It's that time of the year again, when NFL football is in full swing and all is right with the sports world -- COVID-19 complications aside. But it also means it's time for several head coaches to prove their worth to their respective teams, because not all 32 entered this coming season with a ton of job security. Some were closer to the executioner's ax than others and, as such, just needed a minor level up to keep their job. Others, however, are sitting on the hottest of hot seats and can't afford to have anything other than a dynamic season.
And with such a wild start to the 2021 season, with underdogs proving anyone can beat anyone else on any given Sunday, there has been a decline in the number of those those whom you could justifiably view as still being on the hot seat going into Week 4 -- e.g., Mike McCarthy, Vic Fangio and David Culley -- but the pressure remains on them to continue to find ways to win games. Will they return to the list eventually? Or will they be replaced by others?
Only time will tell, but as it stands, there are three coaches still in very real peril -- including a first-timer.
3. Urban Meyer, Jaguars
For a coach that is unaccustomed to losing a single game in a season, Meyer now finds himself having lost three in a row to start his first-ever year as an NFL head coach. that he's rapidly losing a grip on his coaching staff due to his outbursts behind the scenes, and it's not simply a lack of execution by players that are costing the Jaguars games in the Trevor Lawrence era, but also questionable coaching decisions. One example of the latter (well, both, to be honest) is in how the Jaguars attempted a flea flicker in the shadow of their own end zone against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3, only to see Lawrence heave an ill-advised ball that led to a pick-six. In a game that saw Jamal Agnew tie an NFL record for longest touchdown with a 109-yard score following a 68-yard field goal attempt by the Cardinals, the Jaguars found a way to be the worst team on the field -- again.
Currently, under Meyer, the team ranks 27th in points scored per game (17.7) and 28th in points allowed (30.3). The Jaguars lack discipline on the field, and are simply out of sorts far too often. The kicker here is nobody expected an instant turnaround in Jacksonville except for everyone in Jacksonville, and that includes Meyer and owner Shad Khan. And while there's presumably no way Khan fires such a high-profile hire in season one -- a move that would be seen as more of a black eye to him than to Meyer -- you have to wonder just how much losing Meyer can take before he decides collegiate ball is where he belongs.
Keep in mind, he's already displeased with the inner workings of the NFL (such as the presence of a player union), his recent gaffe regarding COVID-19 vaccination and its impact on who the Jaguars sign, and the apparently forgotten decision to hire, defend and then immediately fire former Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle. Meyer needs to break into the win column pronto, but none of his next several opponents are going to make it easy.
2. Matt Nagy, Bears
You won't find many who'll keep a straight face when calling Nagy a bad coach, at least not in general. It's because that's a joke of a statement, all things considered. But it often takes more than love to keep a marriage going, and things are getting a bit thin in the Windy City air. To be fair, Nagy did not draft Mitchell Trubisky, nor did he make a trade for Nick Foles. You could argue he's simply playing the cards dealt to him, but that only goes so far in any potential argument to keep his job. Fact is, Bears fans are and have been restless for some time now, still reeling from the one-point playoff loss to the Eagles and a wildly disappointing effort in last season's wild card loss to the New Orleans Saints. Now it's a 1-2 start to the season that has seen the Bears throttled on two occasions while barely escaping the Cincinnati Bengals.
The early decision to go with Andy Dalton as the starter was questionable, but now you wonder if it matters after seeing rookie first-round pick Justin Fields get sacked nine times in his debut as an NFL starter in Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns in the wake of Dalton's knee injury. The Bears offense is a mess right now, and Nagy has also already proclaimed Dalton the starter when he returns -- ignoring at least the possibility Fields could be great if protected for more than one play per quarter. Again, Nagy isn't a bad coach, but his run of bad offensive decisions has his seat getting very hot right now.
And with the scrappy Detroit Lions waiting in Week 4, followed by a gauntlet of opponents, it feels like it's now or never for Nagy.
1. Joe Judge, Giants
It's tough to argue that anyone is on a hotter seat than Judge right now, depending on how you view the mood of owner John Mara, although he left little room for interpretation going into the season. Mara noted this offseason that "everyone is on the hot seat" in New York -- from Judge to general manager Dave Gettleman to himself. Including himself was cute and all from a PR standpoint, but we all know owners don't fire themselves; they fire everyone else. And considering the wild and whacky training camp the Giants had, one that included a rash of swift and unexpected retirements and at least one practice brawl, Judge wasn't exactly off to a magnificent start in his second year as an NFL head coach. Add on an 0-3 start and lack of progression from Daniel Jones despite the return of Saquon Barkley and, well, Judge has a lot to answer for lately.
If Jones doesn't start knocking socks off (and if the Giants can't protect him long enough to allow it), will it be the fault of Gettleman or Judge? Or maybe it'll be on offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, but the fact you'll have to figure out who's more to blame lets you know just how unsettled things are on the team's coaching staff -- in both philosophy and execution. If the Giants don't right the ship quickly and make noise in the division (and more), Judge better be ready for a tense conversation with an "impatient" Mara.
Problem for Judge is his next slate of games, which is absolutely brutal.
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