The 2020 NFL season is only days away from kickoff, and it won't come with all of the usual pomp and circumstance due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and anxieties that stem from it, but there's still no shortage of excitement around the league as teams ready to play meaningful games in their chase to dethrone the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Not every club is brimming with hope and expectation though, as is usually the case each year. Clubs like the Jacksonville Jaguars continue in their inability to correct their tailspin, and they're not the only one -- albeit by far the worst.
And with that, we begin to scan the NFL to determine what each head coach is up against for his respective team, and five readily jump out as those who enter the year on the hot seat. Some might get off to a fast start and find themselves cooler than the other side of the pillow come October or November but, for now, they should be concerned about their job security.
Preseason games wouldn't have changed their current state of affairs this August anyway, and If they don't deliver in 2020, they're probably going to have to change their mailing address.
1. 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 recently. 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 tons of promise for the future at that time, but it took but 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 them a shell of themselves as they enter 2020. It's quite the fall from grace for Marrone, who led the team in 2017, but is 11-22 in his last two seasons and -- outside of the spark plug that is Gardner Minshew -- is in part to blame for the Jaguars being the laughingstock of the entire NFL. Having already fired Tom Coughlin earlier this year, if the Jaguars are again in the basement come 2021, and if owner Shad Khan wants to turn the ship around, tossing Marrone overboard as well will be the right thing to do for a team who has never once made it to the Super Bowl.
And who couldn't possibly be any further from doing so right now.
At this point, if you can name more than two points of optimism regarding the Jaguars heading into the regular season, you're probably Marrone trying to convince himself you're not a part of the problem. Good luck with that.
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2. Matt Patricia - Lions
This isn't going as planned.
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 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 2020 for Lions fans to buy in, because they're nowhere near doing so just yet.
He'll presumably have Stafford back for the full ride this coming season, and there's no shortage of offensive weapons surrounding him, with future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson now joining the fold as well. That only leaves the defense to get back to shutting down opponents, something it has not been able to do. Allowing an average of more than 26 points per game in 2019 doesn't look good for a coach who hangs his hat on defense, and who's been a defensive coordinator before heading to Detroit. If that unit can find some clamps, and an offense that averaged only 21.3 points per game last season can locate the end zone more often, things will turn around quickly in Detroit.
Otherwise, was Patricia the right choice? Or were the Lions simply hoping for Belichick, Jr. vibes? While the latter seems to be working for the Miami Dolphins with Brian Flores, not every branch on every tree is strong enough to hold fruit.
3. Matt Nagy - Bears
Mitchell Trubisky, and it's thus far put the club in a bad situation. The former first-round pick has proven he'll never be Patrick Mahomes or DeShaun Watson -- two QBs the Bears passed on to select Trubisky in 2017 -- but that's not really Nagy's fault, considering he didn't arrive until 2018. What is Nagy's fault is the decision to tie himself to Trubisky's submarine, which seems to descend lower into the sea with each game., Super Bowl caliber, to be frank, but your quarterback situation is disturbing and I can't stop looking at Matt Nagy as I (and the rest of the football world) try and figure out his plan there. It appears someone in Chicago is hellbent on not being proven wrong when it comes to
Although he went 8-7 in 2019, Trubisky threw only 17 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, and it led the Bears to pass on executing his fifth-year option. That decision made it appear Nagy was ready to begin moving on from Trubisky, as also evidenced in the Bears' decision to give up a 2020 fourth-round pick to acquire Nick Foles and his hefty contract, which is still guaranteed $21 million after restructuring. With that, the QB competition was underway in Chicago, only it wasn't really at all.
With Nagy again naming Trubisky starter for Week 1, a report has now surfaced that the Bears never truly wanted Foles to beat him out, but instead to scare him into improving -- per Jason B. Hirschhorn of SI.com. If true, that is utterly disturbing news, especially considering what Foles will now be paid to be a backup.
And, to be honest, it's not entirely farfetched when considering how passionately Nagy and the front office have held on to Trubisky to this point.
Some advice for Nagy: The instant the wheels begin to rattle on Trubisky in 2020, hook him for Foles, because if the uber-talented Bears (who also just paid massive money to Robert Quinn to help upgrade the defense) aren't contenders in 2020, you might end up with a third-degree burn when you sit down. Nagy is a talented coach, but sometimes talented coaches also make bad decisions that cost them their jobs.
4. Dan Quinn - Falcons
It's time to put the rubber back on the road here.
Quinn was routinely named a hot seat candidate in 2019 and for good reason. The Atlanta Falcons simply haven't been the same team since the historic 28-3 halftime collapse in Super Bowl LI against the New England Patriots. They're perfectly average at 24-24 the last two seasons, and it's not because of Matt Ryan -- as some would have you believe. I'm of the belief Ryan is mostly fine, and that the mistakes he's made with some throws are just part of the territory, i.e., there's no such thing as a flawless QB. Ryan is very much a franchise quarterback -- hence the nod as former league MVP -- but Quinn has to get the train pumping in the right direction in 2020. With two receivers on the field and the signing of All-Pro running back Todd Gurley, the Falcons offense could be a terror.
The loss of Austin Hooper in free agency hurts, but there's plenty of firepower elsewhere to allow for the development of tight end Hayden Hurst. The biggest question mark will be what happens on defense, but if A.J. Terrell can challenge for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors and Keanu Neal remains healthy, it's a secondary that could help the pass rush, and vice versa.
All told, there's no reason the Falcons can't compete in what is admittedly a brutal NFC South, just as there's not truly a reason to call Quinn a bad coach, but sometimes it's just time to move on. The Falcons may not quite be there with Quinn just yet, but a third losing season would rapidly change owner Arthur Blank's mind. Quinn is 47-37 in his five regular seasons as head coach in Atlanta, with only two trips to the postseason and a 2-2 record after December.
That's not horrible, but it's not great either, and fans in Atlanta as are restless as they are tired of excuses.
5. Adam Gase - Jets
OK, it's sort of time to admit things are weird 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).
What's up with the relationship between Gase and All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell?
Ultimately, what happens or doesn't happen between the two might decided the fate of the season. In Gase's first year, there was a reported rift stemming from Gase allegedly having wished the Jets didn't award Bell the contract they did, which set the stage for occurrences such as the one in 2020 training camp -- when Bell took to Twitter to shoot down claims of a hamstring injury and instead demanding more practice reps. Bell has since walked back those comments, but there's only so much moonwalking that can be done here before someone admits one or the other has to beat it.
Of all the names on this list, Gase's seat is the least warm, but things aren't exactly ice cold beneath him in a year that also saw his leadership skewered publicly by Jamal Adams on the way out. It feels like fractures exist between Gase and some in the locker room, and time will tell if they become compound or remain simple.