Just when you thought things couldn't get any crazier in the NFL this season, we were all treated to a wild and crazy set of outcomes for Week 9 that saw several contenders get upset by what many viewed as lesser opponents. The coaches of those underdogs desperately needed wins, with some being on the 2021 hot seat, and others simply trying to avoid losing ground in their division and the playoff picture overall. The former are who we're here to discuss though, with some shuffling having occurred on the CBS Sports hot seat rankings heading into Week 10.
Not everyone was able to move in the right direction, however, because things still look horrid in South Texas and some others are holding on to a string of yarn by way of a recent win or two they'll need to parlay into more victories going forward.
Let's take a look at the latest NFL coaching hot seat rankings, and who lands where with nine weeks in the books.
Keep an eye on: Joe Judge, Vic Fangio
It's tough to argue that many are on a hotter seat than Judge in 2021, 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 isn't exactly off to a magnificent start in his second year as an NFL head coach.
Add in the rash of preseason retirements, a 1-4 start and the antics of rookie first-round pick Kadarius Toney in the Cowboys' throttling of the Giants in Week 5 and, well, you had to wonder if Judge was losing a handle on things in New York. He'd land a bit of course correction in the dismantling of the Carolina Panthers in Week 7, and although he couldn't win against a struggling Kansas City Chiefs squad, he did hand the Raiders a punch to the teeth in Week 9. It's not enough to remove Judge from the hot seat, sitting at 3-6 on the season, but he now has a bye week to try and really cool his seat -- if he can defeat Tom Brady in Tampa Bay.
As for Fangio, well, no coach in the league has moved up, down, off of, back onto and around on this list like the one in Denver. His seat couldn't have been any hotter two weeks ago when the Broncos were losers of four straight. They've since downed the Washington Football Team, which is not enough to move the needle whatsoever, but combined with how they shocked the world in pummeling the Dallas Cowboys in Week 9 -- one of the top NFC contenders -- and at AT&T Stadium, and after trading away future Hall of Fame linebacker Von Miller, and without Bradley Chubb (IR); moving Fangio from the top five on this list to simply one of the two dishonorable mentions is in order.
Fangio has his team at 5-4 on the season and that's impressive, all things considered, but his next several games will tell the true tale of if he should be safe going forward. Set to play both the Chargers and the Chiefs over the next three weeks, if he can pull off additional upsets to keep the wheel turned in the right direction, he'll see his name disappear from this list -- again -- and maybe for good.
5. Matt Nagy, Bears
Nagy moves down one notch on this list not because the Bears have suddenly started winning games, but because they've now become competitive -- evidenced by how they nearly (and should've, but that's another story) upset the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. The fact remains that Nagy is not a bad coach, at least not in general. But it often takes more than love to keep a marriage going, and things are getting a bit thin in the Windy City air, largely due to Nagy's stubbornness in the face of obvious answers at the quarterback position. To be fair, Nagy did not draft Mitchell Trubisky, nor did he make a trade for Nick Foles, so don't put those in his lap.
He is responsible, however, for sticking with Trubisky as the starter for longer than he should've, and he would've done the same thing in 2021 with Andy Dalton -- if not for Dalton suffering an injury early in the season. The injury effectively forced Nagy into starting rookie first-round pick Justin Fields, but Nagy was still drooling to get Dalton back into the starting position before eventually caving to the obvious and naming Fields the starter for the remainder of the season. There is still much to sharpen with Fields though, and things got off to a terrible start in that regard before now showing improvement. Continuing that upward trend with Fields will go a long way in helping the Bears to decide if Nagy is the coach they want tied to the future of Fields, or if he isn't.
Winning games will help as well, and the sooner they can end their four-game slide, the better, with an extra week to prepare for Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens and what's a brutal pack of games over the next several weeks.
4. Brian Flores, Dolphins
It was all good just a year ago for Flores, who enjoyed a 10-6 finish in his second year as head coach. That was then and this is now, though, and currently the Dolphins are back to their losing ways in 2021, and questions surrounding Flores' future are now starting to emerge. They've won just one game thus far this season -- the regular season opener against the New England Patriots -- and even that wasn't entirely impressive, seeing as they scored only 17 points to escape with a one-point victory. They've since lost six straight to fall to 1-6 on the year, and although some would blame a bit of it on the loss of Tua Tagovailoa to a rib injury, the counterpoint is that Tagovailoa is also the reason for several of the losses (having also missed Week 9 with a fractured finger).
But here's another troubling issue in Miami: they can't stop anyone from scoring. Flores, a defensive-minded coach with a long resume of coaching up defensive players, is leading a club that allowed an average of 29.6 points per game heading into their Week 9 battle with the Houston Texans, bad enough for second-worst in the league. And considering they were only putting up 18.1 points per game, third-worst in the NFL as recently as a week ago, it's pretty clear why they were struggling to get back into the win column. They finally did, sure, but against a listless Texans team that the Dolphins still couldn't hang more than 17 points on.
