Top Ten with a Twist: Those whose jobs are in jeopardy
Here are the top 10 people who might have a hard time retaining their current employment.
As we get close to entering the second half of the season, it's time for some franchises to begin looking forward to a future beyond 2013. And it's time for some organizations who are looking to make a playoff push figure out which players can help them get there and, maybe more importantly, which players can't.
Football, as you know, is a rough business, and even though a player or personnel man could have been really good last year, last month, last game or yesterday, that doesn't mean their job is secure today or tomorrow or next week. Because if they start to slide and that team can find a better option, their days are numbered.
That said, here are 10 people whose jobs could be (or should be) in trouble whether it's because of declining skills, an inability to stay healthy or because maybe their talents were overrated in the first place. Not because they weren't good or still can't be good. It's just that in their current situation on their current team, things just kind of aren't working out.
10. Jeff Ireland, Dolphins general manager: Even though the Dolphins got off to a 3-0 start, I thought it was ludicrous when it was reported that the Dolphins had deemed it a good idea to give Ireland a contract extension. Miami hasn't won a game since then, and the huge free agent contract paid to receiver Mike Wallace in the offseason has produced just 27 catches (third-most on the team) and one touchdown in the team's first six games. Surely, Miami has to make the postseason in order for Ireland to keep his job -- though owner Stephen Ross has surprised me in the past with his loyalty to Ireland -- and with the improvement of the Jets and the division dominance of the Patriots, that might be a tough goal to achieve.
9. Champ Bailey, Broncos cornerback: It's not just that Bailey has been injured for most of the season and unable to contribute to a Broncos team that is one of the top in the league. It's that when he has played lately, Bailey has clearly regressed. It started last playoffs when Ravens receiver Torrey Smith torched him for a couple touchdowns, something that hardly has ever happened in Bailey's career. Then, in his 2013 debut, he didn't play particularly well against Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon. Now, he's hurt himself again, and it's unclear when he'll return. The question is: when he does, should he still be playing cornerback, particularly with Chris Harris and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie playing well? Or is it time for him to head over to the safety spot he wouldn't consider last season?
8. James Harrison, Bengals linebacker: We weren't sure what to expect out of Harrison this season, mostly because in his final year with the Steelers, he seemed to have regressed after a sterling career. The Bengals picked him up on the cheap, but what made his transition more complicated was that he was moving from a 3-4 defensive scheme to a 4-3. And not that Harrison has been bad this season. The 35-year-old just hasn't had a huge impact. He made one big play in Week 6 when he stuffed Bills quarterback Thad Lewis on a fourth-and-goal, but much of the time, he's been invisible. Oh, and he's only playing 29 percent of the team's defensive snaps. Last year, it should be noted, he played on 82 percent of Pittsburgh's defensive snaps. For now, Harrison is a part-time starter, but should he be if he decides to return next year? And if not, will he still want to play?
7. Trent Richardson, Colts running back: My colleague Ryan Wilson did an excellent job dissecting Richardson's performances since he arrived in Indianapolis via a trade from the Browns. And sure, it's been a little more than a month since Richardson's career was upended by that swap, so he still could be gathering information about the new offense in which he finds himself. But at times, it seems like Richardson is only in the game for pass protection, and the team appears to have more faith in Donald Brown. This is not how a No. 3 overall pick should be playing, and you have to wonder how much patience the Colts will have for their supposedly big-time acquisition.
6. Sam Bradford, Rams quarterback: As I discussed in December 2012, the Rams will need to make a decision about their former No. 1 overall pick. For most of his career, he's been average at best -- he was decidedly worse than that in St. Louis' primetime game in Week 4 vs. the 49ers -- and even though he's coming off pretty good performances in back-to-back weeks, the team will get a chance to ponder his future now that he's done for the season with a torn ACL. He's got two more years on his rookie contract that will pay him a combined $27 million, but the team will have to figure out if it wants to extend him moving forward. In other words, is Bradford really the franchise quarterback the team thought he could be? He probably will get that extension, but the arc of his career, in my mind, is still in question.
5. London Fletcher, Redskins linebacker: Fletcher is one of those veterans who's tough to root against. He's always been an undersized inside linebacker, he's 38 years old and he played in an amazing 240-straight games. And he's been one of the most-productive tacklers in the game, recording at least 85 in every season from 2001-11. But clearly, he slipped last season (according to Pro Football Focus' metrics, he ranked 51st out of 53 inside linebackers), and this year, he's a complete liability in pass coverage and, again, ranks third-to-last by PFF. In the past couple of offseasons, it seems as though Fletcher has really waffled about if he wants to return for another year. I imagine that, after this year, he'll decide to retire for good.
4. Greg Schiano, Buccaneers head coach: Any list of somebody on the hot seat has to include Schiano. It's pretty amazing how quickly Schiano's stock has plummeted. Yeah, last year wasn't great, but this season has been a disaster. The Josh Freeman cluster. The MRSA situation. The fact this team is still winless. Schiano is another example of a college coach who has (or will) flame out in the NFL, and it sounds like a big reason is because he hasn't adapted his coaching mentality. It's unfortunate that Schiano has made this team into more of a laughingstock than the one he thought he was replacing.
3. Any Dolphins offensive tackle: When the Dolphins decided to let go of free agent Jake Long after last season, they figured they could move right tackle Jonathan Martin to left tackle and sign Falcons castoff Tyson Clabo to right tackle. Maybe things wouldn't be perfect, but apparently, the team thought the new combination would be acceptable. Except Clabo has allowed eight sacks -- tied for most in the league -- and Martin hasn't done enough to keep the team from trading for Bryant McKinnie, who lost his job with the Ravens after they traded for Eugene Monroe. All of this means Martin likely will move back to the right side to make way for McKinnie. As the Miami Herald writes about Martin: " He'll be a good teammate -- even as he's scratching his head about why he's been affected by Clabo's inability to do his job and McKinnie's inability to play on the right side."
2. Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars quarterback: When your coach knows that you've returned to practice after a hamstring injury yet still decides to start your backup instead while saying he wants to "see where it takes us," that's potentially a big, big problem for your job security. Such as it is for Gabbert.
1. Kenny Britt, Titans receiver: Not only does Britt have a myriad of past legal problems, not only has he not produced like a first-round pick is expected to produce, not only is he ranked as the 107th-best receiver (out of 107) by Pro Football Focus. But he also sent out this tweet in September:
Psst, it hasn't been a great year, and frankly, it wouldn't be a shock to see Britt not finish the season in a Titans uniform.
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