The month of November again proved to be brutal for many NFL teams, but very rewarding for others. There were some unusual suspects falling into the category of the latter, though, and that makes this week's iteration of CBS Sports' coach hot seat rankings as intriguing as it's ever been. Previously, coaches like Brian Flores and Vic Fangio were desperately clinging for dear life to their job, but that's no longer the case. And then there's Joe Judge, who jettisoned offensive coordinator Jason Garrett with the hopes of throwing ice water on the seat beneath him, but it's to be determined if he'll achieve that goal.
That's because while the New York Giants did land a needed win, and over the Philadelphia Eagles, it did little to instill confidence in his future with an "impatient" owner in John Mara. As the 2021 regular season nears its conclusion, time is running out on a handful of coaches to prove their value to their respective teams, but at least two are trending wildly in the right direction exiting Week 12.
Let's take a look at the latest NFL coaching hot seat rankings, and who lands where as we turn to December.
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Cooling down: Brian Flores, Dolphins; Vic Fangio, Broncos
Kudos to Flores for what is becoming an impressive turnaround in Miami. It was all good just a year ago for the Dolphins head coach, who enjoyed a 10-6 finish in his second year. That was before the Dolphins went back to their losing ways, and questions surrounding Flores' future justifiably started to emerge in 2021. They won the regular-season opener against the New England Patriots but then went on a seven-game losing streak, a skid that nearly decimated any chances of potentially landing a wild card spot.
With Tua Tagovailoa now healthy and playing mostly well, the offense is beginning to flow and it's being helped in a big way by a defense that couldn't stop a nosebleed earlier this season. The defense in Miami hasn't allowed more than 17 points in any of its last four games (all wins), allowing Tagovailoa to avoid playing hero ball and instead focusing on simply taking what the opposing defense is giving him. For contrast, the Dolphins' defense was allowing a gargantuan 29.6 points per game during its seven-game losing streak.
Flores is putting the train back on the tracks in Miami, much like Fangio in Denver.
Speaking of Fangio, no coach in the league has moved up, down, off of, back onto and around on this list like he has. His seat couldn't have been any hotter in late October, when the Broncos were losers of four straight. They've since downed the Washington Football Team, which was 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.
The Broncos suffered a setback in losing to the Philadelphia Eagles but that's outweighed by their victory over the Los Angeles Chargers -- a division rival -- that makes things that much more intense in the AFC West. It was also the fashion in which they controlled the Chargers that truly impressed, and now sitting at 6-5 on the season, the Broncos are within striking distance of the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs (a team they're about to meet twice in their next six games) -- along with another dance with the Chargers and Raiders -- Fangio has a chance to delete his name from this list for good.
5. Joe Judge, Giants
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 the was the first shoe to drop, .
So while Judge was able to rally the troops in Week 12 to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles, it was hardly impressive offensively -- as they mustered only 13 points and still look completely disjointed on that side of the ball. Judge remains one to watch going forward, until/unless either he mounts a win streak or convinces Mara that the problem is everyone except him. He'll run up against a red-hot Dolphins team next, led by another on this list who has seemingly figured things out and would like to keep the air conditioner pointed at his seat -- Flores having no interest in doing any favors for Judge whatsoever in Week 13.
Giants next five: at Dolphins, at Chargers, vs. Cowboys, at Eagles, at Bears
4. Matt Nagy, Bears
Nagy recently moved down this list and not because the Bears had suddenly started to win games, but because they appeared to become competitive -- evidenced by how they nearly (and should've, but that's another story) upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9. To that point, even after having lost Khalil Mack, the defense is showing up as of late and that's giving the offense a chance to win game, but they're still struggling to do so. They finally ended a five-game losing streak when they defeated the Detroit Lions in Week 12, but that's not exactly a statement game for Andy Dalton and Co. -- Dalton starting in the absence of an injured Justin Fields.
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. The victory over the lowly Lions can be used as ground to build on, but the next slate of games is unforgiving. Nagy will have to figure out how to shock the world with an upset over the Arizona Cardinals and then do the same against the Green Bay Packers before squaring off with a Minnesota Vikings team entering desperation mode. Be not mistaken, what happens (or doesn't) to close out the 2021 season will determine if Nagy is still in Chicago in 2022.
3. Matt Rhule, Panthers
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 looked like the Jets' version of himself, and not a quarterback who could even remotely carry a team without the aid of all-world running back Christian McCaffrey. Darnold was benched in the blowout loss to Judge and the Giants in Week 7, and the Panthers went on a four-game losing streak that only broken with a Week 8 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, but the Panthers started a new one and in embarrassing fashion.
Their loss to the New England Patriots was abysmal, as Darnold proved to be an unmitigated disaster. With Darnold now sidelined, Rhule put in a call (literally) to Newton for a Panthers reunion, and things got off to a solid start with an upset win in Arizona before a two-game losing streak landed. Newton might need more time to absorb Rhule's system, but neither have that luxury, and pulling a struggling Newton in a blowout loss to Flores and the Dolphins in Week 12 only saw P.J. Walker take the field to throw no touchdowns, one interception and with only five of his 10 pass attempts being completed. Rhule is 10-18 in his first 28 games as an NFL head coach, and his choices at QB continue to plague the club.
Panthers next five: vs. Falcons, at Bills, vs. Bucs, at Saints, at Bucs
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, but that feels like it happened a month ago. Oh, it did, and the Jaguars have lost three straight to fall to 2-9 on the season in Meyer's first year -- one that's been as controversial as it's been unfortunate to watch unfold. 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 before the offseason.
The Ohio party controversy was another feather in 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 slid down from the No. 1 spot on this list. After another poor showing in Week 12, however, it's getting very difficult for owner Shad Kahn to continue selling the product being put on the field by Meyer.
Next five: at Rams, at Titans, vs. Texans, at Jets, at Patriots
1. David Culley, Texans
It surely felt good to land an upset over the Tennessee Titans in Week 11, but Culley's smile was short-lived. The Texans went from riding a high of defeating a Super Bowl contender to losing to the lowly New York Jets, and that keeps Culley atop this list for now. He 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 dropped eight in a row, and showed zero signs of life before their upset over the Titans. 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 in Week 9. 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, having yet to do so.
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