Upset the Ravens in Week 10 and maybe this can start slowly turning around for Flores, but that's a gargantuan ask for a team that would likely need to run the table only to find themselves narrowly miss the playoffs.
Next five: Ravens, Jets, Panthers, Giants, Jets
3. Matt Rhule, Panthers
As for Rhule, well, yikes.
Having already entered the season with a lot of expectations after the first failed experiment at QB in the post-Cam Newton era -- namely Teddy Bridgewater -- Rhule was tasked with rebuilding Sam Darnold, and after a 3-0 start to the season, the wheels are coming off of the former first-round pick. Darnold once again looks like the Jets version of himself, and not a quarterback who can even remotely carry a team without the aid of all-world running back Christian McCaffrey. Darnold was benched in the blowout loss to, guess who, Judge and the Giants in Week 7, and the Panthers went on a four-game losing streak that was broken with a Week 8 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, but the Panthers might have started a new one and in embarrassing fashion.
Their loss on Sunday to the New England Patriots was abysmal, and that's actually doing a disservice to the word "abysmal." Darnold is proving to be an unmitigated disaster at quarterback, and the defense is being asked to do more, only they're struggling to, even with the debut/addition of Stephon Gilmore. Having finished 5-11 in his first year with the Panthers, if Rhule doubles down with a second losing season, there will be some difficult conversations to come in Charlotte, or maybe they'd be easy, depending upon just how horribly 2021 ends. The Teddy Bridgewater experiment failed and the Darnold experiment is failing wildly as well, so are the Panthers going to give Rhule a third try at a third QB in as many seasons?
Panthers next five: Cardinals, Washington, Dolphins, Falcons, Bills
2. Urban Meyer, Jaguars
You can't overstate how big of a win it was for Meyer to defeat the Buffalo Bills, holding them to only nine points in the process. It was much needed for a club that couldn't get out of its own way until it defeated the Miami Dolphins in London in Week 6, or rather a team that couldn't stop its head coach from getting in the way.
When the Jaguars found a way to pull out a narrow win over the Dolphins in London going into their bye week, it became the first good thing Meyer has done for the organization, although it felt more attributable to Trevor Lawrence and the defense than the questionable play-calling of Meyer. Stopping a 20-game losing streak is never a bad thing, admittedly, but if you think it's enough to get Meyer out of this No. 1 seat, you're crazy. Given all he's already put the Jaguars through, he's going to need a lot more wins before his seat cools. If there's a blueprint for how to do everything right when taking the reins as a first-time NFL head coach, you'd have to presume there's an antithesis that lists steps for virtually guaranteeing you'll be fired before you get a shot at Year 2. If the latter didn't exist before, it does now, and Meyer is the author.
Anything Meyer could do wrong after joining the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason, he's either done it, is doing it or will probably get it done in the next several weeks. The Ohio party controversy was simply another feather in his controversy-dipped cap, but the dysfunction began with the hiring, defense of, and immediate firing of Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle -- a man with a history of racist accusations against him. Things continued to spiral out of control, but having now won two of their last three and one of those wins being a massive upset over an AFC frontrunner, Meyer slides down from the No. 1 spot on this list, for now.
1. David Culley, Texans
When you're finding ways to be worse than the Jaguars, you've got to start cleaning house ... again.
Culley was able to find the fire escape on this list after an impressive win to open the regular season, but the Texans are once again back to their abysmal ways. It's not entirely his fault, seeing as he had been without quarterback Tyrod Taylor since the Week 2 loss against the Cleveland Browns due to injury. But with Taylor spending most of this season on injured reserve, it was Culley's job to coach up the next man to win games, and it's simply not happened. The Texans have now lost eight in a row, and they show zero signs of life. They've been thumped by nearly every team they've come up against, and while they hoped the return of Taylor from injured reserve would help, they were wrong -- the Dolphins sending them home with another messy loss.
Culley said weeks ago that his team "needs a lift," and that's disheartening when it comes from the person tasked with figuring out how to provide said lift. Taylor returned to practice in Week 8, but didn't hit the ground running in his return. Considering he might be Culley's only hope of not being a one-and-done head coach, there's an immense amount of pressure on the veteran quarterback that is only made worse by the Deshaun Watson drama swirling in the background. If you can point at two things (there's always at least one) that appears to be positive in Houston, you've got a rare talent and should probably go mine for gold in the Great Smoky Mountains or something.
This is another lost season in Houston, and the only question now is how bad will it truly get under a first-time head coach who is in way over his head here. Oh, and up next are the Tennessee Titans in Week 11.
Good luck with that.
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