Win or Else
1. Wade Phillips, Dallas Cowboys- Phillips’ 2008 Cowboys were one of the biggest underachievers in the NFL last season as a team that was loaded with talent was seemingly torn apart by horrible chemistry. Owner Jerry Jones gave Phillips a pass, but if he doesn’t end the Cowboys now 12-year playoff victory drought in January, he will likely be looking for employment elsewhere.
2. Jim Zorn, Washington Redskins- Redskins owner Dan Snyder wants to win, but seemingly has no idea how. There were issues last season with Zorn and his players, proving to many that Zorn wasn’t ready to be a head coach. Another last-place finish, which is extremely likely, will probably seal Jim Zorn’s fate.
3. Tom Cable, Oakland Raiders- Tom Cable became the Raiders head coach almost by default, as there were few qualified candidates that would even take a call from Al Davis. The Raiders have some talent, and their division isn’t the toughest, but we expect the commitment to excrement to continue and Cable to be but a footnote in the long line of Raiders head coaching failures.
4. Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans- Kubiak’s Texans are yet to achieve their first winning season in franchise history and his 2009 squad is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. The only way he survives another 8-8 finish would be if major injuries occur to the team’s bevy of stars.
5. Brad Childress, Minnesota Vikings- Childress is another in the situation of “win or go home.” Childress has the game’s best running back and defensive line, and the inevitable signing of Brett Favre makes this a playoff win or bust season.
6. Josh McDaniels, Denver Broncos- Has any head coach done more damage to a team before he coached a single game? McDaniels alienated Jay Cutler, the best quarterback Denver’s had since John Elway, forcing him to be traded, and will likely send away another Pro Bowler in Brandon Marshall. A nightmare of an offseason will likely turn into a nightmare of a regular season as this team is far from fit to compete.
7. Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers- Turner’s Chargers are healthy and loaded with talent, and anything less than a division title and playoff run could cost Norv his employment. Remember, this is the team that fired a head coach that went 14-2.
Must Show Improvement
8. Mike Singletary, San Francisco 49ers- Singletary was a fantastic football player, but he has accomplished very little as a head coach if you don’t count leading the league in pants-dropping halftime speeches. Without anything close to a legitimate quarterback on the roster, it is likely that the 49ers will struggle again.
9. Dick Jauron, Buffalo Bills- Jauron took a leap of faith in acquiring Terrell Owens and although Owens is usually good for the first year, things could get sideways quickly and Jauron could lose control of his team. The Bills haven’t been in the playoffs this millennium, and if that doesn’t change it could cost Jauron his job.
10. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals- Lewis is an engaging personality and his owner, Mike Brown, has stood by him through thick and mostly thin. Lewis however, is entering his seventh season as head coach, all with a franchise quarterback, and has had just one winning season and no playoff victories.
11. Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars- Many believe that Jack Del Rio should be higher on this list, and perhaps he deserves to be with his team’s meltdowns in big games, and his yearly battles with veteran stars. That said, Del Rio has had just two losing season in his six-year tenure, and the Jaguars are rebuilding. The economy is poor and it’s doubtful that owner Wayne Weaver will want to pay two head coaches to lead just one mediocre team that struggles to sell tickets.
12. John Fox, Carolina Panthers- Although Fox has been mostly successful as a head coach, he is yet to lead his team to consecutive playoff appearances, or even consecutive winning seasons. Following a division title in 2008, expectations are high in Charlotte, and if the team falters, Fox could be held responsible.
13. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers- Although we feel it was the right move to move on with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, the team’s win-loss record says otherwise. If the Packers struggle again in 2009, general manager Ted Thompson could “C.H.O.A.” by dismissing his head coach.
14. Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts- Although Jim Caldwell is in his first year as head coach, he takes over a Colts team that has won 12 games for an NFL record six consecutive seasons. Excellence is expected in Indianapolis and an 8-8 season may make Caldwell one-and-done.
15. Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears- Bears ownership has never seemed enamored with Lovie Smith, even after he led the team to the Super Bowl in 2006. Since that Super Bowl appearance, Chicago hasn’t sniffed the playoffs and if that continues this year, Smith could be out of work.
Should Be Safe
16. Eric Mangini, Cleveland Browns- Mangini is another first-year head coach taking over a team who hasn’t experienced much in the way of winning, at least lately. We feel that the only thing that can turn Mangini into a one-and-done is if Mark Sanchez has a huge rookie season in New York, and if he loses the locker room much like he did during his tenure with the Jets.
17. Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Buccaneers- The Bucs are in a rebuilding phase as they jettisoned nearly all of their veteran stars. That bodes well for Morris, but many question his credentials as a head coach. Barring a complete locker room meltdown, Morris should get a second season to improve his team.
18. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints- Payton has experienced moderate success in New Orleans, and this year the Saints could return to the playoffs. Payton’s .521 winning percentage is among the best in franchise history and his job should be safe regardless of what happens this year.
19. Rex Ryan, New York Jets- Rex Ryan is off to a rousing start in New York as he has been verbally challenging players in his own division, and got his franchise quarterback in the draft. We certainly feel his job is secure, but anyone’s job in New York city has to be at least somewhat tenuous.
20. Jim Mora, Seattle Seahawks- Mora takes over a pretty good situation in Seattle as the team is coming off a disappointing 2008 campaign as they were ravaged by injuries. Mora has a lot of talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and Seattle should have a bounce back season.
21. Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins- Sparano has been labeled by many as Bill Parcells “puppet,” but he did lead his Dolphins (in whatever capacity) to an unbelievable 10-win improvement in his first year. Sporano’s job is safe as long as Parcells is in control, although we do expect a regression from the Dolphins in 2009.
22. Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams- Spagnuolo takes over a bare cupboard with the Rams, and a winless 2009 season is not out of the question. Still, we believe that even with a nearly unthinkable 0-16 finish, the former Giants defensive coordinator will be at the helm in 2010.
23. Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs- Another rookie head coach who could have a very good chance to succeed right away. The Chiefs appear to be building the right way and Haley should get a minimum of two years to prove he’s the right man for the job.
24. Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles- Reid is truly one of the most underappreciated head coaches in the game today, as he has a .609 winning percentage during his 10-year tenure as the Eagles head man. Still, the city of Philadelphia is starving for a Super Bowl title, and Reid has the reputation of a guy who can only take you so far.
Only if They Leave
25. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens- Captain Comeback’s brother had a fantastic rookie season as his Ravens made it to the AFC title game before they bowed out to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Steelers. We believe Harbaugh and the Ravens will experience a regression in 2009, but Harbaugh will certainly be safe.
26. Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions- Jim Schwartz can only improve the Lions—literally. Detroit seems to have a plan and we believe Schwartz could garner some coach of the year votes by the end of 2009.
27. Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals- Whisenhunt took the once-inept Cardinals to the Super Bowl and nearly won the thing. That will buy him plenty of good will for the next few years.
28. Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons- The reigning NFL Coach of the Year has helped change the culture of the Falcons to that of a winning, respectable franchise. That alone buys one of the NFL’s best people a few “mulligan’s.”
29. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots- Widely regarded as the league’s best coach, Belichick is far from on any hot seat. Still, the Spygate scandal, mixed with some personal indiscretions, keeps Belichick from the #32 ranking.
30. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants- Coughlin went from the hottest seat in the NFL to the darling of New York with the Giants upset victory in Super Bowl 42. That win buys Coughlin several years of good will.
31. Jeff Fisher, Tennessee Titans- Nobody does more with less than Jeff Fisher, and the Titans ownership knows how lucky they are to have him as their head coach. He is currently the longest tenured coach in the NFL, as he took over mid-stream in 1994, and he’s seemingly become a better coach with each passing season.
32. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers- He’s not the best coach in the NFL, but he coaches for the most well-run franchise in the league. The Steelers believe in stability in the coaching ranks, and Tomlin will be at the helm for years to come.