thus far in 2020, it's a black eye for a coach who hangs his hat on defense -- and one who was once a defensive coordinator.
Fix that and the Lions could make noise in the NFC North, or don't and watch what happens next.
4. Vic Fangio, Broncos
This has been an up-and-down ride, with more downs than ups so far.
The Broncos enjoyed an upswing on the back end of 2019 after a severely poor start to the season, and it coincided with the return of then-rookie second-round pick Drew Lock from injured reserve -- logging a 4-1 record in his first five games as the team's starting quarterback. That was then and this is now, however, and Lock has regressed under Fangio in Year 2, leading to the latter admitting publicly heading into Week 11 that , having seen him throw four interceptions in a blowout loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.
And with that loss, the Broncos fell to 3-6 on the season and 10-15 since Fangio took the reins in 2019, which is hardly what general manager John Elway had in mind when making yet another change at head coach -- their second in three seasons following the decision of Gary Kubiak to step down due to health issues. Fangio hasn't much improved the team (if at all) over the era of Vance Joseph, who was fired after two seasons and an 11-21 overall record.
Hint hint, wink wink.
The presence and potential of Lock makes for an intriguing consideration going forward regarding Fangio, who has seen his play-calling brought into question before, and he's also made several ill-fated decisions late in games that have led to the Broncos surrendering the lead in the final 30 seconds of six games under Fangio. They went on to lose four of those six contests, have dropped three of their last four games in 2020 and have the 28th- and 27th-ranked offense and defense, respectively.
Elway isn't known to be a patient man, and Fangio is truly testing that virtue in Denver.
5. Matt Nagy, Bears
I don't see this change happening in 2020, but it bears mentioning when looking at all of the variables involved.
Nagy is a talented head coach and that much isn't easily disputed, but he's got some explaining to do when you consider the Bears have fallen from a 5-1 start to the season to 5-5 after losing four straight games. They'll now enter a bye week but on the other side of it awaits the division-leading Green Bay Packers, and there are now questions on if in Week 12 or if it'll be Mitchell Trubisky. Either way, they're potentially facing a five-game losing streak that raises some eyebrows on whether Nagy is secure in his seat in Chicago, and it's fair to at least pose the question at this point.
For while the Bears continue to have so much going for them defensively, where they currently rank seventh in the league in points allowed per game (20.9), the offense is basically in shambles, scoring just 19.1 points per game (31st). The quarterback plan might have been sorted out sooner than the eventual decision to bench Trubisky if Nagy hadn't opted to hold onto him so tightly -- for whatever reason -- but it helped fuel a disappointing 8-8 finish in 2019 after Nagy's Bears basically mauled the league en route to a 12-4 record in his first year as the team's head coach. And now, they're facing another potential step back in 2020, putting Nagy's arc on a downward trend.
A strong finish to the season will all but delete Nagy from this list, and here's to hoping the Bears figure out a better solution at QB1 to help him prosper in 2021, but for now the seat beneath Nagy isn't exactly ice cold. It's not nearly as scorching as others on this list named above him, but he has to get back to winning, and pronto.
Dishonorable Mention: Anthony Lynn, Chargers
There's reason for Lynn to not be on this least, but just enough to be included, and so let's name him with an asterisk.
The reality is the Chargers have been ravaged by injury and it's not easy to overcome the loss of Derwin James, Mike Pouncey, Austin Ekeler and the like, and that's a key driver behind the inability to get the job done this year in Los Angeles. But as has often been said, good head coaches figure out ways to win games despite it all, and it's not simply that the Chargers are losing, it's how they're losing. The bottom line is Lynn hasn't been able to close out games, and as the team sits at 2-7 on the year, they've now lost two games in overtime and are averaging a point differential of only minus-4.5 when they do lose. So yes, in maddening fashion, Lynn makes the Chargers hyper competitive, but not for entire games.
His saving grace might be the development of rookie sixth-overall pick Justin Herbert, whose progress has been as rapid as it's been mostly impressive. If the Chargers front office believes Lynn is the right man to help Herbert ascend, and tethers that belief to the fact 2021 will see the return of key players from injured reserve, then Lynn has a chance at returning for what would be the final year of his current coaching contract. No team should be quick to discard a head coach that's established an instant chemistry with a top-10 quarterback, but when that head coach has a record of 28-30 with your organization, the idea also can't be quickly dismissed.
If Lynn doesn't figure out how to finish games, he himself might be finished.