A year ago, if we were talking about NFL coaching hot seats, many paragraphs would have been devoted to Bill O'Brien and Adam Gase.
One of them barely survived a month of the season and the other was as good as gone by midseason but ended up being let go as soon as his season ended. Even in a pandemic, with a lack of practice time and no players really able to hang around the facility or watch film together, owners were going to be shaking things up. That's just how it goes. Even in a year in which revenue was down and no fans were in the stands (for the most part).
Now, folks, everything is back to normal. And revenues are soaring to new highs with all that broadcast money and gambling money pouring in. And the cap will start to jump next year, and the playoff pool has already expanded, meaning hope springs even more eternal than usual, and the pressure to grab a wild-card spot is higher than ever. Noticing any trends here?
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Yeah, 2021-2022 might not be all that kind to coaches. A half dozen will be gone at a minimum if history serves as an indicator, and given the unique market factors we have just experienced and how much everything changed in 2020, I'd expect owners to be pretty fickle when it comes to coaching allegiances come January (or in some cases much sooner). With that in mind, here are the situations other coaches, execs and agents are paying the closest attention to with training camps now about a month away.
Seems like a long time ago he was getting accolades and winning trophies in Chicago. The QB guru has yet another QB mess on his hands. The decision to keep Justin Fields under wraps – despite just moving up to land him and despite him being the most talented QB on the roster – was predictable, and we'll see if he can play well enough to save everyone's job when he is allowed to take over under center. This seat has been hot for a while now, and the burner continues to be cranked up.
This is the perfect storm. An owner who believes his team is worthy of the Super Bowl every year (since he handpicked the roster), and one who knows he doesn't have so many bites at the Lombardi apple left. Dak Prescott is back from injury and making $40M a year now and McCarthy's stable of skill guys on offense runs deep. His scheme was in question at the time of the his hire a year ago, and this division has often been the worst in football. Another year anything close to 2020, and this could be a two-and-done.
Watching the first-overall pick and 2019 Heisman Trophy winner and national champion QB Joe Burrow go down midway through his rookie season is the kind of thing that tends to create a visceral reaction among owners. And while Mike Brown tends to be very loyal with coaches, it's clear that people are on notice in Cincy that things need to improve in Year Three for this staff. The AFC North is no joke and this team has some serious talent issues on the defensive side of the ball that Taylor's offense will have to try to overcome.
Year Three can be make or break as noted. For all of the offensive firepower acquired, and all the hype about his college scheme, this offense often comes down to Kyler Murray running around and making a play. And Murray is going to want his bag after Year Three, and this was set up as a win-now proposition a year ago when they grabbed De'Andre Hopkins. Playing in a brutally tough division doesn't help, nor does going to war with one of your best players (Chandler Jones). The owner and GM have proven to be quite close over the years, and I'm old enough to remember them chucking a rookie coach after just one year not too long ago, despite picking his staff and giving him no infrastructure. So hold on tight, Kliff.
The levels of dysfunction in Houston cannot be overstated and the bizarre nature of the coaching search that led to this outcome cannot be discounted. They kinda/sorta already have the next guy picked out in Josh McCown, and there are too many fires for a rookie head coach to put out to count. Let's just say this position is ripe with potential pitfalls and nothing with this organization has been close to stable for a long time.
There is a strong sense around the NFL that this team could end up for sale by early 2022. That tends to have negative consequences for head coaches, especially those who have yet to win with any regularity and were hired late in their careers. This defense has the chance to be elite and keep them in playoff contention, but if it doesn't, with a new GM in town, and Fangio decidedly old-school in his ways, change could be coming in many levels next year.
The constant churn of offensive coordinators and staff on that side of the ball has not gone unnoticed. His defense has slipped badly in recent years, and this certainly looks like a defining year for Zimmer and his QB, Kirk Cousins, in Minnesota. Especially if Aaron Rodgers is gone, expectations to win this division will be quite high, and if they are going to a young QB in 2022, well, and old-school, defense-first head coach who tends to be very tough on the other side of the ball is probably not the prototype you would be looking for to oversee the development of Kellen Mond (or anyone else).
This guy absolutely should not be on here in any way shape or form with all the games he's won in just a couple of years … But this franchise also shouldn't be at war with one of its greatest players ever. And the reality is that the dudes who work around de facto owners Mark Murphy have been there forever and LaFleur is an outsider. If this season goes entirely sideways and Jordan Love isn't ready to play and Rodgers withholds his services, well, heads will roll in some capacity. And owners don't tend to fire themselves or those closest to them when there are others you can scapegoat.
If things go poorly in Miami – and a regression in 2020 shouldn't shock anyone – I believe Flores would actually win a power struggle if it comes to that. Whether or not Tua becomes a thing or not will have ramifications for those involved in selecting him. Constantly running out coaches and players who were just selected the previous year and put in critical positions is an unusual way of breeding chemistry and cohesion and creating that other played-out C-word (culture). There are a lot of rumblings around the industry about all not being well in Miami (which has pretty much been the norm for a few decades now), and people are already keeping a close eye down there.